Mykonos has been a classic vacation destination for decades. My parents visited the sunny Greek island when they were young and filled with wanderlust; and I just got back from a birthday celebration with 6 of my very best girlfriends. National financial crisis or not, Mykonos tourism continues to boom with hip and stylish travelers from around the world. So if you plan to do your part in supporting Greece's tourism industry this summer or next, make sure you get a dose of authentic Greek culture on this party-centric island.
Check out my suggestions for the most chic, healthy and bona fide ways to experience Mykonos from coast to coast.
WHEN IN MYKONOS…
GET BLOWN AWAY at the iconic Kato Milli Windmills of Mykonos Town. Ok so you won’t be physically blown away (they’re usually not actually spinning) but these windmills date back to the 16th century and are a Mykonos must-see. Perched high on a hilltop with gorgeous views of the harbor, the windmills are a short walk away from Sea Satin Market (see below) and a charming area of town known as Little Venice.
GET LOST in Mykonos town. Endless boutiques and restaurants are studded along the winding cobblestone streets, decorated with sky blue balconies and bright bougainvillea. Matoyianni is the town’s main shopping street, which branches off into umpteen little pathways–each with endless opportunities for browsing. Most retailers offer high end designers from around the world or souvenir style trinkets. That being said, evil eye bracelets may be a dime a dozen here (almost literally) but they'll make great gifts for friends back home!
DAY TRIP to Delos Island. Technically, this is another island altogether. But it’s only a 30 minute boat ride away for those looking for ancient Greek culture and a reprieve from the stylized tourism of Mykonos. According to Greek mythology, Delos was the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, and is considered sacred. Here you’ll see massive ruins and statues, a reminder of Greece’s imposing influence in ancient times, long before GDP was even a thing. Group tours are plentiful, or call a Yorgos Voulgaris +30 6974767168 for a private tour.
EACH BEACH IS A BEACH Until it’s not. Mykonos is all about it’s beaches, but each one has a profile that's all it’s own–so it’s important to do your research. Psarou is one of the most popular among trendy tourists looking for a schmancy scene, while Panormos is quieter, more remote and casual. Elia is one of the more gay friendly beaches, and Paradise is home to some of the rowdiest clubs on the island. Paraga is lovely and low key, with sunbed and umbrella service if desired.
Kikis Tavern - As authentic as it gets, quiet cliffside spot feels clandestine and undiscovered until you see the crowd of both locals and tourists alike. Get there early, and expect to wait; but I can promise the buttery octopus, chargrilled squid the size of your thigh, and deceptively simple daily salads are well worth it. The owner himself is a gem, and personally greets most of his guests, while offering free rosé and water while you wait!
Sea Satin Market - If you want a lively night out that feels uniquely Greek, head to Sea Satin Market, just next to the windmills in Little Venice. Start with a fresh seafood dinner with ocean views (you can’t go wrong with the catch of the day, and the shrimp linguine was a surprise success at our table!) but stay for the late night debauchery. Sea Satin plays only traditional Greek music, and every Greek in the restaurant is guaranteed to sing along emphatically after a few shots of Metaxa. Don’t know the words? Don’t worry, you can still kick up your heels and join the staff in a rowdy dance circle–or even hop up on the sturdy picnic style tables and clap along.
Scorpios - Built on an ethos of both global connectivity and strength in solitude, Scorpios offers communal dining in their open air restaurant, along with private cliffside lounging, perfect for topless tanning. Here you’ll find fresh squeezed juices and detox drinks, along with curated cocktails to accompany the fresh, simple and healthy menu. And although you may spot a celebrity or two among the slim, tan crowd - you would have to look hard. Unlike N’Ammos or other beach clubs, Scorpios prides itself on discretion and makes every guest feel famous by waiting on you hand and (bare)foot. I found myself tipping my cat-eye glasses while waving down the very cute (very young, very gay) waiter for “more lentils please!”
N’Ammos - This upscale beach club at Psarou beach is another, more well-known way to spend a day seeing and being seen. Have lunch in the sand at the sprawling seaside restaurant, where the food is steeped in exotic flavors and as fresh as it comes (we saw fisherman hauling fish directly from the ocean to the kitchen!). Then head down and rent a chair by the water to digest in the sun. Though the beach and outdoor dining remain pretty mellow, if you’re feeling sassy, the indoor part of the restaurant turns into a day club around 4ish.
GETTING AROUND Isn’t easy. Renting a car is essential if you’re staying in a villa, otherwise hotels are often helpful with ground transportation. Taxis are hard to come by especially during high season, and must be called. The two numbers to try are: 0030-22890-22400 and 0030-22890-23700. You may want to think about renting a moped since parking is an issue and the narrow, winding roads can be difficult in a car.
GET A LATE START The nightlife on this island is notorious, which, coupled with lazy, sun soaked days and a relaxed mediterranean culture means that everything begins a little later that you may anticipate. Don’t even think about getting a dinner reservation before 9 or 9:30, unless you’d like to have the restaurant to yourself (not a bad option!) Clubs get going turbo late - but for a fun but more refined alternative to Mykonos’ infamous raves, head to Astra where the stars twinkle from the ceiling and the crowd spills out into the street.
LEAVE THE HEELS At home. Although the attire in Mykonos is very gypset beach-chic (think silk maxi dresses, printed caftans and layers of leather bracelets) you’ll want to opt for a wrap-around or embellished sandal over high heels. Cars can’t access most places in town and there’s nothing less attractive than a girl hobbling along on cobblestones.
WHERE TO STAY There are countless boutique hotels and villas for rent around the island, but choose your location wisely because as I mentioned, getting around can be a task. Each beach has a very different vibe (see above) so simply choosing “beachfront” can land you with very different experiences. Also, Mykonos sand isn’t the softest or whitest–so many may prefer somewhere with a pool. My girlfriends and I stayed in the eco-chic hotel, San Giorgio where the relaxed bohemian vibe was both pampering and unobtrusive. And ohhh the breakfast buffet! It’s almost worth staying at San Giorgio just for the epic spread of locally sourced, handcrafted Greek specialties like spanikopita and spongey cakes, or fluffy greek yogurt with mountains of figs, dates and fresh fruit to throw on top. Needless to say, I was in heaven.