Greek Island Glamour Of Mykonos
There is no Greek island more synonymous with carefree times, glitz and glamour than Mykonos. At just 85 square kilometers Mykonos is a small island but it’s one that positively crackles with excitement, especially in the long Greek summer. Mykonos has a very rocky terrain and its windiness (the meltemia) can sometimes surprise you, but you’ll also find some of the most amazing beaches around and a cosmopolitan vibe you simply won’t find anywhere else. The main town, Chora, is famous for its winding lanes lined with gleaming white cubiform houses with painted blue doors and sophisticated shops and restaurants, but beyond the town, Mykonos retains a refreshingly bucolic atmosphere. In fact, Nikos Kazantzakis, author of Zorba the Greek, once wrote that “Mykonos is wonderful…the air, the earth, the dry mountain, the simple people, their dialect, the figs, the grapes, the thyme, the mint…” He might have added the madness—in a good way—because from the 1960s onward Mykonos has been a magnet for bohemians, celebrities and revelers of all stripes. A hedonistic playground of beachside DJs and summer partying—an official brochure from 20 years ago says the island shows “a complete lack of restraint and climate truly divorced from anything that resembles an everyday routine.” Just know that you don’t have to actually party from dusk until dawn to experience the best of Mykonos (though that’s certainly an option!)—all you need to do is surrender to the Mykonian sun for a bit, enjoy the breezes and be glad that you can experience a slice of this very special and mythic place.
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Chora and Little Venice
The Chora, or main island town on Mykonos, is without question the most glamorous of any town in the Greek islands. The whiteness of the two-story cube-shaped houses and buildings of Chora is the very embodiment of that classic Cycladic island “look”: one short stroll along the little streets lined with posh shops and upscale bars and you won’t be mistaking Mykonos town for anyplace else in the world. Bustling byways like cobblestone Matoyianni Street radiate Cycladic sophistication and it’s a rare urban island joy; you don’t even have to buy anything to feel unique energy, made more intense by the convergence of visitors from all around the world who come here to enjoy the visual pageantry. You can start at the Old Harbor promenade, lined with the old mansions that once belonged to wealthy merchants and sea captains. In the Alefkandra neighborhood, also called Little Venice, there is a colorful row of tall 18th-century houses with corbelled wooden loggias built right over the sea. Agia Kyriaki square with its little white church is a nice spot for a coffee break. One of the most photographed churches in the world is the dreamlike Panagia Paraportiani, a complex of five churches from the 1600s by the town’s old medieval walls and perfect in its imperfection—the most beautiful part is flowing, all-white pyramid-style chapel. Paraportiani gets its name from the paraporti, or small gate in the medieval castle. And that famous lineup of five whitewashed, north-facing Cycladic-style windmills perched by the sea? That vision of Aegean island magic is just an easy-breezy stroll south from Paraportiani.
Though it might not strike you as being very historical at first, Mykonos is indeed a very ancient island. As early as the fourth century BC Mykonos belonged to the First Athenian Confederacy, which was headquartered on the sacred isle of Delos. The small but excellent archaeological museum has numerous displays of pre-Classical and Classical Greek pottery, Hellenistic sculptures and bronze vases, grave stelae and ancient jewelry. While many of the relics come from the neighboring island of Rhenia, the relief vase with a depiction of the Trojan Horse was discovered on Mykonos itself. On a more recent note, a visit to the charming Folklore Museum will remind you that there’s more to Mykonos than designer brands! Mykonos also has a proud maritime heritage and its fighting sailors even repelled a Turkish invasion in 1822. The small but wonderful Aegean Maritime Museum is located in a 19th-century Mykonian building in the heart of Chora. Mykonos is an artsy place too, making the Mykonos Municipal Gallery worth a stop for its thoughtfully curated temporary exhibitions.
Trendier beaches tend to be found on the south coast of Mykonos and less crowded beaches on the north side, where it tends to be windier. You can take a kitesurfing lesson at Ornos Bay, close to Chora while just east of Paraga and Paradise beaches Super Paradise is one of the most famous gay beaches in the world. Elia beach is another good bet for seaside indulgence, while east of that there’s the sandy curve of Kalo Livadi and beyond that, the beautiful beach of Agia Anna which is ideal for windsurfing or simply sunbathing and swimming, at the village of Kalafati. In the north, Panormos is great for windsurfing and Ftelia and Agios Sostis for swimming and relaxing. The rocky cove of Fokos has an off-radar but high-end beachside taverna, popular with locals.
Mykonos is perhaps the world capital of the trendy luxe beach club, where cosmopolitan menus, drinks and DJs make for a heady mix with the turquoise sea for a front yard. The beach clubs are mainly on the south coast of the island and one of the best is Nammos, located on Psarou beach. There’s also Jackie O at Super Paradise, while Principote ups the glam quotient at Agios Sostis. And whether you opt for simple or swanky, dining out in Mykonos rarely disappoints: Bakalo, Salparo, Bill & Coo Coast Taverna, Beefbar, Bao’s and Cavo Paradiso (the latter at Paradise beach) are just a few of a myriad of great spots to enjoy a leisurely island meal.
The ancient sanctuary island of Delos, roughly three kilometers southwest of Mykonos, is the mythical birthplace of the Greek god Apollo and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The boat ticket to what is sometimes called the Pompeii of Greece is about 20 euros and count on another 12 euros for admission to the local museum and vast archaeological site, home of the famous Dionysian stone phallus, Terrace of the Lions and other amazing ruins. Everyone has to leave after sunset, but up until then the sun is usually very bright so don’t forget to bring a hat and drink plenty of water.
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