Mykonos…I discovered this beautiful island many years ago on my honeymoon to the Greek Islands and instantly fell in love with it (here’s my blog post on Santorini). While one of the most visited and popular of the Greek islands, it is sometimes viewed by many as a cosmopolitan, pleasure-seeking playground similar to Ibiza or St. Tropez, well-known for beautiful beaches, luxurious resorts and wild nightlife. But to me, Mykonos is much more than that…
At first glance the island is simply a beautiful series of whitewashed houses with the iconic blue window shutters that give it such a charm that is completely all its own. It is the most expensive island in the Cyclades, but not one to be missed with its winding little streets that one can get lost in, overlooking its beautiful harbor.
I’ve been back to Mykonos a few more times since our honeymoon, and I can tell you it has definitely changed through the years. Long gone are many of the mom and pop, charming souvenir stores, where you would find handmade items created by the store owners. Most have been replaced with posh, expensive designer boutiques and the likes of Louis Vuitton. Also, many of the restaurants that we remembered from prior trips have been closed and reopened under new management. And while I miss the old Mykonos, the island still has a unique charm of its own, and remains a destination that will keep luring you back for years to come (as it has with me).
On this last trip, our daughter came along, her first time visiting Greece, so we had to change things up a bit. We usually stay in hotels that are in town so that we’re close to everything and to also avoid the hassle of having to take taxis or buses into town at night, which can be quite difficult, especially during the crowds of July and August. However, many town hotels are not very family oriented and lack amenities such as pools and larger family style rooms. While the beach towns have gorgeous large resorts, they are also prohibitively expensive (>500 euros a night). This was also the first time we visited Mykonos during August, and that makes a big difference. The island was extremely overcrowded and finding a taxi was near to impossible. The buses at night were running late (we waited over 40 minutes standing in the heat for a bus one night) and also very crowded. In the past we’ve stayed at Hotel Kouros, Hotel Rohari and Hotel Belvedere, all excellent choices right near town. This time we decided on the Yiannaki Hotel in Ornos Beach, also a fine choice. I recommend this property if you don’t want to blow your budget and you’re looking for a family hotel. It has a great pool, comfortable rooms and a pretty decent poolside restaurant, serving buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, this hotel is not near Mykonos town. Thankfully, the staff was very accommodating and friendly and was able to reserve a taxi in advance to go into town in the evenings. Be warned, this is a very pricey solution, but in my opinion, well worth it.
Mykonos is a small island with many things to keep tourists busy. There are some small museums, plenty of beaches, tons of shops and cafes, and boat trips to other nearby islands. But truth be told, living in Miami, my husband and I rarely spend our days at the beach when we visit. We like to explore. We typically rent a jeep and drive around the island, making various stops. The remainder of our time is spent walking through the main town and soaking in the island lifestyle. There are many restaurants to choose from, but we always make a stop at Nikos Taverna (Ag. Ioanninou, Agias Monis Square). It’s well-known and loved by both locals and tourists alike. Popular and very busy, Nikos is a landmark. You can sit indoors, although I suggest you sit in the outdoor patio were you can feel the lively authentic ambiance of this island, especially in the evenings.
If you would like to splurge a bit, try La Maison de Katrin (Gerasimou & Nikou Streets) offering the best of both Greek and French cuisine. Worth the search through the Dilou quarter of Mykonos, with its outdoor tables on a narrow street, (as is most of Mykonos), while the lovely interior features Cycladic arches and whitewash.
And of course, if you’re traveling with an Italian food fanatic, like my daughter, you can also find numerous Italian places, like Pasta Fresca Barkia (15 Kouzi Georgouli), where they make homemade fresh pasta while you watch. Walking down the narrow street and seeing all the pasta outside of the restaurant, there was no way we were going to escape eating here one night. The food was OK, but it’s probably a place your kids will love.
Climb the hill to visit Mykonos’ windmills, the icons of the island. They sadly don’t actually function anymore, but they’re still very pretty and the views out over the town from here are scenic. They also happen to be the most popular place to catch the sunset. Prepare for crowds if you plan to go, head over there early to get a good spot.
Little Venice is another popular spot in Mykonos. With the houses on the water, it’s a nice place to spend some time eating a meal or having a drink. During the late afternoon, lots of people file in, and you can also catch a great view of the windmills. In the evenings, the bars are really crowded, as well as the nearby clubs, such as Scandinavian Bar & Disco.
The church of Panagia Paraportiani, near the Kastro area, is a Byzantine church, which dates back to 1425. There are over 400 churches to see across the island, but this is considered the highlight of them all. It is composed of 5 chapels, only one of which is open to visitors. Definitely something you don’t want to miss.
And last but not least, make sure you meet Petros the Pelican, the island’s beloved mascot, a gorgeous, light pink, real life Pelican. The original pelican died in the late 80s, however a few years back there were three living on the island, and now there’s just one again (the others have sadly died). Everyone loves to find Petros and snap photos with him. And although he’s usually not hard to find, we did have a difficult time spotting him on this last trip, only seeing him turn the corner while sitting at Nikos, having a late meal. Of course, our daughter was so disappointed in not being able to see him up close and personal, after so many stories she’d heard from us, that we decided to actually ask some locals, where was the best place to find him. They told us he was probably a bit “stressed” with the heat and the crowds, and was purposely staying away. I never knew pelicans could get stressed, but who knows?
Have you been to Mykonos? If you have, what have you enjoyed most about it? Here are a few more photos from our various trips to Mykonos. Enjoy!