Greek Islands: Mykonos
Another of the Cyclades Islands, Mykonos is closer to the mainland than Santorini and even tops that island’s distinction as an über-hot nightlife destination. The cosmopolitan feel is augmented by the island’s renown as a playground for celebrities, who visit or have vacation homes there, as well as the reputation for attracting a hip gay clientele and an abundance of lively bars, restaurants, and clubs.
Mykonos owes at least part of its survival to a feisty woman named Manto Mavrogenous, who drove off the Turks and donated her fortune toward saving Mykonos during the 19th-century war of independence. Jackie O may have kicked off the island’s rise to fame, but certainly its innate beauty is one of the main attractions.
The beaches are known for their soft golden sand, with the crystalline waters of the Aegean lapping at their shores. And no, not all of the beaches are party beaches: Ornos and Agios Ioannis beaches require bathing suit bottoms and offer plenty of places to lounge, relax, rent snorkel equipment, and grab a cocktail. Platis Gialos is still a family beach but it’s a crowded tourist hub, too. Then there are the hard-partying beaches, with lots of loud music, nudity, and fun galore: Paradise beach even keeps the party going all night; don’t let the slightly smaller Super Paradise fool you—they know how to party there, too. The slightly more subdued nudists prefer Paranga. Agrari and especially Elia are for the more serious sunbathers and water-sports enthusiasts, who eschew tan lines, of course.
But, believe it or not, there are other attractions besides the beach; the capital of Mykonos (also known as Chora) is a magnet for artists because of its picturesque architecture and colorful accents, especially Little Venice, with its bright balconies hanging out over the water. Many consider it the most beautiful town in the Cyclades. The sedate, 16th century, whitewashed windmills, emblematic of the island, stand in stark contrast to the intense kaleidoscope of nocturnal activity.
History leaves its footprint on Mykonos too; the windmills, of course, but also the museums which include relics from the Purification Pit at the Archeological Museum; painted plates and a key-and-lock collection among the holdings at the Folklore Museum; and Mykonos’s baby island of Delos, roughly two miles west by boat, which has been declared a national museum by virtue of its archaeological interest (legend has it that Apollo was born there).
So whether you’re rubbing shoulders with history or deep in the crush of roiling bodies dancing the night away, a visit to Mykonos is to join in the never-ending party.