By Rachael Funk
Mykonos delights vistors with its traditional whitewashed buildings, beach bar scene, and Mediterranean charm. Tourism to the area is booming, and with good reason! Hip new hotels and bars are springing up to meet the demands of the youthful summer crowds which give way to subdued local life in the off season.
What to Know
The island’s port and capital, Mykonos is a maze of narrow streets and sparkling white buildings. The waterfront is known as the Little Venice quarter and is filled with boutiques, galleries, bars, and places to watch the spectacular sunset each night. One of the best examples of Cycladic architecture, Hora is spread out over a wide area which makes it great for exploring. It offers several pedestrian shopping streets as well as scenic corners of the island where you can relax and take in the views.
When to Go
If you’re looking for a party, hit the island in July and August! This is when the energy is at its peak and you are most likely to spot celebrities, join in on the pulsing nightlife, and be able to socialize with the people on the beaches. Outside of these months, the town empties rather quickly and you’ll pretty much only be sharing the beach with the locals. If you’re looking for a non-stop party, visit in the high season. If you’re looking for a tranquil retreat, visit in the winter.
How to Get Around
Locals agree, the easiest way to get around the island is by bus! In the summer, hours of operations are extended as late as 4am and trips cost only a few dollars depending on where you’re headed. You can grab a ticket at one of the stands along the street or in a tourist shop on the island. Just don’t forget to get your ticket stamped when you board or else you may run into some heavy fines!
We recommend limiting taxi use to arrivals and departure as taxis use flat rates and can become very expensive when compared to bus fare. If you’ve got heavy bags with you and aren’t sure exactly where you’re going, car taxis aren’t a bad choice (not to be confused with the scooter and water taxis you will also encounter on the island). You’ll just have to pop over to Taxi (Manto or Town) Square to flag one down.
Small, zippy, adorable...you can rent a moped in several shops on the island. These are a great way to get around the narrow streets and tricky parking situations on the island. Inexperienced riders may have some trouble with bumpy roads and swerving, so be sure to give yourself plenty of room, or opt for a bicycle instead if you’re not confident in your moped abilities.
Faster than hoofin’ it, hopping on a bicycle is a popular option on Mykonos. There are tons of places to rent a bicycle and you’ll be able to save a bundle on transportation costs.
Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes, as this is the most practical option for getting around town. The streets can be a little convoluted, but the locals are very friendly and they can help point you in the right direction.
Where to Eat
This is your chance to treat yourself to a few local Aegean specialties! Try some kopanisti, a soft cheese seasoned with pepper, on top of a round rusk spread with grated tomato – it’s a local favorite. You’ll also be able to find delicious items such as fire-roasted goat, fresh seafood, local pastries, and souvlaki. Here are some of the town’s best spots for a great meal.
- M-eating 10, Kalogera Street, Mykonos Town 846 00 Phone: +30 2289 078550
- Katrin 1 Nikiou, Mykonos Town 846 00 Phone: + 30 2289 022 169
- Bill & Coo Megali Ammos Beach, Mykonos Town 846 00 Phone: +30 2289 026292
- Jackie O’ Kastro-Paralia, Mykonos-Stadt, Mykonos Town 846 00 Phone: +30 2289 017968
- Katerina’s Bar Agion Anargiron 8, Little Venice, Mykonos Town 846 00Phone: +30 2289 023084
- Eva’s Garden Goumenios Square, Mykonos Town 846 00 Phone: +30 2289 022160
- Avra N. Kalogera Street 27, Mykonos Town 86400 Phone: +30 2289 022298
What to See
Among the most recognizable landmarks of the islands, Mykonos’s windmills have been an institution since the 16th century. The cluster of Kato Myloi (lower windmills) are southwest of Hora and were used to grind wheat. Today, you can visit the seven remaining windmills on the island and learn about their history.
Peter the Pelican
Back in 1958, a local fisherman nursed a wounded pelican back to health after a storm. Once it recovered, he stuck around and became the beloved mascot of the island. The locals were so heartbroken after the pelican’s untimely death in 1986, three replacement pelicans appeared on the island. Now, they can be spotted waddling around the town, looking for snacks and entertaining tourists. Their favorite places to hang out are at Niko’s Taverna, Paraportiani Square, Little Venice, the windmills on the hillside above Little Venice, and along the Mykonos Town harbor front.
The church of Panagia Paraportiani is among the most photographed churches in the world. This site is located at the entrance of the Kastro neighborhood, consisting of five small churches which were built one on top of the other.
Located at the northwestern part of the island, the Armenistis Lighthouse is easy to get to and offers panoramic views of Tinos and the Aegean Sea. The lighthouse was built in 1891 and has several rooms where the lighthouse keepers and their families would live. The lighthouse is still operational and managed by the Hellenic Navy’s Hydrographic Office.
A site that dates back the 5th millennium BC, Ancient Ftelia has produced several ancient artifacts including a tomb that many believe belongs to Ajax the Locrian, an ancient Illiad hero. The excavations which were conducted up to the year 2000 AD have determined this ancient city had four levels of settlements to explore.
Tips and Tricks
Bring a sweater or two! Though Mykonos is known for its sunshine, there’s a reason it’s called “the island of the winds!”
Don’t hesitate to ask for directions. The island is small, but the town can seem like a labyrinth and it’s easy to get lost. Most of the locals speak English and are very friendly, so if you need a little help, ask!
Make restaurant reservations ahead of time. If you show up without one, you’re either going to have a very long wait, or you might not get served.
Stop and watch the sunset. The sun goes down between 7:30 – 9:00 pm, depending on the month. Some of the best spots on the island to watch it go down are Little Venice, the windmills, Ornos, Saint John, Agios Stefanos, and Kanalia.
The ancient Greek settlement of Delos is said to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and is a must-visit for any traveler to Mykonos. During the high season, you can easily take a ferry from the Old Harbor in Mykonos Town to Delos to explore the sacred ruins of Delos and learn about the island’s storied history. For this site, it’s a great idea to hire a guide so you don’t miss a single detail of what you’re seeing!
Only a short boat ride from Mykonos, Tinos Island is an undiscovered paradise. There, you can visit the women’s monastery of Kechrovouni nestled high in the mountains, visit the marble village of Pyrgos, or be swept away by the beauty of Volax, where many crumbling homes have been hand-painted with poems and giant boulders are scattered around the countryside – said to be thrown down from the heavens by gods.
A fashionable resort town with plenty to do, Paros is a great place to get a break from the crowds on Mykonos. There, you can enjoy windsurfing, kite-surfing, diving, horseback riding, and more. You can visit the Marathi Marble Quarries or stop by Parikia to see the Church with the 100 Gates. Once the sun has set, make your way to Naoussa, a picturesque fishing village known for its small eateries and vibrant nightlife.