Mykonos: glamour and heart
The sugar-cube houses have grown and propagated and seem to be attempting to cover every available inch of land.
Little Venice, the neighborhood dubbed so because of the way the captains’ and rich merchants’ houses were built on the water in the 18th century, may be one of Greece’s most photographed locations, especially at sunset, and – not surprisingly – one with the most expensive bars and cafes: Caprice, with its wonderful cocktails, Astra, famous for its jet-setting clientele, Remezzo, and the Scandinavian Bar – where closing time is well after sunrise.
Revelers should stop by il forno di Gerasimo bakery for a post-clubbing snack from its wood-burning oven. Early morning is in fact the best time to explore the main town of Hora and take pictures.
Just a stone’s throw away from Little Venice you find the landmark windmills. Continuing through the alleyways to the north, you’ll come to another much-photographed site, the Church of Panaghia Paraportiani – a complex of five churches in one superb, all-white structure that resembles a cake covered with powdered sugar. Across the port you will meet Petros and Irini, the town’s two pelican mascots.
Where to Eat
There are countless Greek and foreign cuisine establishments of all categories. Local specialties are the louza (cured pork), sausage and kopanisti – a soft, peppery goat’s cheese.
In Hora: Steki tou Proedrou is a café/restaurant with good Greek food; Captain’s, opposite the fish market, has very good seafood; Maereio, tiny place located at 16 Kalogera St, and Nautilus in Lakka square, for fine traditional Greek and local dishes; Oti Apomeine in Ano Mera, excellent grill; Blue Myth for wonderful evening dining, especially seafood.
The problem with stereotypes is that they tell only part of the truth. So it is with the image of Mykonos as a destination where visitors pay exorbitant prices for coffees, meals and drinks, form long lines for sunbeds and spend a fortune on accommodation. You can – but you don’t have to. Mykonos could be seen as epitomizing the current Greek predicament: It has Greece’s highest income per capita and is suspected of having one of the country’s highest rates of tax evasion. Property prices rival or exceed those of fashionable areas of Athens. Many Greek VIPs have holiday homes here or visit regularly, while the nightlife is the capital’s reflection, albeit a microcosm of it. But the stereotype of a party island that never sleeps also only tells part of the truth: The place has grown so much as to offer ample accommodation options, including a reasonably priced quiet night’s sleep – even at high season.
Before tourism became industrialized in Greece, like most of the country, Mykonos was a poor place, where people eked out a living via fishing and farming. But perhaps no other island conveyed the original Cycladic stereotype of whitewashed sugar-cube houses and similarly hued windmills against the backdrop of barren hills and the dazzling blue of the Aegean. This proved to be Mykonos’s strength. From a distance, as you approach the port town, it is today barely recognizable: The sugar cubes have grown and propagated and seem to be attempting to cover every available inch of land. However, the original settlement at the heart of Hora retains the core of its appeal: narrow alleyways flanked by tiny, white two-story houses with balconies, blue doors and windows, wooden railings in all colors of the rainbow and bougainvillea spilling over the walls. Many of these homes have been converted into shops or bars.
What to See
There are several museums, including the large Archaeological (one of the country’s oldest), which houses finds from neighboring Rinia and other Cycladic islands; the Folk History and the Aegean Maritime museums and Lena’s House Folk Museum are along Enoplon Dynameon Street, one of Hora’s busiest; a visit to Delos island, an ancient sanctuary, is a must, to see the theater, the temples and the museum with its excellent collection.
Mykonos on the Map
Mykonos is wind-swept, like most of the Cyclades. There are very few trees and little vegetation on the landscape that is crisscrossed by old dry-stone walls. Apart from Hora, the only other settlement that could be said to constitute a village is Ano Mera. A number of areas are noted for their intensive development of occasionally unsightly holiday homes and complexes.
Mykonos offers many opportunities for watersports, scuba diving, fishing and horseback riding. Most beaches are packed in the high season but considerably more relaxed in the fall. The most popular ones are along the southern coast: Psarou is the place to be seen and where sunbeds have a waiting list in August; Elia boasts golden sand, crystal-clear waters and facilities for water-skiing; Kalo Livadi is one of the longest, with plenty of organized facilities; nudist-friendly Paradise and Super Paradise are famous for their afternoon parties; while Platys Gialos is better suited for families and watersports aficionados – boats from here will take you to Super Paradise and Elia.
Kappari, 5 kilometers from Hora, is accessed on foot after a certain point. The view of the island of Delos – sacred to the ancients – and the sunset is amply rewarding from here. The northern side has isolated and quieter beaches, such as Fokos, Mersini and Houlakia.