Paradise… Super Paradise… Cavo Paradiso… Many think that Mykonos is just a petite party planet. True, it IS paradise, but not all about the raucous beaches that have taken that name. I’ve just spent a glorious 6 days on the island, and although I thought I might be a little bored after a few days, I left realising that I could have done with another week. And partying was only part of it, done with my kids. So here’s my must-dos on Mykonos. Best beaches, best restaurants, best drinking and dancing, and the best places to stay.
Although Mykonos is basically a giant rock sticking out of the sea, you may be surprised to know that most of the beaches have a lovely fine sand. The only thing to watch out for on Mykonos is the wind. The Meltemi fairly howls in the summer months, and although it comes and goes, you may find it sticks around for your entire stay. (It gusted 4 days out of 6 for us in August). It officially blows north to south, but due to the topography of the island, we found it seemed to wrap around from the north east, and curl through to some of the more exposed south-western beaches too. Here’s my top three for a short stay.
1. Agios Sostis: The most beautiful we found. Calm turquoise waters and soft golden sand, with rocks sheltering the cove at either end. Completely devoid of restaurants and sunbeds except for the incredible Kiki’s (mentioned below), and has no bus service, so you will need to be organised to get there and home again without sun stroke! Allows naturalists, but the beach is so spread out, you are not likely to stumble across any (as my cheeky son calls them, “great white pointers”) unawares if that’s not your thing. Nicely sheltered when the wind comes up. Close to Panormos Beach, which shares the beauty, but has a little more life (Guilty Beach) and less shelter.
2. Ornos: In the thin bridge that separates the two parts of Mykonos, Ornos is on the southern side. The northern side of this neck is where the windsurfers and kite surfers hang out, for good reason. If the wind is not blowing a complete gale, most of this southern area is sheltered. Plenty of restaurants, sunbeds, and a little marina. Crowded but linked with water taxis, so you can always move on with ease if necessary. Sometimes you may see seals on nearby rocks (we didn’t). At the far edge is Santa Marina hotel, which has a quiet beach you can use if you are staying or dining only. The sand is so fine here, I’m sure it’s shipped in. Gorgeous, sheltered, and super restaurant (Bayview mentioned below)
3. Platis Gialis: Busy, heaving beach without the party nonsense. A great place to go once, to see Mykonos in all it’s intense glory. Water sports and playgrounds for the kids, very fine sand and a nice depth to the water for families. Proliferation of sunbeds means sandcastles will be an impossibility though. Easy bus or water taxi transfers and heaps of hotels and restaurants. Walking distance from Paraga, Agia Anna and Nammos. Cheap.
… And a couple of extras worth checking out if you have the time (and can drag yourself away from Agios Sostis.)
- Lia: Well organised but also quiet due to it’s distance from Chora, striking a lovely balance. Good for snorkling. Can be a little windy depending on direction, so don’t assume it is sheltered because it is on the west side. Check with a local on the day before you take the long drive over, they will be able to help. Try Liasti restaurant here.
- Glyfadi: Lovely for families, and usually quite sheltered. Plenty of exploring for inquisitive kids on the rocks (but there is sand leading into the water). No restaurants and tricky to get to, but very very pretty.
- Elia: Beautiful long stretch of sand, plenty of decent restaurants, but likely to have a few nude sunbathers. If you want to head into this area and prefer some peace and quiet, try Kalafatis beach, or the neighbouring Agia Anna beach (partly pebbled) and their fish taverns. Usually fairly sheltered.
- Agios Ioannis: Quiet and peaceful, beautiful spot with views of the surrounding islands. Restaurants can be hit and miss. Filming location of Shirley Valentine. A bit windy on very strong days.
I arrived in Mykonos after two weeks on the mainland, and an impression that all greek restaurants are cheap and exactly the same. It seems Mykonos is not in Greece then, in a culinary sense, as it’s the complete opposite. My very clever concierge told me on the first day, that I should avoid the township for lunches, as they put on a special tourist menu for the hoards coming off the cruise ships (I was one of those last year), and we all know that the words “tourist menu” are a synonym for “$h1t”. Thank God he warned me, because I had three of the best meals in Greece on Mykonos, and none of them in the township at lunchtime. Only one other warning – service is not particularly awesome as a rule. Count to ten and have another ouzo, relax, and remember you are holidaying in the Greek islands, and nobody can get you down.
1. Kiki’s: Yes, I know it’s around the top of the Tripadvisor list, and we all know how much I hate tripadvisor. But, this is one of the only restaurants I believe I have eaten at that deserves a 10/10. This mark, because I really don’t think they could do ANYTHING better than they did. It’s simple – I stress, SIMPLE – only one wire leads to the refrigerator, and you eat from the coal-fueled grill and from a range of salads that have single-handedly changed my opinion of quinoa and artichokes. Juicy, juicy prawns – the best I have ever had. Lucious marinated and grilled chicken maryland, plus some incredibly good octopus, swordfish, mushrooms, and baked potatoes that somehow tasted entirely of butter. The view is superb. The wine is cold. Nothing was bad, or even ordinary. Nothing. You have to get there early and queue (opens at 1, and we got there at 12 on two days and got in fine) but it’s an organised and friendly system, and one person can wait while the others swim. If you miss the first sitting, you can wait for the second, and Yannis (Kiki’s partner) brings out free cold water and a cask of wine for all those sheltering under the vines on the steps, because he’s just a lovely bloke. Less than €25 a head, including drinks. Incredible view, and private sandy beach below.
2. Kiku: This is the poolside restaurant at Cavo tagoo, one of the most prestigious hotels on the island. The website says it’s a Greek Fusion restaurant, but that’s not really what we found – instead, we had some of the best Japanese food we have tasted in months, including a black cod that has knocked Zuma off it’s pedestal for best fish dish in the world (IMHO). There were also a couple of desserts that you could expect to see in a three-star Michelin restaurant. It’s not cheap, but the entire experience is quite plush, and in my opinion worth it (If only to stare at the beautiful scenery and people around you). Get there to see the sun go down, and watch the blue and white turn to gold and purple, and have a drink over the bar, which happens to be sitting on a 10 meter long aquarium. Also not bad for lunch, when the menu is simpler, and some of the best burgers in Greece can be found there.
3. M Eating: Stupid name, clever food. It’s right in the center of town, just before you get to all the tacky veranda places in the square. The food is Modern Greek, combining local ingredients with international style, or traditional Greek recipes with innovative twists. There’s no view but the restaurant and the garden itself, but there’s plenty of prettiness to gaze at, with whitewash abounding, the courtyard garden and Myconian chic furnishings. Had some lovely scallops, and missed out on a special main (I had the pork, but should have ordered the veal or the lamb, which was done so by others on the table – amazing). Great desserts. Booking is essential in summer, the place was packed. Also worth a mention:
- Bayview at the Santa Marina: Food is modern Mediterranean with Asian influence. Plenty of sushi, salads and grills, and very nicely done. Lovely service and decent drinks lists too. But the best thing about this is the situation. Private, fine sandy beach with crystalline water, away from the bustle of Ornos. Go before lunch so you have have a swim and a sunning first. Booking essential (security at the gate).
- Nautilus: An oldie that is possibly resting a little on its laurels, but still dishes up some excellent quality classic Greek food (Starters and the keftedes-meatballs), and some modern interpretations that range from good to superb. In the centre of Mykonos town. Booking essential.
- Avra: If you are craving good but simple traditional Greek food, then this is your best bet (Although they serve a wide range of classic dishes from all over the world). Beautiful courtyard garden restaurant close to Little Venice and frequented by locals. Look for the saganaki shrimp and the grilled sea bass.
- Fresh seafood options: If you can’t be bothered to go all the way to Kiki’s, then (you’re crazy, but) your alternative is Kounelas, a tiny taverna in the centre of town with a cool courtyard and excellent flame grilled and simple Greek dishes. If you need the view, try Sea Satin Market on the foreshore near Little Venice in Mykonos town. Food isn’t as good, but it’s got plenty of atmosphere, and may involve dancing on the tables after eating.
Drinking and Dancing:
I’ve picked three good options for partying with your family. Of course, there are others, but if you want to keep your family away from podium dancers in thongs, overt PDAs (sometimes same-sex), midnight skinny dipping and a perhaps a little drug-induced behaviour, then these are some good options. You can always tell them to come back to Mykonos when they are 21 and go nuts (but not to hire a quad bike if you want them back in one piece).
Little Venice: For quiet sundowners, seat wiggling, great virgin cocktails for the kids, and a photo-op you simply HAVE to take, Little Venice is a must. Just off the edge of Mykonos town, with views of the windmills and buildings that hang into the ocean just like… well… Venice. Scarpa, Caprice and Katerinas are your best bets. Don’t eat anything more than nibbles here though, head back into town when you are hungry. (Or to Sea Satin, as mentioned above, which will have both food and dancing.)
Nammos: This is the beach for the rich and famous apparently, a sheltered sandy cove with a traffic jam of super-yachts off-shore. I tried but struggled to find a snob in the mix, it’s really all quite laid back. There is a bar, a casual cafe-style beach dining area, and a more formal restaurant, so you can take your pick. From 4-5pm, it starts pumping, and people will be on the tables in the bar. All very well behaved (my 10 yo was bouncing on a table surrounded by cheering 20-something girls in bikinis and having the time of his life) and you can get your dancing fix in early, and get home before pumpkin hour. Drinks are pricey, but you get the beach and music for free, so all works out well.
Kalua: This understated venue at Paraga beach is a cheaper, quieter version of Nammos. Most nights the music slows down by about nine, so there’s just enough time for an early dinner at nearby Tasos Taverna, and then a brief boogie before the lights all go on and the party animals catch the water taxi to Paradise. If you want to live a little on the edge, try Paradise, as it’s the tamest of the wild bunch, and starts early (music from 1pm, crowds start at 4), so you can get in and out before everything gets really, really messy.
It’s easy to spend a fortune in Mykonos, and it’s just as easy to get completely ripped off spending what you thought was a reasonable amount. Many of the hotels are decorated in a similar manner (yes, they are all white-washed, just like in the postcards), so it’s sometimes hard to see what you get for your money, until you get there and you find out the wifi doesn’t work, the pool is in a wind tunnel and the staff don’t have a clue. The island is probably bigger than you imagine, so think about what is important to you – shoppers will want to be near the main town (Chora). Party-goers will want to be along the beaches in the South-West. If you don’t want to hire a vehicle, then you’ll want to be either in these two or around Ornos so you can access public transport (there are only 31 taxis on Mykonos). Those wanting peace and quiet will want to be as far away from the above as possible. There are plenty of villas available – try Luxury Retreats, Mykonos Villas or Homeaway if you prefer to be on your own, or have a look at my picks:
Slick and exclusive: Cavo Tagoo: Where we stayed. Luxurious but understated, well positioned between Mykonos town and Agios Stephanos beach. Lovely infinity pool, sleek minimalist rooms, family rooms, babysitting, excellent food and drinks and some of the best service on the island. Full of beautiful young couples, so although we loved it, we felt a little out of place at times. Really need to get to the gym… Pricey but worth it. (from around $650 per night and up for a standard room, or $1250 for a suite with a private pool)
Family luxury: Santa Marina: Where we possibly should have
stayed, as they really cater for families. They also have private beach access (gorgeous beach mentioned above), heaps of options for accommodation including simple rooms (from $400 per night), family suites (from $700) and up to 4-br villas. They also have a kids club, playground and babysitting. The exterior is urban-rustic in style, and the interior plush. Lovely 5* property, part of the Starwood Group.
Organic Style: San Giorgio: A luxurious, quirky option (Design hotels member) at a lower price, starting at around
$250 per night, and heading up to $700 for the top suites. Beautifully positioned on the edge of Paraga beach, with a private rocky swimming area, but close enough to walk to the sand. Fabulous emphasis on organic foods and drinks. Run by previous Paradise Club management, so you can guarantee they know quite a bit about the best in Mykonos.
Price and Partying: Zephyros: Where our friends stayed. A well positioned cheap option (from $150 per room per night) with very good standards and facilities for the price. Right in front of the bus stop and the beach (with water taxis to Nammos and Paradise and more) if you don’t want to hire a car. There are also 2-br apartments with a kitchen (around $450 per night). Reasonable restaurant. Some rooms very small, so best to book directly to ensure you get a good one.
Wow factor: Castle Panigirakis: A good option if you want to stay in town, and definitely ticks a bucket list box, as you will be staying IN a Mykonos windmill. Only two accommodation options, so book early. Pricing from $450 per night.
Away from it all: Myconian Villa Collection: In the Elia beach area, offers a range of different accommodation options in a quiet, luxurious setting. Stunning design and pool bar. Very well priced for the level of opulence, from $350 per night, $650 for villas with private jacuzzi and $1000 for larger villas. I’ve left Mykonos with one of my best weeks ever on Instagram – this place never needs a filter, and is begging to be photographed. Every corner you turn leads into another treasured scene. Perfect light, perfect balance, perfect texture. A selection follows below – most taken with my iphone, so forgive the graininess.
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