Greece’s answer to Ibiza, Mykonos is renowned for a hedonistic nightlife (think sunset cocktails, drag shows and after-hours parties by the sea), beaches of golden sand (especially beautiful on the south coast), luxurious boutique hotels (some with suites and private pools), and its open-minded and welcoming locals. Built around a natural harbour, the capital, Mykonos Town, is a warren of narrow streets and whitewashed houses, many now converted to boho-chic bars and boutiques, all nestled under the watchful gaze of four hilltop windmills. Nearby, the sacred islet of Delos is a UNESCO listed archaeological site, steeped in history and ancient fertility symbolism.
Main City Athens
Surface 105.2 km²
Mykonos is famed for its vibrant nightlife, but sometimes you just feel like losing the crowds and recuperating some inner tranquillity. Araxame, which translates roughly as ‘sit back and relax’, is an old-fashioned café, popular with locals (who know how to chill), in the inland village of Ano Mera, which is barely touched by tourism. Come here for a glass of wine or ouzo, served with mezedes (savoury snacks similar to tapas), or an after dinner sweet treat – syrupy homemade Turkish-inspired desserts, made by the owner, Irene Stavrakopoulou. The interior is like stepping into another dimension, with birds in cages, scales and ships’ lanterns, or you can sit under the stars on the terrace.
The therino (open-air cinema) is an integral part of Greek culture – there are few better ways to kick off a summer evening than watching a film at Cinema Manto under the stars while sipping a gin and tonic (you can smoke too, as it’s outdoors). Set in a walled garden with towering palm trees, fragrant pines and cacti, the cinema shows films in original version with Greek subtitles - this summer’s programme includes The Artist and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, plus the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, direct from London. Manto also works as an all-day cafe (with free wi-fi), offering a welcome escape from Mykonos’ busy waterside bars.
Back in the 1970s, Mykonos was much-loved by the hippy generation for its blissful sandy beaches, where nudism was all part of the fun. Forty years later, commercial tourism has brought more mainstream visitors to the island, many of whom are not inspired by naked bathing. However, one place you can still get your all-over tan is the sandy beach of Paranga on the south coast, which has remained faithful to the hippy vibe. Paranga is in fact two beaches, separated by a small peninsular. The eastern one is more lively with straw umbrellas and beach bars, and the western one is more peaceful and naturist-friendly.