And there I stood, one hand holding down my hat and the other holding onto my blue dress, in the “little Venice” of Mykonos seeking out the perfect place to take in the view and enjoy a cappuccino. No one warned me so, let me warn you, Mykonos is known as the windy island for good reason (it’s really windy!). In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mykonos was a frequent stop for pirates and the two and three story buildings at the water’s edge facilitated the quick loading and unloading of pirated goods. Today it is restaurant alley serving up delectable greek cuisine and the perfect place to catch the setting sun over drinks.
The town of Mykonos is also known as chora (main town). Exploring the chora is about getting lost in a fun maze of teeny tiny white-washed streets bustling with shops, galleries and restaurants. It’s a very enjoyable way to spend the day. There are 4 highlights I recommend looking out for.
1. Look for the iconic windmills visible from the harbour of Alefkandra on top of the main hill in the chora. If you are coming in by cruise ship, you may come into this port or be bused here. You can then easily walk into and around the town. Just follow the shoreline and you will run into the windmills. They were built in the 16th century by the Venetians for milling wheat and are the island landmark. There are 16 windmills on the island. The Cyclades Islands are not protected by any mainland and therefore, experience windy conditions when the Meltemi Winds arrive from July to September. The wind can last for a day or days and along the coast it can be quite strong.
2. Look for the three wells. These wells were vital for the town and were used until 1956. Located outside Louis Vuitton, legend has it if a virgin drank from each of the wells she would find a husband. Today the wells are locked, and you will not be able to test the myth, but it is still a great photo stop.
3. The Wood Bakery. At 500 years old this medieval Mykonian bakery is the second oldest building in the town and worth seeking out. I love discovering little hole-in-the-wall bakeries. We made our way down into this cave like structure and sampled the honey balls, baklava, lemon muffins and greek pie. The owners have maintained the old charm of this bakery, with old machinery on display and stone wall seating along the perimeter of the shop. The building lacks air conditioning but that shouldn’t stop you from poking your head in and taking in the aroma of bread.
4. Look for the three pelicans. Wander the chora and you may come across one of three pelicans that call Mykonos home. Legend has it Petros, the first pelican was found injured, rescued and nursed back to health by a fisherman. When the fisherman set him free, he did not leave but stayed with the fisherman and wandered the streets in search of a mate. He was well loved by the people of Mykonos and lovingly became the local mascot. When the original Petros died in 1986, Jackie Kennedy Onassis donated another pelican to the grieving people of Mykonos. Today there are three known pelicans and they cause quite a stir with tourists when they are spotted. We unexpectedly ran across Nikos (who was also found injured on the Island and rescued).
Mykonos has a reputation as the party island and a trip would be incomplete without experiencing the nightlife and party scene. During the day, the party is on the beaches of popular hotspots like Paradise Beach where the large pool of Tropicana Club fills up with the bikini crowd. At night the beach goers change out of their loin cloths and into sophisticated and elegant wear and hit the town clubs, restaurants and bars.
If you are looking for a change of scenery, I suggest heading out of town and finding some rest and relaxation at Elia Beach which is a 25-minute drive from the town of Mykonos. The drive itself is not particularly scenic, but is a good representation of how dry the island is. Elia is a one of the longest beaches in Mykonos. The beach is clean but pebbly- water shoes are a good idea. Elia Beach Restaurant and Cafe is a seaside restaurant with free WI-FI and clean modern bathrooms. The food is delicious. Breakfast is served until 12:30 pm. The omelet with greek kasseri cheese and tomato is simple but very tasty. It was accompanied by brown toast, jams, and honey. After 12:30 pm lunch is available, the seafood is fresh and the smell from the kitchen takes over the beach calling sunbathers in to dine. Beach chairs and umbrellas are on offer for about $25 USD (2 chairs+umbrella).
Mykonos and Santorini are two of the most popular islands belonging to a group of islands called the Cyclades, but the feel between them is totally different. Where Mykonos is close to the beaches and sea, in Santorini you will look down to the sea from cliffside villages. Mykonos is all about the party, Santorini is all about the romance. Both islands are unique and worth exploring. Read my visit to Santorini here.