Footloose in magical Mykonos

Whether it’s a suntan on a golden beach, some great food or just a pleasant walk through whitewashed stone alleys that you are looking for—Mykonos has it all. Sanjoy Narayan discovers the well-kept secrets of this Greek island.

Sanjoy Narayan | Print Edition: August 10, 2008

Billed as one of Europe’s hottest spots for its nightlife, the island of Mykonos lies in the South Aegean Sea as part of the Cyclades (pronounced (kih-klah-deez) cluster of islands.

Most people go to Mykonos to party. Europe’s most renowned DJs come to the island’s famous bars and clubs and most evenings and nights are spent partying non-stop.

The blue and white buildings and the whitewashed stone alleys are a delight to hang around in
The blue and white buildings and the whitewashed stone alleys are a delight to hang around in
If it’s summer and the weekend, chartered boats and the regular ferries from mainland Greece spew out young party-goers who rock the town till dawn. It’s Hedonism on tap; all the time.

Yet, this picturesque island with its trademark Cycladic architecture of white walls and blue doors and windows has a lot more than just partying to offer. That is, if you care to explore it.

It’s easy, really, since the island itself is rather small—hardly 41 sq. miles with a native population of fewer than 10,000 people.

The tourists, of course, pour in during summer but if you keep in mind that these people come primarily to party and, therefore, stick to the town or its vicinity, you can plan a more relaxed holiday on the island.

Try and stay in a hotel that is not bang next to or in town (although if you’re on a tight budget you can get rooms on rent right on one of the quaint alleys in town) but a few miles away. Next, rent a car.

If itís summer and the weekend, chartered boats and ferries from mainland Greece spew out young party-goers who rock the town till dawn
If itís summer and the weekend, chartered boats and ferries from mainland Greece spew out young party-goers who rock the town till dawn
Public transport in town is restricted to 31 taxis and during summer time these guys can take their own sweet time to get to you if you call for them.

Get a Matiz at e30-32 (Rs 2,066-2,204) for 24 hours and explore the island’s quiet little beaches, innumerable churches, monasteries and obscure, tucked-away tavernas.

But more of that later. Exploring the island doesn’t mean you should give the town a go-by. That would be a pity because the blue and white buildings and the whitewashed stone roads and alleys lined with hundreds of shops, cafes and restaurants are a delight to hang around in.

Mykonos is also very gay-friendly, so what that means is even if you’re not gay you get to window-shop at a huge variety of stores targeted at men.

Cuban cigars on sale
Cuban cigars on sale
Think designer fashion, top brands of apparel for men and more. Rest assured, though, that it isn’t a gay island. Lots of stuff for heteros to do here, too. Just walk into the numerous bars and you’ll know.

Food and drink, needless to say, are very important on Greek islands such as Mykonos and the scores of seaside tavernas and cafés are great places to savour some excellent cuisines.

Among the specialities on the island are Taramosalata, a smoked fish roe salad, which goes very well with crusty bread and various kinds of Dolmades, vine leaves wrapped around mincemeat or other filling.

Mykonos is also well known for its almond biscuits and, of course, the aniseed-flavoured ubiquitous Greek drink, Ouzo. Or, you can pick up a bottle of good Greek wine (although I’m not sure whether the island itself produces any) and some pita-wrapped souvlakis (skewered meats grilled on a vertical rotisserie; the pork ones are the best) and drive down to one of the many beaches on the island.

You can choose from a range of them—from the hip and party-friendly Super Paradise (where you can gad about in your au naturel splendour!) to the very beautiful and somewhat isolated Agios Ioannis (crystalline blue water and soft sands).

 How to get there
Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian, British Airways and Qatar Airways fly from Delhi to Athens. Qatar Airways and Emirates also connect Mumbai and Athens. From Pireaus (Athens), ferries leave daily and take about six hours to reach Mykonos. FeRry Cost: e18-28 (Rs 1,240-1,928) one way

Where to Stay
There are several hotels in Mykonos for every budget. You can stay at five-star resorts like Santa Marina on Ornos Bay (www.starwoodhotels.com) where it costs between Rs 14,000 and Rs 21,000 per night for a couple.

You could also check out the Leto Hotel, (www.letohotel.com) where it costs Rs 12,000 to Rs 25,000 per night for a couple.


Petros, the mascot pelican of Mykonos
Petros, the mascot pelican of Mykonos
You could also drive down to Ano Mera, a village in the centre of the island to see the 18th century monastery of Tourliani, an authentic example of Aegean monastic architecture. Not far away is the Ftelia beach, quieter than many of the other beaches and a perfect place to just do nothing.

If you get tired of the peace and quiet, hop back to the town, get yourself a good tall drink and engage in serious people watching. In summer, you can catch at least a couple of European celebs, many of whom have villas or property either on Mykonos or other islands nearby.

Good shopping opportunities too here; check out Mykonos Graffiti near the bus terminus for hand-painted T-shirts and hip jewellery or the wicked bikinis from one of several boutiques in town.

Alternatively, of course, you could hop from café to café or bar to bar or gelateria to gelateria and forget about the inches all this adds to your girth. Just remember to toss that bikini if you decide to do that.


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