Mykonos Holiday Planning Guide
Local tradition claims that Mykonos, the trendiest of the Cyclades group of islands, came into existence from the petrified bodies of giants killed by the mythological hero Hercules. Named after the grandson of the god Apollo, this cosmopolitan "Ibiza of Greece" offers modern tourists a blend of glamour and simplicity. Be prepared for hip and loud dance clubs along the coastline and quieter areas farther from the water. Avoid cruise ship crowds thronging the narrow streets on your Mykonos vacation by exploring the small villages located in the center of the island. The easiest way to discover the island's golden beaches is by guided boat tour, private car, or motorcycle.
Places to Visit on MykonosMykonos Town
: The capital of one of Greece's most glamorous islands draws huge crowds with its maze of steep lanes flanked by whitewashed Cycladic buildings, while offering a blend of museums, beaches, restaurants, clubs, high-end boutiques, and family-run taverns.Platys Gialos
: This popular resort serves as a convenient starting point for Mykonos sightseeing tours along the southern coastline, while its well-developed main beach features golden sands lapped by the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea.Ano Mera
: The second-largest village in Mykonos is also one of the oldest, exhibiting the quiet, more traditional side of island life. Ano Mera is also home to the monastery of Panayia Tourliani, which preserves holy vessels and vestments as well as an exquisite collection of icons made by a Cretan painter. Ornos
: Once a lovely fishing port and now crowded with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, bars, and boats leaving for other Mykonos beaches, Ornos also boasts a perfect family beach, sheltered from the winds and dropping off very gently from the shore.Agios Stefanos
: In the vicinity of the new harbor of Mykonos, Agios Stefanos offers a sandy, family-oriented beach equipped with sun loungers and umbrellas. Surrounded by taverns and hotels, this small town is also easily to explore on foot--making it a perfect destination if you're going carless on your Mykonos holiday.
Things to Do on Mykonos
Popular Mykonos Tourist AttractionsParadise Beach
: This sun-kissed beach may be largely responsible for Mykonos' nickname the "Ibiza of Greece": the slice of tropical paradise attracts visitors with bars, clubs, and restaurants that serve cold cocktails and both Italian and Greek cuisine.Platis Gialos Beach
: For some tranquility during your Mykonos vacation, head to this beach in a crescent-shaped bay, where you can swim, snorkel, or check out the onsite water sport club. Explore the range of restaurants, bars, and shops in its wider waterfront area, while the beach itself features several snack bars and small cafes.Elia Beach
: Stretch out on the soft sand of the longest beach in Mykonos, take a dip in the Aegean Sea, or visit the water sport center to rent a personal watercraft or go tubing.Panormos Beach
: Protected by a bay and two islets, this large sandy beach features pleasure boats anchoring in the bay allowing passengers to jump into the calm waters directly from the boat deck. The nearby village provides traditional cooking as well as shops with locally made crafts.Matoyianni Street
: Mykonos' main shopping street--dotted with small shops on the stone-paved walkways--moonlights as the nightlife hub of the island, where visitors and locals share stories over wine.Super Paradise Beach
: This one-stop party place entertains with a full-service beach, where music accompanies all beachside activities and gets progressively louder as the evening advances, filling up clubs and bars with visitors from around the world.Paranga Beach
: A peaceful alternative to nearby Super Paradise Beach, Paranga Beach actually combines two distinctly different parts: one a secluded beach and the other featuring lounge chairs, umbrellas, taverns, and live music and entertainment at night.The Windmills (Kato Milli)
: Sixteenth-century Venetian windmills, which fueled the local economy by grinding wheat until the mid-20th century, are today the first thing approaching ships see on arrival to Mykonos.Archaeological Site of Delos
: According to ancient myth, this uninhabited island and World Heritage Site is the birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis--the god of light and the goddess of wild animals. Add a ferry trip here to your Mykonos itinerary and see the famous stone lions that grace the road leading to the three temples of Apollo and the archeological museum.Ornos Beach
: Go snorkeling, water skiing, swimming, or just kick back and relax on family-friendly Ornos Beach, equipped with umbrellas and lounge chairs and surrounded by restaurants and gift shops.
Planning a Mykonos Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on Mykonos with Kids
With its reputation for hedonism, Mykonos may not be the obvious choice for a family vacation. Still, this little sunny island has a quieter, family-friendly side and more than a few things to offer children and teenagers. Consider starting your family tour of Mykonos from Platys Gialos
, one of the island's more tranquil spots, which nevertheless offers a range of water sports. Kids can be seen all over the maze of lively streets in Mykonos Town
till late in the evening, when the partygoers come in. Your children will love the town’s colorful harbor dotted with small fishing boats squeezed between luxury yachts and the famous 16th-century windmills located on the outskirts. Just a few miles from the main town lies Ornos
, hugging a sparkling bay nicely sheltered from occasionally strong summer winds. Its beach that slopes into shallow, warm waters is perfect for toddlers. Agios Stefanos
boasts a sandy stretch of shoreline great for kids, as they can wade quite far without being at risk. If your older kids wish to explore the island and its crystal clear waters in a less conventional way, take them to Ano Mera
, where they can rent bicycles or go scuba diving and snorkeling.
Things to Do on Mykonos with Kids
Apart from sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling at family-friendly, peaceful (and not overcrowded) beaches like Ornos
and Agios Stefanos
, your kids might enjoy engaging in water sports like waterskiing and wakeboarding at Elia Beach
, the longest on the island, and Agrari Beach
, which also features a small playground for the littlest visitors. Use Platis Gialos Beach
as your base to take long boat tours up and down the coastline. To get away from all the typical Mykonos tourist attractions and see traditional farms, roads, and vineyards, join YUMMY PEDALS - Mykonos bicycle tours
on a tour through the countryside. Alternatively, GoDive Mykonos PADI Diving Resort
offers the opportunity to explore underwater life and glimpse famous shipwrecks and colorful reefs that lie within the clear waters of the Aegean Sea. Add a slice of history to your family vacation on Mykonos by visiting Aegean Maritime Museum
: your kids will love browsing through navigational instruments, model ships, and antique maps that tell the story of Greek sailors who explored and conquered distant corners of the world. For a little urban diversion, Little Venice
--a particularly dense part of the island’s main town--is packed with entertainment for all ages.
Tips for a Family Vacation on Mykonos
Though Mykonos is one of the more expensive Greek islands, it still offers a huge range of accommodations and prices. Luxurious hotels boast a wide range of services, such as kids’ clubs with stacks of games and English-speaking staff, babysitting, high chairs in all the restaurants and infant food on the menu. Some hotels do not charge for children sharing a room with parents. Though there is a general lack of kids' clubs and activities outside the hotels, most children will be happy to splash around in the shoals and to build sand castles on Blue Flag beaches (those meeting high international standards of safety, cleanliness, and ecological responsibility). To optimize your family vacation on Mykonos, rent a car to ensure comfort and flexibility. You can get almost anywhere on the island with a 20-minute ride.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on Mykonos
Cuisine of Mykonos
Mykonos is a place of gustatory contradictions, offering culinary delights for everyone’s taste and budget. You can have a fast, inexpensive meal at gyros and souvlaki stands and creperies, or spend a fortune in a posh restaurant with a view of the sea and harbor at Mykonos Town
. Traditional cuisine is rich in flavors, though born of simple ingredients, such as fish, pork, onions, barley rusks, and goat milk. Fried octopus tentacles are a much-savored appetizer. A classic Cyclades main dish, typical for Mykonos, is pan-fried red mullet with tomatoes and capers. Of the many delicacies you may consider tasting on your Mykonos holiday, be sure to try local favorite "kopanisti": a creamy-colored soft cheese with a sharp flavor handmade from cow, sheep, or goat milk and served as a meze, or small plate. Meat-lovers should try "louza," or pork salami, which is similar to prosciutto and spiced with peppers and wild savory, a local herb similar to mint. Those who have a sweet tooth should try "amygdalota," a flourless almond macaroon cookie, which is a staple product of any bakery.
Shopping on Mykonos
Mykonos is the sort of place where you can go shopping at midnight. Most shops in Mykonos remain open seven days a week, from morning until late at night; do keep in mind, however, that many shops close from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The fashionable clientele of the island have created the base for posh boutiques and luxurious stores, which stand side by side with small family-owned businesses selling handicrafts, such as handmade Greek sandals in all sorts of colors and designs. These leather sandals, which you can buy in Little Venice
, make a trendy gift you can bring back home.
The whitewashed, narrow streets of Mykonos Town
are lined with shops selling souvenirs, leather goods, designer clothes, handmade accessories, and local art. Do be aware that some of these are overpriced, so look around for the best deal. If you're looking to do some serious shopping on your trip to Mykonos, head to Matoyianni Street
, the island's main retail district with chic boutiques offering branded clothing and handmade silver and gold jewelry that looks like it could have been worn by Greek goddesses.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Mykonos
History of Mykonos
Ancient myth says that Mykonos was the location of a cardinal battle between Zeus and Titans, and that the rocks defining its landscape are actually petrified corpses of fallen giants. According to legend, the island was named after a local hero and its first ruler, Mykons, descendent of the sun god Apollo. The Ionians from Athens were its first known settlers in the early 11th century BCE. Archaeological Site of Delos
features many artifacts from the Hellenistic period, including the famous stone lions that grace the road leading to the three temples of Apollo in what is now a World Heritage Site.
Athens, Macedonia, and Rome ruled the island until it became part of the Byzantine Empire. To learn more about the medieval period on your Mykonos vacation, visit Monastery of Panayia Tourliani
, which houses a collection of fine Byzantine icons and other treasures from the Middle Ages. After the fall of Constantinople in the 13th century the island was ravaged by the Catalans and finally given over to the Duchy of Venice. The Venetians built many of the windmills, including the famous Kato Milli
, which drove the local economy by grinding wheat from the 16th until the mid-20th century.
The Turks invaded the island in the first half of the 16th century and fought Venice for supremacy over Mykonos until the beginning of the 18th century, when the last Venetians withdrew from the region. Throughout that time Mykonos prospered as a trading center and the numerous churches on the island, such as the popular Paraportiani Church
, proved crucial for the preservation of the island’s traditions and ethnic identity. The Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire broke out in the first half of the 19th century and Mykonos heroine Manto Mavrogenous played a significant role in it. Today you can see a statue dedicated to Mavrogenous as well as her house in Mykonos Town
Mykonos was liberated from the Turks in 1830, but the late 19th century and the period before and after World War I was hard on Mykonians. Many of them left the island to find work in mainland Greece and abroad. To get a sense of what it was like on the island in the past, include Folklore Museum
on your Mykonos itinerary, where you can view an eclectic collection of artwork, trinkets, traditional garb, and boat replicas.
Mykonos tourism can be traced back to the important archeological excavations carried out after the war. These started to attract foreigners, and in the 1930s an international jet set, as well as famous artists and politicians, began spending their holidays on the island. Since then, Mykonos has become a celebrated hot spot for well-heeled vacationers.
Landscape of Mykonos
This charming sun-drenched island in the Cyclades features barren, low, rocky hills rising from its golden shores lapped by the sparkling turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea. According to the island’s mythology, the large rocks that are scattered randomly all over Mykonos are the petrified corpses--the uncensored version says the testicles--of the giants Hercules killed in the battle between Zeus and the Titans. The simple architecture of bustling Mykonos Town
--narrow streets lined with cubical, two-story, whitewashed houses--makes up an inseparable part of the landscape, as do the Kato Milli windmills
, which are the first thing you'll see when arriving by boat to Mykonos. Take a steep but rewarding hike up the hill to Castle Panigirakis
for a splendid vista of Mykonos. Possibly the best way to explore the island and admire its landscape from various viewpoints is to join a tour on two wheels with YUMMY PEDALS - Mykonos bicycle tours
. If you leave the capital and move towards the interior on your tour of Mykonos, the landscape will change. Little hamlets dot the hillsides, but many areas are eroded by the strong winds, vegetation is scarce, and very few treetops stand out--all of which gives a desolate feeling to the land. Numerous seasonal streams and two reservoirs of fresh water compensate for the lack of rivers only to a certain extent.
Holidays & Festivals on Mykonos
Like elsewhere in Greece, Independence Day (March 25), Easter Monday, Assumption (August 15), and Christmas are the four official public holidays when all public offices, banks, and many stores remain closed. Local events are a blend of wild summer parties and festivities that revive the old customs and traditions. Mykonos Summer Festival and Mykonos Biennale, which is held every odd year, feature open-air concerts, theatre performances, and contemporary art projects, all presented in unusual locations such as the windmills, pirate houses, warehouses, and churches. If you're creating a Mykonos itinerary based on the island's local festivals, remember that all villages organize religious feasts once a year to honor their patron saints, but the major festival of Mykonos is Carnival, which lasts three weeks and ends on Ash Monday (at the end of February or the beginning of March). Harvest Festival, held in the middle of September, is a great celebration of food, dance, and singing at the windmills' onsite agricultural museum
. Finally, although Mykonos has long lost its reputation as a gay island, the annual Gay Festival remains as a legacy of this aspect of the island's history.
Mykonos Travel Tips
Climate of Mykonos
Mykonos enjoys hot, dry summers and mild winters. As early as mid-May and all through mid-October it rarely rains and the water is warm enough to enjoy swimming. The months of July and August are the warmest, with temperatures rising up to 40 C (104 F) during the day. However, Mykonos is widely known as the island of the winds for a reason. The cooling north wind, Meltemi, brings refreshment and mitigates the summer heat to a certain extent. Though this wind can be intense, it won’t spoil your holiday on Mykonos, since the coast boasts many sheltered bays and coves. The southern wind, Sirocco, blows in the winter, carrying sands from African deserts and bringing showers and occasionally electrical storms.
Transportation on Mykonos
Buses, taxis, and boats are the means of public transportation Mykonos has to offer. Buses are fairly frequent during the tourist season, providing an economical way to get to the most popular villages and well-known beaches. Taxis are faster and more convenient, but also more expensive. They don’t run on meters but rather a fixed-rate system; you can check them out at the main square of Mykonos Town, where the taxi station is located. Small boats are the ideal choice for exploring beaches along the south and west part of the island, as well as the nearby Delos Island. Still, your best option might be to tour Mykonos by car or scooter, both of which you can rent in many locations--just be sure to book in advance.