Beyond the Party
The ultimate vacation isle, Mykonos combines gorgeous beaches with cosmopolitan bars, cafés, and nightclubs. Cycladic architecture is seen in the cubist homes dotting the landscape, watched over as they are by hilltop windmills turning in the breeze. Once considered the jet-set glamour island of Greece, today Mykonos is mainly renowned as a raucous destination and popular cruise-ship port.
This results in high-season crowds, packed beaches, and non-stop revelry. However, in spring and autumn, you can enjoy a less-crowded island. Even in summer, it’s still possible to escape the party and discover a more authentic Aegean way of life. Read on for six off-the-beaten-path sites and experiences.
Agios Sostis Beach
There’s no such thing as a wholly secluded beach on Mykonos, but you can find more remote coves and bays hidden from the throngs. Our favorite is Agios Sostis. This little north coast beach receives relatively few visitors, and the sands dissolve into clear shallow waters good for snorkeling. You won't find umbrellas or lounge chairs here, and there's only one restaurant—Kiki’s, a simple taverna where you can enjoy a Greek salad, plus fish and lamb dishes grilled on an open charcoal spit.
Mykonos Vioma Organic Farm
Mykonos Vioma is as off-the-beaten-path a venue as you’ll find on the island. This organic winery and farm, on a former monastic vineyard northeast of Ano Mera, uses traditional landscaping methods (grazing sheep do the weeding) and new-age viniculture techniques (like playing classical music over the vineyards) to cultivate rich, full-flavored Cycladic wines. Apparently, the vines here grow healthy and vigorous due to the natural moisture in the air and the addition of elegant music. The farm also produces table grapes, vinegar, vine leaves, grape molasses, plus honey courtesy of the occupants of two beehives.
You can visit by appointment and even have lunch. Savor the horiatiki salad, various cheeses, and louza, a seasoned, sun-dried ham similar to prosciutto. Indulge in the Mykonian amygdaloto, a sweet made of almonds and rose water. You’ll also get to meet a host of animal residents including Marika, the celebrity donkey. Visit in September, during harvest season, for a chance to stomp grapes. Mykonos Vioma hosts art exhibitions, book presentations, poetry readings, and similar events, so consult the calendar.
Day Trip to Delos
Mykonos has a relatively short history. Strolling its modern streets it's easy to forget that Grecian culture dates back to the dawn of Western civilization. However, an excursion to uninhabited Delos, Mykonos' closest neighbor, will drive this home. One of the most important historical, archaeological, and mythological sites in the entire Mediterranean (twin deities Apollo and Artemis were born here), sacred Delos was millennia ago the most important religious center in Greece and the Levant’s most important center for trading and banking. Today, the island is a National Museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ferries connect the two islands (30 minutes), putting you ashore in a giant, open-air reliquary of history where the breezes stir echoes of Delos' classic past. The map you receive at the entrance, plus the superb Archaeological Museum (with its statuary and mosaic friezes), will help you make sense of this vast enclave of ruined temples, theaters, and other structures, including the rows of lean Mycenean lions.
Cycle Around the Island
Fancy taking off on two wheels for serendipitous exploration? Surprisingly, bicycles can’t be rented on Mykonos. Fortunately, you can arrange a guided tour from the Mykonos Vioma Organic Farm. There's a range of itineraries, from easy family-friendly tours to an "MTB Junkies Tour" featuring steep inclines and rewarded with breathtaking views atop Mount Moroergo. All routes weave down (and up) the backroads and gravelly trails through relatively unexplored parts of the island. Tours include stops at the Panagia Tourliani Monastery and visiting secluded coves like the beaches of Fokos and Myrsini. Our specialists can book the tours for you.
Take a Cooking Class
Mykonos cuisine is a true pleasure for the palate, enhanced by local specialties such as louza and a tangy cheese called kopaniski. To learn how to make them yourself, book a cooking class at Mikonian Spiti, a family run organic farm in the village of Ano Mera. Here, the matriarch, Teta, regales guests with stories about Mykonian culture and the traditional farming lifestyle as you sip wine, ouzo, and raki. You'll also enjoy cheeses and dried figs as you sit on a shaded patio with a lovely ocean vista. Then it's into the bright kitchen to learn to make horiatiki salad, tzatziki sauce, and hearty Hellenic dishes, which you’ll eat with Teta’s family. Your visit includes a tour of the farm, with its goats, pigs, and Konstantis the donkey.
Mykonos isn’t known for hiking. The island is relatively flat and developed, and there are virtually none of the donkey paths that make hiking elsewhere in the Cyclades such a joy. Nonetheless, it’s pleasant to walk to many of the beaches along the narrow roads that snake through the sparse landscape. During the spring and summer the land is speckled with wildflowers, and always you have a view of the blue-black sea in the distance.
Start out with the four-mile walk from Mykonos town to the Armenistis Lighthouse, at the northwest tip of the island. Or sign up for an organized hiking excursion that includes a traditional lunch at Mykonian Spiti farm. Options include a short three-mile round-trip ramble from the farm to Mersini Beach, or a more adventurous six-mile hike that adds a hilltop clamber for sensational views. Our local experts can arrange this for you.
If this guide has primed you for the beauty of Mykonos, consider hopping around the Cyclades islands on an eight-day sailing tour.