First time in Mykonos
First time in Mykonos, Greece? It was for us. This is what we found.
The first thing that comes to mind is Mykonos is exactly how you would imagine it – pretty whitewashed houses with blue balconies, cobblestone paved ‘streets’, expanses of turquoise water and of course the iconic windmills.
So, first impressions? Mykonos is a lot bigger than I had imagined. In fact, after four days Monty and I had barely scratched the surface. In hindsight, I think we should have stayed longer than just under a week, but time would not permit.
Day one we headed straight to Little Venice in Chora (Mykonos Town).
To my mind, Little Venice is undoubtedly the best spot to relax and take in the sea view. During the day buff bods straddling skiddoos zip around super yachts bobbing up and down on the crystal Aegean sea. The sky is a kaleidoscope of copper, burnt red, hot pink, and soft pastels set against brilliant blues. With hand held on heart, I can assure you this scene can be appreciatively viewed from any one of the many bars and restaurants that line Little Venice’s waterfront location.
The ribbon of Little Venice’s two and three-story houses with their quaint wooden balconies overhanging the sea go back to the middle ages. They were once private homes of wealthy merchants and sea captains and apparently, during the 16th and 17th century, they provided perfect camouflage for pirates loading and unloading their spoils under the cover of darkness.
For us, our pick was Kastro’s restaurant, perfectly located at the very tip of Little Venice. It’s the perfect place to end your first day in Mykonos. We arrived early, grabbed our own balcony suspended over the water’s edge and stayed. Most of the bars and restaurants in Little Venice offer equally spectacular sea views but Kastro’s, in our opinion, is the best and well enough away from the masses. I had pre-booked dinner a month or so before our arrival. The booking was for 6 pm but the owners said that a booking didn’t guarantee one of the three balconies. Our decision to get there early (around 4.30 pm) and grab the best spot paid off. We ordered glasses of Aperol Spritz and settled in for the sunset.
Viewing the soft evening light on The Windmills is dreamy. Their location is described as ‘above Chora’ but you literally walk right past these trademark structures perched on a small hill on your left as you head along the main road towards the water’s edge. (Keep to your right and you hit the well-known strip of Little Venice’s restaurants and bars. )
Currently being restored, the windmills were erected by the Venetians in the 16th century. The iconic whitewashed structures can be seen from several vantage points around town. (This spot is where many tourists gather to get the perfect sunset shot. Be aware that you’ll be sharing your space with other tourists. Our advice, head to one of the bars or restaurants in Little Venice and watch in comfort instead.)
Primarily used to mill wheat, there were originally over 25 windmills on Mykonos. Today there are seven windmills that have been preserved. If you’re keen, you can visit Bonis Windmill. It’s the only one open to the public as a museum. You can see where the flour was weighed, where supplies were stored and the actual mill above.
Behind Kastro’s is Panagia Paraportiani. This chapel, probably the most photographed church on the island, dates from the 15th century. Interestingly the church is actually five small churches in the one building. The one at the top (the dome) is the church of Panagia. The churches weren’t constructed at once, they were added gradually. Monty and I didn’t take a tour inside but in hindsight I think we should have. it’s interior is apparently charming.
A brief walk from the church is Old Port. It is full of restaurants but don’t expect to see the sunset in all its glory from here. Old Port is where boats dock and the big cruise ships’ tender boats drop off their passengers here for their one-day visits.
While at Old Port, I looked for Peter the Pelican, the mascot of Mykonos. Stories vary regarding his existence. One is, a few decades ago, Captain Charitopoulos found and rescued a wounded pelican who had been fighting against the wind. The pelican, christened Petros (Peter), made Mykonos home. Apparently three pelicans still run Chora’s paved paths, but I didn’t see them?
Delos – the mythical island in the Mediterranean….
If you’re looking for a change of pace, catch a boat to Delos Island for the day. The mythological birthplace of Apollo, the archaeological site includes an amphitheatre, mosaics and the iconic Terrace of the Lions. It’s hot in late September. Take your sunscreen. Take bottles of water. Take good walking shoes because it’s rocky. Make time to see the museum there as it houses statues excavated from the site. It’s also cool inside and a pleasant respite from the sun.
Getting Around The main modes of transport for tourists are car rentals, quad bikes, or the local bus, which we preferred as it is safe and easy. There are also taxis and Uber, albeit in limited quantities.
The main entry to the hub of Mykonos town (the island’s capital called Chora) is at the top of the town’s main street where the local buses stop. It’s not your typical bus terminal, it’s simply an area where a handful buses squeeze in, side-by-side, picking up and dropping off their load of passengers. The local buses are called KTEL Buses operate all year. They’re cheap and the best way to get around the island if you’re not needing to go off the beaten track. If you do, then rent a small car or quad bike. There are plenty of rental places to be found. We weren’t feeling overly confident about navigating the crazy traffic and skinny roads, especially as we’re not used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Sensibly, we chose the bus. It was perfect; no headaches, no arguments, no near misses or car accidents, no worries.
There are two main bus stations on Mykonos, both in Chora. Fabrika (south station) and Old Port (north station) – they are about 15mins apart accessible on foot. Simply walk through Chora from Fabrika to Old Port.
Monty and I usually book our own accommodation and airfares, but I became spooked about where we should stay. You see images. You google. You read. You research. So many options. What about ferries? Will they be running? In the end, we asked a well-travelled friend for advice regarding travel agencies.
Our travel agent recommended we stay at Korfos (Corfos) Bay. Admittedly I was concerned about this location. Based on what I had read, I thought staying in the heart of Mykonos town was a better option. Everything would be at our fingertips. However, we decided to take our travel agent’s advice and we’re glad we did. Close to but far enough away from the rabble.
For someone who stayed in Mykonos for just under a week, I’m pleased that Monty and I could arrive in Chora early, wander the streets at leisure and escape to our favourite watering holes before the cruise ship congestion started around 9am. By 3pm the crowds slowly melted away and Mykonos Town became ours once more.
Our hillside Korfos Bay villa was ideal. Glass of wine in hand, we embraced the peace and quiet sitting on our charming stone porch. The pool just beyond us shimmered in the moonlight while in the distance we could see Mykonos Town sparkling like a fairy wonderland. We were away from the millennials and party-going revellers; it suited us perfectly.
Korfos Bay is next to Ornos Bay. Literally just around the corner. Every morning we embarked on an easy 10-min walk down the hill, past Ornos’s main road, along a back street to Aperanto Galazio overlooking Ornos Beach (pictured below). It is an exquisite location. Glistening cobalt blue Aegean Sea at our feet. Fine grainy sand. Beach umbrellas. Wicker pendant lights swaying in the cool breeze. Sun lounges and generous tables beckoning. White on white everywhere. Big bowls of creamy thick Greek yoghurt the taste of which we have never experienced and probably won’t again. Slices of fresh fruit. Perfect lattes. The scene reminded me of the French Riviera without the tourist masses. After breakfast we walked back to the main road and caught the local bus to labyrinthine Mykonos Town.
Anyone heading to Mykonos for idyllic golden beaches similar to those in Australia will be disappointed. They’re not long white-sand beaches like the Australia’s Gold and Sunshine Coast beaches. Mykonos island has pebble beaches and others with wheat-coloured grainy sand, but they’re still enjoyable to sink your feet into.
If you are heading to Mykonos and would like an up-to-date list of the key beaches to visit click on https://santorinisecrets.com/mykonos-beaches/ for the 2020 hot spots.