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Greece’s Friendly Mykonos Island
Play and Relax on the Sandy Beaches or in Mykonos Town

"We’re right back where we started! Where is it," my wife exclaimed?

"We should have left a trail of bread crumbs, like Handsel and Gretel," I offered. For the last 15 minutes we’d been searching for a restaurant in mid-town Mykonos that we'd discovered earlier that day. Now we felt like we were in an episode of the "Twilight Zone." Where had the restaurant gone?

All par for the course in Mykonos town, where the curving streets were designed to confuse attacking pirates in the 16th century. Today, the pleasant, narrow, cobble-painted streets of two-story white-washed homes and shops confuse tourists, rather than pirates. But with such an enchanting environment, who really cares? We knew we could orient ourselves by eventually coming upon the harbor and its esplanade lined with cafes, or the stretch of waterfront homes, cafes, and bars called Little Venice, or the main shopping street, Matoyanni, lined with restaurants and boutiques. Mykonos, Little Venice
Explore Mykonos Town

Mykonos residents
Mykonos town is just the right size to keep you interested -- perhaps at times lost, yet always comfortable. The residents seem to really enjoy sharing their town with the visitors. You may see an old man greeting suntanned vacationers as he leads a donkey laden with vegetables or flowers. You’ll see fishermen leaving the harbor in the morning and returning in the afternoon. In the cool of the evening the residents will promenade down the esplanade to meet their friends at the numerous cafes.

The variety of Mykonos shops, restaurants, cafes, tavernas, and night clubs is incredible. Even in the midst of a quiet area of back streets you’ll come across a restaurant, candy shop, or boutique. If you find one that warrants a return visit, your challenge is to decode the labyrinthine maze again. Intermingled with the streets of homes and shops are a large number of churches and chapels. One of the most interesting is the Church of Paraportiani, with its conglomeration of four Byzantine chapels on a promontory facing the sea. Mykonos Island has reportedly 365 churches and chapels. They display the signature Greek Cyclades Islands cubic architecture with white-washed facades and blue domes.

One of the delights of our wanderings was coming upon the sea on the opposite side of the peninsula which forms the main harbor. From the small bay we gazed north to look upon the wall of homes and shops called Little Venice. Then we gazed south to view the landmark Mykonos windmills, echoes of the time when wind power was used to grind the island’s grain. We decided to take an espresso break at one of the cafes in this area and enjoy the bay, windmills, and sunny ambiance.


Church Street scene Windmills

Stay at the Beach

While Mykonos Town is action central for tiny Mykonos island, its numerous bays and beaches were designed for the vacationer. Places such as Agios Stefanos, Platis Gialos, and Psarou have resort villas with quiet beaches. We were fortunate to stay at the Kivotos Clubhotel on Ornos Bay. At this 30-room villa the relaxation is non-stop, with a private beach, swimming pool, and kayaks to explore the rocky coast line. This environment quickly spoiled us, starting with the complementary breakfast. The nearby village of Ornos has a great sandy beach and four tavernas which serve excellent Greek lunches and dinners.

Ornos beach scene Ornos Bay Kivotos hotel

Getting around Mykonos Island is a snap. Most of the beaches are within a few minutes drive of Mykonos Town, served by taxis and buses. Although Mykonos is fairly hilly, it’s only ten miles long by seven miles wide. Many visitors rent a car or motorscooter to explore the multiple beaches and visit the Monastery of Panayia Tourliani. Founded in 1580, the monastery sits in the central village of Ano Mera. Be sure to take care in driving or walking Mykonos’ roads, as many drivers, including taxi drivers, make a challenge of scaring their road compatriots. However, we found a quiet road for a walk from Ornos to Agios Ioannis, the beach and village where the movie Shirley Valentine was filmed. Now ten years later, new resort villas are being built on the hillside surrounding the beach.

Experience Delos’ Antiquity

One morning we took a 20-minute boat ride from Mykonos to explore the ruins of Ancient Delos. Along with the enjoyable trip to the island, we were rewarded with a two-hour visit of excavated ruins, such as the Avenue of the Lions (7C BC), the theater (3C BC), and many one and two-story houses with mosaic floors, like the House of the Trident. A flight of steps ascends the island’s summit, Mt. Kynthos, the birthplace of Apollo. Here is a great view of Delos and the nearby islands.

Terrace of the Lions Delos sculpture Delos mosaics

Delos was the religious capital of the Ionians in 1,000 BC. Greek mythology recounts how Leto, one of Zeus’ lovers, gave birth on Delos to Apollo, god of physical beauty and the fine arts. By 454 BC the Athenians had overtaken the Ionians, forcing Delos to pay taxes and provide Athens with ships. Delos’ greatest period was in the third to fourth century BC, when the tiny island had a population of 20,000 and was the chief financial center and slave market in the Mediterranean. Foreigners from Rome, Syria, and Egypt built homes and coexisted tolerantly, despite the variety of religious beliefs.

Back to Mykonos

Returning to Mykonos, we again were impressed with this most cospmopolitan of Greek Islands. Immediately we headed for a harbor esplanade taverna for a great lunch; Greek salad, kopanisti (salted white cheese), chicken souvlaki (kebab), followed by a dessert of baklava and a cup of espresso. At a nearby table a local resident and his granddaughter chatted amiably. A small glass of ouzo, Greece's famous liqueur, fortified us for another do-nothing afternoon by the pool and sea at Ornos beach.

Mykonos residents
Harbor sloop Several days enjoying the ambiance and sea activities of Mykonos seemed too short. When we said our goodbye and boarded a flight back to Athens, we vowed to return soon.

Mykonos deserves its reputation as one of the most inviting vacation spots in all of Greece. Our time there seemed to truly "float by," the mark of a relaxing vacation. Of course when we return, we’ll be sure to sample some of the other unique islands of Greece’s Cyclades island group.

Until then...Adio Mykonos!

Click here for details to plan your own trip to Greece’s Aegean isle of Mykonos.

Les Furnanz
Photos by Rita Furnanz

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