A few weeks ago, Peter and I traveled to Greece and visited the islands of Mykonos and Paros.
We began our vacation with a hotel stay at Gatwick airport. This was one of the best travel decisions we’ve ever made. Our flight departed Gatwick extremely early and it was nice to wake up and walk a few steps and be at Gatwick airport.
This was our second trip to Greece and I’d forgotten how long of a flight it is from London to Greece. It’s a four-hour flight from London to Athens which is two hours longer than it feels like it should be.
Cyclades island complex
Below is a map for the geographically challenged folk out there.
We spent five nights in Mykonos and four nights in Paros.
Both islands belong to the Cyclades (pronounced “key-clawed-aze”) island complex. Greece has eight island complexes in total. The island of Santorini also belongs to the Cyclades island complex, so after visiting three Greek islands, we’ve still only visited one island complex.
Below is a map showing the location of the Cyclades island complex.
In addition to Santorini, Mykonos, and Paros, the Cyclades island complex is comprised of about 217 other islands, most of which are uninhabited.
All of the islands in the Cyclades complex, with the exception of Santorini and Milos, are mountain tops of an undersea mountain range. Santorini and Milos are volcanic. Until I’d learned that bit about the mountain tops, I’d never really thought of islands as mountain tops. It was a bit of an ah-ha moment.
Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s talk about Mykonos. I’ve got mixed feelings about Mykonos and I think it boils down to age. I’m too old for Mykonos.
I found Mykonos Town (the main town on the island) loud and dirty. There was a substantial amount of litter and the whitewashed buildings had seen better days.
There were more upscale sections of the town but they were mostly residential like the one below.
There are two main attractions in Mykonos Town. The first is Little Venice which runs along the coast and is splashed with water as waves crash into the rock wall.
The second is the windmills.
One hour exploring Mykonos Town will get the job done. Anything more and you may wish for serenity at a beach of a taverna in a rural part of the island like this one.
We spent five nights at a boutique hotel located on the outskirts of Mykonos Town. It didn’t have beach access or a pool which is something we will definitely put more emphasis on in the future
When we booked our hotel, the proximity to the town led us to believe that we could walk to the town but the reality was that it was too dangerous to walk along the main road, even in daylight. The road was narrow and did not have a shoulder or sidewalk to walk on.
The view from our room faced inland and, for lack of a better description, the view somewhat reminded me of the mountains of Afghanistan. I’ve not been to Afghanistan but I’ve seen enough footage for the mountains to be locked into memory.
The high-pitched buzz of motorbikes zipping down the main road to Mykonos Town was almost constant.
The husband and wife owners of the hotel were amazing and we could not fault the actual property, however, if we were to do Mykonos again (which we won’t), we’d choose an accommodation that was further from Mykonos Town, purely for serenity reasons.
Like our vacation in Santorini, we spent our days at various beaches. Mykonos is a smaller island than Santorini and it was only a 10-15 minute drive to our favorite beach, Super Paradise Beach. For comparison purposes, it was a 45-minute drive from Oia to any of the beaches on the southeast corner of Santorini.
Sun loungers on organized beaches were always owned and managed by someone – a restaurant/cafe, a beach taverna, a nearby hotel, etc. They could be rented for a daily fee. In the case of Super Paradise Beach, the sun loungers were owned by the bar.
Once at the beach, we’d rent two sun loungers (which came with an umbrella) and then spent the day at that beach. If we switched beaches, we’d have to pay another sun lounger rental fee and the sun lounger rental fees in Mykonos were expensive!
We visited Mykonos in mid-season and sun loungers varied in price and were directly related to the “class level” of the owning/managing establishment. The most expensive was Nammo’s (a popular place for celebrities) where a single lounger rented for 40€ per day. There was a small taverna next to Nammo’s that offered two loungers and an umbrella for 12€ per day. Literally the same beach.
Most beaches in Mykonos were sandy but some were pebbly. All beaches had cigarette butts in the sand and between the pebbles.
Some beaches were cleaner than others but one thing is for certain: The dirtiest beach in Mykonos is cleaner than the cleanest beach in Paros.
Every beach on every Greek island has a different vibe. There are family beaches, nude beaches, party beaches, relaxing beaches, and everything in-between.
We had four beach days in Mykonos and spent them at Parasou Beach, Super Paradise Beach (twice), and Lia Beach. Super Paradise Beach was the cleanest, had the best selection of food and drinks, had music pumping, and was reasonably priced.
Some beach bars, like Super Paradise Beach, start the party shortly before sunset by amping up the music and bringing in go-go dancers. Watch out. This beach can go from kid-rated to adult-rated in a matter of minutes.
At only 33 square miles, Mykonos is a very small island. It doesn’t take long to drive from coast to coast or to drive literally around the island. It’s got a small but adequate public bus system but it’s still best to rent a car. Who wants to be tied to a slow bus schedule whilst on vacation?
A car gives you the freedom to do what you want and when you want.
The island is flat and has no greenery (bushes, grass, trees, etc.) and, therefore, very prone to wind. In fact, Mykonos is known as the “island of the winds” and although we were told that it “wasn’t windy at all” during our vacation, we found the island to be very windy.
Access from the main roads down to some of the beaches could be steep and for these reasons (wind and steep inclines), I recommend renting a car versus a quad or scooter.
We witnessed several quads and scooters that did not have enough horsepower to ascend the incline from the beaches to the main roads. It was common to see people pushing their quads and scooters up the inclines. You don’t want to be that person, trust me!
We maneuvered around the island in our Smart car – a lesson learned from our vacation in Santorini where we’d rented a motorbike and wished we had a Smart car. Our luggage fit perfectly in the back of the car.
Smart cars are terrible cars to drive – I would never buy one – but it was the perfect size car for touring the island and, as a bonus, we could secure our belongings inside the car when we were at the beach or at a taverna.
Driving in Mykonos was a lot like driving on any other island. The roads were very narrow and no one abides by traffic laws. Stop signs and speed limits are considered optional. Two-lane roads are often packed with four lanes of cars.
Parking is hard to come by and not allowed alongside roads but no one cares and everyone risks the 80€ fine. I never saw a ticket being written nor a ticket stuffed under the windshield (British English: windscreen) wipers of an illegally parked car.
Drivers are aggressive and if you aren’t aggressive, you’ll never make it out of the parking lot of your accommodation.
Mykonos is the most expensive destination that we have visited thus far. If you know where to go, you can certainly find reasonably priced meals and drinks but the reality is that, just like Santorini, almost everything is imported on the island which makes everything expensive.
The owners of our hotel steered us in the right direction as far as affordability goes and, because of their recommendation, we found the best mojitos in Europe for only 8.50€. If I could remember the name of the restaurant where we drank those mojitos, I’d certainly tell you but unfortunately, I don’t remember.
Literally 15 m / 50 ft away from the mojito restaurant was a bar on a popular street that was selling mojitos for 19€.
We walked into that bar and when I saw the prices, we walked out. It was a first for us to leave an establishment because of prices but I could not justify paying more than double the price for the same cocktail we’d just drank 10 minutes prior.
We walked a few more paces along the water and found a bar charging 12€ per cocktail which we found acceptable since we were seated on the “deck”. Location, location, location.
On the other hand, wine was cheap but it gave me hangovers. And hangovers are not supposed to happen in tropical destinations so be careful with the wine.
Beer at restaurants and bars wasn’t especially cheap either though I cannot recall specific prices.
Everything was expensive. That’s the lesson learned and the main takeaway anyone planning to visit Mykonos should know beforehand.
As mentioned above, there are over 200 islands in the Cyclades island complex.
The cheapest, easiest, and most sensible way to island hop within the complex is by ferry with one exception. It’s not recommended to take the ferry from Athens to any of the Cyclades complex islands because ferries to/from Athens are often canceled due to high winds.
We took the ferry from Mykonos to Paros and found Greek ferries to be more efficient than Croatian ferries. Greek ferry tickets could be purchased online and in advance. Additionally, there was allocated seating, the boarding process was well-organized, and the ferries themselves were better quality than the Croatian ferries.
We boarded the ferry in the port of Mykonos and, upon boarding, we were instructed to place Paros-destination luggage on the left side of the ferry and Santorini-destination luggage on the right side of the ferry. I was impressed.
Our experience with Croatian ferries was the complete opposite. We were required to haul our luggage up the stairs to the seating deck. And when we got to the seating deck, we found that there were no racks or space to store luggage. Luggage was everywhere.
Luggage sorted, we ascended the stairs to our assigned seats and sat back and enjoyed the journey to Paros.
In conclusion, five nights in Mykonos was too many. Three nights would have been just about right to get a good feel for the island.