Mykonos Majestic, Marvellous and Madly Memorable
A leisurely stroll through Hora is by far the most beautiful part of Mykonos and is replete with ancient windmills, elegant whitewashed residences and meandering roads that provide a perfect backdrop to a truly mesmerizing holiday, writes Subhash Chakraborty.
Mykonos is a world-class tourist destination and is particularly renowned for its pulsating nightlife and entertainment. Although slightly more expensive in comparison to other Greek islands, yet Mykonos is worth a visit. We were told that the island of Mykonos has evolved into one of Europe's top-ranked tourist destinations. Mykonos belongs to the Cycladic group of islands located in the azure blue Aegean Sea.
With a population of 6200 as per the 2002 census, the residents of Mykonos have a warm and friendly attitude towards tourists. The town of Hora is the principal town of Mykonos, located strategically on the island's western border. One has to bear in mind that Mykonos' freshwater is scarce and the island relies to a large extent on seawater, which is scientifically desalinated for use by its residents. At the end of the beautiful narrow streets of Mau, is where the Mykonos dam is located, constructed to meet the water needs of the island.
With the rapid growth of tourism in the last few decades, Mykonos has a rather cosmopolitan ambience that lures international jetsetters to this picturesque island. With its pristine beaches, chic tavernas, a pulsating nightlife and numerous touristic sites, this island is the favourite haunt of Hollywood celebrities, including many having set up their summer retreat here. It is quite natural to sight renowned stars strolling along Mykonos's meandering streets without any bother from the paparazzi. I never imagined in my wildest of dreams that I would come face to face with Brad Pitt and Richard Gere, which is exactly what happened with me in one of the secluded beaches in Mykonos.
Our well-informed guide Sylvia was of the opinion that if you haven't seen Mykonos you have missed out on something fabulous. Mykonos is the great glamour island of Greece and happily flaunts its sizzling St-Tropez-meets-Ibiza style and party-hard reputation. The high-season mix of hedonistic holidaymakers, cruise-ship crowds (which can reach 15,000 a day) and posturing fashionistas throng Mykonos Town (aka Hora), a traditional whitewashed Cycladic maze, delighting in its authentic cubist charms and its chichi cafe-bar-boutique scene. But do visit some of the villages, little harbours and its magnificent, remote beaches like Kalo Livadi, Kalafati and Aghia Anna.
Mykonos' golden-sand beaches in their formerly unspoilt state were the pride of Greece. Now, most are jammed with umbrellas and backed by beach bars, but they do make for a hopping scene that draws floods of beachgoers. Moods range from the simply hectic to the outright snobby, and nudity levels vary. Without your own wheels, catch buses from Hora or caïques from Ornos and Platys Gialos to further beaches. Mykonos Cruises has an online timetable of its sea-taxi services. The nearest beaches to Hora were overtaken by the construction of the New Port. That leaves little Agios Stefanos (4km north of Hora), within sight of docking cruise ships. There's a tiny strip of sand in town, Agia Anna. About 5km southwest of Hora are family-oriented Agios Ioannis (where Shirley Valentine was filmed) and Kapari. The nearby packed and noisy Ornos and the package-holiday resort of Platys Gialos have boats for the glitzier beaches to the east. In between these two is Psarou, a magnet for the Greek cognoscenti.
Approximately 1km south of Platys Gialos you'll find Paraga Beach, which has a small gay section. Party people should head about 1km east to famous Paradise, which is not a recognised gay beach but has an action-packed younger scene, a camping resort (www.paradisemykonos.com) and nightlife that doesn't quit. Down a steep access road, Super Paradise (aka Plintri or Super P) has a fully gay section (including the JackieO' beach club) and a huge eponymous club. North-coast beaches can be exposed to the meltemi (dry northerly wind), but Panormos and Agios Sostis with their golden sand are fairly sheltered and less busy than the south-coast beaches. For out-of-the-way beaching, you'll need tough wheels to reach the likes Fokos and Mersini on the northeast coast.
Mykonos comes alive particularly during the summer, with numerous music concerts, high-quality theatre shows and folk dance recitals, all of which simply leave the first time visitors to Mykonos spellbound. Even though Mykonos is renowned principally for its pristine and picturesque beaches, the island also has numerous other attractions, which are of great importance to the discerning international tourists. A leisurely stroll through Mykonos Town is by far the most beautiful part of Mykonos and is replete with ancient windmills, elegant whitewashed residences and meandering roads that provide a perfect backdrop to a truly mesmerizing holiday. Hora, the island's well-preserved port and capital, is a warren of narrow alleyways and whitewashed buildings overlooked by the town's famous windmills. In the heart of the waterfront Little Venice quarter, which is spectacular at sunset, tiny flower-bedecked churches jostle with glossy boutiques, and there's a cascade of bougainvillaea around every corner. High-season streets are crowded with chic stores, cool galleries, jangling jewellers and both languid and loud music bars – plus a catwalk cast of thousands.
The most enduring monument of Mykonos town had to be the astonishing Church of Paraportiani, which dates back all the way to the 16th century. This church is conspicuous by its rather uneven architectural pattern and draws hordes of visitors every day.
Another beautiful church I saw was in the picturesque small port of St Ioannis, an area which was named after a small church dedicated to Saint Ioannis. The small port in front is the starting point for the local fishing boats, which are protected here from the island's strong north winds. For museum enthusiasts, there is The Archaeological Museum, and Maritime and Folklore Museums in Mykonos Town, all of which are virtual treasure houses of Mykonian artefacts. A visit to the above-mentioned museums will open up whole new worlds of discovery. The stupendous evolution of Mykonos from ancient times to the present day is well represented in the museums of Mykonos.
One must also visit the village of Ano Mera, which is in close proximity to Mykonos. This is where the stupendous, 16th-century Tourliani Monastery is located. This monastery, we were told, is the oldest of all monasteries in the whole of Greece and worth a visit. We were mesmerized by the ornate wooden carvings on the altar, which was reputedly handcrafted by the famous artisans of Florence during the 18th century.
Of particular importance are the delicate priestly object d'arts, inclusive of the extraordinary idol of Virgin Mary, which many believe to be the work of Luke the Apostle. My fascination for history took me to the Platis Gialos, where the astonishing Well of Giannaros is located. It is nothing but a splendid underground reservoir. A flight of stairs will take you to the bottom. There are three elongated towers that hover above and is said to have been built with the principal goal of protecting the island of Mykonos. Mykonos is also the jumping-off point for the island of Delos at the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, and one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece. The excavations on the island are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean. For archaeological buffs, it happens to be one of the most outstanding open-air archaeological museums of the world, where we came across numerous ancient monuments which were impeccably preserved by way of the latest archaeological techniques. The Museum has an extraordinary assortment of art objects, and according to popular Greek legend, Delos was the birthplace of the Greek Gods Apollo and Artemis. But Delos had a position as a holy sanctuary a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis and it was once a prosperous commercial and spiritual hub.
Mykonos offers a wide array of gastronomic delights to suit every taste. Since tourists from all over the world come to holiday in Mykonos, every conceivable dining option can be found in this picturesque Greek island. The entire island is choc-a-bloc with elegant cafes, restaurants and tavernas, that serve anything from traditional Greek cuisine to French, and of course the nouveau international cuisines.