Guest travel article by Keith Warwick
Half a century ago a small, poor, wind-lashed, drought-ridden, yet picturesque island, placed somewhere between the gods and obscurity, began to attract the attention of artists, writers, and seasoned travellers. Already rediscovered by historians and archaeologists, drawn like Indiana Jones to the spectacular ruined city of the ancient superpower Delos, on the neighbouring island, the scene was set for the reinvention of Mykonos. Consequently, a touristic legend was born which developed into an island of gay 24-hour partying, colour, spectacular sunsets, and an exhausting lifestyle fit for any queen – or anyone. Hedonistic, yet decidedly schizophrenic in its ability to offer quiet, hidden beaches and places where peace reigns, it is one of the few places on earth to offer something for everyone – including families and children.
The busy main port area, where ferries dock and cruise ships anchor nearby, is alongside Mykonos town, which is probably the most attractive town in the Cycladic island group. The airport is just a few minutes away, but the best way to be introduced to this vibrant place is to sail in on a ferry – especially at night when the town takes on its after-dark identity. Today the rich, and the likes of the George Bush clan, as well as stars like Jane Fonda, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson, are flown in by special helicopter from Athens to stay at a clutch of deluxe hotels.
The cosmopolitan air of the place is obvious from day one, so just relax and enjoy the easygoing atmosphere. All human life will pass you by, and sometimes even try to talk, interact or run over you. During August, mopeds screech around the place like giant psychopathic bees, so watch out (though thankfully not the alleyways where they are blissfully banned). Petros the cute pelican, the tame town mascot, and his younger understudy (just in case Petros drops dead from over-petting), are fun sights and are forever sources of gentle entertainment and mirth.
Money can be spent freely on Mykonos, which has some of the most expensive establishments in Greece, so take your credit cards. However, there are numerous places to change travellers cheques, and plenty of cash machines. But avoid changing your dollars at the seafront bureaux de change outlets as they usually charge hefty fees and can be crowded and unhelpful. The bars and restaurants are numerous, but the most refreshing ones are pricier and right on the seafront, or round the Kastro area. Hotels range from the opulent to the budget, but all are usually clean and adequate, even if costlier than on other islands.
Food shops are usually overpriced. Best to take a taxi to the ‘airport’ supermarket, where normal price tags and stocks of everything including cheap wine is available. The tourist shops on Mykonos are plentiful, but try the backstreet ones if you can, as the seafront variety have hiked prices. Most international deluxe jewellery names can be found. Various fashion houses, silver icon retailers (the religious variety), and a clutch of swank art shops make alley strolling an entertaining pastime.
At night the sight of the fishing boats with their nets bobbing around the harbour, and the throngs of people doing the evening volta (stroll) is great entertainment, whilst the warm breeze is superbly relaxing and soporific. Glowing brilliantly in the glare of powerful spotlights and lamps, the town turns into a glamorous vision of activity and haunt of the beautiful people. But be warned, because often it’s windy, and ‘bad hair’ days are a part of the scene for everyone.
The neighbouring island of Delos, was once the most powerful state and important religious centre in the Aegean. Where the God Apollo was born in a sacred lake, it is now an open-air Pompeii-like museum, offering the visitor an amazing glimpse into ancient history. With mosaics and statues, and a building holding many exhibits and finds, it is well worth visiting. Small ferries depart regularly from town. But its single café is a rip-off – so best bring your own refreshments. There are also a couple of good museums in Mykonos town worth a look.
Beaches are all clean and idyllic and number around 26, with several served by buses. Elia beach is large and beautiful and geared for everyone including nudists, with a prime all-gay nudist cove to the far right as you hit the main beach, which also has convenient waiter service. Paradise and Super are both faded crowded beauties worth avoiding, and St John is small, picturesque and the famous location where Shirley Valentine sat drinking wine, in the memorable movie. Avoid the Mykonos Town beach though – it is near the ferry dock and not reliably clean.
All that remains to be said is that the sunsets still evoke the most wonderment. The sight of the pink and orange setting sun casting its glorious rays over the faces of mesmerised tourists and turning the sea into a shimmering sheet of beaten gold, really is a moving experience when accompanied by classical music, at places like the Kastro Bar.
Like so many Greek islands and special places, it is the heady mix of climate, scenery, myth, and history – and of course the Greek people themselves – that combine to create an unforgettable magic. A magic that haunts and entreats you to return time and time again. Like a siren luring a hapless sailor, Mykonos town, in her white and beautiful mantle and her loud yet relaxing atmosphere, enchants, refreshes and captivates her admirers, who cannot help but return to her welcoming arms.
Keith Warwick Bio
Keith describes himself on his Twitter account as Novelist; cosmopolitan, painter, poet/lyricist, travel & food writer, web-master/designer, travel agent, cat lover, Hellenophile, pro-human rights and cook.