It’s the party island to rival Ibiza. Laura Ivill explores the extravagant Greek isle with low-key appeal
FOR a small island, Mykonos has a big reputation – $300 million super-yachts come to play in its clear Aegean waters, chic nightclubs pulse with tanned lithe bodies and lazy days are spent at beach clubs serving cocktails to the well-(un)dressed.
But why do they choose to come back to Mykonos year after year? Perhaps it has something to do with its free-spirited, unspoiled barefoot-luxury charm.
At less than 41 square miles, there is only one town, with a pretty sandy harbour and sun-drenched whitewashed buildings lining narrow, car-free lanes – perfect for browsing the myriad stylish boutiques.
From May to September, glorious weather is guaranteed, and visitors in search of a laid-back (but never sleepy) holiday vibe of sun, sea, sand and good times choose to hire one of the hundreds of dune buggies in town, that gives them the freedom to buzz hassle-free around the island.
Wandering the pristine stone-paved lanes of Mykonos town, I discover little blue-domed churches and chapels. Most of the buzzing bars and restaurants can be found around Matoyianni Street and the harbour’s esplanade.
The traditional Cycladic architectural style of picturesque whitewashed cubes is found all over the island (not a high-rise in sight) and, thankfully, any new villas are in keeping this low-rise look.
Cascades of cerise bougainvillea add vibrancy to the simple landscape of blue sea, soft sand beaches and low hills crisscrossed with old stone walls.
Little Venice is where the wealthy sea captains of the past built homes near the port, and where holidaymakers today meet in the late afternoon to enjoy a long, cool drink in one of the stylish bars. On the hill above the town, the famous 16th-century windmills still stand, and the colourful story of the island’s strategic importance and past inhabitants comes to life in the town’s open-air agricultural museum (which sells tickets to see inside the Boni Windmill) and the maritime museum.
For culture lovers, the neighbouring island of Delos is the mythical birthplace of the twins Apollo and Artemis and is one of Greece’s must-see archaeological cities of temples, houses and an amphitheatre.
The only private beach on Mykonos belongs to the Santa Marina five-star resort at Ornos Bay (santa-marina.gr). Elegant, streamlined and cool, the resort’s colour scheme echoes the natural beauty of the island. Take home a little of this style by the Greek designer Themis Z. Growing up on the island, Themis Zouganeli has infused her lifestyle products with the relaxed yet stylish vibe of Mykonos.
As well as her outlet at Santa Marina, Themis Z (themisz.com) is stocked at boutique hotel The Belvedere, in the heart of Mykonos town, with its Six Senses spa and Matsuhisa by Nobu restaurant (belvederehotel.com), and at the beachclub Nammos at Psarou beach (nammos.gr), where the millionaires anchor.
If you want to retreat to the privacy of your own villa during the day, try rentals through sharing sites such as Airbnb.co.uk and HomeAway.co.uk, or villa companies, such as Whitekeyvillas.com, Mykonosvillas.com or CVvillas.com.
And packing is easy – everyone wears white.