MYKONOS, GREECE - It all started in the 1960s when Jackie O and Grace Kelly made this place, known as the “island of the winds,” a highly coveted escape for the rich and famous. That’s because Mykonos is remarkably cool — where you go to impress and to be impressed.
I’m always amazed at the reaction of tourists who set foot on the Greek Islands and witness the magnitude of this country’s beauty for the first time. It’s a sight that never gets old. And Mykonos has more wow factor than most.
How did they get these whitewashed villas, bars, restaurants and churches so perfectly chiseled into the cobblestone streets along the side of a mountain?
Above: An abundance of sun, sea and sand await on Mykonos.
No matter how many times I visit, I never get tired of Mykonos.
On Mykonos, you don’t just exist, you live.
And while the Greek financial crisis still looms over the people and their country, Mykonos is the anomaly, remaining pretty much unscathed by Greece’s economic misfortunes.
One visit here and you quickly discover why its lifestyle is so alluring, so desirable. Mykonians avoids the norm and do not allow routine to manipulate their decisions. Instead, those who live on the island, and even those who just visit, ignite reactions and moods that are seductive, strange and completely justifiable.
Anything goes on Mykonos.
I quickly realize five days on the Aegean island of Mykonos may not be enough.
Above: Known as the "party Island", Mykonos is also a family-friendly place.
Each day during my visit I wake up to the tranquil view of mountains and ocean bathed in sunlight. Then I mingle with the people who make up this treasured island — the local fishermen whose skin has been baked by the sun, the lady who’s up at 5 a.m. to get the first loaf of freshly baked bread from the fourno (bakery), and the merchants sitting on the steps of their shops engaging in a nutritional breakfast of cigarettes, black coffee and kotsobolio (gossip) from the night before.
I watch the tycoons and VIPs perusing the chora (town). Foreign investment is at its peak on Mykonos. The British, French and Thais have invested heavily here. They remain faithful to the heritage of Mykonos while taking pre-eminent luxury to new heights.
Then you have the regular tourists, the mature, refined couples and families who stroll the streets in search of a breakfast of fresh yogurt and some early shopping before the sweltering heat kicks in.
And, of course, there’s the party animals, mostly single (or at least it looks that way), who come to have fun without being belligerent. They party at famed island venues such as Queen, Remmezzo and Rock n’ Roll and party until the wee hours of the morning.
Above: Known as the Island of Wind, Mykonos has plenty of historic windmills.
What connects all these people is the beach. They come together there under a canopy of blue sky; some soak up the rays while others sleep off their hangovers from the night before.
That’s life on Mykonos. No one is in a hurry. No one is stressed.
The famed full moon (panselino) during the month of August falls nothing short of incredible as dark skies light up at night.
Greeks will congregate just about anywhere to soak up the island vibe, drink, dance and wish upon a star. This year was no exception and I joined the droves of people under the serene glare of the August moon each night during my stay.
What once was a vacation spot dominated by Greece’s Italian and Spanish neighbours is now a favourite for the likes of Arab Sheiks and Asian millionaires. The residents of Mykonos tell me they can’t recall seeing the island as crowded as it has been these past two summers.
With over 100 new or completely renovated venues — ranging from upscale hotels, clubs, spas, restaurants, patisseries, high-end fashion retailers and jewellery boutiques — Mykonos’ global appeal is reaching new levels. Hotels are at capacity. Champagne flows by the caseloads. And an armada of luxury yachts line the harbour.
During the day, I feel the vibe at illustrious beaches such as Kalo Livadi, Pasrrou and Plati Gialos. Inevitably, the beach scene sets our mood and leads us into the night. It’s time to go back to the hotel to shower, change and then head out for a bite to eat at Souvlaki Story.
The streets are bustling and men, women and kids are dressed up and poking their heads into every store. When the clock strikes 10 p.m., it’s time for another outfit change. I throw on a pair of strappy heels, a bright lipstick and grab a front row stool at Astra, where I watch people cruise up and down the winding streets, drink and bop my head to the amazing music.
Midnight rolls around and we head to Monarch Beach — quite early by Greek standards — to find it almost empty. We wonder whether many of the locals and tourists were heading elsewhere. If you’ve never been to Greece, or Mykonos for that matter, one thing you quickly learn is that there is a party that’s about to go off somewhere. Within an hour, Monarch Beach is absolutely crammed with young and old grooving to the beats and sipping cocktails. Let the party begin!
There are plenty of expats hanging around, including a 20-something woman from Boston who had only arrived in Mykonos that afternoon and was already wondering how she would adjust to life back home. Join the club, my dear.
Then at 2 a.m., fireworks light up the sky and the full moon spotlights the revellers on the beach.
It’s just Day 1 of my visit to Mykonos but already I’m relaxed.
My trip to Greece has been reasonably priced up until now, but that’s because I just arrived in Mykonos. It’s not cheap to mingle with the rich and famous, but for some reason I know my euros are being well spent. For the next several days, I lose perception of money — it costs me 20 euro for two beach chairs on my second day.
The VIPs in the beach cabana next to our chairs are ordering magnum champagne bottles and beads of sweat start dripping from my head — not because of the heat but rather the thought of what each bottle is costing them.
I’ve become quite the snob when it comes to Mykonos. Why go somewhere else when this island keeps calling me back?
Like the tourists who lose themselves on this island, so too, do I. Sometimes in life we need to get a little lost in order to find ourselves again. And I find myself every time I come to Mykonos.