Mykonos, Greece: More than a Gay Mecca
Mykonos for the Straight Traveler
By Gary Van Haas
We’ve all heard the wild tales of gay nightlife in Mykonos, but let’s give it a chance… Mykonos isn’t all gay!
I’ve been coming to the island for twenty years now, and I can honestly say there’s a whole other side to this fascinating little jewel in the Aegean which offers far more than most people imagine.
Located about ninety miles south of Pireaus, this mostly rocky, barren island has become one of the most sought-after holiday destinations on the globe. So get your iPhones charged and let’s get ready to take a Walk on the Wild Side.
Mykonos: A Jet-set Paradise
In the ’60s and ’70s, Mykonos played host to the rich and famous, made more popular with the international jet set after Jackie Onassis’ frequent publicized visits.
Those days are long gone, but never-the-less the island still carries on the tradition, and walking down any street at night you’ll still find people dressed to the nines, posing in bars, or simply… just looking good!
And yes, there is a large gay community here, but don’t get excited because they don’t bite, and frankly, lend the island a lot of color. Just remember, Myconos is a place where all’s for a show, and oddly enough, not unsimilar to something you’d find today in modern downtown Manhattan.
Myconos Nightlife: Party-Hearty!
Nightlife in Myconos is truly out of this world, and probably the most exciting and sophisticated you’ll find anywhere in Europe.
Walking down the brightly-lit main street of Matoyianni, you’ll soon discover a long stretch of chic bars, elegant restaurants, plush jewelry stores, and designer boutiques featuring world-class names such as Armani and Trussardi. Expensive? Yes, but probably well worth the price if you’re one of those with a little cash to burn.
More local haunts are found in the darkly lit back-streets, amongst an almost claustrophobic maze of alleys and side streets, where you’ll stumble onto another mélange of fashionable bars, discos, and quaint little tavernas, each one unique, with its own special ambiance.
Many travelers may find offense in Myconos’ overt commercialism, but more will attest to its innate beauty, and strolling down any street you’ll soon discover a cubist’s delight of white-washed houses and cube-shaped buildings sporting bright blue railings and shutters, back-dropped by rambling bougainvillea and colorful geraniums.
Artists all over the world have managed to capture the grace and simplicity of this island in their paintings. You’ll find this scene simply delightful on almost any day, either sitting on the harbor having a coffee or drink or strolling around with the island’s famous mascot, ‘Petros the Pelikan.’
Down on the waterfront near Taxi Square, you’ll get a taste of true affluence on the island when you come across the expensive gold stores and designer shops. You’ll see world-famous names such as Galatis and Lalalounis, who once catered to celebs such as Julie Christie and Liz Taylor.
Once again, nothing is exactly cheap in Myconos, but if it bargains you’re looking for, you’ll probably find your best deals in locally made items.
But remember, bargaining goes a long way on the islands, so stop in any shop, ask their price on an item you like, then cut it in half and start bargaining up from there.
Mykonos Stunning Beaches
Mykonos is of course also known for its lovely stretches of pristine, white beaches and some of the closest to town are Tourlos, Ornos, and Malaliamos. Buses going to them are found near the Leto Hotel on the port. Better beaches are a bit farther out and well worth it if you want to get away from it all.
Try the tiny remote beach of Agios Sostis located on the north of the island where you’ll find an idyllic, secluded beach with one little taverna perched on a bluff, overlooking the vast Aegean. Myconos has many other secluded beaches as well, including Agios Yiannis where they made the ever-popular movie, `Shirley Valentine’ movie, but if you really want to get into the thick of it, hop on the bus that departs from the back of the town and head south for Plati Yialos.
It’s always a bit crowded, but all the caiques (fisherman boats) leave from ther
e frequenting many of the island’s other southern beaches such as Paranga, Paradise, Super Paradise, Elia, Kalo Livadi, and Ilia. Most of these beaches are a world onto themselves and each one is different, depending upon your taste.
For instance, Super Paradise is known as a gay beach, or you may want to try Paradise, a mostly straight scene that has become one of the most popular in the world for partying.
Caiques from Plati Yialos Beach
Plati Yialos at the other end of the island from the port is a good place to pick up one of their unique caique boats ferrying tourists over to the other beaches along the south coast. The journey begins on a fishing caique where the Captain will take you to the happening beach of your dreams and maybe to one of the wildest drinking, dancing beach parties you’re not likely to forget.
If you’re a new arrival on the island, it’s a great way to get around and meet people. So, if you’re feeling in party mode, get ready to party!
A Parting Note
You may be a little shocked by Mykonos’ haughty hotel room prices. They’re known to be some of the most expensive in Greece, but regardless of price, they usually manage to keep them filled up and aren’t always easy to find in peak season. Whatever the case, you’ll find Myconos lives up to its reputation as one of the world’s favorite travel hot spots, and well worth the visit when in Greece. Have fun and… bottoms up!
Mykonos Travel Tips:
Municipal Tourist Police- Tel. +30 22890 22482
Sea Jet Ferries run regularly every morning from Piraeus to Mykonos. These are large catamaran streamline ferries and the trip takes about three and a half hours, but if you’re not in a hurry, take the less expensive Blue Ferries, which take about five hours then you can also get a comfortable cabin to sleep in if you wish.
For the best hotels try the Cavo Tagoo (5-stars) Tel +30 2289 020100). This is one of the top luxury hotels on Mykonos. It sits on a rise between the two ports and you can watch the ferries and cruise ships come and go through the day and the sun set into the Aegean at night.
Mykonos Town is a 10-minute walk away (the road is narrow with a good deal of traffic so many people take the free shuttle bus). The pool and sundeck are magical. Most rooms above the basic level come with a private pool. The hotel’s Japanese restaurant, Kiku, has the best sushi on Mykonos.
Out of town, there‘s also Mykonos Blu Hotel on Psarou Beach (5-star) Tel. +30 2289 027900). This is one of the most romantic hotels on Mykonos and a great honeymoon pick. The hotel is located on Psarou beach, which is both wonderful and well-protected from the wind.
Food, music, and dancing are a short walk down the beach, and easy to walk to Platys Yialos Beach for caiques as well as excellent restaurants there. The free shuttle service from the hotel takes you to Mykonos Town in less than 10 minutes.
Some of the more popular places to eat at now are; Niko’s Taverna on the right side of the port. This casual, unpretentious taverna sits in the corner of the main quay, a block from the marina. Still going strong after 40 years, it serves fresh fish and old Greek standards, such as lamb kleftiko (slow-cooked in clay pot), and huge platters of grilled seafood. Excellent value for the money.
The Appaloosa is eclectic and offers a fresh, comfortable interior designed in the old Southwest, American tradition. It also serves an array of green salads, huge, juicy cowboy steaks, and spicy Mexican cuisine. Another great place to eat is the cozy Uno Con Carne for great steaks and fresh fish located behind the Lotus Restaurant on Matoyianni Street.
There’s quite a few good bars in Mykonos all over town, so just stroll around, and after dinner you may want to pop over to the Kastro Bar, as an intimate place for sunset drinks near famous Paraportianai church. Here you’ll sink into large comfortable couches, listen to classical music, and gaze out at the rolling sea while watching a fiery orange sun sink slowly into the horizon.
Later at night, there’s the wild Cavo Paradise Beach, a large disco perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, one of Mykonos’ famous out-of-town clubs, and its huge open-air dance floor vibes with partiers all night long.
Gary Van Haas worked for many years as a feature writer for The Athens News, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time and Newsweek Magazines. His books can be found on Amazon.com.