Dispelling the mythos of Mykonos… 

If there’s one country in the world that is borderline guaranteed to melt away any stresses, it’s Greece. And Mykonos’ endless blue hues, sandy beaches, and white-washed architecture amount to a soothing Odyssey for the soul. The Greek ‘Island of Light’, Mykonos, is many things – glamorous, hedonistic, nocturnal, paradisal, and extravagant, but one word not often used to describe it is peaceful.

We registered this dissonance approximately two hours after checking-in, while enjoying a laidback sunset dinner in one of the authentic seafront tavernas of Little Venice. In its heyday, the breezy island welcomed the likes of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie Kennedy, Mick Jagger, Grace Kelly, and Brigitte Bardot who were enamoured by the magical light, beautiful alleys, and crystal-clear Aegean Sea.

Since then, Mykonos has evolved to become the (still sophisticated) party capital of the Cyclades; a clubber’s Xanadu that comes alive between the hours of 1am and 5am, not to mention the 24-hour beach clubs. In fact, if you google “party island” it’s one of the first results that comes up after Ibiza. But beyond the beats and beach clubs, Mykonos has so much more to offer. And, although it’s likely to always attract sun-seeking ravers, the island has a different side, a laidback loveliness that makes it perfectly prepped for families and other kinds of holiday makers.

As Anthony Bourdain once said, “So many of the good times travelling this world relate directly to finding a human face to associate with your destination, the food you eat, and the memories you keep forever”. For visitors who want to experience the island wrapped in authenticity and simplicity, from its ancient history to mesmerising nature, here is our guide…

Things to see and do

Disclaimer: This is not your average back-to-back packed holiday itinerary. But then again, this is not your average escape. According to a local, “There is nothing you must see in Mykonos.” Instead, you allow your senses to guide you and, through slowing down and savouring moments, you’ll uncover the magic of the island.  Eat, stroll, drink, eat some more, repeat…

Little Venice

The charming old town of Mykonos, from the iconic windmills to cobblestone alleys, is one of the most famous parts of the island. Shop at the little boutiques, eat your way through the seafront restaurants (we recommend Kastro’s for views and vibes or Meatropolitan for gyros and wine), check out the famous Paraportiani church, and watch the sunset beyond the sparkling Aegean Sea.

Vioma Organic Farm and Vineyard

Around a 15-minute drive inland (also a popular cycling route), this family-run vineyard and farm is an authentic Mykonos experience we’d definitely do again. Tucked away in the hills, start with a free guided tour of the vines and farm, feed the farm animals, and sample some of their organic Mykonian wines (EUR15 for three glasses) with a selection of Greek cheeses.

Zuma Mykonos

From an authentic Mykonian experience to something a little more cosmopolitan, a pool day at Zuma tops our recommendations for its unmatched views, stunning infinity pool, and adorable children’s play area. Head here early to secure one of the floating sunbeds followed by a late lunch. Neither you nor the little ones will want to leave.

Delos and Rhenia

Explore empty beaches and archaeological ruins with a boat trip to Mykonos’ Cycladic sisters, Rhenia and Delos. The Aegean Ventures boat drops anchor in a remote cove of Rhenia where the family serve a traditional Greek lunch of salad, tzatziki, and souvlaki, while you jump in and soak up the sun before heading to UNESCO World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Apollo, Delos.

Kiki’s Tavern

You’re likely to have heard of this (not-so) hidden gem of a restaurant. Worth crossing the island for, Kiki’s Tavern is located on the breathtaking Agios Sostis beach. No electricity, no walls, no sign, you’ll know when you see it by the queue of people waiting outside. Say efcharistó as the charismatic owner hands out free rosé and be sure to order the anchovies (EUR12) and octopus (EUR30).

Inside tip: Thanks to Mykonos’s dinky size (just six miles long and nine miles wide), nothing is ever more than a 30-minute drive away and the best way to head off the beaten path and discover the island’s hidden gems is to rent a car (costing around EUR60 per day during peak season).

Where to stay

Pelagos Sunset

pelagos sunset

Pelagos Sunset is a gorgeous boutique retreat located in the Agia Sofia area, an easy 15-minute walk from the old town. The modern, family-friendly hotel is home to eight spacious and secluded guest rooms, all with a terrace offering dreamy views of the Aegean Sea and unmissable sunsets. The large seawater pool is the centrepiece of the hotel with plenty of sun-soaked beds and comfortable chairs enticing you not to leave. There’s no restaurant but light snacks can be requested at the bar throughout the day including sandwiches, toast, fresh fruit, and Greek yoghurt. Pelagos exudes a certain remoteness and freedom that’s hard to find anywhere else – a perfect escape to a traditional Mykonos experience away from the party crowds. Not only that, the down-to-earth and thoughtful service, with the lovely Zoe and Mardi, will make sure your stay is one to remember. We’d almost prefer to keep this holiday hideaway hush-hush.

From Dhs863 per night. @pelagosunset

Mykonos Theoxenia

mykonos theoxenia

Built in the 1960s, this landmark hotel was the island’s first five-star hotel and makes for a sophisticated stay in a central location. Overlooking the iconic windmills, the newly refurbed Theoxenia is a stone’s-throw away from the maze streets of Little Venice and the old port, perfect for those looking to balance their energetic days with a place where serenity reigns. The contemporary, light-filled space is given a garden-like ambiance surrounded by olive trees, palms, and bougainvillea. The rooms do the basics well, so as not to distract from the beauty of its ocean-blue views, with a spacious balcony, warm accents of terracotta and wood, and marble ensuites. Inspired by the laid-back charm of the Cycladic lifestyle, guests can expect an authentically Greek breakfast buffet from spinach pies and a selection of cheeses to Greek donuts and fresh fruit.  While Theoxenia is a family-friendly hotel, it’s best suited to couples, solo travellers, or families with older children.

From Dhs3,392 per night. @mykonostheoxenia

Mykonos’ best dishes

  1. Gioras Pastry Café: Mykonian sausage roll (€5.50)
  2. Meatropolitan: Chicken gyros (€9.90)
  3. Kiki’s Tavern: Octopus (€30)
  4. La Cantine du Faubourg: Yellowfin tuna ceviche (€24)
  5. Zuma Mykonos: Fresh fruit platter (€28)

Total: €97.40

Images: Supplied/What’s On