Mykonos

Welcome to the little Cyclades island with the huge reputation.

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Mykonos can be one long beach party, if that's what you want; but it can just as easily be long, sunny days on deserted sands, followed by lazy dinners in seaside tavernas. Whichever way you see it, Mykonos is impossible not to love.

Itineraries

Half-day

Start today as the locals do, with breakfast at the Old Port in Mykonos Town. There are several good cafés here, but the real attraction is the views over the bustling harbour.

A short walk in the sun to Paraportiani rewards you with the astonishing sight of the most photographed church in Greece. It was built as a single chapel in the 15th century and added to over hundreds of years. When construction finally stopped in the 1700s, there were a total of five chapels. The ground floor is occasionally open to the public, but most visitors just want a shot of the idiosyncratic exterior.

As the morning starts to heat up, head for the cool and elegant galleries of Mykonos Archaeological Museum. The extensive collection here was mainly excavated on the island and on neighbouring Rineia, and contains several ancient funerary artefacts, as well as a number of fine Hellenistic vases and sculptures. If you’re still in the mood for history, the nearby Aegean Maritime Museum is equally interesting, and has a very pleasant garden.

Have lunch by the sea at Ornos Beach, less than 15 minutes’ drive south of Mykonos Town. It has an excellent range of waterfront restaurants, and you can simply slip down on to the sand afterwards and stay put for the rest of the day.

Weekend

Day one An hour or two spent exploring the art, culture and history on display in Mykonos Town is a fine way to launch the weekend. Begin by taking a closer look at the seven windmills overlooking the harbour. Built by Venetian millers in the 16th century to take advantage of the strong Aegean winds, they’re the island’s best-known landmark.

For another quick brush with fame, stroll through the atmospheric streets of Little Venice, and take a snap of Paraportiani, one of the oddest churches in the world, and one of the most photographed of the many thousands in Greece. Both Mykonos Archaelogical Museum and the local Maritime Museum are worth a visit too, or you could drop in on the Rarity Gallery and see what’s happening in the world of international contemporary art.

Have lunch at one of the excellent fish restaurants on the waterfront, then dive into the heart of Mykonos Town. Chora, as it’s known, is new compared to Little Venice, but still reassuringly historic. Its whitewashed cube buildings, shady streets and narrow alley make for dozens of photo opportunities – although it’s difficult not to be distracted by some of the surprisingly swanky shops. Look out, too, for Petros the Pelican, a much-loved local bird who can be seen wandering freely round town.

If you want a wild night out, make Paradise Beach your venue tonight. Alternatively, hit the Old Port area early, grab a table for sunset viewing, and take the evening as it comes.

Day two Make this a beach day, but split it between two locations. In the morning, get active on Psaroú. The watersports here are excellent, but the beach itself is never too crowded, so you’ll have plenty of space for snorkelling or sailing or whatever else you feel like doing. As midday approaches it gets a little too hot to play, so you know what to do – head to a nearby restaurant for a shady, scenic lunch.

In the afternoon, savour the holiday spirit on Elia Beach. It's as famous for its wide, white sands as Paradise is for relentless partying. This isn’t one of the most peaceful Mykonos coves, but it more than compensates with a vast number of sun loungers, a great beach bar and some of the island’s calmest seas. If you hang around until evening (and why not?) Elia is also a good spot for fish barbecues.

Full week

Day 1 Spend today getting to know Mykonos Town, from the quaint alleys of Chora to the atmospheric seafront quarter of Little Venice. The newer central area is easier to explore in the late afternoon, when the cruise passengers have quit town and the smart little shops and cafés have reopened for the evening. After dark, catch a movie under the stars at the Cine Manto outdoor cinema just behind the Old Port.

Day 2 Head into the countryside for the day to visit Mykonos’ second town, Ano Mera. It’s just six miles inland, and the imposing Panagia Tourliani monastery in the main square is worth the short journey in itself. A stroll around the town doesn’t take long, but even without the sea in sight, the views are lovely. Have lunch on the square here; the local restaurants are quite traditional and known for local specialities like Kopanisti cheese and Myconian Honey Cake.

Day 3 Catch one of the island charters and sail to Delos. The crossing to this tiny, uninhabited island only takes an hour, and the journey’s end is a treat for lovers of Greek history. The ruins and monuments here have UNESCO World Heritage protection, and the Terrace of Lions is awe-inspiring. This is the mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, so there’s plenty of myth and legend to mix in with the real-world history.

Day 4 Treat yourself to a day by the sea on one of the island’s 25 beaches. All but one are covered in fine, white sand; and the exception, Houlakia, is so enchanting that you'll forgive the pebbles underfoot. The south coast beaches tend to be more sheltered, larger and sunnier, which means they’re also the busiest. If you want peace or breezy conditions for windsurfing, the north coast is best. And if you aren’t stuck on any particular watersport, but you’d still like to play, Kalafátis in the far south east is good, and Agios Stefanos to the west has excellent beach sports.

Day 5 Go from day to night on Paradise Beach today. It's best known for its lively clubs and bars in the evening, but by day it’s one of the island’s top beaches for dive schools and snorkelling. If the idea of partying until morning doesn’t appeal, Mykonos Town is only 20 minutes away, so you can have a beachy day and still watch the sun set over the harbour.

Day 6 Mix heritage and culture on a walking tour round Mykonos Town. Don’t miss Paraportiani Church and the seven Venetian windmills, and stop for a drink in Little Venice, whose historic waterfront townhouses have been turned into bars. Spend a few hours exploring the artefacts at Mykonos Archaeological Museum, and end the day with a meal of fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant (again, get there early to secure a table).

Day 7 It's been a busy week, so close it on Psaroú beach. Hire a lounger and do nothing much at all except gaze at the sea, have lunch in one of the beachfront restaurants, and enjoy the sun.