10 Amazing things to do in Mykonos Island
If there is a worldwide renowned Greek island for immaculate beaches and party, that is Mykonos. Nicknamed The island of the winds, Mykonos is much more than sunbathing and clubbing till sunrise.
Located in the south of the Aegean, 150km away from Athens, Mykonos is part of the Cyclades and it forms a regional unit itself which comprises Delos, Rineia and some other inhabited smaller islands. The name Cyclades makes in fact reference to the archipelago encircling Delos, considered a sacred island. Many cultures have stepped on Mykonos and left their traces: Carians, Ionians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Catalans, Ottomans… the island has been the scene of mythological battles, revolutions, decline and flourishment.
Only around 12,000 people live there permanently, most of them in the main city, which is also called Mykonos, or Chora (meaning town in Greek). The island, which is just 86 sq km, has developed a tourism industry that overwhelms its sea-related economy during summer months. It is a place that has succeeded in maintaining its traditions and bringing the past to life in its very cosmopolitan present.
There are plenty of activities that will make you enjoy Mykonos without losing sight of what the island is and has been. Here is a list of 10 wonderful activities to do and other useful information.
How to reach Mykonos island
How to reach Mykonos From Athens
By plane: there are a couple of flights daily in winter months with Aegean and Olympic airlines. It takes about 40 minutes. From March, other airlines are open with daily flights.
By boat: 3 sailings daily from Rafina. It takes 4h20m and costs around 30€. There are other weekly sailings from the ports of Rafina and Piraeus, some of which are faster but also more expensive (55€ approximately). Operating ferry companies are: Hellenic Seaways, Seajets, Blue Star Ferries and Aegean Speed Lines. Some connections from Rafina do not operate from October to March.
How to reach Mykonos from other islands
There are many ferries that connect daily Mykonos to Tinos, north of Mykonos, Paros and Naxos, the next bigger islands towards the south, and Thira (Santorini), the most southern of the Cyclades. Check further information here.
Mykonos is reachable by plane seasonally from various international destinations.
Mykonos island, when to visit
The raining season lasts from October to March, although winters are mild (average max. 15˚C) and wet, with many days of sun. Temperatures in the summer are usually around the 30˚C but can reach 40˚C. Thanks to the Meltemi, the northern Aegean wind, summers tend to be dry and nice.
It is probably best to visit between April – mid June or September – October, as the weather is still pleasant and everything a lot less crowded. Outside high season, many attractions and places options, so it is a good idea to check opening times of what you plan to visit in advance.
10 Amazing things to do in Mykonos
#1 Sail the archipelago
Gorgeous sandy beaches, crystalline waters and beautiful sun lights. With these characteristics, one of the best things to do in Mykonos is to sail the archipelago and embark on a sightseeing tour from the sea. Mykonos is incredibly beautiful, with its 16th century windmills featuring on the hills, defining the landscape of the island, in perfect harmony with the typical white architecture with blue windows and doors. According to Mykonians, the cleaner the white, the more you appreciate the colours next to it.
It is a must to stop at the now deserted island of Rineia or Rhenia, a place rather unknown even to the Greeks. The island was dedicated to Apollo and years later converted to a huge necropolis which was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays, some farmers rent stretches of land to continue with traditional farming methods. Its waters are incredibly blue and a real pleasure to dive in.
Besides freedom and exclusivity, sailing provides much more. It lets you have a different perspective of the islands, discover hidden coves if you prefer to avoid cosmopolitan beaches, stop wherever you want and dive into the pure waters of the Aegean, practice water sports like snorkelling, scuba-diving or fishing, and enjoy beautiful sunsets, undisturbed, in the middle of the sea.
You can find bareboat or skippered catamarans to suit different needs, as well as day cruises or weekly charters. Check them here.
#2 Go out in Mykonos town
Nightlife is very lively, so partying is a bespoke thing to do in Mykonos. It has become the Ibiza or St. Tropez of the Aegean. World renowned DJs and acclaimed residents meet there every year to light the summer nights of the island. It is not unusual to come across celebrities in the many parties going on.
In Mykonos there are around 30 bars where to start the evening, either in the centre of Chora or tucked away, where you can find more privacy. Those who like to dance the night away will find some 20 clubs rated amongst the best in the world, and if your thing is to dance on the sand in your bathing costume you can do so in probably a dozen beach clubs. There are many options to go out that match different styles, from wild parties with the crème de la crème to quiet cocktails with friends. Mykonos town has the most happening scene in Greece.
Watch out for the many events taking place during summer months. The Mykonos Summer Festival is not to be missed if you like music concerts in the open-air and different arts exhibitions and performances with artists from all around the world. There is also the Gay Festival which takes place in Mykonos every year, and the Harvest Festival, held in mid-September.
#3 Discover the Mykonian gastronomy with locals
As typical in the Mediterranean countries, food plays a big part in the culture. People like to cook and share the table with family and friends while sipping some wine. The gastronomy in Mykonos is rich and a very nice way to get to know the country on another perspective.
There are many typical foods in Mykonos, like tyrovolia, a mild fresh cheese; louza, a meat preserved slightly different from other places in Greece; mostra, a twice-baked bread with kopanisti (a peppery fermented cheese), as well as many traditional dishes with beans, vegetables, lamb, pork, and mouth-watering dishes with fish. Baked things like bread and biscuits have also their particularities in the island and paired with Greek coffee the perfect breakfast is served.
Learning some recipes with locals will open the most intimate side of travelling. It gives the chance to immerse in their culture, get to know the welcoming Mykonians and see what their everyday life is, as well as improving your cooking skills. There are different classes you can find to suit different budgets. If cooking is not your thing, then consider visiting a vineyard and enrol on a wine tasting experience. It will surely be a highlight of your trip.
#4 Get lost in Mykonos town and found in Little Venice
No trip seems to make sense if the main city is missed. The centre of Mykonos town or Chora is a beautiful labyrinth of narrow passages of cobblestone full of life. Cosy bars, fashion boutiques, traditional jewelleries, churches and the typical white facades of the houses with colourful wooden doors, windows and balconies are a postcard at every corner.
Mavrogenous Square, by the Old Port, is a landmark with its monument to a national heroine who played an important role during the Greek revolution against the Ottoman empire. Follow to Matogianni Street, the shopping artery of Mykonos town for designer boutiques, legendary bars and nice little shops for Greek souvenirs. Tria Pigadia or Three Wells is another landmark in the centre, built in 1722 to provide the town with water.
After window shopping and strolling, head to Little Venice for a sweet end of the day. This waterfront street has captivated many artists who have found inspiration in its beauty and portrayed it in their artworks. The place depicts old fishing houses from the mid-18th century once property of rich merchants and captains, thought to have been pirates for the structure of the homes. Currently, some of these houses are bars and restaurants where you can chill and enjoy a drink while the sun sets reflecting its light on the sea. It is advisable to go early or make a reservation beforehand as it gets busy during peak season.
#5 Visit Ano Mera
ust about 8km away from Chora lies this unspoilt little town that will conquer your heart. It is a charming place depicting the typical architecture of the Cyclades with a maze of streets hosting tavernas where to savour local specialties and traditional sweets. What is special about this place is that you can feel the daily life of locals in the relaxed atmosphere they have been able to maintain.
The monastery of Panagia Tourliani is a must-see. Founded in 1542 by two monks and restored in 1767, Panagia Tourliani is now a highlight of Mykonos because of its history and the blessed Icon of Virgin Mary, as it is the Patron Saint of the island and celebrated every 15th of August. This religious monument also played an important role during the German occupation.
The building is simply marvellous. Its whitewashed exterior with the distinctive red dome, marble bell tower and water fountain with sculptured decorations in the yard account for an impressive architecture. The interior is characterised by a wooden baroque altar by Florentine artists and Greek orthodox ornaments. It holds a museum inside which displays interesting religious exhibits.
Visiting Ano Mera and the monastery are one of the best things you can do in Mykonos, especially to get a break from the hustle in the town centre. There are buses going there from the Old Port with the company KTEL, otherwise, taxis or car rentals are other options. The church is open every day from 9 am to 1 pm and from 3.30 pm to 7 pm and the entrance is 1€.
#6 The Agricultural Museum and Boni Windmill
A top attraction in Mykonos is the Agricultural Museum, an open-air place just in the outskirts of Chora. Not only because of its contents, but because part of them are displayed in Boni, a windmill located in Ano Myloi, which means Upper Windmills. It is a chance to visit the inside of an active windmill, which dates back to the 16th century when Venetians dominated the island.
The exhibits in the museum are old machinery and agricultural tools in use before the industrial revolution, so the collection explains how locals would cultivate staples, produce wine, withdraw water and their lifestyle related to the land.
What makes this museum special is stepping inside the windmill, the nice walk from Mykonos town and the incredible views from the top. The main road to get there can be tricky as it is narrow and there is traffic. After the taxi rank in Mavrogenous Square there is an adjacent path with stairs that will quickly take you to the top. From there, the town is revealed offering a spectacular sight that is just worth the uphill.
The Museum is open from 6.30am – 9.30pm Monday to Saturday from April to October and has no admission charge. The Harvest Festival takes place there every second Sunday of September.
#7 Enjoy an open-air cinema in Mykonos town
Cine MANTO is one of the best places to go to end your day. It gives a very different picture of what is known about Mykonos and looks like a little piece of paradise. The place is a vast garden with palm trees and unique species of flora that will amaze the visitor. Watching a film under the starry Greek sky is definitely something to experience.
The cinema screens two films back to back and offers the possibility to have a meal or drinks at the café and restaurant, which is also a great place for business meetings or just relax in an informal atmosphere away from the frenzy summer in Mykonos.
It opens every day from the 1st of June until the 30th of September and all films are in original version with Greek subtitles. Film running times are 9pm and 11pm and the tickets cost 9€ for adults and 7€ for children. Member cards are available at 70€ for 14 films. The Cine Manto Café Restaurant is open from 10am for breakfast until 2am for the last drinks.
Considered a Multispace, the cultural project behind it organises many different and interesting events such as exhibitions, shows and performances not to be missed.
#8 Visit Delos: the sacred island
At the centre of the Cyclades, just south-west of Mykonos, stands one of the most important islands in Greece, mythologically, historically and archaeologically.
Delos was inhabited by Ionians, who attributed it the birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, children of Zeus and Leto. Mythology says that the island was revealed by Poseidon when Hera, the queen of Mount Olympus, goddess of marriage and birth and jealous wife of Zeus, banned Leto to give birth anywhere. Poseidon, brother of Zeus, pitied her and came to help. Actually, the name Delos means revealed.
The island was a place of pilgrimage for Ionians, hence in order to worship the gods it had to be purified. This meant that nobody had the right to give birth or die on the island. The graves were moved to the neighbouring Rineia. The island maintained a commercial importance and then suffered ups and downs due to wars between Rome and Athens.
It was not until 1872 that the French School of Athens discovered through extensive archaeological excavations how incredibly rich a Mediterranean port it had been. It was declared a World Cultural Heritage site protected by the UNESCO in 1990. There are many landmarks for such a small island (just about 3.50 sq km). Getting there is easy from the Old Port in Mykonos. There are regular ferries that depart at 10 am and cost around 20€ including the entrance fee, or private charters, which are the best option for groups of 6 people or more. Most guided Delos tours are available for about 40€, including ferry and fee. Children under 6 old enter for free. Usually, tours are offered daily in English and in other languages different days a week.
#9 Discover the unique Mykonos town in the Municipal Library
Often wrongly overlooked, visiting the Municipal Library is a top choice when travelling to Mykonos. Located in Ayia Kyriaki Square, this mansion of the 18th century once belonged to the Mavrogenis family. It has history itself on top of what it hosts.
The library is home to ancient coins from the Cyclades and other objects, besides more than 6,000 volumes, a vast majority of which donated by the Mykonian historian Ioannis Meletopoulos from his personal library. Others were donated by other people’s libraries, and most of them are in Greek but there are real treasures amongst them. One example are the books and sketches given by a legendary American artist who moved to Mykonos in 1966, John Ratekin. His paintings, poetry and black and white drawings of the landmarks are unique and fascinating.
Ratekin also wrote the first Tourist Guide to Mykonos, which included some of his works. After him, many other artists arrived to capture its charm. Ratekin’s art is a rare and exceptional occasion to see the island’s evolution to modernity through the eyes of one of the first visitors to fall in love with Mykonos.
#10 Watch the sunset at Armenistis Lighthouse
No monument is more important in an island like a lighthouse. This 19m tall building was built in 1891 in Fanaris, which means lantern in Greek, in the neighbourhood of Cape Armenistis, 7km away from Mykonos town. It is still functioning and operated by the Hellenic Navy’s Hydrographic Office. It is worth visiting for the views you get from there.
Located on the north-west of the island, its strategic position allows for a wonderful scenery from there. The neighbouring island of Tinos is perfectly visible on clear days. It is a great place to watch the sunset away from the noise in the city centre.
The construction began after a tragic incident at sea, when a British ship sank, and eleven people lost their lives. The original lightning mechanism is displayed at the Aegean Maritime Museum in Mykonos town. It was an award-winning engineering project designed by a French company, but it was replaced by a more modern one in 1983.
Lighthouses are a symbol of guidance and a monument paying tribute to the sea and its people, a sometimes melancholic reminder of the past maritime way of life. Romantic almost by definition, going to Armenistis Lighthouse cannot be missed. To get there, follow the road from Agios Stefanos beach, towards the north of Mykonos Port.
The island of Mykonos is really a gem to be rediscovered. No other place offers more than what is known. Home to so much history, beauty, gastronomy, adventure, romanticism and welcoming locals, Mykonos is a piece of paradise that will amaze your senses.