Mykonos Island is a mirror, and depending upon your point of view, you will see in it an idyllic Cycladic beauty or a modern age harlot. Both images are there for the viewing. In practical terms this island would appear to have little to recommend it: A rocky mass of indefinite shape anchored in the heart of Cyclades, it is bare, almost treeless.
But some unique, intangible magic, its scattered pearl-white village and khaki-colored hinterland combine with the cobalt sea that laps its bays and inlets to produce a Calypso-like aura of seduction. Visitors are drawn again and again to its spares shores.
Named of the grandson of Delos-born Apollo, the island has been occupied in turns by Carians from Asia Minor, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Creatans, Carians again, and then Ionians, Persians, and Romans. I was always, it seems, a popular place.
Chora, the island's capital, located on the west coast, is a labyrinth of streets easy to get lost in-or to lose someone in , a reminder that this was the best security against centuries of sudden pirate raids. It is a white-washed maze whose streets were arbitrarily named by the junta.
The only way to locate anything but the sea (which is always downhill) is to ask-and ask again. Around the helter-skelter center is a circle of broader streets, which together with the waterfront, provide the favorite evening promenade where everybody literally, bumps into everybody else.
One of the chief charms of Mykonos and its capital is its human scale; here there is no privacy-everything is seen, heard, known.
Chora can be a noisy place to stay, but there are numerous hotels on the fringes of the town where life is less frenetic. Visitors lodging in town avoid long hikes home and taxi lines, as most of the best restaurants and bars are in Chora. However, most of the outlying luxury hotels are quite willing to collect and deposit guests in town at all hours, if these transfers are requested in advance.
At Ornos beach, 3 km south of Chora, are the stunning Santa Marina villas and apartments, a complex that features its own heliport and absolutely anything else your heart desires such as air conditioning, tennis, sauna - 24 hours a day.
There are also several swimming pools, and the two restaurants here maintain their own fishing caique. This is the furthest cry on the island from the official campsite on Paradise beach.
The best beaches are of course those that are accessible only to motorcyclists, snorkelers, or visitors who arrive with their own Zodiac.
Mykonos' long sandy strands have been "discovered"for over a quarter-century now , but the best places to start are still the beaches at the termini for the regularly scheduled island buses and caiques.
Beach buses depart from two terminals. The Elia beach /Ano Mera village/Kalafati beach and Tourlos/San Stefanos terminal is located just in front of the Leto hotel to the north of Chora on the waterfront road.
To the south of town, near the "crossroads" is the terminal for the Ornos/Platy Yialos and Psarou beach buses.
Wandering about Chora, by day or night, or getting lost is one of the great delights of visiting Mykonos. On a labyrinthine ramble, keep in mind that the harbour and sea are always downhill. There is no Cretan Minotaur chasing you here, so just enjoy the whitewashed stairs, chapels, and alleyways of this town that has been maintained as an informal modern museum of Cycladic architecture.
There are caique connections to all beaches with amenities, either from the old pier near the tourist police and OTE (telecommunication) office in Chora, where boats depart for Delos, or from Psarrou and Platy Yialos.
It is also possible, through local agents and hotels, to rent cars, jeeps, and mopeds, though Mykonos' gravel-strewn and sinuous roads are hazardous for two-wheeled transport.
Whitewashed Paraportiani, which may date from the 15th century, is as singular and beautiful a structure as you are likely to find in the modern world. At dusk, against Mykonos pink summer sky, this creation of anonymous builders has inspired myriad painters and photographers.
At around 7.30pm in summer you'll want to find a window seat in one of the island's two classical music bars, the Montparnasse and the Kastro Bar, both on the water between the area known as Little Venice and Panagia Paraportiani, both with views of the sunset.
For Greek dancing, the Mykonos Bar nearby on Katsoni remains the place to go. In summer, the Anemo Theatro stages dramatic and musical performances.
Shopping in Chora after the beaches and nightlife, is another of Mykonos' great attractions. Lalaounis and Zolotas, Greece's famous jewelers, have good stores on the island.
There is literally a vacation for everyone in Mykonos. Hikers will find the walk from Platis Gialos to Elia on the south coast of a stimulating, sometime taxing journey, crisscrossing from the coast to the hinterland.
In spring and summer, throughout the Cyclades, keep an eye out for the small black snakes known as pit vipers. Swimmers should also be alert to the fact that the Aegean is visited in some years by jellyfish, whose sting is very painful, especially for those eschewing bathing suits. But don't panic: Snakebites and jellyfish stings are actually rare occurrences in Greece.
Windsurfers, water-skiers, scuba-divers and snorkelers will want to stay at a favorite beach all day.
While dancers get their fill of the very latest amplified rock music in Chora, those seeking quite may retire inland to the village of Ano Mera, 8 km east of Chora.
From Ano Mera you can go on quite walks through rural Mykonos, encountering a number of isolated churches where saint's-day feasts are still celebrated. Check with the locals or your hotel for dates of these public festivals.
Reaching Mykonos is relatively easy. There are charters from virtually every northern European capital in season, and Olympic Airways trusty little Skyvans and small jets set down from Athens, Rhodes, Kos, Crete, Chios, Samos, and Santorini up to 12 times daily.
The rich, famous, and the impatient arrive by private helicopter and jet or by yacht. Ship and car-ferry connections from Piraeus,Rafina, Andros, Syros, Tinos, Paros, Naxos, Ios, Santorini, Ikaria, Samos, Amorgos, Astypalea,and Crete are also frequent in summer.
From the airport an Olympic Airways bus will drop passengers at the airline's office in town, an awkward place to end up with lots of luggage as taxi queues in summer can run to 40 impatient people.
It's best to make hotel reservations in advance from Athens or online and arrange, simultaneously for the hotel shuttle to meet your plane or ship.
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