The Bumper Crew Guide to
Mykonos & Santorini
and the Pandemic Paradise - Part 2
What to say about Mykonos...A unique gem in the Mediterranean. That's true, but maybe not for the right reasons. Stacey and I had a split opinion on the place. For me, it's a bit of a one trick pony. Mykonos Town is unbelievably cute with its whitewashed buildings and tiny streets. It's unlike any other Greek island we've visited. But that's not the only thing that's unique. It's incredibly expensive and full of boutique shops. I felt it lacked an identity and seems a bit of a playground for the rich and those in search of material things and a decent Instagram picture. We should have known this when we landed. A private jet landed after us with the registration of m-oney on the side! We didn't do masses of research before we arrived, but we didn't come across anything to indicate just how expensive it would be. We're budget travellers (not because we're tight, we just like to do more on less!) so Mykonos came as a bit of a shock. Having said that, it’s a must visit place and we had such a great time.
Avoid a long stay
Avoid a long stay if you're on a budget and want more of an adventure. Not only is it expensive but it doesn’t have masses of things to do other than eat and drink. If you like a bit of a trek and adventure, like us, a couple of days should be just enough. It's close to Athens and cheap enough to fly to. Return flights were only £80 and we booked less than 48 hours before flying. The ferry was more expensive and far longer travel times. It's a 40-minute flight, so consider hopping over for a day or two because that's all you really need to enable you to see the main spots. If you fancy an island with a bit more to do, head to Zante or Corfu... you won't be disappointed on either of them.
Stacey under a gorgeous bougainvillea
Hire a quad
We hired a quad for a day from Hercules, underneath our accommodation, and it was so much fun. We found an amazing local restaurant (see below), a random little beach and some dirt tracks to tear up and have some fun with the quad. It wasn’t all fun, though. The thing was probably the most unreliable machine I have ever come into contact with. It conked out several times. Once on a hill and another on a junction. Stacey had to jump off so I could get it up the hill! And on top of that, the gearbox failed and wouldn’t go into reverse. But this all added to the fun and what do you expect for 25 Euros? Don't let this put you off...there are other quad hire places available! Haha.
For things to do, there isn’t that much. One of my favourite things to do is just wander and you can do this for some time in Mykonos Town due to the tiny little streets. Each one is beautiful. In fact, I’ve never seen a Greek island in such good condition. Visit Captain’s restaurant on the front of the old port for some decent food and a great view of the old port.
While you're wandering the streets, head towards Little Venice and visit Katerina's Bar & Restaurant. Get there late afternoon to enjoy some milder sun and get a seat out on the balcony. It's one of the nicest spots you will find to enjoy a rest from the wandering which comes complete with a spectacular view! There's also a gift shop next door. If you ask the lady nicely, she'll let you out onto her little balcony, show you the windmills and tell you all about the fish that she sees below, in the crystal clear Mediterranean waters.
The famous windmills of Mykonos, seen from Katerina's
Little Venice, Mykonos Town
Make the effort to get out of the town. And while you're out and about, you must visit Odos Araxame in Ano Mera for an authentic Greek restaurant experience. Pavlos, our local tour guide (aka, the barman) told us to visit. He claims it's one of the last remaining authentic restaurants on the island. It's filled with locals, like the salty sea dog below, which is always a good sign if you like the live like a local approach, and who doesn't want to experience the local cuisines and cultures...that's why we travel, right?!
One salty old seadog!
We stayed in the Mycocoon Hostel. Not only was it a bargain for Mykonos (we paid around £137 for four nights) but it added a lot of fun to our stay. We got to meet some interesting people, one of which lives only 30 minutes from us (small world, huh?), a lad set to change the face of politics in Brazil and a couple from the island of Réunion. You don't know where that is, either? It's east of Madagascar and looks beautiful. One of them happened to be a wildlife photographer which gave us some common ground and they were pretty much locals on the island, which always helps for recommendations!
Inside Mycocoon Hostel
Our bed in Mycocoon Hostel
The view was also pretty decent for a hostel and blocked out the wind. It turns out the island is insanely windy! So, for the best beaches, visit the southern ones. The wind is one of the reasons the town was built the way it was - to stop the wind cutting down the streets and it works a treat! The other reason was pirates. It's a labyrinth of tiny streets that helped defend the island against pirates because they couldn't find their way around. You’ll find two beaches in Ornos, only a few hundred metres from one another, but with completely different environments. The southern one is full of restaurants, sun lounges and superyachts and the northerner one is full of wind surfers.
The view from the hostel pool
The olive tree that always caught my eye
Enjoy the sunset
Stacey always like to go see the sun set. We put it off and put it off again until the very last night. And because she takes forever to get ready we had to get a march on because we didn't have long left until the sun went down. Armed with our Mythos beers, we set off racing up the hill. Thankfully, it was only a five minute walk up the hill to the tiny little church that overlooks Mykonos Town. We had the place to ourself. And quite uniquely, we got to not only enjoy seeing the sun go down, but also the town come to life, by barely even turning your head.
Mykonos Town at sunset
Despite having a return flight booked from Mykonos to Athens, we decided to scrap that plan and head to Santorini and forfeit the flights. They were only £40 so not too much wasted. We arrived at the new port in Mykonos, some 30-minute walk from the hostel. In good Greek fashion, there were no signs or screens to tell you where the ferry was going to turn up or at what time. The ticket said to board 30 minutes before departure, but the ferry didn’t turn up until five minutes before departure! And what a boarding. It was definitely more chaotic than the Torpoint Ferry (the locals to Plymouth and Cornwall will understand) but so much fun. The wind was high and the Seajet ferry was all over the place and we were herded on like cattle…but before we had even got through the vehicle deck and up to the passenger deck, the ferry was on its way – the Greeks showing their efficiency as a seafaring nation.
THEN Grant Shapps [UK Transport Minister] happened…
We arrived in Santorini, checked in to our hotel and within 20 minutes read the news about the UK adding seven islands to the quarantine list, of which Santorini was one, starting at 0400 on Wednesday morning. Thankfully, Ryanair came to the rescue with a flight that got us back to Athens for 0130 on Wednesday morning meaning we wouldn’t have to quarantine. There would have been a time where I wouldn’t have taken the risk, but those days are gone! We just roll with it now and see what happens. Life is definitely more relaxing this way. Worry less, smile more! Our original plan was to return to the UK from Athens, so although it ruined Santorini a bit, we got to enjoy a little bit more of Athens, so all was not lost!
We ended up having only 31 hours on the island. Time was against us, but we did a good job of exploring Thira, Imerovigli and Oia. Oia is where the famous sunset is but you can get great sunset views in Thira and Imerovigli, too. The island is a little more like what we’re used to in Greece with its rustic charm and unfinished buildings. The viewpoints are also incredible, and we preferred Santorini over Mykonos, despite the brief time we spent on the island. We had a brilliant time in both, but for different reasons.
The Three Domes of Santorini
The top thing to do for us in Santorini was to visit Oia to see the sunset. If you Google most famous sunset in the world you will find Santorini is up there with the best of them. It's in the top 20 on Rough Guides (HERE) and features in almost every search result on the first page. If sunsets are your thing, Santorini should be on your list. There is one spot everyone flocks to on the old castle ruins. But there is another, by the three blue domes. We chose to see the domes first. Not only was it quieter but you can also then walk to the ruins to catch the sun going down over the horizon. Be warned though, it gets incredibly busy! Once the sun has gone, everyone disappears, so wait another ten minutes to see the hillside come alive with colour and the sky start to fade to reveal those rich shades. It’s far more impressive than watching the sun disappear. The picture below was taken a few minutes after the sun had disappeared...along with most of the tourists. Despite the short time on the island, we saw the top spots we wanted to, and we will return one day to finish off the rest.
Greece, you've been fabulous...until next time!
Oia after sunset