Although one of the smallest islands of the Cyclades complex, Mykonos is definitely the most famous, thanks to its treasure of natural beauty, rich history, cosmopolitan character combined with a wild nightlife, as well as plenty of local color. A dry, arid island, it is covering an area of barely 90 square kilometers and it is situated in the middle of the Aegean, about 94 nautical miles from Piraeus port. The island's landscape is a symphony of blazing bare rock, blinding white peasant architecture and, in contrast to its small size, numerous lacy stretches of the most beautiful sandy beaches, all these accentuated by the wonderful Mediterranean light and set against the deep blue background of the Aegean. Today it is estimated that the population amounts to 11.000 people (4,000 are foreign residents), who have a reputation of being friendly, tolerant to the island's wild lifestyle, and very adaptable to changes. Mykonos owes its name to the son of the King of Delos.
According to the mythology, Hercules, in one of his twelve tasks, killed the Giants and threw them into the sea where they petrified and turned into huge rocks, forming the island of Mykonos. During ancient times, Mykonos, due to its proximity to Delos, which was then highly populated, became very important as a supply island. The short 2-kilometer distance between the islands was frequently travelled, since religious rules specified that no one should be born or die on Delos. Around the time of Alexander the Great the island became a commercial centre for agriculture and maritime trade. In 1207, like the rest of the Cyclades, Mykonos came under Venetian rule which lasted until 1537, when the Turks dominated the islands along with the rest of Greece. The inhabitants were great sailors, so they provided important help to the Greek Revolution against the Turkish yoke, in 1821, offering 22 ships, crew and ammunition. After the country's independence in 1830, the island's economy and commercial power were slowly but steadily reestablished. In the period between World War I and II, visitors were attracted here mainly by the archaeological site of Delos. During the '50s, modern-day tourism started to grow, along with the island's population, but it was in the following two decades of the '60s and the '70s that, thanks to the likes of Jackie O and numerous other jetsetters, the island was turned into one of the most cosmopolitan holiday resorts of the Mediterranean, if not of the world. Attracting people from A-listers and millionaires to backpackers and ravers, it is still at the height of its popularity, and the amazing thing is that, despite its rapid development and numerous, as well as drastic changes, it has managed to preserve its color and character intact.
Chora, the island's port town and capital, is still considered by many as the Greek Saint-Tropez and it never fails to allure the crowds that flood it every year, thanks to its unique character that locals have managed to preserve almost intact to this day. Around narrow, whitewashed streets there are white cubicle houses clustered, with their tiny balconies, colored windows and liliput yards lined by bougainvillea and pots of basilicum. Numerous little churches and chapels, hidden minuscule piazzas and water wells, as well as the multitude of colorful shops are there to further accent this chaotic picturesque setting, where a simple stroll can turn into the most exhilarating experience.
Perpendicular to the harbour is the main street, called Matoyanni, and that, along with its neighboring or continuing streets, consists the town's commercial core, full of shops, cafes and bars for every budget and every taste. Walking down these settings is a must, but make sure you also wander around the more quiet labyrinth of the little streets behind, where you can feel the aura of times past. The central harbor is another multi-photographed attraction, with a lot of traffic going on along the esplanade, lined with numerous cafes, bars and shops. At the western end of the harbour stands one of Chora's landmarks, the Church of Paraportiani, a whitewashed group of four chapels in vernacular architectural style.
Little Venice is a picturesque neighborhood at the southwest end of the port and owes its name to the fact that many of the island's wealthy early captains built their houses directly on the sea here. It is the town's most idyllic spot, especially in the late afternoon, where one can enjoy a wonderful sunset on one of the stylish bars overlooking the water. On the high windswept hill that rises nearby you can see another of the island's famous landmarks, the Mykonos windmills. If you wish to see the authentic interior of such a windmill, dating to the 16th century, visit the Mykonos Agricultural Museum, on the road connecting Chora and Platis Yalos (open 16:00-20.30, June to October).
Mykonos is world famous for its beautiful golden sandy beaches and transparent waters. There is a beach for every taste and mood. Nudists, round-the-clock party people, families and those seeking a break from the madness of Mykonos will all be able to find a beach that fits their taste. The beaches on the south shore of the island have the best sand, view and are protected from the Meltemi, the local Cycladic wind. Keep in mind that most people begin to arrive in the early afternoon, and you can avoid the worst of the crowds by going in the morning. The north coast beaches are less developed but just as beautiful. They are less organized and crowded and most suitable for those in search of a bit of calm.
Psarou: Situated within walking distance and just to the right of the Plati Gialos bus terminus. Fully organised beach offering water sports (including a diving school) attracting thousands of visitors during summer.
Platis Gialos: About 4 km from the center of Mykonos town, a very popular beach on the south side of the island. It is also one of the longest beaches on Mykonos. From here one may hire a small boat to visit other beaches like Paradise, Super Paradise etc. There is a very good connection by bus with Mykonos town, till very late at night.
Paranga: One of the island's smallest beaches, it is a combination of two sandy beaches separated by a headland. Although organised, it has a new-age feel about it, with fine sand and huge rocks juxtaposed with blue water. The beach can be reached by bus or by a 15 minute walk from Platis Gialos.
Paradise (Kalamopodi): One of the most famous beaches of Mykonos, nudist friendly, attracting mostly a young crowd by its 24 hour music and its day and night beach parties. Water sports, diving centre and beach bars are available. It is located on the south, between Paranga Beach and Super Paradise Beach, and is reachable by a footpath from Plati Gialo, by bus or by small boat.
Super Paradise (Plintri): Just as famous as Paradise, it lies on the south side of Mykonos, next to Paradise beach. The setting truly is paradisiacal but don't come here for a peaceful family picnic - music blares from huge loud speakers and during high season the beach partying often continues all day long. Full nudity is permitted. Is reachable by local bus and small boat.
Agrari: Located right next to Elia beach, they form together a huge sandy beach. Agrari is less popular than its neighbour and much calmer. It can be reached by local bus and taxi-boat.
Elia: Elia is in a distance of about 3 km away from Ano Mera. The largest of the southern beaches, it has good restaurants, hotels, bungalows. In the area just before Elia beach, there is "Watermania", a 60,000 square metre water park with dare devil chutes, a host of water-based activities, music and dancing. The beach is accessible by bus service from Mykonos Town and boat service from Platis Gialos.
Kalo Livadi: Kalo Livadi lies 2 km from Ano Mera. It is the perfect place for those who look for a peaceful environment. If you like to stay overnight, there is one hotel and a few rooms to let. Buses run frequently from Mykonos Town to Kalo Livadi.
Ornos: Only two kilometres from town, located on the south west. Perfect family beach with all amenities. Access to and from town is easily made by frequent bus service. Daily boat services to other beaches as well as excursions to the island of Delos are available from this bay which also provides a good anchorage for yachts.
Korfos: Only two kilometres from town. Attracts mainly wind surfing enthusiasts, due to the frequency of good on-shore winds. Not suitable for swimming or sunbathing.
Agios Ioannis: Situated on the south-west coast of the island, 5 km from Mykonos Town, Agios Ioannis is fully organised, wind-protected beach, ideal for families. You can enjoy a wonderful view over the island of Delos.
Agios Sostis: On the north part of the island. Suitable for those who want to avoid crowds and enjoy calmness. One of the most secluded beaches on the island, since access is limited to private vehicle and taxi.
Ftelia: North facing beach, most suitable to windsurfers, since it is exposed to strong northern winds. There is a restaurant to serve the needs of those who visit and access to this beach can only be made by taxi or private vehicles.