Many Greeks avoid Mykonos in the summer, opting to vacation in less-crowded (read: undiscovered by tourists) islands. I say they don’t know what they’re missing. For this Greek-American, who has spent her entire life skipping around the globe frequently touching down in Greece, Mykonos has become a divine summer ritual.
|Oia, on the high point of Santorini, is justly famed for its sunsets.|
Yes, the postcard-perfect isle has tons of Ibiza-type beaches for fans of the thumping party scene—from Super Paradise to Paraga, where the scene echoes South Beach—but I choose to retreat to the bohemian strips of sand that pepper the island. Like Agios Sostis, with its fabulous Kiki’s Tavern. It’s no coincidence this no-frills eatery, which dishes out home-style meals, can be found on the travel hot lists of concierge.com and The New York Times. From the meals prepared on the charcoal barbecue, the grilled whole eggplant is my usual choice, but many opt for the famous pork chop. No reservations required (or taken), but if there’s a wait, you can kill time poring over jewelry crafted by British expat John Shortall. He weaves antique opium pipes he fishes out of the Thames River in London with beautiful string, creating one-of-a-kind collectible beach jewelry that indicates you’re in the know in Mykonos.
Santorini’s whitewashed houses creep up the volcanic hillside.
Photo by Peter Wesley Brown
My preferred mode of transport in the Greek islands is by helicopter or single-engine Cherokee airplane with Thanos Iordanis’ company, The Luxury Choice. In Mykonos, being impulsive is part of the culture. In that spirit, when he calls me saying he has an empty leg to Santorini and asks if I want to hop over for a night, I cannot say no.
|Mykonos’ charming architecture draws sophisticated visitors from around the globe.|
After a seamless 20 minutes in the air, we touch down on Greece’s most famous island. First stop: Meet friends for coffee at the tiny, old-school coffee shop at Kateli Emporiou. Coffee in Greece is similar to going for drinks in the States. Expect to sit for one to three hours; this is a social ritual that should be enjoyed, not rushed. Many java shops turn into bars in the evenings, when you can try the traditional Yellow Donkey beer by the fine wine producer Yiannis Paraskevopoulos.
Tourists flock to Ammoudi to see the sunset, and while there are plenty of fish tavernas lining the water’s edge, only one stands out for freshness and service—Dimitris. It’s at the far end, and you’ll need to walk through all the others to get there, which is a little like walking through Saks Fifth Avenue and avoiding the perfume spritzers. Armed with menus instead of perfume bottles, the touts will try to lure you to dine in their establishments, but look straight ahead and know your destination. Have your hotel book ahead for you.
After a long dinner with friends in from a yacht for the night, we head over to Hasapiko, a former butcher shop turned bar that serves creative cocktails and a more alternative scene. It’s in Oia, a charming village on Santorini’s highest point known for its sunsets.
Before heading back to Mykonos, I stock up on local products—Santorini is known for its amazing wine, capers, white aubergine (eggplant) and fava beans—in the small rock village of Vothonas. Ask someone to direct you to Yiannis Nomikos and buy whatever he has on offer that day.
Another must is a visit to the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri (circa twentieth to sixteenth century BCE). Go early, take your time and enjoy the paintings that adorn the structures of this ancient yet wildy advanced (they had plumbing) Minoan Bronze Age settlement that perished during a volcanic eruption. Like Santorini itself, it’s a marvel.
|A Minoan fresco from the archeological site of Akrotiri in Santorini.|
- In Mykonos, Hotel Kivotos' rooms are decorated by artists and local crafstmen.
- Poolside Perks: At Kivotos, a beautiful barman mixes complimentary poolside shots like the gin gazpacho, while Konstantina, the lithe and lovely pool girl effortlessly serves them to the bohemian jetset crowd, and co-owner Jason Michopoulos personally curates the playlists. If that’s not enough, four separate pools offer plenty of swimming options. The hotel will re-open for the 2013 summer season on May 17, and play host to its new Every Day To Night poolside soirée at Kivotos, where the pool bar will transform into a lounge atmosphere offering occasional live entertainment peppered with guest DJs, certain to be the epicenter of the Cycladic wild child's apertif hour.
- Perched on Oia with its mindblowing vista of Santorini's caldera cliffs, Mystique appeals to the “no cameras” crowd and the glitterati.
- Santorini's Vedema Resort is built around a 400-year-old wine cellar in Megalohori. Intimate with a focus on high-end gastronomy.
Local delicacies like grilled octopus are served alfresco at Hotel Kivotos in Mykonos.
Grilled ocotpus photo by Peter Wesley Brown
Private Beach at Kivotos, Ornos Bay.
Photo by Peter Wesley Brown