Reading about Greece and its economical problems recently makes me really sad as what I experienced when visiting one of its islands still makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. 9 months back in October 2014 me, my sister and the boyfriend, packed our bags and jumped on a low cost flight to this queer little Greek island. My sister, a natural Travel agent at heart, made all the bookings and without much research off we went! I have always wanted to visit Greece for its beautiful white stone islands, specifically Santorini but it was atrociously pricey even in an off-peak October! So my sister chose the more economical island of Mykonos.
We travelled easyjet which to my surprise was actually decent; seat numbers allocated, polite staff and leg space enough to fit in a normal sized human. After a long bumpy 3.5 hours flight we started crossing several Cycladic islands one after another before finally descending on a barren looking sparsely populated Mykonos. My first reaction was a bit of shock and amusement as we landed on the brown rocky runway with wilted trees around it. I was sceptical about what to expect on this “beach” holiday as we disembarked the stairs of the plane and waited for the bus.
As we stepped out of the tiny airport, the hotels shuttle driver was waiting for us with our name tag and welcomed us with a large smile despite our flight being an hour late. The moment the shuttle whisked us out of the airport, my scepticism flew off with the warm clyades wind (about 25 degrees in October). The shuttle dwindled effortlessly through winding roads as it climbed and descended the mountain slopes with magnificent views of the ocean on all sides. We were just simply mesmerised at the beauty of this quaint little island with white washed houses, banks, restaurants and yes, wait for it - a Starbucks! It reminded me of Flintstones with its cobbled streets, white stone houses and outdated cars which was so serene and peaceful that I forgot all work woes in a jiffy.
I can go on and on about this 5 day trip which we still often reminisce about but instead I shall highlight some of the do’s and not many dont’s when visiting Mykonos.
If you are on a medium budget like us, then try Arte and Mare Suites which is located literately 1 minute walk from the stunning Elia beach. Its a quirky 3 star hotel with suites large enough to fit 3-4 people with a king bed and sofa bed. The suite is large with its own kitchen counter and tops it with a private veranda where you can relax after a long swim. It also has lots of beach sport facilities like jet ski, banana boat, tube rides etc which are on full swing in the slightly warmer months. Pros - beach, delicious restaurant (made us delicious vegetarian meals on request), lots of beach towels and free shuttle which takes guests to town/airport. Cons - room in need of a little re-refurb so don’t expect to see exactly what you see online.
Car hire is a must!
Although hotels here seem to provide free airport shuttle as well as timed drop-off, pickups from town, having a car can just make your experience incredible. Islands are meant to be discovered and tourists locations are just some of those points. Affordable hotels are strategically located right next to the beach but miles away from the town, eateries etc and the island has a handful of cabs (I think 10). So after feeling a bit restricted on the first day, we hired a car on the second day. Although we hired a GPS (which didn’t really work) we found ourselves navigating the slopes and streets like we spent most of our childhood holidays here. Plus the locals are absolutely lovely - I mean a dream to talk to, so you can stop and ask directions any time if needed. Road signs are pretty clear at frequent intervals as well. Only caution - you need to be a brilliant driver. Narrow slopes are not for those drivers who tend to get nervous or jittery. Plus there are no road lights so returning after dark can be a mission if you are not road savy or faint hearted.
Don’t miss Flora
You will spot a few Flora super markets as you drive by. We made a pit stop to stock on some snacks and drinks and were impressed at what not you could buy. It basically stocks anything and everything you can think of - from branded skin care to British and American cereals to pot noodles. Plus its affordable compared to touristy shops in the main town centre. We even asked the till lady to keep our shopping with her while we browsed the neighbouring shops and she happily agreed. The people are the best I've met so far during travel.
Cat lovers beware!
If you are one of those people who browse cute cat videos all day long, then beware of Mykonos because you will want to pack a lot of the cats in your cabin bag and take them home. There was this super tiny adorable ginger cat who lingered around our hotels beach restaurant. It followed us one night and after a while sat on the empty chair next to us and pretended to sleep while we adored her. Large and small cats just came meowing to us and posed for photos everywhere we went. They just want to be pampered and will chase you for that if needed. Totally adorbs.
The food is expensive or pretty exact to eating out in Britain. So budget properly for the meals you plan to have and take sufficient cash. Choices are abundant at the tourist strip near the docks and windmills; from amazing baguettes, pizzerias, sea-food restaurants and desert parlours. Buying ice cream cones and sitting near the dock at nights was plain bliss! Vegetarians like me, just request what you want and they should whip it up without a wince.
Must see - non touristy spots
So this is where the car hire part comes in. If you have a really good driver on board, driving around the island can be a whole new experience on its own. One of the adventures we went on was to the famous light house, also known as Armenistis Lighthouse. Our hotel concierge very kindly drew us a map of how to get there and we excitedly went for a drive. The journey stays smooth until you start climbing towards the lighthouse. After a certain point the road becomes uneven and less defined. At one point, me and my sister were so scared of the car rolling back that we got off the car while the boyfriend revved it up the bumpy slope. But once you reach the lighthouse, its spectacular. You can see nearby islands like Turkey and other Cyclades and the ocean spans as far as you can see.