Tickets. Passport. Gucci shades. It’s not your usual holiday checklist but a pair of oversized Jackie O’s are essential on Mykonos. We reveal why these days the island’s more Valentino than Shirley Valentine…
Shirley Valentine: Hiya Wall.
[to the camera]
Shirley Valentine: Well what’s wrong with that? There’s a woman three doors down talks to her microwave. Talking to a microwave! Wall, what’s the world coming to?
And so began Shirley Valentine, the film about a suburbia escapee that inspired bored housewives the country over to book a one-way ticket to Mykonos in the hope of finding love. But this tiny Greek isle was famous long before catching a glimpse of Tom Conti’s bum was on the agenda.
Mykonos first shot to stardom in the Sixties. Back then, it was the Greek equivalent of St-Tropez or the Amalfi Coast. It all started when Aristotle and Jackie Onassis took a shine to the island. Almost overnight, the beau monde had pitched up, dropping anchor in the island’s sapphire waters and added a luxury villa in Mykonos to their portfolio of holiday homes.
Along with the ‘it’ crowd, Mykonos became the holiday playground of choice for gay travellers. Ever the trendsetters, they were drawn by the chic boutiques, glitzy bars and laissez-faire attitude. And while Sitges and Ibiza have now eclipsed Mykonos as the numero uno rainbow destination, the island still pulls in the pink pound. Mykonos Town on a Saturday night, for example, has more gay fans than Kylie.
Access All Areas
Things are a-changing, though. Mykonos’s velvet rope has been pulled back to the world at large (although you’ll still spy the likes of Hugh Jackman and Sarah Jessica Parker hiding behind their designer sunnies here). And the island is no longer just the preserve of friends of Dorothy. Increasingly people who fancy something a little more cutting-edge than say, Corfu or Rhodes, are heading here.
And while its appeal has grown, Mykonos has lost none of its gloss. Take Mykonos Town, the island’s capital, for instance. Its narrow whitewashed streets are laced with on-trend boutiques selling D&G and Dior. Likewise, the dining scene is pretty upscale – you’re just as likely to find sushi on the menu as stuffed vine leaves. In fact, Japanese culinary temple, Nobu, makes an appearance here. Add to that a cocktail bar and clubbing scene more akin to Manhattan than Malia, and you’ll see Mykonos is less bucket and spade and more fashion parade.
But don’t be fooled by the polished veneer. This place also does charming with a capital ‘C’. The towns and villages are authentic Greece… cobbled alleyways weave between dazzling white sugar cube houses, blue-domed churches stand alongside thatched windmills, and pretty wrought-iron balconies spill over with bougainvillea.
Mykonos walks that difficult line between cutting-edge and traditional with aplomb. Chances are you’ll spot a wizened Greek widow watering the geraniums on a balcony above a funky bar pumping out the latest from Café del Mar. Mykonos is practically unique among Greek Islands in pulling off this glam-trad balancing act – only Santorini offers up any serious competition. That said, it does have a couple of things in common with its Cycladic siblings – namely a decent dose of culture and some fabulous beaches.
On the history front, it’s a case of catching a boat over to neighbouring Delos, just a couple of kilometres offshore. This tiny, uninhabited island is the mythical birthplace of the twin gods, Apollo and Artemis. It also happens to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. A bit like Pompeii and Ephesus, it’s a historical goldmine of theatres, temples and shrines. A word of warning though. It may only take around 20 minutes to get to Delos, but make sure you’ve got your sea legs – boats seesaw their way across this choppy stretch of water.
As for those knockout beaches, you’ll find the best sands down along the south coast. Plati Yialos is one of the most popular seaside haunts, while serious ‘all-over’ sun-worshippers head southeast to Paragka, Paradise and Super Paradise beaches where they can get tans minus spaghetti strap marks. Shirley Valentine fans, meanwhile, need to trace a finger westwards on the map, over to Ayios Yiannis. This is where much of the BAFTA-winning film was shot back in the Eighties.
On the subject of Ms Valentine, Shirley famously said, “I used to be The Mother. I used to be The Wife. But now I’m Shirley Valentine again.” Somehow a holiday in Mykonos just does that to you.
Where To Stay
Check out these hotels and then check in…
1) Anemos Studios, Ornos
This classic Greek number is trimmed with jaunty blue wooden shutters. Inside, immaculate white walls and simple pine furnishings provide a Med-fresh feel.
2) Hotel Lady Anna, Plati Yialos
A boutique retreat but not in a look-but-don’t-touch kind of way, this place teams designer neutrals with shabby-chic furnishings.
3) Hotel Porto Mykonos, Mykonos Town
Contemporary design twists give this chi-chi pile a Wallpaper* magazine vibe – not to mention a Small Luxury Hotels of the World tag.
Are you tempted to sample the delights of Mykonos?