Mykonos can be best described as a less pretentious gay version of St
Tropez: glamorous and a bit exclusive, but without attitude or snobbery.
Queers are everywhere, and straights are on their best behavior. You can
feel totally relaxed about being gay. No one gives a second glance at two
men holding hands in the street (unless they are especially gorgeous!).
The island is pretty much unspoilt, having avoided the disaster of mass
tourism. No building is higher than three storeys. Motorways and traffic
lights don’t exist. There are no big supermarkets or department stores. With
its intimate, village-like atmosphere, the town retains the feel of the
small, sleepy fishing village that it was only 40 years ago.
The postcards don’t lie. Mykonos is almost too beautiful to be true. All
the houses, shops, churches, restaurants and windmills are immaculately
whitewashed, with door frames and window shutters highlighted with splashes
of sky blue and jade green.
The streets are a maze of narrow, winding alleyways - many only two or
four feet wide, overhung with dazzling pink and purple blossoms. On every
second doorstep sits a cat, gazing down serenely at passers by.
GAY BARS & CRUISING
This is not Ibiza. There are no big gay venues and no all-night rave
parties. Mykonos is a place for unwinding and relaxing. The queer scene is
petite and stylish.
The island has six gay bars and clubs, which are concentrated in three
locations near the old harbor front, where the small fishing boats are
Pierro’s, Manto and Icaros are situated next to each
other in a little lane off Taxi Square. During peak summer nights, hundreds
of guys spill out into the street.
All three bars are decorated in variations of post-modernism classicism,
with reproductions of ancient Greek artifacts gracing the otherwise
The upstairs dance bar at Pierro’s features huge jig-saw shaped
mirrors and polished driftwood, and a vast open balcony that overlooks the
street below. Icaros - also upstairs – has a gorgeous roof terrace
that is sheer perfection for a romantic tryst beneath the stars.
Porta Bar is located all by itself in a tiny alley at the other end
of the harbour front, near the blue-domed church. More like a traditional
English gay pub, its is down-to-earth and cruisier than the other venues.
Further along the harbour front, next to Paraportiani Church, is
Kastro’s. This is the place to sip cocktails and enjoy the sensational
Down the same street, closer to Little Venice, is the Montparnasse
Piano Bar, where the American diva Phyllis belts out show tunes.
You never know who you might meet on Mykonos. It’s a queer melting pot.
The gay jet set rub shoulders with scene queens and older, quieter
professionals - an engaging mix of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities –
with a predominance of Germans, English, Italians, French and, of course,
Greeks. If you are lucky, an American gay cruise ship might be in town (they
dock frequently during the summer months).
There are three main beaches, each with gay and nude sections:
Paradise, Super Paradise and Elia. Tucked into small coves
and protected by rocky headlands, these crescent-shaped strips of sand are
lined with trees and dotted with thatched sunshades. Small bars and
restaurants overlook the turquoise-coloured sea. From early evening onwards,
the bars turn up the volume and become open-air dance clubs, packed with
partygoers nearly all night long.
Buses go direct from the town to Elia and Paradise, via
narrow, winding roads over rocky hills. Super Paradise is accessible
only by fishing boat (from either Paradise or Platys Yialos).
Alternatively, you can hire a jeep from around £26 a day or a motor scooter
from about £8.
For hyperactive party animals, an exhilarating alternative to the beach
is Water Mania, a fabulous water theme park near Elia, with
giant water slides, shutes and spirals - some up to 244 metres long.
Big hotels are totally absent. The favored style is clusters of 10 to 20
mini-apartments built on the hillsides above the harbour.
The view from my accommodation was absolutely awesome. The Alkyon
Hotel is perched just below the crest of one of the larger hills, with a
stupendous 180-degree panorama over Mykonos town, the harbour, and the
distant islands in the sapphire-blue Aegean Sea. With such superb views -
and a 10-metre pool that juts out of the hillside and feels like it is
hanging in space - some guests rarely left the hotel.
Breakfasts on the open-air terrace were bliss. Peaches with
thick-strained Greek yoghurt, followed by fresh bread, cheese and coffee –
plus the pleasure of gazing down at the ferries sailing in and out of the
In 1960, Mykonos was a dirt-poor fishing village. Things have changed a
bit since then, but it still does great fish. Check out the fish taverns by
the old harbour. There are lots of tempting places to eat, with many
restaurants set in lush, verdant gardens, overhung with bougainvillaea
flowers and grapevines.
Together with Respect Holiday’s rep, Steve Winter, and Anna Manolakou of
Matt Holidays, I savoured a sumptuous meal on the patio of Avra restaurant:
stuffed vine leaves, silver snapper and exotic green salad.
Make sure you sample Mykonian specialties, such as kopanisti
(salted white cheese), soumada (fermented almond cordial),
amygdalota (almond confectionery) and ouzo (aniseed spirits).
No visit is complete without paying homage to Hermes, the Greek god of
commerce. Mykonos is paradise for shopaholics. And so chic! What other
teeny-weeny island with drain-pipe-width streets and shoe-box-sized shops
can boast such a huge array of designer stores, ranging from DKNY to Gant
and Christian Lacroix?
Mykonos is also famous for exquisite jewellery and high quality
reproductions of Greek religious icons and archaeological relics such as
plates, vases, statues and mosaics.
For original artwork, my recommendations are hand-made, customised
glassware from Hermes in Goumenio Square, and limited-edition screen prints
of Mykonian beach scenes from the Bougainvillia Gallery in Venice Street.
HISTORY & CULTURE
While the early Greeks may not have invented homosexuality, they
certainly venerated it in ways unrivalled before or since. Exploring the
history of the world’s first and only homo-celebrating society is a must-do.
A short boat ride from Mykonos is the archaeological wonderland of the
sacred island of Delos, the political and spiritual centre of ancient
Greece. According to legend, it was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.
All over the island lie the ruins of shrines, temples and sanctuaries
built to honor the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. At the site of
the Temple of Dionysos (built to celebrate the festival of Bacchus),
all that remains are two large sculptured phalluses, decapitated but still
standing erect and defiant on their plinths. Elsewhere, avenues of
weather-beaten statues faded mosaic tile floors, and crumbling colonnaded
courtyards testify to the nobility of the ancient civilisation.
What is truly remarkable is that here, in 400 BC, was a highly
sophisticated town of 25,000 people (towns of such size did not exist in
Britain until nearly 2,000 years later!). What is more, the street planning,
sewage system and public buildings of Delos were superior to anything
that existed in London prior to the 1800s. As I wandered through the solid
marble amphitheatre seating 5,500 people, it was sobering to think that even
today in the UK there is no theatre of comparable size and extravagance.
There are over 300 churches in and around Mykonos town – one for almost
every street. Don’t let their small dimensions deceive you. Many are hidden
treasure-troves, stuffed with exquisite mosaics, wall frescoes, carved wood
paneling and gold-plated candelabras.