The first stop on our Big Fat Greek Summer Vacation was Mykonos! The island of Mykonos is part of the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean a quick 40 minute flight south east of Athens.
Mykonos has a reputation of being party central and attracting crowds of party-goers but it is possible to get away from all of that. During our visit, we spent 3 relaxing days in Mykonos exploring the island and its beaches, its tavernas, its towns, and we visited a local winery/farm and craft brewery. In this post, we share tips and information for those looking to visit Mykonos but who want to avoid the party scene.
How we got here – Our flight itinerary:
We decided to head straight to Mykonos from Vancouver. We flew on Air Canada from YVR – Vancouver International Airport to YYZ – Toronto Pearson International Airport and onwards to ATH – Athens International Airport. We had a 3 hour layover in Athens and were able to clear customs and go through airport security in about 15 minutes to catch our Aegean Airlines flight (operated by Olympic Airlines). We were not sure what to expect on arrival but the airport was quiet at that time, we had completed all our paperwork in advance, did online check-in, and we travelled with carry-on.
If you have Star Alliance Gold status, you can access the VIP screening point, which is well staffed. They will ask you to take your laptop out of your bag even if it is not included on the sign, FYI.
We tried to use Priority Pass to access one of the lounges but when they scanned out boarding pass, they told us to go use the Aegean Lounge because we have Star Alliance Gold status. The Aegean Lounge was pretty busy but we were able to find seats and enjoy some food and drinks before going to our gate. The Aegean Lounge had various salads, sandwiches, fruits, nutrition bars, other snacks, as well as a good selection of red and white Greek wines and beers.
Many of the flights within Greece are bus gates which is not fun but part of the experience. Our flight left on time but we landed in very windy conditions; it appeares to take our A320 the entire runway for the landing!
How we got around – Our experience renting a car from Budget:
We decided to rent a car to explore the island for freedom and flexibility and decided to rent from Budget at the JMK – Mykonos Airport. It was our first trip to Greece and so we were a little nervous about renting a car and driving but it wasn’t as bad as we thought….once we found our car in the parking lot and became used to the driving conditions!
The people at Budget were really friendly and easy going and helpful but we did experience a couple of issues. Firstly, it took us about 20 minutes to find our rental car because it wasn’t parked with the other rental cars and when we did find the car, it had a flat tire! Even if it was busy and they were sold out, they were able to provide us an alternate automatic car.
The roads are super narrow in Mykonos and many of them are bound by stone walls that are uneven and so you need to be prepared to tuck your mirrors in as you approach oncoming traffic and even back up to a wider part of the road sometimes.
We made sure to get our International Drivers License from our local BCAA (British Columbia Automobile Association) prior to our departure but you can also get one online too (NOTE: we have not used this service but fellow travelers have recommended it). Some people do not get an international drivers license in Greece even if it is the law but since it’s easy and cheap to get the license, not worth the risk of getting caught and paying a fine.
If you don’t want to rent a car, there are other transportation options; there is a bus service on Mykonos depending where you want to go, many rent quads or scooters, and you can arrange private transportation.
Where we stayed – Our stay at the Aegon Mykonos at Kalo Livadi Beach:
We decided to stay at the Aegon Mykonos, Autograph Collection. We were torn about staying here after reading the saga on One Mile at a Time, seeing some of the suspicious looking reviews left on TripAdvisor, and hearing other negative comments posted on the Marriott website and Flyer Talk. We ultimately decided to go ahead with our stay because our SNA request for an Aqua Suite had cleared, and other hotel options in the area were very expensive (we used Marriott Bonvoy points for our stay).
Overall, the Aegon Mykonos is a nice new hotel, but there are definitely some drawbacks to consider. Despite the nicely finished rooms and a low-key atmosphere (for Mykonos) and location on a nice stretch of beach, the ongoing service/management and SNA issues are hard to ignore, especially for Marriott Bonvoy members looking to redeem points and/or awards. We were very lucky to be upgraded to an Infinity Revive Suite with a large private pool though. Read our detailed review here.
Where we ate/drank – Our list of recommendations:
- Odos Araxame in Ano Mera: Since Ano Mera is located a short drive from the Aegon Mykonos, we decided to have our first dinner in Greece here. Popular with locals and tourists, we enjoyed our meal at Odos Araxame. We ordered a Greek salad, tzatziki, and Myconian sausage (it was a little dry and the casing was tough). The restaurant has a nice patio, the service was good and the prices reasonable. We found this restaurant using Google Maps.
- Friano Greek Taverna in Argyraina: This tavern was located about halfway between our hotel and Mykonos town and ended up being one of our favorite meals in Mykonos. Since it is Mykonos, tourists come here too, but there were many local people as well. They had patio seating and yes it is near the parking lot but it is actually nice and accentuated by a few olive trees. We enjoyed everything we ate here: grilled octopus, Greek salad, fried zucchini and the house wine. We found this restaurant using Google Maps.
- Vioma Organic Farm and Vineyard: We visited Vioma Organic Farm and Vineyard in Mykonos for farm-to-table lunch and a wine tasting. We shared a plate of food that was listed for one person but was very filling for the both of us. Of all the tzatziki we had on the trip, theirs was the best and we won’t share their secret but you can sign-up to learn how to make it with them! Everything on the plate was so fresh tasting as most if not all came from their gardens. Jason doesn’t like capers but loved theirs! Our favorite of the wines was the white wine which is a blend of Assyrtiko and Athiri. This was one of our favorite meals in Mykonos and provided an experience that we were hoping to have in Greece early during our trip!
- Captain’s in Mykonos Town: Restaurant in Mykonos town are super touristy and Captain’s is no exception but they seemed to have enough of a following and reputation to not have people standing outside the restaurant to lure them in. We heard about Captain’s from Mykonos Brewing and decided to eat lunch here as a result. It wasn’t our favorite meal but it was pretty decent and the setting was nice: we had pickled octopus, calamari and a Greek salad.
- Mykonos Brewing: Also known as Mikònu Brewing is the only craft brewery on the island. They offer tastings and off-sales. We visited for a tasting which we shared. We enjoyed every single beer we had here and appreciated the Fragos’ko which is made from local prickly pears. The person conducting the tasting really made it that much more enjoyable by telling us lots of things about the beer, the brewery, Greece and answer all of our questions about beer and wine.
- Cash VS Credit Card: We heard that many places only accept cash and so we prepared accordingly. Most of the restaurants we ate at accepted card but the tip is paid in cash and so you need to have small change for tips. We just found it easier to pay with cash and round up to leave tips.
- Business Names in Greek VS English: You may find a business name in English on TripAdvisor but their sign will be in Greek. If using Google Maps to find businesses, the names will often be in Greek only. This can be a little confusing and so using street and satellite view can help you find what you are looking for!
- Weather: It is quite windy in Mykonos and so it doesn’t feel as warm as you might expect. The ocean was warm but getting in and out of the water was a little chilly at times.
- Ano Mera: Ano Mera is a really cute little town with a monastery. When we were there, there was a service and we heard the monks chanting, it was really interesting. The Monastery of Panayia Tourlani does allow visitors and so make sure to read up about it before visiting to know about the protocols.
- Mykonos Town: Mykonos town (also known as Chora) is worth visiting. We enjoyed walking around to admire the architecture one afternoon and sunsets here are stunning. Do not even attempt to park in the streets though; use the public lot by the ferries. If you are not renting a car, Mykonos town would be a convenient place to stay.
- Kiki’s Taverna: We intended to have lunch at Kiki’s, one of the restaurants that is one everybody’s must visit list. People flock to this tavern located with a view of the water for its rustic roots (no electricity) and fresh seafood prepared the local way. We arrived right before opening and the first seating was full; the wait for the next seating was 1.5 hours and so we just left. If you go to Kiki’s, be prepared to wait and if you choose not to wait, have beach gear to go for a swim at Aios Sostis Beach!
We have no regrets about visiting Mykonos as the first stop on our first trip to Greece. Since we were jetlagged and had not travelled in a while, it was a good place to acclimatize, to enjoy the beach and take it easy while making short excursions to explore the island. We were able to do all of this staying at Aegon despite the drawbacks. The beach is beautiful (and very swimmable) and Kalo Livadi is actually quieter than other locations on the island for those who don’t party or go to clubs.
Do you have any recommendations to add to our list for Mykonos? Have you been to Mykonos? If yes, did you enjoy your visit?