Mykonos' top things to do beyond the clubs
There’s much more to Mykonos than its justifiably famous party scene.
By day, more than two dozen beaches are abuzz with people — there’s one for your every mood. Lounge around sunbathing and sipping cocktails or take the plunge and opt for adventure above or below the sparkling water’s surface. On land, Mykonos may not be big, but it offers variety, especially in the hilly interior where tiny villages are a stark change of pace from busy Hora and its old town jammed with amusements. Best of all, it's surprisingly easy to get around.
And just offshore lies Delos island, a tiny but magnificent ancient sacred site. If you’re not careful, you’ll find so much to do that you might actually want to go to bed early!
Mykonos’s main town is the perfect introduction to the island and life in a traditional, pedestrian-friendly, busy Greek port. Its narrow lanes get packed with people in high season. They weave past a kaleidoscope of high-end boutiques, crammed shops selling essentials, lively cafes and top restaurants you’ll want to return to at night.
After getting jostled on the main streets, pick an emptier angle and veer off into Hora’s quieter corners to fully appreciate the island’s vibe and get a fresh view on those picture-perfect windmills. The town’s small, so you’ll never get lost for long.
Though the translated name may be mundane (‘Our Lady of the Side Gate’), everything else about this geometric church complex is extraordinary. Five separate chapels are linked by a dazzling white-washed exterior under a low dome. Look for the subtle differences of the four on the ground-level, then find the tiny stairs leading to the fifth. It’s a brilliant look at the opulent decor favored by the Greek Orthodox faith.
Stars of countless selfies, the seven windmills silently overlooking Hora’s harbor are icons of the island and is one of Mykonos' best easy hikes. Take the short walk up the small hill on which they perch and watch ferries arriving with ever-more holiday-makers. Stick around for one of the island’s best sunset views.
Read more: Free things to do in Mykonos
On the edge of the old town section of Hora, this small gallery in a lovely historic manor house has ever-changing exhibitions of top contemporary painting, photography, design and more. Nearby you’ll find several more galleries with works for sale such as Art and Soul, which has been catering to high-end collectors for more than three decades.
Aegean Maritime Museum
Greeks have plied the sea for millennia. Plunge into the history of Aegean seafaring at this compact museum just south of Hora’s touristy hub. Out in its quiet garden, grab the wheel of an old sailing ship and imagine you’re Odysseus navigating to return to far-off Ithaca. Inside, browse models that recall the battle scene in the galley in Spartacus and navigate all manner of nautical memorabilia from across the centuries.
Megali Ammos Beach
Ten minutes after you arrive on Mykonos you can dive into the gentle waters at this sandy cove just a quick walk south of the port. Tavernas offer beachside food and drink as well as loungers and gear for watersports. If you’re staying in one of the many surrounding hotels, this spectacular beach will be your front yard.
First among the string of south coast beaches, Paradise is the place to revel in everything Mykonos is known for: fine golden sand, alluring azure water, tavernas and clubs ready to cater to almost any whim and a pervasive feeling of carefree pleasure. In summer the fun only pauses for an hour or two around sunrise. It's certainly the most famous beach in Mykonos and one of the best too.
Agios Sostis Beach
Partying crowds head to the south coast beaches, but the beach aficionados head to Agios Sostis for a quieter feel where its golden sand and blue water are the focus. The hours will roll past with barely a notice — rent a lounger and dine on Greek delicacies at the obliging taverna. If you feel the need for more of a buzz, adjoining Panormos Beach has daytime clubbing.
Whether you’re hiking, biking or riding in a vehicle, the handful of tiny villages in Mykonos’s hilly interior are just a few minutes from Hora. Diminutive Ano Mera is notable for the white-washed Tourliani Monastery, which dates to the 16th century. Inside the domed church, you’ll discover gilded icons and historic artifacts. Afterwards, pause for a drink outside a village taverna.
At the top of Mykonos’s don’t miss list, the sacred and uninhabited island of Delos is barely 2km off the west coast. It’s the birthplace of the powerful twins of myth Apollo and Artemis, both fabled hunters, and holds the ruins of temples and treasuries. While you savor the rich archeological ruins of this once sprawling city, you can imagine the twins stalking the hills of the islet with their bows. In high season boats make the quick journey here from Hora several times daily.
Archaeological Museum of Mykonos
An essential stop before you take the short boat ride to Delos, this museum in Hora showcases ancient objects collected from the sacred island as well as other remarkable finds such as a beautiful marble torso of Hercules dating to the 2nd century BCE. Watch for creative rotating exhibitions that pair artifacts with contemporary art.
On days when the winds preclude taking a boat to Delos, have a blast windsurfing the waves instead. Hora and many of Mykonos’s beaches are home to all manner of watersports centers where you can rent wakeboards, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and quite a bit more. New to some of that? Take lessons or join a guided group outing.
Explore wrecks, walls and caves beneath Mykonos’s famous blue waters with any of several good dive operators such as GoDive Mykonos and Mykonos Diving Center. Both offer guided trips, gear rental and PADI lessons.
The roads on Mykonos aren’t long, but they offer plenty for cyclists. Pedal the narrow backcountry lanes to Ano Mera or any of the more than two dozen beaches. Reward your explorations with a drink at a seaside taverna. Operators like Yummy Pedals offer bike rental, guided tours and loads of info and advice.
Feeling the surge of a luxurious sailboat as the wind propels it through the swells is one of the classic Greek island thrills. Sailing around Mykonos is the best way to fully appreciate its filigreed coast rimmed with beaches and there’s no better way to reach Delos. Mykonos On Board offers tours and charters on its fleet of yachts and catamarans.