Mykonos, a Greek island in the center of the Cyclades, known for sandy white beaches, an epic party scene, iconic white-washed stone buildings, and celebrity sightings has a glamor and glitz reputation, but there is so much more to the island than first meets the eye.

Uncover culture, history, and serenity on this little piece of paradise with these top things to do in Mykonos

 

1. WANDER THE RUINS OF GYZI CASTLE

The ruins of the Gyzi Castle are found just a few kilometers outside Mykonos Town. This landmark is packed with history, giving visitors a chance to wonder what it might have been like to live on the island in centuries gone by.

Built in the 13th century, the castle stood as a fortress on the hilltop, protecting the villagers of Ano Mera. By the 14th century, after the Ottoman Empire came to power, the castle was abandoned, and despite centuries of pirates using the island as a base, portions of the structure survived.

While visiting, be sure to wander the ruins of the ancient city of Mykonos, with its old wall fortifications, ancient cemetery and even a prehistoric market.

Even if ancient structures aren’t your thing, the view of the northern side of the island from the hilltop is quite incredible.

2. VISIT THE MONASTERY OF PANAGIA TOURLIANI

Near the village of Ano Mera, this incredible work of architecture is something not to miss on the island. With a whitewashed exterior, colored dome, stunning marble fountain and intricate wooden iconostasis (altar screen) designed by Florentine artists in the Baroque style, this church is a perfect spot to stop for those looking to explore the sacred buildings on the island.

Visitors should note, the monastery is open by appointment, so call ahead to enjoy the stunning interior of the structure.

While in the village, be sure to wander through the traditional fresh produce market or grab brunch – both of which Ano Mera is known for.

 

3. SEE A SUNSET FROM LITTLE VENICE

Alefkantra, or Little Venice as it has come to be called, is located on the southeast end of the harbor. A strong resemblance to Italy’s famous town on the water gave rise to the town’s nickname. Stunning homes with colorful windows rest right above the sea, giving off a charming, picturesque aura. Once upon a time, the city was home to wealthy sea captains and merchants who made their livelihood off the nearby waters.

Grab a spot at one of the cafes or restaurants along the seaside, watch the beauty of the waves spray the coastline of homes and stay to witness the sunset over the Aegean Sea. It is said to be one of the most beautiful places to view the sun’s evening hues linger over the waters and a must-do during your Mykonos vacation.

4. CRUISE TO DELOS ISLAND

The Pearl of Ancient Greece and home to one of the most important excavation sites in the country is the abandoned isle of Delos, just a short cruise from Mykonos at the center of the Cyclades archipelago. The entire island has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and according to the ancient myths, this island is the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.

Visitors can explore the ancient temples, the port, a theater and a plethora of preserved buildings which are home to stunning mosaics, sculpture, and monuments including the Terrace of the Lions which create a similar impression as the Egyptian avenues of sphinxes. Views from the island are breathtaking and a visit to Delos truly is a once in a lifetime experience, so make sure to make it a part of your trip to Mykonos.

To combine your trip to Delos with a visit to the uninhabited island of Rhenia and some snorkeling.

5. EXPLORE THE PANAGIA PARAPORTIANI

As home to 365 churches, there are plenty of sacred places to visit on the island, but by far, this is the most famous and iconic. Found in the center of Chora, the Paraportiani Church is postcard-worthy with its whitewashed exterior and main door entrance opening up to incredible views of the Mediterranean. It’s the perfect place to connect with the power and beauty of the water, reflect on your own spirituality in the medieval building, or marvel at the somber, Byzantine architecture.

6. LAZE ON ONE OF THE MANY MYKONOS BEACHES

Visitors flock to Mykonos for a relaxed holiday in the sun, so finding time to enjoy the white sandy beaches and azure waters of the sea are a must.

For a beach day with a party flair, head to the island’s original nude beach along the southern coast – Paradise Beach. Restaurants, bars, and hotels line the area with ample offerings for food and beverage. Grab a drink, ditch the suit, and enjoy a sun-filled afternoon.

For those looking to skip the party scene and nudity, head further northwest up the coastline to Psarou Beach where families and honeymooners will enjoy the quiet lap of blue waters with book and towel (and swimsuit!) in hand. This also is a great spot to take part in watersport activities like windsurfing.

Of course, there are dozens of beaches, hidden coves and islets to fill your beach days, so don’t be afraid to check out a new spot each day.

7. SNORKEL AND DIVE THE PARADISE HOUSE REEF

Not all the magic of Mykonos lies in the towns and on the beach. An array of life lives below the Aegean surface. A rocky outcrop, known as Paradise House Reef, can be explored via snorkeling and diving tours. This reef is home to diverse Mediterranean sea life, such as seahorses, sponges, octopi, moray eels, starfish, barracuda and many other species. Whether beginner or expert, all skill levels can enjoy the intrigue and beauty under the water.

September is said to be the best time of year for diving, as waters are warm and the seabed is clear.

8. TAKE IN A SHOW AT THE CINE MANTO

Dine on Greek breakfast, brunch or barbecue and enjoy a beverage while you watch a movie in this open-air theater. Movies are shown in their original language, with Greek subtitles under the stars.

Located in the center of the town of Mykonos, this unique cinema is found in a garden of cacti, palm trees, and pines known as the Municipal Garden of Meletopoulos, behind a little cafe (Cine Manto Restaurant) and church. It makes for the perfect respite from the city bustle, a sun-filled day at the beach or a day of adventuring on foot. With movies for children and adults, it’s a great way to unwind.

Keep in mind, the cinema is only open from June through the end of September.

9. GET HANDS-ON WITH GREEK CUISINE

Mykonos offers an array of food and beverage tours as well as cooking classes for foodies looking to experience local, authentic delights. Tours encompass organic farms, medieval bakeries, breweries, wineries, traditional barbecues and more, so it’s easy to find something that speaks to your foodie soul.

Dig in even deeper with a traditional Mykonian cooking class where products, traditions, and techniques will enrich your cultural understanding of the people of the island. Want to cook with the locals? This cooking class comes highly recommended.

10. TRY WINDSURFING OR ANY OTHER WATER SPORT

Ever wanted to try your skill at windsurfing? Mykonos has multiple beaches where this water sport is enjoyed, and in fact, the area attracts people from around the world for this very reason. The beaches of Kórfos, Fteliá, Meyáli Ámmos and Kalafátis all offer private windsurfing lessons, so there’s no need to be an expert.

Of course, other great ways to enjoy active time in the water include fishing, diving, snorkeling, sea parachuting and jet-skiing, with beach areas also hosting sand volleyball. The options are quite endless!

11. VISIT THE WINDMILLS

Perhaps one of the most iconic features of the island are the Mykonos windmills, which are visible from any point in the village of Chora. Residing on the hilltop of Chora, most of the windmills were built in the 16th century by the Venetians to take advantage of the strong winds on the island in order to mill wheat. Even though they are no longer in use, they serve as symbols of the powerful importance of innovation in using a natural resource to bring wealth to the island.

Today, visitors can view the windmills from afar, up-close, or can visit museums now housed inside their walls, such as in the Bonis Windmill.

 

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