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Monday, May 9, 2011

Greece Pearl "Mykonos" Enjoy the best summer

Mykonos is a grand example of unique Cycladic architecture set around a picturesque fishing-village bay. Totally whitewashed organic cube-like buildings fit closely together to form a kind of haphazard maze of narrow alley ways and streets. The earthen colors of the bare hills which surround the town's gleaming whiteness is set between the aura of an incredibly blue sky and even deeper blue sparkling sea. Its many well preserved windmills and hundreds of tiny red-roofed churches adds a flavor of culture and custom to the scene, enhanced even further by many museums and the historical ancient site of Delos. Together with being friendly and open people, the locals have a healthy understanding of what it means to have a good time. Put this together with all the island's other qualities and it is no wonder Mykonos has been often named "the jewel" of the Aegean Sea.

As well as catering to the demands of its summer guests with an infrastructure that has been well developed over the years, an off-season tourist industry has also emerged making it possible to visit in comfort during the non-summer months. Frequent air and sea connections together with heated rooms and good taverns in and around the main town, allow the adventurous traveler to properly experience the island's natural beauty.
When the crowds have departed, it is then that Mykonos can best be enjoyed as the tiny Cycladic fishing village it has always been.

Petros the Pelican
An old celebrity of the town's waterfront, "Petros" has been the official mascot of Mykonos for many years. Found after a storm in 1954 the pelican gave up its migrating to become a local resident. After more than thirty years of making the island his home, Petros eventually died. The loss of such a personality was so deeply felt by both Mykonian and tourist alike that a replacement was soon found and a tradition established. Through the care and protection of the islanders, the spirit of Petros lives on in his predecessor who continues to this day to make his home on the island's waterfront.

From as early as the 16th century, one of the most recognized landmarks of Mykonos have been its windmills. Due to its geographic position, Mykonos was situated on major sea trade-route which at one time joined Venice, the gateway of Europe, to Asia. The need to refine grain and compact it for transport combined with an ample year round supply of wind made Mykonos the perfect location. Easy access to the harbor was necessary so most of the island's mills were positioned in or around the main port with the highest concentration covering the entire western portion of town. With the coming of industrialization the windmills importance began to decline as well as their numbers. Today only a fraction remains of what was once an active era in Mykonian history.

Little Venice
Where the most western part of the town meets the sea is the area known as "Little Venice". Here the buildings have been constructed right on the sea's edge with their balconies overhanging the water. During the 16th and 17th century pirating was common and it is believed this area was used for the necessary quick loading and unloading of goods.

One of the most famous architectural structures in Greece is the church, Paraportiani. Positioned near the main harbor entrance, this church is the central feature of the "Kastro" or castle area, the oldest section of town. It's name means inner or secondary door which it was to the Medieval stone walls which encircled the area. First begun in 1475, Paraportiani in reality is a group of five smaller churches which were constructed over a period of time and not completed until well into the 17th century. The two story structure was molded together utilizing four of it's churches to form a base for the fifth church which when placed on top formed a central domed roof.

One of Greece's most famous archaeologic sites is the small island of Delos. Under the jurisdiction of Mykonos and situated just 2 kilometers to the west the entire island has been declared a national museum. Access to the island has been made readily available through excursions which leave daily from the main harbor of Mykonos and some of the more popular beaches.

The Armenistis Lighthouse
Built in 1891, the Armenistis Lighthouse is situated on the north-western tip of Mykonos, overlooking the strait that separates the island of Tinos from Mykonos. Due to its high elevation the view from this location is a particularly memorable scenic attraction. Specifically the lighthouse design is an octagonal cylindrical stone tower with lantern and gallery at an overall height of 19 meters (62 ft). Its focal plane is 184 meters (604ft) with a white beacon flash every 10 seconds. The original Fresnel lens when replaced was put into a replica lantern house which is now on display in the garden of the Aegean Maritime Museum in Mykonos Town. At a distance of approximately 6 km from town, the lighthouse can be reached by taking the north coastal road that passes through both San Stephanos and the Houlakia Bay area.

Agios Sostis Beach
Taking the road beyond Panormos beach and facing east onto the bay, Agios Sostis is one of the more remote beaches on the island. Void of accommodation and crowds this beautiful beach offers not only peace and quiet but a very good small restaurant. Access is limited to private vehicle and taxi.

Agios Stefanos Beach
Two kilometers north of town and facing to the west is the well developed beach of Agios Stefanos. Many hotels in this area supply a wide range of accomodation with the beach itself offering a good selection of restaurants and cafes. This family oriented beach can be reached via taxi, private vehicle or regular bus service from town.

Agios Yannis Beach
On the west side of the island and facing Delos, the relatively small and picturesque beach of Agios Yannis offers white sands and a collection of small coves catering to the general public. Famous as the location for the award winning motion picture "Shirley Valentine", many appreciate this setting for its calm and relaxed atmosphere. Regular bus service from town provides easy access throughout the day.

Agrari Beach
One of the quietest beaches of the southern chain. Medium in size this beach has a single restaurant and beach bar that caters to all who enjoy seclusion from the crowds. There is no local bus service but Agrari can be reached by private transport, taxi and boat shuttles from Plati Yialos. Due to its close proximity to Elia this beach can also be reached easily by foot from the Elia bus terminus.

Elia Beach
Easily accessible by bus from town and a regular boat service from Plati Yialos, Elia beach is the largest of the south chain of beaches. Good restaurants, hotels and bungalows provide beach-side refreshment and accommodation with the added attraction of the islands only water park situated just back from the beach and only minutes away. In designated sections nude bathing is allowed.

Ftelia Beach
Very often subjected to a good onshore wind, north-facing Fetelia beach, unpleasant to sun bathers, is a great pleasure to wind surfing enthusiasts. Located on the north and central part of the island this beach forms the base to Panormos Bay, the largest on Mykonos. There is a restaurant to serve the needs of those who visit and access to this beach can only be made by taxi or private vehicles.

Kalafatis Beach
One of the earliest established beaches, this beautiful bay and long sweeping Kalafatis beach has become famous to wind surfers who enjoy a good offshore breeze. Hotel accommodation is available together with various water sports including diving with access to the beach made easy from town through a regular bus service. Many small restaurants can be found in the area often specializing in local seafood dishes.

Get in
By boat
From the Greek mainland ferries and highspeed catamaran services run daily from Piraeus and Rafina.
The journey between the port of Piraeus (Athens) and Mykonos takes between 4h 30min and 5h 15min, depending on the type of ferry you are taking. On a slow ferry a seat in economy class will cost € 30,50. All the ferries to Mykonos depart from Port Gate Ε7. Most of the ferries connecting Piraeus to Mykonos stop working by end of October and resume by April.
Many travelers probably don’t even consider Rafina a possible departure port if they are heading to one of the Cyclades, but if you are arriving at the airport of Athens you are often better off taking a ferry from Rafina than traveling to Athens and get a ferry from Piraeus. The journey between Rafina and Mykonos takes between 2h 10min and 5h 30min, depending on the type of ferry you are taking. On a regular ferry expect to pay € 22,50 per person for a seat in economy class. Most of the ferries connecting Rafina to Mykonos stop working by end of October and resume by April.

Mykonos can also be reached directly from other islands in the Cyclades. There are frequent boat connections from Syros, Andros, Tinos, Paros, Naxos, Ios and Santorini. There are less frequent boat connections from Crete, Rhodes, Chios and Lesvos. Not more than twice a week there is a time consuming boat service from Samos and Ikaria.
Mykonos has two ports: the old port in Mykonos Town, and the new port at Tourlos, about 2 km north of Mykonos Town. Check before you travel which port your boat will use. All cruise ships use the new port and most of the ferries as well. The highspeed catamaran services still use the old port in Mykonos town.
Ferry companies:

  1. Hellenic Seaways
  2. Seajets
  3. Blue Star Ferries
Get around
With a length of 12 to 15 km and a width of 10km, Mykonos is one of the smallest of the Cyclades islands. On Mykonos you can get around by bus, taxi, car, scooter, ATV or boat.

By bus
There is a bus network that takes you around the island. There are two bus stations in Mykonos town, each on different sides of Mykonos town. From the main southern bus station, Fabrica, buses can be taken for departures to Platys Gialos, Paraga, Paradise, Ornos and Agios Ioannis. From the northern bus station, Remezzo, which is not very far from the old port ferry quay, buses can be taken for departures to Ano Mera, Elia and Kalafatis. Frequencies of buses are higher in high season. Departure times are clearly marked at the bus stations. There are also night buses from Mykonos to Platis Gialos and Paradise leaving every hour.
There is no bus connection between the two bus stations. From one bus station to the other will take about 20 minutes of walking through the streets of Mykonos town.

You can buy your bus tickets (go and return) before boarding the bus. They are available at kiosks, mini-markets and tourist shops. Hand over your ticket to the bus driver and he will "validate" it by simply tearing your ticket. There are ticket stamping machines in the bus, but they simply don't function. Don't be surprised (and don't try to explain why) if a man that is already on the bus near the bus driver will check your "validated" ticket a few minutes later. Even though your ticket is just teared and not stamped, he will inspect your ticket thoroughly. Bus tickets are € 1.40, except for the further destinations of Elia and Kalafatis which cost € 1,70. Tickets for night buses are are also € 1,70. Sometimes it is very possible to buy a ticket from the bus driver, though you may have to wait at the back of line while you wait for the people who have already bought tickets to get on. Buses in Mykonos are almost always full during the busy parts of the day; the bus driver will squeeze in as many passengers as he possibly can.

By taxi
On the entire island there are only about 30 taxis, which means that depending on taxis for transport can be an exercise of great patience. In Mykonos Town the main location for taxis is in Manto Square (also called Town Square or Taxi Square), on the harbour front near the statue. You have to wait in line and sometimes you can wait for hours in the taxi queue. In the evening it can be very difficult to find a taxi. Taxis do not use meters, but there's a notice board giving rates for each destination. Fares are quite reasonable. Contact telephone numbers are 22890, 22400 and 23700.

By boat
The Plati Yalos Boat Service provides a good and fun way of getting to the southern beaches of Mykonos.
From Platys Gialos small fishing boats converted into tourist transport leave every hour or less to the beaches of Paranga, Paradise, Super Paradise, Agrari and Elia. First departure 10:15AM until 4:15PM every hour. Last return to Platys Gialos from Elia at 6PM and from Super Paradise at 8PM.
From Ornos boats leave for the beaches of Platys Gialos, Paranga, Paradise, Super Paradise, Agrari and Elia. Boats leaves from Ornos at 10AM, 11PM, noon and 1PM.
Price for a return ticket is € 5 for Paranga and Paradise, € 6 for Super Paradise and € 7 for Agrari and Elia. Boat services can be cancelled due to strong wind, but with the exception of Super Paradise all of these beaches can be reached by bus from Mykonos Town as well.
From June to September there also infrequently boats leaving from the harbour in Mykonos Town to Super Paradise, Agrari and Elia.

By car or by motorbike
Mykonos has an extensive public transport system from Mykonos Town. By public transport it is easy to get to all the southern beaches, which happen to be the nicest beaches as well. Renting a motorbike or a car is the way to go if you want to explore the rest of the island, especially the more remote beaches at the north coast. Motorbike and car rentals are readily available around the island. In Mykonos Town the highest concentration of rent a car - motorbike agencies is in and around the area of the southern busstation, where you will find a wide range of choices. The other area of Mykonos Town with rent a car - motorbike agencies is near to the old port, behind the Archaeological Museum

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