The main Mykonos attractions are the beaches, where you can sunbathe, relax, snorkel — even party. Paradise Beach is considered the no-brainer shore option here, though you should expect to be one of many tourists enjoying its soft sands. Away from the beach, tour Panagia Paraportiani in Chora, photograph the Windmills, or visit the island of Delos for its archaeological finds. Travelers also love Little Venice for its restaurants, shopping and postcard views. Save some energy for an evening out, as the island has long had a reputation for seaside hedonism.
This Chora neighborhood is known as one of the most stunning places on the island. Overlooking the southwest end of the harbor, it was here that many early ship captains decided to settle down and built uniquely magnificent homes overlooking the sea. Today, many of these historic homes have been transformed into a variety of cozy restaurants, bars, shops and nightclubs, making this a bustling place at all hours of the day.
The Windmills (Kato Myli)
These iconic windmills overlooking Little Venice date back to the 16th century when islanders used wind power to grind grain. There are 16 windmills in total, and while they are no longer operational, they stand as a monument to early innovation. The views here are spectacular: From this hilltop perch, you can see Chora and the harbor in the distance. While you’re here, you might want to check out the nearby Mykonos Agricultural Museum, part of the Mykonos Folk Museum.
On your way to the windmills, don’t overlook the surrounding neighborhood of Alefkandra. This historic area is a great place to stop for a bite to eat or a glass of ouzo as you head back toward Little Venice.
Paraportiani Church (Panagia Paraportiani)
If you ask them, Mykonians will tell you that their island is home to 365 churches — one for each day of the year. However, Panagia Paraportiani is by far the most famous. One TripAdvisor user offers some advice: “[G]o at sunset right as the light is beginning to change. It’s a beautiful and spiritual experience that everyone should have.” Sitting in central Chora, this somber white-washed church dates back to the Byzantine era and features a variety of religious decorations dating back to the Middle Ages. From its main entrance, you’ll have spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea.
You don’t have to pay to visit Paraportiani Church. This is an active house of worship, so remember to be respectful when exploring.
Many people flock to Mykonos for two reasons: beaches and parties. A trip to the southern coast and Paradise Beach — Mykonos’ original nudist beach — will kill two birds with one stone. Soft sands, azure seas and a rowdy atmosphere have made Paradise one of the most popular places on the island. Paradise has become more developed over the past few years and now features a nearby strip of resort hotels, restaurants and beloved carousing spots like the Tropicana Beach Bar and Cavo Paradiso Club. If you’re not one for built-up beaches, head east along the coast to the Super Paradise Beach; although it lacks many of the amenities, the party scene attracts barely clothed bathers and a large portion of Mykonos’ LGBT community.
Paradise Beach sits about 2 miles south of Chora and can be reached on foot or by bus or boat. The beach is open 24/7 and you don’t have to pay to lounge. However, you may want to bring some euros with you just in case your glass runs dry.
Sitting in the heart of Mykonos about 4 miles east of Chora is the island’s only other real town. But because it lacks the sea view, Ano Mera isn’t as crowded as other parts of Mykonos; and many say you should only visit if you’re passionate about religious history (the town is home to the island’s two monasteries). The 18th century Monastery of Panagia Tourliani — located southeast of town — is renowned for its intricate marble carvings and massive Italian baroque altar screen. Head half a mile farther southeast past Panagia Tourliani and you’ll find what’s left of the 12th century Monastery of Paleokastro, which is now one of the most verdant spots on the island.
Most agree that, if you have the time, a day trip to the nearby island of Delos is a must. This little island was once the religious and political center of the Cyclades; Greek legend has it that this was the birthplace of Apollo (the god of music and light) and Artemis (the goddess of the wilderness, animals and the hunt). Because of its mythological significance, the ancient Ionians declared Delos their religious capital while a few centuries later, the Athenians set up a treasury here.
However, after a Roman attack in 88 B.C. and numerous pirate attacks in the decades following, Delos was eventually abandoned. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century — when the French School of Archaeology began to excavate — that Delos’ rich history was finally uncovered. Today, you can wander about the ancient ruins of once-monumental structures like the Propylaea (formerly a grand marble archway) and the Sanctuary of Apollo. Travel experts say you should make some time to hike up the rocky Mount Kythnos (just southwest of the harbor) for excellent views of the surrounding islands. You can also find many of the artifacts recovered from Delos at the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos.
Delos is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, and hours vary depending on the season. Ferries to the island leave Chora regularly starting around 10 a.m. There is no entry fee, but you will need to pay for the ferry ride there and back.
If you’re looking to have fun in the sun without having to put up with rowdy parties and nude bathers, skip Paradise in favor of Psarou Beach. Located northwest of Paradise Beach along the coast, Psarou’s powdery sand, clear blue waves and more relaxing atmosphere make this beach popular among families and honeymooners. However, this stretch of coastline has begun to lure larger and larger crowds, including herds of water sports enthusiasts. This beach is known for its great windsurfing and waterskiing conditions. To lay claim to some prime real estate, try to get here in the morning, while other sun-seekers are still sleeping off the night before.
Mykonos Folk Museum
The Mykonos Folk Museum consists of three separate historical houses. The main museum can be found in the 18th century House of Kastro in Chora. Here, you’ll find Cycladic costumes, traditional musical instruments, historic paintings and old photographs of the island. You can also visit the restored kitchen as well as a fully furnished 19th century bedroom. Nearby, the second building — Lena’s House — is yet another 18th century upper-class home that has been preserved just how its final owner left it. The Agricultural Museum (known as the Windmill of Boni) near the Windmills offers further insight into the islands’ farming history with the help of authentic tools like a waterwheel, an outdoor oven and a wine press. You’re also invited to explore a preserved miller’s home, complete with period decorations. The Mykonos Agricultural Museum is open every afternoon and admission is free.
Archaeological Museum of Mykonos
Overlooking Delos from the Chora harbor, this small museum houses numerous artifacts discovered during the island’s excavation. Displays contain vases, jewelry and pottery dating back to the 25th century B.C., as well as many relics relating to the numerous battles and raids that plagued the island.
The Archaeological Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (sometimes closed on Mondays or Tuesdays), and admission is €4 EUR (about $4.70 USD)
Aegean Maritime Museum
Located in central Chora — around the corner from the Mykonos Folk Museum — the Aegean Maritime Museum spotlights Mykonos’ nautical past with the help of antique navigational instruments, model ships and old maps. Despite its small size, this museum is worth an hour’s visit or more, especially if you’re interested maritime history. You should also check out the museum garden, which shelters larger artifacts like anchors and the largest lighthouse in the Aegean.
The Aegean Maritime Museum is open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Admission is about €3 EUR (around $4 USD).