When you crave adventure, there’s boating in India and volcano climbing in Chile. But when it’s pristine beaches and picturesque sunsets you’re after, stick to the classics — like the unparalleled (honeymoon-approved) beauty of Mykonos and Santorini.
After flying into Athens, it’s just a hop (by plane) to either island. Recover from your flight in serene Santorini before moving to more bustling Mykonos. Several ferries make the two-and-a-half-hour trip between the islands but none faster than the moderately priced Hellenic Seaways (about $67). Pony up a little extra to ride business class. If you have time, pit stop on smaller islands, like Paros, Hydra, and Spetses. Everything shuts down completely from October to April, but shoulder season is an excellent time to dodge crowds.
Hotel deals are there for the taking. In Santorini, pick a spot that reflects the Cycladic architecture — white-washed curved walls, blue doors — like Mystique (pictured above), located just outside the charming town of Oia. Built into a cliff, the hotel has 22 rooms with oversize patios and unobstructed, awe-inspiring views of the caldera (the giant volcanic island). In Mykonos Town, the ideally located Mykonos Theoxenia sits just above the famous windmills in walking distance of the village’s best restaurants and nightclubs. The spacious, brightly accented rooms have mod ’60s flair.
The guidebooks will all tell you that 1800 and Ambrosia are musts in Santorini — and they’re right. But don’t pass up Amoudi, the teeny fishing village at the foot of 200-plus steps. At the bottom, you’ll find a few tavernas. The best is Dimitris (pictured). Share a whole fish — whatever’s caught that day — while watching the boats bob at sea. Mykonos Town has a bustling foodie scene: Modern Argentine steak house Uno Con Carne would be at home in Miami. Go to Katrin for French, Sale e Pepe for Italian, and Appaloosa for Mexican (yes, Mexican). Ask locals to point you in the right direction — narrow, winding streets make addresses obsolete. For lunch, pull up a stool at any gyro stand.
WHAT TO DO
Rent an ATV in Santorini and vroom around to the different-colored beaches (red, white, and black). Simply navigating the twisty roads is an adventure. Follow the crowds west at sunset. Transplants say you never get used to the beauty, which garners applause every night. A sunset sail is a must. During the day, the club scene rages at Nammos, the Nikki Beach of Mykonos (overpriced cocktails, Missoni-clad revelers, spotty service). Savor hummus at a restaurant along Akti Kambani, which has charming views of the old port and its massive cruise ships, then walk (or run — depending on the tide) through slightly sunken Little Venice. Nightlife starts around midnight and goes till early. The place to be depends on day of the week and season (ask your concierge).
STUFF TO KNOW
- The islands are why resort wear was invented. Pack ample cover-ups and sandals. Santorini’s comprised of cliffs, steps, and cobblestone — do not attempt heels.
- There’s no need to rent a car on either island. But in Mykonos, catching a cab — and getting dropped off — at taxi stands will save you some euro.
- It’s true: No one eats before 10 p.m. Ouzo is an acquired taste; Greek wine is an undiscovered delight.
- On the plane, read Michael Lewis’s surprisingly funny Vanity Fair article about the Greek financial crisis. Once you arrive, get lost in John Fowles’s The Magus, which takes place on a faux Greek island.
- Whether ATVing on Santorini or walking winding Mykonos Town, you will get lost. As one local said, “It’s tradition.”
Photos: Giorgos Lizardos / Courtesy of Mystique; Courtesy of Design Hotels; Daniel Murphy; Brooke Siegel
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