Time for a little game of ‘Did you know?’. Let’s get started! Did you know that there are 6,000 Greek islands? No one in the Oxford Private Travel office believed me when I rolled this statistic out but it’s true (although none of us have counted them personally!). But did you also know that only 227 of them are inhabited? Yep, we didn’t either. 227 is rather less than 6,000 but it’s still a lot to choose from if you’re after a sunny holiday on a Greek island!
So, after much discussion with our resident Greece travel expert, Ian Anderson, we’ve narrowed the choice down further and have settled on two stunning islands for your holiday this year. The first is Mykonos – hip, trendy and well known. The second, Paros, is more of a hidden gem. So, without further ado (and more pub quiz questions) let’s find out more about these great destinations!
One of the glitziest, most renowned destinations in Greece, Mykonos has undergone quite the transformation from a bare Greek island in the 50’s to today’s holiday mecca. With great beaches, boutiques, bars and renowned nightlife it’s no wonder Mykonos has become a hit with holidaymakers including notable A-listers.
Out and about in Mykonos Town
A picture postcard setting filled with cafes, restaurants and boutiques, Mykonos Town is the perfect place to enjoy getting lost in. And, with its maze of small streets and narrow lanes working their way through a jumbled collection of pretty white houses, replete with blue doors and flower filled balconies, losing your bearings will be easier than you think! The labyrinthine layout is quite deliberate – originally designed to confuse marauding pirates – it now lends itself perfectly to those who like to explore.
You never know what you’ll find around the next corner. A boutique here, a small café there, all looked over by the island’s iconic 16th century windmills. Head downhill and you’ll eventually find yourself by the harbour where the well-heeled hang out, watching the world go by.
Things to do
If you’re heading out to Mykonos over the summer you’ll enjoy temperatures in the high twenties. Perfect for some sunbathing or water sports. Mykonos has plenty of golden beaches dotted around the southern side of the island but the most cosmopolitan by far is Psarou beach. With clear water, lots of sand and with water sports facilities including scuba diving, Psarou beach is a great choice for sun worshippers and water sport enthusiasts alike. Home to Nammos Beach Bar & Restaurant, you’ll have the option of indulging in a cocktail or two whilst lounging by the sea under the blazing Greek sun. Far from your average beach bar, the Nammos experience is described as an ‘authentic tribute to pleasure’.
Nammos Restaurant - Courtesy of nammos.gr
Head to the Nammos restaurant for lunch and enjoy some superb fresh fish dishes prepared by renowned chefs. Highly recommended but it does get busy!
When you’ve had enough of beach life take a day trip to the remarkable island of Delos. Home to some spectacular ancient ruins, Delos is a short 30 minute boat trip from Mykonos Town. Plenty of operators offer organised tours or you can arrange for a private charter to take you across. You don’t have to take a guided tour when you’re on the island but it can definitely help you understand what you’re seeing. We’d recommend a private tour with a licenced guide to avoid the crowds. Even if looking at historic ruins doesn’t interest you, the trip is still worth taking and gives you the opportunity to enjoy a boat ride, fresh air and a leisurely walk around the island!
Invigorated from your day out you’ll be ready for a night out and Mykonos Town won’t disappoint. Kick your evening off with a sundowner at one of many laid back bars (a favourite is Galeraki with a great little upstairs salon and seaside terrace below, found in the Little Venice part of town) before heading to the livelier action located on Paradise beach which hosts some of the best parties on the island.
Where to Eat
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out on Mykonos. In addition to Nammos, we’d suggest heading to Buddha Bar in Ornos Bay to enjoy a selection of Pacific Rim inspired dishes which blend East Chinese, Japanese, Thai and other Asian flavours. For a more laid back setting check out the bohemian Alemàgou which serves refined but simple Greek cuisine.
Where to Stay
We have selected 5 amazing villas for you to consider which sleep a varying number of guests. If you’re holidaying with your family or a large group of friends, then you must take a look at the incredible Villa Crew. Alternatively, Villa Ocean is an exceptionally unique property located at the southern part of Mykonos and within walking distance of Paradise beach. Villa Pelikanos offers guests the luxury of a range of modern amenities ensuring your stay is incredibly comfortable.
The stunning Villa Eurydice
With fantastic levels of service and a modern, stylish design then Villa Eurydice is another superb choice. And finally Villa Orpheus offers great views over Mykonos Town but is set in a peaceful, secluded location. Our team know the Villas well and are happy to recommend the perfect villa for you. Give them a call on +44 1993 899 430 to discuss!
By contrast to Mykonos, Paros is somewhat of an undiscovered gem and has everything you’d expect from an island in the Cyclades archipelago. Upon arrival you’ll be greeted with a landscape of whitewashed villages, blue-domed churches, sandy beaches and fishing harbours overlooked by taverna tables along with lively bars and cafes. Described as ‘Mykonos without the hype’ Paros is a sublime destination and well worth visiting before too many people discover it!
Things to do
First things first – we’d suggest heading to Naoussa. A beautiful, picturesque fishing village, located in a huge bay in the north of Paros, around 10km from the capital Parikia. Considered to be one of the prettiest villages in the Cyclades it has remained remarkably unspoiled. Similar in part to Mykonos Town, you’ll enjoy getting lost down a maze of stone paved streets lined with pretty little houses and whitewashed churches. The village is built around the port where colourful fishing boats go about their business. With no shortage of restaurants and cafes around the harbour it’s the perfect spot to take some time out and just enjoy watching the world go by. You’ll find a good assortment of traditional Greek dishes on the menu – more so than on Mykonos as a large number of holiday makers are Greek – and this includes Octopus for the adventurous amongst you!
Naoussa, Paros - Photo courtesy of Atli Harðarson - Flickr
With beaches for everyone on Paros, we’ve no doubt you’ll find a great spot to top up your tan. Long stretches of golden sand are dotted around the island, some more secluded than others. A steady breeze often plays over the water making it perfect for kitesurfing or windsurfing. For an up-beat cosmopolitan beach vibe head to Santa Maria, near the harbour in Naoussa. Great for water sports but also for the bars and restaurants along the shore. If seclusion is what you’re after then take a trip to Ambelas beach located in the quiet fishing village of Ambelas.
If you have time we highly recommend taking a day trip to Antiparos – a small island a short hop by boat from Paros. You have to head into the village and find Vicky’s, a small ice cream parlour that makes its own ice cream using fresh milk and natural ingredients. Demand is so high that they sometimes churn a fresh batch up to three times a day!
Where to eat
There’s a wide variety of bars and restaurants on the island but one stand out cocktail bar you should try and visit is Sommaripa in Naoussa. Perfect for sundowners on the balcony where you can watch the world go by as the sun sets over the horizon.
The view from the balcony at Sommaripa - Photo courtesy of Ian Anderson
Follow drinks with an amazing seafood dinner in the square below Sommaripa at Mario Restaurant. Booking is essential during high season although as you can see from the photo above things were a little quieter when we visited earlier in the year!
Where to stay
Paros is definitely an ideal destination if you want sun, beaches and a little bit of peace and quiet! And to complement these desires we’ve got the perfect villa. Villa Pure is real ‘getting away from it all’ accommodation in a secluded location with stunning views of the surrounding countryside and coast.
Perfect for a large family it includes facilities to allow you to enjoy outside living including a BBQ and outdoor kitchen plus a huge pool to cool off in.
Whether you’re ready to book your summer holiday or still not sure which Greek island would be perfect for you, our expert travel advisers are here to help. Give them a call on +44 1993 899 430 or click here for more contact details. The summer holiday season is almost upon us so make sure you book your trip soon!