MYKONOS, or MYCONOS, lies at the heart of the central Cyclades islands and was once a byword for trendy and chic Greek Island holidays.
Some have dubbed Mykonos the archetypal Greek island, a treeless granite rock dotted with sugar cube houses and blue-domed churches and all bathed in a dazzling light.
Mykonos is certainly an island of extremes; a playground for the fabulously rich and a hangout for young gays who parade nightly through the main town harbour or strike stark poses on the island's nudist beaches.
But the light of Mykonos has also softened over the years. Families have lately reclaimed the beaches and young couples now both marry and spend their honeymoon here.
Several Mykonos-based wedding agencies now offer luxury wedding glitz in a dream perfect Greek island setting.
Visitor accommodation options run the whole gamut, from five star hotel luxury hotels and mega-cruise ship visitors to independent backpackers on budget holiday trek breaks. You can find some of these options here.
The glamour and glitter may have faded, but the Mykonos magic still sparkles and the rich and famous can still be seen here on the succession of sandy beaches that run along the south coast.
Mykonos is still the place to see and be seen amid some of the most attractive scenery to be found anywhere in the Greek islands.
Mykonos may have shed its more outrageous reputation as a gay paradise, but it can still be called very cosmopolitan, noisy and immoderate island. Mykonos is still a place to parade and pose; a place to switch on rather than off and where tight abs and hair gel really do count. The cost of living on Mykonos is very steep and few venture here for a cheap and cheerful holiday break. The basic ingredients of Mykonos are an outstandingly beautiful main port, a succession of golden sandy beaches along the south coast, all-night clubs and beach parties and the lure of the nearby sacred island of Delos.
Once stylish and exclusive, MYKONOS TOWN town has now fallen on more down-market times. The chic bistros and designer bars are still there, but they are no longer the preserve of the jet-set clientele that once sashayed along the resort's untidy quayside.
Unlike most island ports, Mykonos Town is built not on a hillside but spread out over a flat plain. The harbour area is split between the fishing quay, with small boats beached on the sand, and the main ferry port where concrete frames the view.
Most traffic is banned from Mykonos Town waterfront and new building is confined to the outskirts so it's a good place to explore on foot and to get lost in the maze of streets.
The trademark quartet of Mykonos Town windmills perch on the hillside whilst- on a spit of land stands Panagia Paraportiani, one of the most photographed churches in Greece; a cluster of chapels has fused into what was once called 'an organic masterpiece of accidental architecture'.
Another feature of Mykonos Town is a pair of posturing pelicans. The town mascot, Petros, was resident for 30 years before it was replaced by a couple of Great White Pelicans that wander about posing for pictures.
Mykonos Town suffer from a shagged out atmosphere by day. Scruffy tables line the concrete quayside and languid waiters tend to the meagre scattering of customers. It's a different scene at night - boys come out to play, pansied to perfection as they cruise the Mykonos Town bars before heading off to a gaggle of gay clubs. For meals, most gravitate to Little Venice, a clutch of tavernas perched over the sea where they ooze charm and squeeze wallets.
Mykonos Town attracts a more well-heeled clientele. It has to - a meal costs double the average. Don't ask for gyros and chips here - expect to dine Mexican, Thai or vegetarian.
There is a folklore museum of Mykonos island paraphernalia and inland, perversely, the Maritime Museum with its beautiful models of ships. The House of Helena is decked out with 19th century furniture and the Archaeological Museum is a disappointment, given the proximity of the island of Delos.
The TAGOO area, just 1km north of Mykonos Town, has a string of good hotels with excellent sunset views over Tourlos Bay, within walking distance of Mykonos town centre and with regular buses to nearby Tourlos and Agios Stefanos. The neighbouring resort at TOURLOS is also increasing in popularity mainly because of a new marina that has been built there. It is still a tranquil spot despite the recent increase in visitors. The sandy beach had plenty of watersports and other tourist facilities. The chapel at Giorgis Spilianos is built inside a rock and at the lovely church of Agia Sofia has great views over the whole area.
About 2km north of Mykonos Town is the popular beach of AGIOS STEFANOS where many hotels and apartments take the overspill from Mykonos Town.
Agios Stefanos is very much a family beach of good sand, with plenty of tavernas and cafes, both behind the beach and a little inland. The resort is located just around the headland from the new marina at Tourlos.
There are plenty of sunbeds and brollies and lots of organised beach sports such as volleyball. There are also plenty of water sports such as windsurfing and water skiing.
There are views of Mykonos Town to the south and Delos on the horizon. Agios Stefanos also has good sunset views from the west-facing tavernas along the shore.
This is a popular family beach with shallow water and, being so near to Mykonos Town and on a good bus route Agios, Stefanos can get crowded in the summer. Regular buses run from Mykonos Town or it is just a short taxi ride.
The large peninsula to the south west of Mykonos town is noted for the many attractive bays along its coastline but the area's main beaches are a pretty undistinguished lot. A little tatty for some tastes and heavy tourist hotel development has left its mark. It is the proximity to the capital that has made it so popular with developers rather than any intrinsic merit.
MEGALI AMMOS is the nearest beach to Mykonos town and often referred to as Mykonos Town beach. The sands are about a 10 minute walk south, on the Ornos road, and not too bad with shallow seas backed by large flat rocks at one end and a sea wall at the other.
The proximity to town and the small size of the beach usually guarantees large crowds later in the day and latecomers will be lucky to find a spot.
Small hotels and apartments line the shore, overlooking the beach, and they tend to charge hefty prices for food and drink. This is not a place for those on a budget, though where is on this island?
A triple row of sunbeds cover most of the sands and there are the usual water sports and facilities. There are good views across to Agios Ioannis and the resort is noted for its fine sunset vistas.
KORFOS is just to the north of the more popular Ornos beach and has been the target for considerable tourist development, though it is hard to understand why.
There is a beach at Korfos, but it is a scruffy affair of dirty sand and stone sitting next to a busy little port and with a very busy island rubbish dump nearby. As if that were not enough there is the constant whine of factory noise to add to the delights of Korfos.
Korfos beach is north-facing too, so it tends to get buffeted by winds and waves can be choppy, to the delight of windsurfers as conditions can often be ideal, but not so pleasant for sunbathers and swimmers.
Once a pleasant little fishing port ORNOS is the first major tourist resort to be found south of Mykonos Town and is pretty much overwhelmed with tourist development.
Ornos sits on the south side of a narrow neck of land where colonies of expensive hotels cram the long, flat beach which is itself crammed with expensive sunbeds. The Ornos sands are ideal for families though, with a gently sloping beach and lots of watersports on offer.
Boat trips to other beaches are also plentiful and many visitors like to use Ornos resort as a base for exploring the rest of the island. Tavernas and cafes run the length of Ornos beach and there are even more to be found further inland.
There is the rather scruffy Korfos beach to the north. The ranks of hotels at Ornos make for an atmosphere of little charm and some may find this a characterless place to spend a whole holiday.
The advantage of Ornos is the proximity to Mykonos Town and other fine beaches to be found both west and south.
AGIOS IOANNIS is thought by many to be one of the most picturesque places on the island of Mykonos. It is best known for many location shots during the shooting of the feature film Shirley Valentine.
Agios Ioannis is located about 5km west of Mykonos Town heading west out of Ornos on an 'ear-shaped' headland, a little isolated from the other island beaches.
There is a small west-facing beach at Agios Ioannis set in the beautiful bay with views across to the island of Delos and a small white chapel on the headland to add a picture postcard flourish.
Agios Ioannis is one of the best beaches on the island for sunset watching, especially late in the season. The pebble and sand beach is well protected and there are sunbeds and watersports here as well as tavernas and cafes. There is a daily bus service from Mykonos Town.
Agios Ioannis Beach splits into two sections separated by a large, rocky area. To the north is the harbour, beach, a large car park and bus stop. To the south of the rocks is the main Agios Ioannis beach, with limited parking area and another bus stop. The water is shallow and nearby coves add interest, with a tiny beach at KAPARI for those who prefer more solitude, but it has no shade and no facilities.
The south-east coast hosts Mykonos island's main beach strip and a succession of popular sandy strips are linked by a long coastal path. Many visitors catch a bus or taxi to the most western beach at Platys Gialos then hop on a water taxi or simply tramp along the cliff path to other beaches. At the height of the season the walkers file forwards and backwards like a long army of ants.
Beaches here tend to be long, straight swathes of caramel coloured sand. Some used to be entirely, and notoriously, gay and nude but all are now much more mixed with straight couples and families enjoying the atmosphere. It is still hard to escape the heady waft of hair gel, the thump of beach bars and murmuring of innumerable jet skis.
PSAROU is a more select version of its popular neighbour a little further south-east at Platys Yialos. At Psarou beach around 150m of white sand is backed by reeds and other plesant greenery to make a very pretty and intimate spot, unfortunately overlooked by the stepped terraces of several tavernas and hotels.
Alive with jet skiers and jet setters, Psarou is a place to preen the pectorals and toast the tan. It is at the head of a long gulf that offers good protection for yachts and boats which often fill Psarou Bay.
During the high season Psarou beach can be packed, with holidaymakers especially on days when there are strong winds because the beach, like the bay, is particularly well sheltered.
The beach at Psarou is pleasant sand, though it does dip rather sharply into the sea, so it's not ideal for children.
Variously called PLATIS GIALOS, PLATYS YIALOS or PLATI YIALOS used to be a swamp but has now been monopolised by back-to-back hotels lining the long sandy beach.
The biggest and longest established resort on the island Plati Yialos is no place to look for a Greek holiday - there is hardly a trace of Greece to be seen here any more.
A long crescent of sand is backed by low hills. Terraced tavernas line the Plati Yialos beach which heaves with bodies in the high season. The frequent bus services from Mykonos make this the main target of day visitors, swelling the high numbers already staying here.
Watersports abound as do the howling jet skis, so pack some earplugs with the sun cream before heading for Plati Yialos beach.
Plati Yialos is also the main calling point for small boats taking visitors to the other south coast beaches and to the surrounding islands, Delos in particular. Boats for Delos, though, leave early at around 8am.
AGIA ANNA is a quiet shingle beach south of Platys Yialos and across the headland from Paraga beach. It confusingly has the same name as a stretch of sand found much further east near the beach of Kalafatis.
This Agia Anna is a small, west-facing beach of sharp sand dominated by a large hotel complex. A long sea wall provides a backdrop to a narrow stretch of sand with shallow seas.
Surrounding stretches of the coastline are very beautiful and many were used for location filming on the Shirley Valentine feature film. Although rather less popular than its noisy neighbours, Agia Anna still attracts plenty of visitors.
There are a couple of good tavernas, with parking, and a footpath that leads over the headland west to Platis Yialos with fine offshore views.
South of Platis Yialos and itself south facing is the small, picturesque beach of PARAGA or PARANGA, so popular it is often crowded with locals as well as tourists.
Paraga beach was well known in the 70's as a hippy enclave. Much has changed and large hotel complexes now dominate the headland. But Paranga has inherited a laid back party atmosphere.
Paraga beach consists of two sandy strips split by a headland. Both are long and flat with rocks offshore in the shallow sea. It's at the head of a deep horseshoe bay, well sheltered and away from the northerly winds. A line of tamarisk trees provides some natural shade, but most visitors sit among the rows of sunbeds that sweep around the bay.
The northern beach is more commercialized with music beach bars ramping up the volume, while the southern beach is calmer and quieter. Hill paths behind Paraga beach lead to the quiet, sandy beach of Agia Anna, only a few minutes away on foot.
As well as hotels at the rear there are many small apartments dotted around and a large campsite nearby. On top of the bus service from Mykonos Town there are daily boat taxis from Ornos and Platys Yialos.
PARADISE or KALAMOPOTHI beach was once the main haunt of gay nudists. It is now more popular with mixed sexes and could even be considered a family beach for the more enlightened.
But don't expect to have relaxed or quiet time here. Paradise is the island's premier party beach. Noisy beachside tavernas pump out dance music ad nauseam and you are never far from a café or burger bar.
Paradise was originally made famous by the hippy generation back in the early 70's. It is known today for special events such as full moon parties. Paradise beach parties usually start around 5pm and last well into the night. The closing Paradise beach party in early September is now an island institution.
A large campsite nearby and diving school add to the delights of Paradise. Otherwise this is a place to lie on the sand and enjoy the aromatic waft of hair gel and aftershave or join the queue for the unisex toilets. The Cavo Paradiso Disco club is south along the headland.
East of Paradise beach but with no direct easy route to it is the crassly named SUPER PARADISE, also known locally as PLINDRI.
Once exclusively gay and notorious for cruising Super Paradise beach has lost much of its louche reputation. The textiles have now moved back in force and there are now gayer and nuder beaches to be found elsewhere on Mykonos.
Super Paradise beach still boasts a magnificent strip with crystal clear blue water. The water is deep at Super Paradise beach though so it is not so popular with families. Nude bathers tend to congregate at the rocky end of the beach.
Many caiques arrive at Super Paradise beach daily from Platis Yialos to swell the numbers. One of the most visited beaches on the island, Super Paradise is a party beach (a la Paradise) with very loud music belting out from the beach bars day and night.
Super Paradise beach parties begin about 5pm, liven up at 10pm and often last until the early hours. Hillside clubs and bars provide for those who prefer to party indoors.
There are no buses to Super Paradise beach so it's a car, taxi or boat. Those going overland face a very steep drop down the hillside into Super Paradise, especially those on bikes.
AGRARI beach is in a hidden cove located between Super Paradise, to the west, and Elia, to the east. It has somehow managed to miss out on the massive exploitation of neighbouring beaches.
One of the main reasons reason is probably the nerve shattering approach down a boulder-strewn ravine and the lack of any public transport to Agrari.
Agrari beach is small and rather exposed. It also has a dirty looking stream running across it. But, if you want to escape the crowds, Agrari beach could be the spot for you as it rarely gets crowded.
There are no noisy beach bars belting out disco music (yet). There is a single beach cantina and just one restaurant.
Access is by car or by boat from Platys Yialos and the lack of crowds and noise in Agrari beach adds very much to its appeal, while it's busier near neighbour Elia is just a short clifftop walk over the headland and there is a bus service there.
Once a quiet spot, ELIA was discovered in the mid 90's and building work hasn't stopped since, with most of the cement was poured into the 'Watermania' water park nearby.
Regarded by some as the best beach on Mykonos, Elia is a long, broad swathe of coarse sand backed by a steep circle of hills and split by a rocky headland. The sand quickly turns to sharp pebbles under the sea.
Elia is a large and cosmopolitan beach with umbrellas, sunbeds, showers and plenty of watersports, including scuba diving and deep sea fishing. It has some very attractive restaurants and tavernas and is usually the last port of call for many of the water taxis that frequent the southern shore.
The eastern end of Elia beach has been 'taken over' by a large hotel but there is still plenty of room for everyone. The water is shallow and the beach clean and well kept.
Elia beach another favourite of gays and there is also nude sunbathing at one end of the beach. Access is easy from the attractive inland village of Ano Mera, just 2 km away or it's a 45 min boat journey from Platys Yialos.
The only inland village of note on Mykonos is ANO MERA. It is one of the few places on Mykonos where you can find something resembling traditional Greek village life.
It has a main square with a kafenion and a taverna. There is also a 16th century red-roofed monastery of Panagia Tourliani which has a fine collection of Cretan icons and an unusual baptismal font of marble.
Just north of the village is the 12th century Palaeokastro monastery in a magnificent oasis setting on the barren hillside.
Further east from Elia and at the end of a wide valley is the long sandy beach at KALO LIVADI, the last port of call for the regular taxi boats that serve the south coast beaches.
Kalo Livadi beach is in a rustic setting on the road out of the inland village of Ano Mera and it's a pleasant enough beach with umbrellas, loungers, watersports, restaurants and bars. The valley behind is particularly scenic and scattered with small white farmhouses.
Kalo Livadi is a 2km stretch of shoreline beach for those who prefer to avoid big crowds and the cruising. It's not exactly quiet but you won't find the music pumping here. Kalo Livadi is very much a family beach with people relaxing or wading in the shallow waters.
Yachts are usually anchored in Kalo Livadi bay. There is a daily bus but it's a 10 minute walk to Kalo Livadi beach from the bus stop located on the main road above.
AGIA ANNA is a small, quiet shingle beach that is well sheltered from the northerly winds. It shouldn't be confused with the more developed beach of the same name to the west.
This Agia Anna is the one near Kalafatis and makes for a pleasant area to stay with beautiful landscape and fine views from the hills.
Small beaches, mainly of shingle and stone, lie on either side of an isthmus. There are a few sunbeds and umbrellas to rent and there is a bamboo fence that runs the length of the Agia Anna beach to provide protection from any wind.
On the other side of the isthmus from Agia Anna is Kalafatis which runs into the beach at TSARNA, a long stretch of coarse sand with a taverna, water sports and a ruck of smart holiday apartments.
Around the headland and to the north of the bay at Agia Anna is the long beach known as KALAFATIS. about 12km from Mykonos Town and 3km from Ano Mera.
Kalafatis is a very large sandy beach, mostly free of loungers except for the northern end where there is a large holiday complex. There is a beach restaurant, bar and hotels. Nearby, on the main road, is a mini market, a large taverna and a pizza restaurant.
Kalafatis beach is well known for its watersports such as windsurfing and parasailing as well as a diving school.
Clear waters make for some fine swimming at Kalofatis and you can catch boats here for DRAGONISI, an islet off the east coast which has many caves some of which are said to be populated by the rare monk seal, though don't hold your breath looking for one as they are very shy creatures and don't enjoy being disturbed by gawping tourists.
Kalafatis beach is about 2km long and 70m deep with a line of trees behind providing natural shade. The hotels provide tables and there is a water ski and surfing school as well as bicycle and motorbike rental.
Local hotel owners are sensitive to growing environmental concerns and have launched several local clean-up campaigns. The result is a clean and tidy beach. There are buses to Ano Mera and to Mykonos Town
LIA AMMOUDIA marks the end of the tourist beaches and the last to be reached by road at 14km from Mykonos town.
Lia Ammoudia is much less crowded that the others and just the spot for a little solitude. Lack of any buildings on the surrounding hills can make Lia Ammoudia beach feel very isolated.
Bamboo windbreaks line the sandy Lia Ammoudia beach and there are some excellent fish tavernas here. Once a hideaway beach for Greek celebrities, Lia Ammoudia has become much more popular recently, though not popular enough to feel crowded.
A footpath to the east goes over the headland and leads eventually to a tiny sand bay at Tsangari.
There are beaches and coves beyond Lia Ammoudia but they are remote and will only appeal to the more intrepid. They are popular however with boat parties who use them for beach barbecue trips and cruises.
The most notable are TSANGARI and FRANGIA. All of them are dominated by the island peak of Profitis Illias which, majestic though it is, is sadly marred by ugly military masts and conspicuous radar domes.
Far wilder than the soft south, the northern coastline of Mykonos is for those who prefer a little wild adventure with their holidays. Large beaches are few, exposed to the northerly winds, more difficult to get to and have fewer facilities. But visitors can enjoy wild windswept scenery without the benefits of the background howl of disco music and annoying whine of jet skis. As well as the main beaches there are numerous small coves and tiny bays for those on a bike.
FOKOS is a superb sandy north-facing beach, newly discovered by tourists but still far enough away to remain peaceful. The beach is large and deep with dramatic rock formations on the headland.
Fokos surrounded by wild and beautiful scenery and has a small summer taverna to serve the growing numbers that venture away from the usual tourist haunts to delight in the deep sands of the bay.
Being north facing, the winds can get very strong and the waves choppy. As a result Fokos is more popular with surfers than sunbathers.
The huge Panormos Bay in north-east Mykonos has three main beaches. The first, at the southern end of the bay and nearest the capital is the increasingly popular beach of FTELIA.
North-facing and exposed to the strong winds that whip around the bay, this beach another big favourite with surfers. Sunbathers may find it too exposed but is a fine sandy beach for those who prefer a more rugged environment. Roads have improved recently and it is now easy to reach.
A small beach cantina opens in the summer and there are a few sunbeds, but there are no buses so you need a car or bike to get there.
The main Panormos Bay beach is called PANORMOS, just north of Ftelia on the west side of the bay. Facing east, it enjoys a little more shelter from the winds that can scour the north-facing sands, although waters can get choppy when the wind does get up.
Panormos has a fine long stretch of white sand that has become increasingly popular in recent years. A couple of tavernas at the northern end open in the summer to provide the basics where the bamboo and tamarisks offer some shade.
There is little natural shade and the sands do bank quite sharply into the sea. Naturists favour the southern end of the beach where the low dunes offer more privacy.
There are good walks in the surrounding countryside although, with no trees it can feel a little lonely and exposed up there. There is no bus service to this part of Mykonos so you need your own transport.
AGIOS SOSTIS is a small, wild and windswept beach that sits at the northern mouth of Panormos Bay and another big favourite with surfers. Rollers crash in on a superb sand beach in July and August when the meltemi winds are at their strongest.
In such an exposed spot the long beach can pick up litter. That said, the beach is an excellent one - a long swathe of golden sand, shallow water along the shoreline and with scrub and low dunes behind and small outcrops of rock at one end.
There is no public transport and parking is very limited so most park on the hill above and walk down along a rough track. A couple of good beach tavernas open in the summer season and there are several rooms to rent in the area.