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 rich and a hangout for young gays who parade nightly through the main town or strike stark poses on the island's nudist beaches.
But Mykonos has 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 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.
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 remains a cosmopolitan, noisy and immoderate island. This is still the place to parade and pose; to turn on rather than off and where abs and hair gel really do count. Prices are steep and few venture here for a cheap and cheerful break. The basic ingredients are a beautiful main port, a succession of sandy beaches, all-night clubs and beach parties and the sacred island of Delos nearby.
Once seriously stylish and exclusive, Mykonos Town has lost its edge of late. The chic bistros and designer bars are still here, but fewer clients top the celebrity charts.
It still attracts a well-heeled clientele. It has to: meals cost double the average, drinks even more while menus are more Mexican, Thai or vegetarian than they are Greek.
Diners mostly gravitate to Little Venice, a clutch of tavernas perched over the sea where they ooze charm and squeeze wallets.
Other holidaymakers head for the main drag where cafe tables overlook the long quayside and where boys sashay past, pansied to perfection, before swanning off to a gaggle of gay clubs.
Unlike most island ports, Mykonos Town is not on a hillside but spread out over a plain. The harbour area is split between the fishing quay where small boats are beached on the sand, and the main ferry port where concrete frames the view.
Most traffic is banned from the waterfront and new building is confined to the outskirts so the centre invites exploration on foot and the chance to get lost in a maze of narrow streets.
The trademark quartet of windmills perches on the hilltop while the remarkable chapel of Panagia Paraportiani poses for pictures, the cluster of chapels fused into what has been called 'an organic masterpiece of accidental architecture'.
Other posers include a pair of pelicans. The town mascot, Petros, was resident for 30 years before being replaced by a couple of streetwise Great White pelicans that now court the cameras.
Mykonos Town has a folklore museum and a Maritime Museum with some beautiful models of ships. The House of Helena is decked out with 19th century furniture but the Archaeological Museum is a disappointment, given the proximity of the island of Delos.
The Tagoo area, just one kilometre north has a string of hotels offering sunset views over Tourlos Bay with regular buses to nearby Tourlos and to Agios Stefanos. Tourlos has a new marina, a sandy beach and plenty of watersports. 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.
Just two kilometres north of the island capital of Mykonos Town is the popular family beach of Agios Stefanos which takes most of the overspill from its better known neighbour.
This is very much a family resort with good sand and plenty of tavernas and cafes both on the beach and also inland. The resort is just around the headland from the new marina at Tourlos.
There are plenty of sunbeds and lots of organised beach sports such as volleyball. Watersports include windsurfing and water skiing.
Mykonos Town can be seen to the south and on the horizon is the islet of Delos. Agios Stefanos also has good sunset views from the west-facing shoreline tavernas.
Such a popular family beach, so near to Mykonos Town and on a good regular bus route, will get very crowded in the summer.
The large peninsula to the south west of Mykonos town has many attractive coves but the area's main beaches are fairly undistinguished. The heavy tourist hotel development has left its mark and few can be said to be scenic. The proximity to the capital, rather than intrinsic merit, has encouraged the hotel developers and marketeers to promote them as fully fledged beach resorts.
Megali Ammos is so near to Mykonos Town it is often referred to as the town beach. The sands are a 10 minute walk south, on the Ornos road, and large crowds are guaranteed most times of the day.
It is a pleasant spot with a narrow strip of sand and shallow water. There are large flat rocks at one end and a sea wall at the other.
Small hotels and apartments line overlook the beach, and tavernas charge hefty prices. This is not a place for those on a budget, although where is on this island?
A triple row of sunbeds cover most of the beach and there are the usual watersports and facilities with views across to Agios Ioannis and fine sunsets.
Korfos is just to the north of the more popular Ornos beach and has been the target for considerable tourist development, although it is hard to understand why.
There is a beach at Korfos, but it is a scruffy affair of dirty sand and stone next to a busy little port and with the island rubbish dump nearby. As if that were not enough there is the constant whine of factory noise to add to the delights.
It's north-facing too, so it tends to get buffeted by winds and waves to the delight of windsurfers but less so for sunbathers and swimmers.
The tiny fishing port at Ornos was one of the first on Mykonos to enjoy major development as a tourist resort and it has been pretty much overwhelmed by it.
It sits on the southern side of a narrow neck of land where colonies of expensive hotels cram behind the long, flat beach, itself crammed with pricey sunbeds.
The Ornos sands are ideal for families though, with a gently sloping beach and lots of watersports. Tavernas and cafes run the length of the beach and there are even more to be found inland.
Boat trips to other beaches are also plentiful and many visitors use Ornos as a base for exploring the rest of the island.
But the ranks of hotels and apartments make for an atmosphere of little charm and some may find Ornos a characterless place to spend a whole Greek island holiday.
The advantage of Ornos is the proximity to Mykonos Town and several other fine beaches both west and south.
Well known for many location shots during the shooting of the 1989 feature film Shirley Valentine, Agios Ioannis is thought by many to be one of the most picturesque places on Mykonos.
It's located about five kilometres west of Mykonos Town on an 'ear-shaped' headland, a little isolated from other Mykonos beaches.
The small west-facing beach is set in the captivating bay with views across to the island of Delos. A small white chapel on the headland adds a picture postcard flourish.
The pebble and sand beach is well protected and there are sunbeds and watersports as well as tavernas and cafes.
The beach is split in two by a large, rocky area. To the north is the harbour, a beach, large car park and bus stop. To the south is the main beach, with limited parking.
The water here is shallow and nearby coves add interest, with a tiny beach at Kapari for those who prefer more solitude, although it has no shade and no facilities.
The south-east coast is Mykonos island's main beach strip with a succession of sandy bays linked by a long coastal path. Many visitors will catch a bus or taxi to the beach at Platys Gialos then hop on a water taxi or simply walk the cliff path which, in high season looks like its covered in 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. Expect a heady waft of hair gel, the thump of beach bar discos and the murmuring of innumerable jet skis.
Psarou is a more select version of its popular neighbour at Platys Yialos. A 150 metre strip of white sand is backed by a line of tavernas and the occasional tamarisk tree. It would make a pretty and intimate spot were it not overlooked by the stepped terraces of tavernas and hotels.
Alive with jet skiers and jet setters, Psarou iies at the head of a long gulf that offers good protection for the yachts and boats which regularly litter Psarou Bay.
During the high season the 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 is of good fine sand and the water reasonably shallow, so it's good for families with children.
Platys Yialos used to be a swamp but is now a major holiday centre monopolised by back-to-back hotels lining a long sandy beach.
The biggest and longest established resort on Mykonos, Platis Yialos is now more cosmopolitan than Greek with it's sights firmly set on the international holiday market.
A long crescent of sand is backed by low hills and terraced tavernas line a beach which heaves with bodies in the high season. Frequent buses from Mykonos add large numbers of day trippers.
There is a large watersports centre in front of the Mykonos Palace hotel offering all types of fun. The beach also has a large number of hotels, tavernas and beach bars, a mini-market and shops.
Platis Yialos is also the main starting point for small taxi boats taking visitors to other south coast beaches such as Psarou and Paranga as well to the surrounding islands, Delos in particular.
Agia Anna is a quiet shingle beach that lies south of Platys Yialos just across the headland from Paraga beach. Confusingly, it bears 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 here are very scenic and were used for lots of location filming on the Shirley Valentine movie. Although less popular than its neighbours, the resort at Agia Anna can attract 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 is the small, picturesque south-facing beach of Paraga, or Paranga, good enough to attract both locals and tourists.
The beach was known in the 70s as a 'hippy' enclave but the changes have been well rung and large hotel complexes now dominate the headland. Nevertheless, Paranga seems to have hung onto the laid back party atmosphere.
Paraga consists of two sandy strips split by a headland. Both beaches are long and flat with rocks offshore in the shallow sea.
A deep horseshoe bay makes the resort well sheltered and away from northerly winds and a line of tamarisk trees provides natural shade, although most visitors use the rows of sunbeds that sweep around the bay.
The northern beach is more commercialised with music bars ramping up the volume, while the southern sands are 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. As well as buses from Mykonos Town there are daily boat taxis from Ornos and Platys Yialos.
Once the haunt of gay nudists, Paradise Beach , or Kalamopothi to give it its Greek name, is now more popular with mixed sexes and may be considered a family beach for the more enlightened.
Paradise is also the island's premier party beach where tavernas and music bars pump out party music ad nauseam and visitors are never far from a burger.
Once a favourite of the 70s hippy generation, Paradise is better known these days for its big outdoor discos, international DJs and special events such as full moon beach parties.
Paradise beach parties usually start around 5pm and last well into the night, while the closing beach party in early September is now an island institution. The noted Cavo Paradiso Disco club is found to the south along the headland.
A large campsite nearby and diving school add to the delights but it's mostly drinking, dancing and partying on the sands or joining the queue for the unisex toilets.
East of Paradise beach but with no direct easy route is the crassly called Super Paradise instead of its proper Greek name of Plyndiri.
Once exclusively gay, Super Paradise lost much of its louche reputation as a cruising beach after the textiles moved back in force.
A magnificent strip with crystal clear blue water, Super Paradise is not ideal for families as the water runs deep and nudity is still common at the rocky end of the beach.
This is also a big party beach, one of the most visited on Mykonos, and with loud music belting out from the beach bars day and night.
Super Paradise beach parties liven up at 10pm and last until the early hours. Hillside clubs and bars help provide for those who prefer to party indoors.
Caiques arrive daily from Platis Yialos to swell the numbers. There are no buses to Super Paradise so it's a car, taxi or boat. Overland arrivals face a very steep drop down the hillside.
Agrari beach is in a hidden cove west of Super Paradise and to the east of Elia beach that has somehow managed to avoid the massive exploitation of its neighbours.
One reason may be the nerve jangling approach down a boulder-strewn ravine and another, the lack of any public transport.
Those looking to escape the Mykonos crowds may find Agrari beach just the ticket as it rarely gets crowded.
There are no noisy beach bars belting out disco music (yet), just a single beach cantina and one restaurant. Small and rather exposed, Agrari has a small stream running across it.
Access is by car or by boat from Platys Yialos and, while the lack of crowds and noise adds appeal, its busier neighbour at Elia is just a short clifftop walk over the headland and has a bus service.
Elia beach was 'discovered' in the mid 90s and building work hasn't stopped since, with most of the cement poured into the nearby 'Watermania' water park.
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.
A cosmopolitan beach with sunbeds, showers and plenty of watersports, Elia as has scuba diving and deep sea fishing. It has some very attractive tavernas and is often the last port of call for water taxis that frequent the southern shore.
The eastern end of Elia is dominated 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 is another favourite of gays and there is nude sunbathing at one end of the beach. Access is from the pleasant inland village of Ano Mera, just two kilometres km away or it's a 45-minute boat trip from Platys Yialos.
The only inland village of note on Mykonos is Ano Mera and it's one of the few places on the island where visitors can find something resembling traditional Greek village life.
The main square has a kafenion and a taverna while the 16th century red-roofed monastery of Panagia Tourliani has a fine collection of icons and an unusual baptismal font of marble.
Just north of Ano Mera 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 some taxi boats that serve the south coast beaches.
A rustic setting on the road out of Ano Mera adds to the charm of a pleasant beach with loungers, watersports, restaurants and bars. The valley behind is particularly scenic and scattered with farmhouses.
The two kilometre stretch of sharp sand is good for those who prefer to avoid big crowds and, although not exactly quiet, Kalo Livadi is very much a family beach.
Yachts are usually anchored out in Kalo Livadi bay. There is a daily bus but it's a 10-minute walk to the beach from the bus stop 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 that lies to the west.
This Agia Anna is near Kalafatis and makes for a pleasant area to stay with a beautiful landscape and fine views from the hills.
Small beaches, mainly shingle and stone, lie on either side of an isthmus and there are a few sunbeds in front of a bamboo fence that runs the length of the beach to provide protection from wind.
On the other side of the isthmus lies 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.
North of Agia Anna is the long beach known as Kalafatis. about 12 kilometres from Mykonos Town and just three kilometres from Ano Mera.
The large sandy beach is 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 is well known for its watersports such as windsurfing and parasailing as well as a diving school.
Boats leave here for Dragonisi, an islet off the east coast that has many caves some of which are populated by the rare and protected Mediterranean Monk Seal, although visitors are highly unlikely to glimpse any of the shy creatures.
Kalafatis beach is about two kilometres long and 70 metres deep with a line of trees behind for natural shade. Hotels offer tables for visitors and there is a water skiing and surfing as well as bicycle and motorbike rental.
Local hotel owners, sensitive to growing environmental concerns, run local clean-up campaigns and the result is a very clean beach. There are buses to Ano Mera and to Mykonos Town
Lia Ammoudia marks the end of the main south coast tourist beaches and this is the last to be reached by road and is about 14km from Mykonos Town.
Once a hideaway beach for Greek celebrities, Lia Ammoudia has become much more popular recently and ranks of sunbeds now line the shore and a taverna behind serves good food.
The bare hillside and lack of buildings in the area can make Lia Ammoudia beach feel very isolated but bamboo windbreaks provide shelter and there are some excellent fish tavernas here.
A footpath to the east goes over the headland and leads to a tiny sand bay at Tsangari.
There are several beaches and coves beyond Lia Ammoudia but they are remote and will only appeal to the more intrepid holidaymaker. They are popular however with boat parties who often 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, has been sadly marred by ugly military masts and conspicuous radar domes.
Far wilder than the soft south, the northern coastline is for those who prefer a little wild adventure on their holidays. Large beaches are few, are exposed to the northerly winds, are more difficult to get to and have fewer facilities. But visitors can enjoy wild windswept scenery and there are numerous small coves and tiny bays for those with their own transport. Winds also attract the more serious surfers.
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 is 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.
The northerly 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 beach cantina opens in the summer and lays out some few sunbeds, but there are no buses so transport is needed to get there.
The main Panormos Bay beach is called Panormos and lies just north of Ftelia on the west side of the bay. Facing east, it enjoys a little more shelter from the winds 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.
Good walks can be found in the surrounding countryside although, with no trees it can feel a little exposed up there. There is no bus service to this part of Mykonos so visitors need their own transport.
Agios Sostis is a small, wild and windswept beach at the northern mouth of Panormos Bay and another big favourite with surfers. Rollers crash in on a 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 limited so many 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.