Did you know that Greece has over 5,000 islands? Although, it’s worth noting that only 200 of them are inhabited. Si and I recently headed to the beautiful shores of Mykonos and Santorini, where the sun shines gloriously 85% of the year! It’s no wonder that the locals are so happy and friendly. This is how we spent 9 days island hopping in Greece.
As you know, I’m all about affordable luxury travel. I want the best for less! I came across an absolute gem in Mykonos – the Myconian Ambassador Hotel. Located a short drive from Mykonos Town (15 minutes), the hotel overlooks the Platis Gialos Beach where the super yachts are moored plentifully. We were warmly greeted by hotel staff and personally shown around the property and escorted to our stunning room that had been complimentary upgraded. The rooms and hotel feature modern décor and traditional chic white Greek architecture.
The hotel has a gorgeous pool with loads of sun lounges. The poolside menu was delicious and they have a great selection of international wines, as you’d expect from a five-star property.
Rates from €240 per night.
Best bit: Easily the best breakfast buffet I have ever had! Guests are seated at inviting tables overlooking the pool and sea below. There is a breakfast menu including a selection of hot items and freshly blended juices, in addition to the substantial buffet that includes complimentary champagne.
Needs improvement: If you are planning on dining in town or doing some exploring, you will need to get a taxi. They are €20 each way. It starts to stack up. The hotel had their own taxis; however, it would be nice if they offered a complimentary shuttle service for valued guests.
In Santorini, we stayed at On the Rocks. Though this was a perfectly pleasant hotel, I’m afraid to say it wasn’t quite the same standard as the Myconian Ambassador Hotel. We were, however, blown away by the location of On the Rocks. Carved into the picturesque hillside of Imerovigli, it had panoramic views out over the sea and caldera below.
Our room was fabulous and spacious, and our private balcony had dreamy views. Our room rate also included a complimentary half hour massage at the spa.
Though the pool was small, it did the trick. There is an impressive deck with sun loungers facing the caldera. The poolside kitchen serves delicious snacks and drinks with views to die for.
Rates are from €200 per night.
Best bit: You are going to think I am a fatty (and I do love my food…) – it was breakfast again! You place your order the day before and they deliver it to you on your terrace or down by the pool, the choice is yours. The views from our room’s terrace were absolutely spectacular. Such a great start to the day.
Needs improvement: I thought the bedding and towels were a little bit tired and needed replacing, and I didn’t like them refilling the toiletries. It feels a touch unhygienic.
We opted for an early morning Easy Jet flight departing Gatwick arriving early afternoon in Mykonos. Don’t you just love that feeling when you land somewhere warm and they open the aircraft doors and humidity comes flooding in? Hello Mykonos!
We headed for our lush new digs to settle in and relax poolside, dining on their tasty menu and sipping crisp rosé.
Si and I were really up for a relaxing holiday, but as I’m sure you’re well aware, Mykonos is Greece’s party island, so we had agreed to have one lively day. We strolled along the water’s edge to Scorpio’s, only 15 minutes from the hotel by foot. The beach club offers superb seaside views and ambient beats through the day, and as the sun sets it becomes the destination of choice for the rich and famous to dance the night away.
On arrival, we were welcomed and given the option to choose from a selection of day beds. Enjoying the tranquillity of it all, we relaxed in the sunshine and sipped on rosé.
I highly recommend making a lunch reservation at the restaurant, the food was absolutely incredible. It is the perfect place to relax in the shade under the canopies for a leisurely meal. Make sure you have some of the oysters served fresh by the resident oysterman. Without a doubt, some of the best I’ve ever had. Si and I had the grilled calamari with black rice – it was amazing!
As the sun dipped, we relocated to Sunset Beach to watch Mykonos’ beautiful sunset for the day as the crowds gathered and the DJ played awesome tracks.
Tip: Ensure you make advanced reservations to avoid disappointment! We found Scorpio’s quite challenging to deal with. I’d recommend asking your hotel’s concierge to make and confirm bookings. Be warned, this is an expensive day out. It’s best not to look at the bill, you don’t want to spoil the fun 😉
I think this was my favourite day in Mykonos, and one I absolutely recommend to everyone. We hired a quad bike and followed the coastline Northbound towards Agios Sostis Beach. We parked up along the roadside and wandered down the small steep hill toward a small tin shack overlooking a stunning bay below. This was the legendary Kiki’s Tavern. A kitsch restaurant, offering guests a hearty flavoursome BBQ menu.
They don’t take reservations here. In fact, they don’t even have electricity here! Arrive early to try and secure your place at the first sitting. But if you luck out, make some new friends in the sunshine and help yourself to a glass of wine or two on the house. Expect to wait for an hour – an hour and a half. It goes quite quickly, and you can take turns heading down to the bay and taking a dip in the sea. I promise you it is worth the wait and you won’t be disappointed or go hungry!
And after lunch, spend the rest of the day lying on the bay below the restaurant. It is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen, with stunning crystal-clear water, and sandy shores to lie on and soak up the sun. When the sun dips low, walk further around the coat to Agios Sostis Beach to enjoy the last of the sun for the day.
Tip: Head to Kiki’s around 11.00/ 11.30am, if you’re keen to get a look in at the first sitting at 12.30pm.
Remember to take towels with you and make sure you make yourself known to the owner. He claims to have a photographic memory, and in the midst of all the chaos, it seems to work.
There are a lot of places to hire mopeds and quad bikes from on the island. I would strongly suggest using a reputable dealer recommended to you by your hotel.
That evening we decided to go local for dinner and headed to Avli Tou Thodori Restaurant on Platis Gialos Beach. We opted for a beachside table with comfortable sunken lounges right by the water’s edge. We really enjoyed our meal and the service was attentive and friendly. This is a great dining option in an amazing setting that won’t cost you a fortune like most of the other island restaurants.
Tip: Si and I really struggled with the local wine. In the end, we found a Pinot Noir that we drank slightly chilled and it was actually pretty good. I recommend keeping an eye out for Estate Alpha Pinot Noir, it’s about €38 a bottle.
At the recommendation of friends of ours, we jumped on our quad, Northbound to Alemagou Beach Bar Restaurant. The beach club has a chilled out vibe that is down to earth and without any pretentiousness. It was much easier to negotiate sun loungers in a prime beachside position than at Scorpio’s, though I will say the shingle sand and the slightly exposed bay don’t necessarily make for ideal swimming conditions. It’s ok – just a little rougher with some waves.
The boho beach club has a great bar/ restaurant with DJ throughout the day/ evening. No advanced reservations required here. We opted for a local grilled fish which was delicious.
Tip: Book sun loungers in advance during peak season. The beach is most ideal when there is less wind around. Is that possible in Mykonos? Oh, actually apparently there is no wind in July, but wind all year round otherwise.
We headed into Mykonos Town that evening for dinner at “it spot”, Avra. I have to be honest, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. It is a pretty restaurant with outdoor courtyard dining, but I thought the food was quite overpriced and average. I think we were probably put off a little by the Italian couple next to us. Every five seconds that woman would run to the other side of the table and sit on her lover’s lap for a painful demonstration of PDA. Hello?! Some of us are trying to eat here! Get a room! #sobritish
If I said it with a Jordie accent it would almost be like we were in the Greek Islands Big Brother House! 😂 In the afternoon after lunch, we headed into Mykonos Town to explore. I could have spent days wandering through the beautiful cobblestoned streets. Head on over to my post 9 Incredible Instagram locations in Mykonos, for more information on must-see places in Mykonos.
As the sun was starting to set, we went to 180º Sunset Bar via Boni’s Windmill. I highly recommend checking both out. Boni’s is a great option if you are after one of Mykonos’s iconic windmills without the crowds of Kato Milli. And it benefits from hillside views out over the harbour below.
After seeing 180º Sunset Bar featured on @travel_inhershoes, I just had to go and check it out. The hidden gem on the outskirts of town overlooks Chora and the glittering sea below. Arrive early to take your pick of the tables. Head beyond the bar and down some stairs towards the horizon and you will find a pit, centred around the DJ with scattered cushions. This is where you want to be. It has the best views of the sun setting as well as complimentary seating. Any of the cushions is a free seat.
The DJ plays a stellar set, synchronising the sunset to some soulful, almost tribal beats, and afterwards, it erupts into a raucous party. This is both a romantic and playful destination well worth checking out.
On our final day in Mykonos, we took a short stroll to upmarket Platis Gialos Beach, to find a spot by the glittering sea. This is a great option if you are looking for something a little more relaxing with fewer people. At the far end of the beach, you will find a public beach that attracts lots of families.
Branco Mykonos is a gorgeous boutique hotel that has its own private beach. You can rent day beds and enjoy their friendly hospitality. They had a great DJ who played chilled out house tunes all afternoon. I’m pleased to report, though still spenny, this beach club was a lot more modest in comparison to the likes of Nammos and Scorpio’s. We really enjoyed our day at Branco.
We headed over to the port to board a high-speed ferry to Santorini. There are several companies in operation, advanced bookings are essential. It’s a bit of a free for all down at the harbour pre-boarding collecting tickets from the ticket office, but the organised chaos seems to be the Greek way. Stand out on the decks for some amazing views as sail pass other islands by.
In just over 2.5 hours, we arrived in Santorini. The port of Thira is manic when the ferries dock. I’d highly recommend pre-booking a transfer. Avoid the donkey transfers up the steep hill. It’s cruel to the poor creatures that are malnourished and not kept in ideal conditions.
We spent the afternoon strolling around the iconic and beautiful village of Oia, pronounced “ee-a”. Be warned, the secret is out about Santorini, and thousands of tourists flock to admire the charming town daily. You will be shoulder to shoulder with your neighbour, and you will need to be patient and creative if you want to get any unobstructed pictures of the views. We often found ourselves queuing to take a photo, and it wasn’t uncommon for people with no spatial awareness to barge into you, just so they could get their shot. Despite the distinct lack of consideration for others by fellow tourists, this is one of the prettiest places I have ever been and highly recommend that you do see it. Just go prepared for the crowds.
With some of the best views of the caldera at sunset, people arrive in droves to stake a prime position to watch the sun go down. If you are brave enough to take on the crowds, head to Oia Castle early to take a prime position. It will be an experience you never forget.
Having done this before, I was after a different and less crowded perspective. At the recommendation of On the Rocks, Si and I headed down the stairs from Oia to Ammoudi Bay. It is a short walk and perfectly manageable by foot (although I’d get a taxi back). Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna is set right on the edge of the bay overlooking the water. In comparison to its neighbours, it is significantly more down to earth, but don’t be fooled. We arrived about an hour before sunset and were shown to our table for the evening. The staff were so friendly and attentive. The cocktails were refreshing and delicious, and the fresh seafood was out of this world. They operate a catch of the day counter – go and choose whatever you think looks tastiest, and they serve it fresh to your table. Watching the sunset, unobstructed with quaint fishing boats bobbing on the water is something that I will never forget. Utterly romantic.
Our hotel was located in Imerovigli, approximately 20 minutes around the headland from Oia. The village is a real gem and we really enjoyed exploring it. I think it is the most ideal spot on the island to stay. It has a similar charm to Oia, with the whitewashed villas carved into the hillside with incredible ocean views, but is without the sheer volume of tourists. You will also find some gorgeous blue doors, bougainvillaea, churches with red and blue domes, just the same as you would in Oia.
A well-kept footpath connects Imerovigli to Fira, and onwards to Oia in the opposite direction. If you love a scenic hike and can handle the heat of the day, you’ll find this rewarding.
With an evening flight out of Santorini back to London, we had the whole day ahead of ourselves to enjoy. A trip to the Greek Islands wouldn’t be complete without cruising around the islands on a yacht, so we signed up to a catamaran cruise for the day. There are all sorts of cruises in operation, from private to umm, less private? They cater for all budgets and generally follow similar itineraries, so you’ll be sure to find one that suits you.
We opted for a “semi-private” tour, with up to 12 others onboard. Our crew welcomed us on board and we set off, taking in the sites of Santorini’s red, white and black beaches – dramatically coloured by volcanic activity of the caldera. There were plenty of stops along the way to swim and snorkel in the clear blue waters.
We then made our way to the hot springs – a bubbling sulphur caldron, above the active island volcano. No one was brave enough to jump in, so I bullied Si into it. I hope we didn’t smell like egg-fats for the remainder of the day, but I can’t be certain.
We had a delicious Greek-style BBQ lunch with fresh salads and spent the afternoon cruising back along the stunning coastline.
It was the perfect ending to what had been one of the most magical trips that we have ever taken. Sadly, the time had come to board our flight and head back to London. The Greek Islands are a magical place, and one I would like to explore further in the future. Next time I am looking forward to discovering some of the smaller, less known islands and getting friendly with the locals. I highly recommend visiting Mykonos and Santorini, but get in quick before it becomes unaffordable and unbearable with the crowds.
Until next time, safe travels.
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