Mykonos & Santorini: things to do (and not do)

Hello there! And sorry for being a bit quiet, I’ve been off to Greece from the 3rd to the 10th with the boyfriend, and then busy chilling the frick out (if that makes any sense). Read on to know what we got up to in Santorini and Mykonos, which destination was our favourite and how I would do things if it was to happen again!

What we did, day by day

We flew in and out of Mykonos airport and took a ferry to Santorini and back. We stayed at the Paraga Beach Hostel in Mykonos and the Anna Youth Hostel in Santorini.

View from our hostel in Mykonos

The following timeline is based on the entries from our holiday in my beloved one-sentence journal. Read on for more detailed recommendations below!

  • Day 1: Drove up to Manchester, a bit of a panic trying to park and going through security. Warm and windy on arrival in Mykonos, loud English girls. Nice bar setting, had pastry for dinner.
  • Day 2: Had breakfast at hostel, took bus into Mykonos town. Walked down from windmills, then explored uphill a bit. Watched sunset with loads of people taking photos. Had nice pizza for dinner.
  • Day 3: Swam in the bay by hostel, then walked to a “pontoon” between the rocks and read there. Had pleasant evening on a quiet(er) part of Paraga beach.
  • Day 4: Woke up early in the hostel, spent a long time at the Mykonos port with a cheeky cat. Scary drive up from Santorini port with nice driver from hostel. Ate at Atlas restaurant, then went to Perissa beach.
  • Day 5: Had breakfast from very friendly baker’s and spent some time by the pool. Tour guide didn’t show up in Fira, so we hiked to Oia (some of it in the dark). Day involved quite a bit of standing in buses too.
  • Day 6: Spent quite a while at the beach swimming underwater and “fishing” for rocks. A bit of a rush making it to free Santorini tour with “deep” guide, but learnt a few things. Bumped into Nikos and Valentina from the UCLA days. Had fried tomatoes and salad for dinner.
  • Day 7: Day in Perissa. Had very late “breakfast” at Tranquilo, then spent time reading by the pool. Went to the lovely Perissa beach in the evening and had pizza at Atlas restaurant. Rob saw an octopus, we like Perissa.
  • Day 8: Said goodbye to Santorini – though we were held up at the port for a while by some kind of security issue. Took a bus into Mykonos, had pizza from a friendly Egyptian man, then befriended a cat in the airport. Stop in Corfu and long drive back.

Things to do

Swimming in the sea

I’ve lived close enough to a beach for most of my life to take it for granted, but now that I live virtually as inland as is possible in the UK, I have gained a new appreciation for time spent in the water. The sand on the Paraga beach (Mykonos) and the Perissa beach (Santorini) wouldn’t make for good sandcastle building, but we made up for it by spending our time exploring the clear waters. If you only take one thing from this post, please let it be this: bring a mask if you’re heading to Mykonos and/or Santorini! Like us, you’ll have hours of fun in the warm water of the Aegean!

Exploring Mykonos town

Also known as Chora, it’s the main town on the island and full of loveliness! You don’t need a map, just have a stroll around and up and down, and make sure you make time to check out the (windy) windmills and sea-front.

Taking photos

Both islands have very beautiful bits, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t capture them. You can scroll down to see more of my snaps at the end of this post! It’s only a fraction of the photos I took of the striking white buildings and sunsets (so many sunset photos, why, Jessica, why?…). My little camera doesn’t deal very well with low light, but Mykonos and Santorini are gorgeous by night too!

Hiking from Fira to Oia

This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me! It’s very easy to find your way between the main towns in Santorini, just follow the coastline. This walk however covers quite a bit of unsteady ground so wear sensible shoes! And remember to take a lot of water too, it gets quite hot with very little shade. We did part of it in the dark because of a change of plans, leaving four hours before sundown would probably have been reasonable though.

Having a salad

This may seem like a weird recommendation, but the Greeks know their salads! Surprise yourself and order a salad for a meal that is both refreshing and filling.

Watching the sunset

Everyone else is doing it – if you can’t beat them, join them! No matter where you are on Mykonos or Santorini, watching the sky go pink will definitely put you in the holiday mood!

Things I would have done differently

Buying a phrasebook

I had been doing a little Greek on Duolingo and Memrise ahead of our holiday, but not many of the things I learnt were easy to integrate into everyday conversation (Google translate λουλούδι, θρόνος or καλάθι for example…). The “locals” in Mykonos and Santorini spoke enough English for us not to need to speak Greek, but I feel ashamed to have imposed our foreign language on them. I really dislike the tendency of English-speaking tourists to be unapologetically monolingual. Next time I’m abroad – if I don’t have a high enough mastery of the language – I’ll practice what I preach and at least buy a damn phrasebook.

Doing less harm

In a similar “practice what you preach” vein, I will be more environmentally conscious next time I travel. I’m normally quite good at avoiding single-use plastic packaging, as well as animal products when I eat out in my everyday life. However it’s as if I had lost the plot on this holiday: eating a lot of cheese and creating too much waste. I don’t claim to be 100% vegan all the time or to never use plastic, but I could have (and will do) better on holiday. This realisation was accentuated by listening to an episode of the Slow Your Home podcast about saying no to plastic. Check it out here – I bet it will have an effect on you too! Their other episodes are definitely worth a listen too.

Slower travel

I love travelling and want to experience as much of the world as I can. That, and now having limited holiday time – due to us both having to earn a living – means that I’m tempted to cram everything I want to do into too short a period of time. I did better this summer than last, when I fit in four different Portuguese towns in less than ten days, but still I believe that we overstretched ourselves a bit with the travel arrangements. This became quite apparent on leaving day, when travel involved a minibus, a (delayed) ferry, a bus, a two-part flight (layover in Corfu), a bus and a late-night / early-morning drive from Manchester to Abingdon.

Next time, I shall strive to organise our holiday to be a slower and more in-depth experience of one place. We couldn’t have been 100% sure without hindsight that we would like Santorini better than Mykonos, but that was my instinct and maybe I should have followed it. I would say that Santorini – Perissa specifically – seemed quite family friendly, so we might be back in a few (!) years time with sproglets in tow for a chill holiday in the sun.

Not booking a dorm room

I’ve stayed in a variety of hostel dorm rooms during my student years – yes they’re often an affordable and friendly accommodation option – but it seems that they’re just not for me anymore. We booked our accomodation later than we would have liked, so an eight-bed dorm was all that was left in Mykonos within our budget range. We took the plunge, and while it wasn’t terrible, the bathroom situation definitely could have been better and I didn’t much enjoy all the lights being switched on (and left on) in the early hours of the morning by our roommates who had been out partying the night away. I guess you get what you pay for! Hopefully by booking further in advance and going a bit off the beaten track, we will get better accommodation for our next holiday! An Airbnb would be ideal, as we could then cook some of our meals, thus saving some pennies and being better able to make food choices that align better with my values. (If you book an Airbnb stay through one of my links, I get credit for my next holiday, and you get £30 towards your booking: win-win!)

If you’ve been to Santorini or Mykonos, what was your experience like? If you’re planning a trip there, which of the recommendations will you try? Please do share this post if you found it useful/interesting!

More photos!

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