MYKONOS FOR THE 18 TO 35s
Published: January 2005
Excess has often been ascribed to the Greek island of Mykonos, but it's a destination that's never been described as excessive . In fact, despite being one of the Mediterranean's more notorious party islands, Mykonos has avoided all accusations of gauche, crass, piss-on-your-stereo type goings-on. "Cosmopolitan", "sophisticated", "stylish" are the words normally associated with the island, and never more so than now.
Mykonos is back; an annoying phrase, which suggests it somehow went away. Of course, what IS meant is that an island that was once a hit with the in-crowd way-back-when is scoring big once again. In the 60s the Onassi put Mykonos on the map. Pretty soon it was the chic offshore away-from-it-all for Athenian wannabes. Only twenty minutes by plane from the Greek capital, it was the perfect place for a weekender where owning a sod of terra was de rigueur. Then, it all went wrong - so we're told. But now it's right again.
Greece, to the surprise of everyone including the Greeks, pulled off an almost-perfect Olympics, giving the country a much-needed shot of confidence, and suddenly, all things Hellenic are a hit; Eurovision, and Mykonos. The island is stylish again. That old 60s hotel the Theoxenia has been rescued from council-flat naffness and transformed into a chic retro boutique layover. The Belvedere up on the hill behind Mykonos Town has its own branch of modish eatery Nobu. The well- and high-heeled have returned, the Gaultiers, P Diddys, Mosses, Campbells. All is as it should be, and the gods smile down from high Olympus.
Of course, this reading of the Mykonos story stems from the Hello-OK worldview. Personally, I don't subscribe to it. Very often with me, for "stylish", "chic" and "upmarket", read prissy, pretentious and over-priced. Not that I don't like nice things. It's just you wouldn't catch me walking down the street in the nuddy thinking I was dressed to the nines.
As a gay man, I know Mykonos has always been there. Ever since the first gay bar, Pierro's, opened in the 60s, the place has been one of the Mediterranean's Big Gay Three along with Sitges and Ibiza. Mykonos has never gone away, its reputation pricey and heavy on the partying. Partying to make the doings of the gods look like some of TRISHA's more tired moments.
The Hotel Aphrodite is located twenty minutes from Mykonos Town in Kalafatis Bay, a slurry of typically Cycladic white boxes sloping down the hillside towards the beach. The old girl's been around a while. No doubt that's why her bosom has slipped out to sea. The two hillocks on the horizon are known locally as Aphrodite's Breasts. Last year she was reinvented by tour operator Contiki as their 18-35 European flagship. Yes, that tour operator famous for shunting groups of Antipodeans around the continent.
Here's the concept. Todays 18-35 year olds are more "sophisticated". They're active, they 're more health conscious, and they want more from a holiday than getting pissed and shagging. (My eyebrows arch to such an extent at this point that I'm enjoying my very own done-to-myself face-lift. Even at my age I recognise the attractions of both the latter. Particularly on holiday.) So what does Aphrodite offer?
Basic but clean and well presented accommodation. Two bars, one beach and one poolside. Two restaurants, one onsite and on off. Water sports and easy access to the beach. And yes, there is a palpable difference in the atmosphere to what I imagine - or have seen - a typical 18-30 holiday to be.
In detail, the accommodation is all that you need on an active, outside-oriented holiday; with add ons like a laundry service, delivery within 48 hrs, and the all-important hair dryer. If they'd thrown in an iron and ironing board, they'd have ticked every box. The two bars are matters of preference. Poolside, there's more of a party atmosphere with ongoing thudding base, whilst down by the beach the bar's a lot more laid back, a great place to watch the sun set and superbly run by Lemonia and Dimitris. I have to say the restaurant inside desperately needs revision. It has all the charm of a trucker's caff with the pallid colour of an A&E department. The beachside restaurant on the other hand is a gorgeous little taverna space with great food BUT you do pay extra. Buffet lunch and dinner back at "trucker's" is part of your package.
My one and only criticism of a stay at Aphrodite is location. But that's one of my criticisms of Mykonos in general. It's an island you have to navigate. For example, if you're staying in Mykonos Town and you want the beach, you have to travel out. If you want bars, clubs and restaurants and you're staying at a beach resort, then of course, you have to drag yourself into town. And it's too far to walk so punters are prey to buses - which are infrequent off-season - or cabs - which are frustratingly impossible to get hold of. Contiki runs a shuttle service from the resort that increases in frequency in peak season. Old hands told me that most visitors hire scooters. As the only one to fail Cycling Proficiency at primary school, that wasn't an option. Besides which, the bottom line is if I go out I want to DRINK!!
Mykonos Town is the heart of the island; a cute, classic whitewashed bedlam of narrow streets two donkeys would be hard pushed to navigate. There's a port from which you can make the trip to the main cultural attraction in this stretch of the Aegean, the island of Delos. Contiki offer the excursion to guests as an extra. It's well worth it. This was the spiritual centre of the Athenian Empire back in the 400s BC and nowadays is the largest archaeological site in Greece.
A morning trip to Delos can be followed by lunch in MT. Mykonos being "sophisticated" offers more than your average Greek island at less than average prices. In fact, in many cases it's top dollar to eat here, particularly if you're near water. I visited two upmarket establishments, Aqua and Sea Satin Market both of which averaged 60€ a head and sorry to say, neither were worth it. They're situated in the Little Venice area and location was all whilst quality, and more importantly, value for money, was naught. For example, Aqua's prosciutto with fig conserve in a sesame cup was one of the most frivolous pointless dishes I've ever come across.
Mykonos Town also has a squall of repetitive shops selling ceramics and oodles of jewellery. There are Shakirah-style fashion boutiques and the odd designer outlet. Diesel, Armani, D&G, Nautica et al can be found at prices comparable to anywhere else in Europe. Most shopping is done early evening. By day, the beautiful people are busy tanning poolside.
By night, Mykonos' infamous club and bar scene springs into action Those famous beach parties at Paradise and Super Paradise kick off at sunset whilst the club Cavo Paradiso gets into gear in the wee hours. The club hosts an international line up of DJs in high season and next year Contiki will be offering clubbing packages for the initiated.
The gay scene isn't my cup of tea. The bars are much of a muchness, offering little variety. For example, there's Porta's up an alley, Aren't they always? It's a compact bar where the post-dinner crowd gather to digest. The age group is mixed, though predominantly older. Pierro's, the first gay bar, is still going strong. Again, up another alley. There's a small square out front that's crowded in summer. Pierro's is a dancey venue and a bit cruisey.
Mykonos is a destination aimed the hardened clubber or party animal. Me? Well, all I want is a bar, a drink (lots) and great company to see me through to seven in the morning. Those who require something a little more active however will find their Paradise on Mykonos. So go bop, be bad. You don't even have to be 18 - 35. But if you are then there's no denying Contiki are doing their job.
What do you think of Mykonos?
I'd love to hear any advice you may have so please DROP ME A LINE
MYKONOS FOR THE 18 TO 35s
Gareth has been with TRAVEL CHANNEL since its launch in 1994. He has produced and presented on TRAVEL LIVE and THE TRAVEL BUG, produced ESSENTIAL... and reports on TRAVEL TODAY. He is a regular contributor to the website. In 2010 he produced the hit series THE HOLIDAY SHOW which he also co-presented with Ginny Buckley. Gareth’s passions are history, culture, food & drink.
A week's stay at the new Contiki Resort Mykonos can be booked from £399 per week for arrival from 16th September until the end of October 2005, based on 2 sharing a twin or double room. Contiki will pair single travellers with same-sex guests to avoid singles supplements.
Prices include return flights from Gatwick or Manchester (supplement £13), brunch and dinner, daily activities and sports and entrance to `Blue' nightclub.
Contact Contiki on 020 8290 6422