Mykonos’s Hidden Gems Beyond the Ordinary

Find out where to go on Mykonos Island, beyond the cliché spots.

Rania Georgiadou
Giannis Dimotsis, Christos Drazos, John D. Carnessiotis

[There] all existence is a dream of ease.
Snowfall is never known there, neither long
frost of winter, nor torrential rain,
but only a mild and lulling air from Ocean,
bearing refreshment for the souls of men
Homer, Odyssey, book 4, 565 – 568

The Age of Innocence

«When I first visited the islands in 1954, by and large there were no telephones, no television, no running water, few roads, no electricity, little concrete, no motor vehicles, no airports, no roll-on roll-off ferries and no tractors. Each island had to essentially live within its resources of arable land and water, supplemented by fishing and trade, and remittances from seamen and émigrés. There was equilibrium in the lives of the islanders based on their available resources. Perhaps by scrutinizing life in the 1950s we can get unexpected insights into some aspects of the life that human beings lived in the 3rd millennium B.C., and that is the goal of the images presented here». Born in Chicago in 1934, the world renowned photographer Robert McCabe made his first visit to Greece in 1954. He was instantly captivated by the country. He travelled extensively through the Aegean from 1954-1965 to fully document his experiences, the people he met and the places he visited.

IN ANO MERA. “One photo which moves me is the one with the dancers at a
local feast in Mykonos. It captured a perfect moment in the dance, so timeless, like
the figures embracing each other in Pompeii! I remember the priest who brought me
wine again and again – maybe this is why the photos are so vivid?

Photos from the exhibition “Robert McCabe. Memories and monuments of the
,” hosted at the Museum of Cycladic Art, and from Robert McCabe’s
forthcoming book on Mykonos in the 1950s.

Local feasts

Mykonos has six hundred churches, and on the night before the feast, they all celebrate the day of the saint after which the church is named. Large churches celebrate with a big “panayiri” (feast day celebration) and smaller churches hold a more modest celebration. The feasts are organised by the families who serve as the caretakers of the church. Relatives, friends and strangers are all equally welcome. Bread and wine are always on the table, as is mutton broth made from a sheep that is slaughtered especially for the occasion. And if it is a large feast, there will be all kinds of delicacies, such as meat balls, louza (dry cured ham) and onion pie, as well
as sardines and fried salted cod with garlic mash.

In the past, during hard times, the faithful used to entertain themselves with banter and by reciting playful couplets, and there were always bagpipes, drums and violins so the feast could come alive with dancing. Small feasts which are held outside of peak season combine two elements which even today afford visitors a rare glimpse of these customs dating back to antiquity. For example, the yearly custom of slaughtering pigs, which begins around the first chills towards the end of October, is a tradition honoured and prized by the locals.
Despite the fact that the main event is the slaughtering of an animal – a ritual said to have Dionysian influences – the custom is “cleansed” by the sense of community, gastronomic indulgence, music, singing and the dancing that surrounds it.

Local feasts “open to the public” from June until mid- September. Note that the celebration takes place on the night before the saints’ day!

The Old World

Bagkogia’s kafeneio in Gialos is the only authentic coffee shop on Mykonos and one of the last of its kind in the Cyclades. Located in Gialos, with a view towards the small harbour and the sea, this traditional hang-out serves coffees and authentic island delicacies. Prepared by Dimitris Bagkogia’s wife Vassiliki, his daughter Asimina and his granddaughter Vasso, these delicacies served from 7am until late at night all year round are strictly local – starting with mostra (a traditional Myconian dish consisting of crispbread, local kopanisti cheese, tomato, olive oil and sometimes oregano, capers and olives), homemade sausage, omelette, seafood and, depending on the day, small fish!
Giora’s wood stove bakery is the oldest bakery in Mykonos (said to date back to the 17th Century!), and has belonged to the Vamvakouri family for more than two centuries. It is situated in the Lakka area, on Ignatios Basoulas lane. Although it is difficult to spot from the outside, follow your nose and trust the sweet scent of the bread to lead you to the right door. Every morning, in this stone building with high ceiling, Nikos Vamvakouris and his son Giannis bake loaves which truly tastes like country bread made from fermented yeast, traditional Myconian crisp breads, pies and sweets.


For Myconians and those in the know, this is the name of the sandy beach located within the old harbour of Chora Mykonos. It is a favourite place to take one’s morning walk, to breathe in the fresh sea air and to buy one’s groceries. Local farmers bring in their produce straight from their vegetable gardens each morning, and fishermen display the freshest catch of the day on marble counters. It is here that Myconians exchange their “kalimera” over a morning coffee. Years ago, it was lined with traditional ‘kafeneia’, traditional coffee shops such as Kioukas’, Paola’s, Nikitas’ and Kontarinis’; however, over time it became a tourist promenade, and though most of them have been converted into contemporary coffee shops or stylish restaurants, Manto Mavrogenous’ bust keeps a watchful eye on all the happenings from the square bearing her name.

The Rough Inland

Further inland, at a remove from the fringe of golden beaches, the island resists change. Brown granite, rocks, soft hills and sparse green shrubs make up the “natural” landscape, as if dictated by the scenery. “Show me how you build and I will tell you who you are,” the renowned Greek architect Aris Konstantinidis wrote. There are still some “authentic” buildings and areas where the only music you can hear is the meltemi wind whistling through the pigeon lofts!