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Mykonos & Delos: The Two Sides of Visiting Greece

We arranged for a taxi to pick us up early from Athens Gate Hotel and drop us off at the airport. We had purchased the short flights through Olympic Air, landing in Mykonos only 35 minutes after departure. Through the Olympic Air website, we were able to select our seats, for a nominal fee, and ensure that we were seated up front with some extra leg room. We were also able to purchase a Fast Track ticket for only 9 Euros, that allowed us to bypass the long lines in security. Needless to say the flight was short and sweet. The airline stewards finished the safety presentation, offered each of us a snack and before we had time to finish it, we were in Mykonos. Once we landed, we had arranged for a pick-up from the hotel to be waiting for us.

TIP: Regardless of how you book your airline tickets, use the confirmation number to logon to the airline website to see what options are available to you. Depending on the airline and length of flight, you can usually select your meal, your seat or have access to extras and upgrades that you may not have been aware of when booking.

We almost didn’t visit Mykonos. Having a reputation for a sometimes loud and wild night-life, we wanted to be situated far enough away to have quiet, but close enough to walk to local restaurants, while not sacrificing luxury and Greek charm. After plenty of research, we happened upon Rocabella Mykonos. Nestled into the coastline, this unique hotel is shaped unlike any other, with a variety of room types and offerings, all with simplistic and artistic charm. We requested a more secluded room, if possible, and Rocabella set us up in the honeymoon hideaway.

"Our Room" at Rocabella, Mykonos, Greece

The room was set up like a small cave cottage, draped entirely in white. A small table and chairs set up outside at the base of the steps which lead you to the front porch under a curved archway, where there was a cushioned seating area on either side of the door. Upon entering, the huge bed encompassed half of the main area; to the left was a desk with coffee and treats, to the right closet space with doors of white-brushed rattan. Behind the bed, the entire width of the room, was the bathroom, separated only by glass. Two steps to the right of the bed lead you up. The toilet was the only private space behind a frosted door, while the double sinks and huge walk-in shower were all open. It was exactly the romantic seclusion we were looking for. From our porch or private sitting area, we could admire the spectacular views of the sea and surrounding areas.

The minimalist design of Rocabella was calming, and the numerous nooks and hideaways allowed for quiet seclusion. Having visited in October and not in the height of the tourist season, there were few guests, but one could sense that even at capacity, the hotel aimed for serenity and relaxation. The main restaurant and outdoor pool were separated only by glass. We hadn’t anticipated on dining at the hotel restaurant more than once or twice, not wanting to be tied to the hotel, but the food was so good that other than the one meal we had in downtown Mykonos, we spent every meal at Rocabella. Just like the rooms, the ingredients were simple but charming and really delicious. From meals delivered in tiny ceramic bakers to the fresh basket of warm breads and creamed butter, breakfast was personal and artistic. The casual lunch atmosphere became a trendy night spot that welcomed outsiders for dinner. We lunched and dined at the same table, sitting facing the ocean in huge hanging rattan basket chairs.

"Our Table" at Rocabella Restaurant, Mykonos, Greece

Since we only planned to stay two nights in Mykonos, our itinerary was flexible, save for one excursion we had pre-booked to Delos and Rhenia through Get Your Guide. On the night we arrived, however, we received a message from the local tour operator, who would be manning the boat, that the tour had been cancelled due to weather. A bit of a pre-emptive strike, as there was no bad weather in the forecast for the next day. To Get Your Guide's credit, they did offer us a full refund without issue.

Devastated, we approached the front desk at Rocabella and asked if they knew of any other operators that could bring us to Delos. Luckily for us, they were able to quickly confirm that the ferry from the Mykonos port was indeed travelling to Delos the next morning and we could pre-purchase tickets through them. As it turns out, the cancellation was the best thing that could have happened. Not only were the new tickets less expensive than what we had originally purchased, but we were able to spend much more time in Delos.

Standing upon a high viewpoint on Delos, Greece

Bright and early, we arrived at the Mykonos port (thanks to the Rocabella driver), we picked up our tickets and made our way onto the massive ferry. The boat ride only lasted 20 minutes, but it was quite wavy and rocky. Standing outside in the cool breeze helped calm the nerves (and kept us away from the hordes of people crammed indoors). As we approached the island of Delos, we began to see what a magical visit this was going to be. Even in the distance, one could see that Delos was littered with ruins. We were aware that it was an island with historical significance and many discovered ruins, but we had no idea the entire island would be covered, nor did we realize we would be walking through them.

Delos, now a UNESCO world heritage site, has been described as one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece, with excavations still underway. According to Greek mythology, Apollo was born on Delos. Not only a prosperous trading port, Delos became a sanctuary that attracted pilgrims. Rich merchants, bankers, ship-owners from around the world settled on Delos, which in turn, attracted artists and craftsmen who built luxurious houses decorated with frescoes and mosaic floors, many of which are still visible today.

Once we cleared the ticket area, map in hand, we walked away from the crowd and decided to explore on our own, hoping to see as much as possible before we had to return to port. Walking through Delos, isn’t like walking through a museum, it is walking through history. We stepped on the same cobblestones as the ancients did, stepped into their homes, sat in the theatre and climbed the hills to the ancient shrines and temples. Words cannot properly describe the overwhelming feeling of being awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the ruins we had the privilege of seeing on Delos. We could easily spend days roaming the island and marvelling at it’s archeological finds. Reluctantly, we headed back to the ferry and eventually made our way back to Mykonos port. Saddened to see Delos disappear into the horizon, we vowed to return one day.

Back on Mykonos, we wandered through the narrowed streets, admiring the faux cobbled design painted onto the floors and the iconic blue shutters and doors. One can easily be turned around in the narrow streets (especially after a few drinks). We settled on a small touristic restaurant in the Little Venice district for a late lunch, so we could sit in the shade and listen to the ocean waves. After, we headed again through the narrow and crowded streets, snapping photos of many white building, until we reached the famous Mykonos windmills. A staple in the classic Mykonos skyline, the ancient windmills are lined up on a hill overlooking the ocean.

Mainstreet Mykonos, Greece

TIP: Mykonos is beautiful and worth a visit, but the main tourist area has become mainly that; a place for tourists to drink, have fun and bring back souvenirs. If you’re looking for authentic Greek cuisine, historical sites and unique experiences, the main strip is not the place to be. If, like us, you long for authentic experiences or walk through history, visit the local restaurants and shops off the beaten path, and spend as much time as possible in Delos.

After visiting the windmills (and the large of number of cats that roam the area), we hopped into a taxi and headed back to Rocabella, where we indulged in a lower body massage from the spa. It was glorious and worth every penny. We watched as the sun set from our little porch, then slowly got dressed for another scrumptious dinner at the Rocabella main restaurant. The next morning, after an early breakfast, we headed to the Mykonos port once again, this time to catch the ferry to our next island adventure; Naxos.

Greek Cat at the base of the Mykonos Windmills

Mykonos is a lovely island with plenty of charm and significance. It is unfortunate that the party reputation has overtaken some of the main visiting areas, but it is a large island with plenty of beaches, restaurants and historical sites to explore. Do visit Mykonos, but don’t limit yourself to the main jaunt. Let Mykonos show you what she truly has to offer, which is much more than a hangover and a souvenir.

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