– By Kim Feldmann
If there is one thing Greece doesn’t lack is islands. The country’s landmass is made up of thousands of islets which cover an extensive area of the Mediterranean, awarding it with the 11th longest coastline in the world. Many names spring to mind when thinking of the Greek Islands, but among them Santorini and Mykonos sound ever so familiar.
Mykonos (the island of the winds) is believed to have been named after the grandson of the god Apollo in Hellenic mythology. The island is part of the Cyclades, a group comprising around 220 islets, situated south-east of mainland Greece. Mykonos’ cosmopolitan atmosphere sets it off as a highly sought-after summer destination, beloved by the ones seeking energetic days as well as those who simply wish to unwind. It is easily accessible from both Athens and Thessaloniki by plane, with direct international flights (particularly from London) being added to the schedule during summer holidays. There are also daily ferries departing from the two main ports in Athens, heading to Mykonos and the other Cyclades islands. Due to its popularity, the island can get fairly crowded during high season, so it’s worth planning in advance – or choosing to travel in spring or autumn. There is no shortage of things do to in Mykonos: from exploring the capital’s (Hóra) marble streets and visiting some of its churches, museums, to treading along Matoyanni Street – one of the city’s busiest spots –, or contemplating the colourful Alefkántra, also known as “Little Venice”. Adventure enthusiasts will find an array of beaches where to practice windsurfing, bays to go sailing, and nooks for diving. While in Mykonos, it’s worth tasting the kopanistí, a soft cheese seasoned with pepper designated the as island’s culinary trademark.
A roughly 2,5hr ferry ride from Mykonos, in the southernmost portion of the Cyclades, lies the island of Santorini – the largest of a small archipelago with the same name. This complex of islands is, in fact, an active volcano whose crater rests underwater and which, after a series of eruptions, had its central part eroded, thus creating a (still visible) crater (caldera). Unlike Mykonos, Santorini is more of a romantic destination; its crystal clear waters and dramatic cliffs being the ideal scenery for a wedding ceremony. For the ones who seek something other than romance, there is the opportunity of exploring the island’s picturesque, cliff-top villages with panoramic views of the Aegean; enjoying the deep blue waters of its heterogeneous beaches; or indulging in traditional food and local, “volcanic” wine. As a popular destination in the Greek Islands, Santorini gets very busy during high-season, and its mostly “high-end” accommodation options make early bookings a must if to lock in cheaper rates.