Pack your flip flops and hop on a ferry to Mykonos and Santorini. These are the most famous of the Greek islands, and you'll know why as soon as you approach their ports. The whitewashed buildings with their blue doors, the blue-domed churches, the charming windmills, and the azure waters welcome you to these international hotspots, where it's all about feeling like a Greek god or goddess.
Catch some sun at the beach during the day in Mykonos, and show off your tan at night at a buzzing bar. Continue Greek-island hopping and move on to Santorini, where its spectacular setting is the perfect romantic escape and the postcard Greek island experience.
Think of Mykonos as a playground of the hot and fabulous (and of those who aspire to be), and of Santorini as a honeymoon destination. You have not been to Greece until you've been to both of them.
What to See and Do in Mykonos and Santorini
Decide what you really want to see in Mykonos and Santorini based on your interests -- whether that's beaches, architecture, street life or simply snapping a few photos by the main landmarks. We highlight the best attractions in different categories and, to help you plan, link you to their location on Google Maps () or to their official website or tour options ().
- The Landmarks, Icons, and Instagram Spots
- Classic Art and Top Museums
- Island Life
- Eating and Drinking
- Tours and Day Trips
The main attraction of the Greek islands is the sun shining on the beautiful scenery made up of whitewashed houses by the sea. In both Mykonos and Santorini, the most photographed buildings are the charming windmills, especially those of Mykonos facing a row of colorful houses of a neighborhood known as Little Venice. Just a short walk from there you'll reach the 16th-century Paraportiani Church, the island's famous bright-white church featured in almost every postcard.
Mykonos isn't all about beaches. Take a break from the sun, and step into the island's Archaeological Museum. It presents sculpture, jewelry and ceramics, dating back to the 9th century BC, discovered in Mykonos and in neighboring Rhenia, and in the islands of Naxos and Paros.
View of Santorini, with its colorful buildings and domes - ©UCityGuides.com
You'll find yourself doing a lot of walking in both Mykonos and Santorini, but especially in Santorini, whose Oia is a village inviting you to explore just one more corner with stunning views down to the sea. Oia is also famous for its sunsets, while the colorful cliffside streets of Fira (the main town of the island) is ideal for a stroll in the afternoon, with stops at its number of cafés and restaurants offering spectacular island views. You can also go from there to the island's black-sand beaches (see the best ones here: Santorini Beaches.
While Santorini's beaches stand out for the color of their sand, it's in Mykonos that you'll find some of the best beaches of all of the Greek islands (see the guide to the best beaches in Mykonos). They are also the most crowded, but you won't mind as soon as you step into the azure waters of Psarou or Paradise beaches. Those who wish to do some nude sunbathing can go to Elia, which is also known as a gay beach.
Mykonos is also the island of trendy shopping and bar-hopping, with a vibrant nightlife in its narrow streets.
Mykonos is the best shopping destination in Greece (with Athens or Santorini coming in second). You'll probably fall in love with a copy of an ancient Cycladic piece of art, or will go for the trendy and designer clothing that line the streets. Many of those fashion shops (including upmarket names) are found along Matoyianni Street, while elsewhere you'll also see some tempting jewelry shops. Nothing comes cheap, and the shops in Santorini are often just as expensive (the jewelry and gold shops here are your best choices).
The best time to shop is in late afternoon, especially because almost everything is closed between 2 and 5PM, as the staff also has the right to enjoy a day out in the sun...
The island of Mykonos was probably the first place in Greece to offer a more refined version of Greek cuisine to suit the cosmopolitan tastes of its visitors. That arrived only much later and to a lesser extent in Santorini, and even today you continue to find many more interesting places to eat in Mykonos than in Santorini. In Santorini you'll mostly find touristy restaurants offering average and overpriced food, while in Mykonos you have some beautiful restaurants with high prices not always corresponding to high-quality service or food. Obviously there are always several spots that stand out, but when in doubt, a taverna where the locals go is a great place to try the more authentic local cuisine.
Remember that they eat much later than you probably do. That means lunch at around 2PM and dinner at 9 or 10PM.
No visit to Mykonos is complete without a trip to Delos, a tiny sacred archaeological island. It has no permanent population and stands as a museum space just a short ferry ride from Mykonos. It's famous for its iconic stone lions and many significant archaeological remains, which you may also see in the site museum.