As far as the Greek islands go, most people are familiar with either Mykonos or Santorini. While both are excellent choices, you might have to choose only one of them to visit. If that is the choice you’re faced with, no worries. I got your back.
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It’s all Greek islands to me
If you’re trying to decide between choosing Mykonos or Santorini on your next trip to Greece, you’ll find many similarities and differences between them. Both islands are part of the Cyclades group of Greek islands. The name Cyclades comes from the word kyklos, which means “circle.” While all of the Cyclades islands are amazing to visit, Mykonos and Santorini are among the most popular and most visited, and it’s easy to see why.
Initially, finding the right place on the islands was my main challenge. Mykonos is the island’s name, with Mykonos Town as its largest centre. Likewise, Santorini is an island with Fira as its main town. We stayed in both during our visit, as we wanted to be in the centre of things. I hope that this post will help with your decision-making.
You had me at Mykonos
From the moment we arrived in Mykonos Town, we were completely taken by it. The typical white and blue architecture that comes to mind when you think of Greece is full of splendour. The tiny narrow streets, the bright flowery bushes flaunt the cube-shaped white buildings, and the delightful shops make this place inviting and charming. There is nothing ugly about this place. What makes Mykonos so popular is that everything here is beautiful, and that tends to make you feel beautiful too.
This place is stunning in the daylight and at night. You can find hidden gems around every corner. Here you’ll find people from everywhere and hear English spoken regularly. Restaurants offer fantastic food, drink, and ambiance, making it hard to choose wrong. We loved just wandering around, absorbing the sounds, smells, and vibrancy.
Party like the locals
It was almost midnight when we arrived at the Scandinavian Bar Club, ready to dance our hearts away. Apparently, in Mykonos, midnight is “too early” to party. As we didn’t have anywhere else to be, we did the only thing that made sense. We opted to have a cold beer at the bar outside the club while waiting for an “appropriate” time to dance. This place seemed to be the “pre-bar” for people to drink and hang out until the club opened. It seemed like a wise choice of progression and a popular one.
Around 1 a.m., we finally decided that it was time to go dancing and made our way upstairs to the club. Once in, we found some people already staking their spots on the dance floor. They were not up to speed on when you should be going out, as we were. The dance floor filled out pretty fast after that. We drank, danced and had a great time until the wee hours of the morning. It felt exhilarating, freeing and just plain fun. Then again, I do like to dance.
- Mykonos town is the heart of the island. Staying here will give you the whole experience of great nightlife, culinary delights and Instagram-worthy scenery.
- The island seems like it never sleeps. No matter how late you are up, the shops, bars and everyone around you are up too.
- As the largest town on the island, Mykonos Town is very accessible from the outside and travelling within the island. Buses are relatively frequent and easy to use. There is a bus station where you can take a day trip to a nearby beach.
- There are many little museums, galleries, and shops to get your fill of local art and culture.
- Greeks are very accommodating to tourists, and many restaurants offer free Wi-Fi without any hassle. I found this very helpful, as I didn’t have a data plan; Wi-Fi is a means of connecting with home.
- Being a popular destination also means you will pay more. While it’s not at the same level as some of the expensive cities in Europe, Mykonos’s prices are a lot higher than in Athens.
- There seem to be more tourists than locals, which can be a bit off-putting if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture.
- If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, you might find Mykonos lacking in that area. Sure, the days are quieter than the night, but the island is filled with tourists. Especially if a cruise ship comes to town.
- Most of the island is pretty rocky and barren. It might not be the most appealing place to hang out outside the towns and beaches, especially when it’s super hot.
- Prepare to wait to get to your destination. Getting transportation after getting off the ferry can be challenging. Expect long lineups for cabs unless you can wiggle a ride with an entrepreneurial local.
Getting here and around Mykonos
To get to Mykonos, we opted to take a ferry from Athens. There are several options as far as ferries go, some faster than others. Tickets can be purchased at many stations in any town, including Athens, Mykonos or Santorini. We got tickets for a 7 a.m. “faster” ferry; however, we arrived at the port a few minutes late and missed it.
This meant we lost the money we had already paid and had to get tickets again for the next available ferry. This one was about 35 Euros per person. It wasn’t fast, and we had to sit for about four hours on an open deck with not much shade. It wasn’t a pleasant mode of transportation as I tend to get seasick. Plus, all that heat and saltwater.
You can also fly to Mykonos from Athens or other islands that have airports. Depending on the time of the year and where you’re coming from, this might be an easier option if your budget permits it. Flying is quicker but also more expensive. Keep in mind that the ferries and flights might be limited in the off-season.
As we stayed in town, we didn’t require transportation other than relying on our feet. As I mentioned above, some buses can take you to the beach or other parts of the island. Car/scooter rental is also available.
Mykonos Town was built like a maze of cobbled streets that you can easily get lost in. This served two purposes, protection from the wind and pirate raids. Yup, you read this right, pirates.
Here you’ll also find a local “mascot” – a giant pelican named Petros the Pelican. As I’m terrified of birds, especially large ones, running into Petros was absolutely horrifying. He walks around just like that. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen one of these birds, but they are giant. Probably the size of a small child. Probably eat them too. Ugh.
Santorini, or more accurately Fira or Oia, is the iconic white house picture you see, often with pools and terraces clinging onto the cliffs. Walking around feels like you are in a dream. The terraces, the views of the ocean, the blue-domed churches and the sunset are pretty spectacular. You can’t go wrong here. Add in a gorgeous sunset, and you got yourself a Greek island experience that will make your friends super jealous.
Beach life, Greek island style
We decided to visit Santorini’s beaches while on the island. We took a day trip to both Perissa and Kamari. It was pretty easy to get there by bus from Fira. It wasn’t costly and took about 20 min to get to both. Santorini’s beaches are dark and rocky, but that doesn’t take away from the experience. Plus, you can swim in the ocean.
You can get a free umbrella and chairs in both places if you eat at one of the restaurants dotted along the beach. As you’re going to need to eat, it does make practical sense to do that. Unlike in Italy, I didn’t see as many public spots on the beach.
- Great place for a romantic getaway.
- Spectacular sunset views and a daily dose of beautiful settings.
- Lots of great shopping, bars and restaurant options.
- Easy to get around with frequent bus trips to the beach and other parts of the island.
- As much as I love a good sunset and a good photo op, I can’t imagine doing that every night, and there wasn’t as much to do during the day.
- We found Fira a bit boring. Maybe we’re just not that much into sunsets.
- Also, not a cheap destination. Your accommodations won’t be as glamorous unless you can afford the gorgeous places with terraces and pools.
- The island is very rocky and dry, similar to Mykonos.
Getting here and around Santorini
We opted once again to take a ferry from Mykonos to Santorini. This time, we booked and made it on the faster boat that got us to Santorini quicker and in more style. We got seating inside, which helped to pass the time, and it was a lot more comfortable than frying on an outside deck. I would recommend this option over the other one.
Once we disembarked, we got one of those shuttle bus deals that directly took you and a bunch of others to their hotels. As we didn’t feel like figuring out the logistics, this was an easier and quicker option. We also used buses to go to the beach and the airport. A cab is always an option, but it will most likely cost a bit since the port is far from other towns.
The airport in Santorini is abysmal at best. It’s small, and overcrowded, and there is no air conditioning. Luckily, we were leaving in the evening, making this more bearable. Not by much, though.
Santorini is widely believed to be a strong candidate for the mythical Atlantis.
So, which one will it be – Mykonos or Santorini?
I think it can be challenging to choose one. Whether you select Mykonos or Santorini, you will get an unbelievable experience. If you’re able to squeeze both in, you’ve hit the jackpot. While we enjoyed both, our preference leaned towards Mykonos.
In reality, you only need a few days in each place anyway. After all, island hopping implies that you are moving around, and there are so many more Greek islands to see. I can’t wait to go back and check out places like Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and the rest!
Have you been to Mykonos or Santorini? Which did you prefer? Let me know!