In the early 1960s, shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis "discovered" the Greek island of Mykonos and brought Jackie Kennedy there -- and soon, the island became an exclusive playground for celebrities like Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot and members of the Versace family.
Today, it's more democratic, a noisy, bustling, bursting-at-the-seams place with something for everyone, from singles to gay couples to families. You'll find quiet stretches of sand, party beaches, waterfront cafes, shopping in every price range (both international brands and local crafts), water sports and delicious food (especially fresh fish). Scores of people, looking to experience the internationally renowned gold-tinged beaches and sweaty, pulsating nightlife, descend upon the tiny island during the packed high season, which lasts from the Greek Orthodox Easter celebration (usually in April or early May) through September.
After the cruise season, Mykonos gets quieter, but it does not shut down. Restaurants in the principal tourist areas -- the beaches and waterfront -- are generally open from March until November. Spots where locals eat or where business is good year-round remain open.
The largest town on the island is Mykonos town, also known as Chora or Hora; a few miles inland is the village of Ano Mera. The subject of many paintings by local artists, Mykonos is a feast for the eyes, with its azure waters, houses painted white with brightly colored shutters, bougainvillea trees in bloom, iconic windmills and colorful fishing boats. Visitors love to explore the shops, restaurants, cafes and churches on the narrow streets off the harbor.
Cruise ships dock at the new port in Tourlos; however, when no space is available, they anchor in the harbor and tender passengers to the old port in Hora (known simply as the old port or the harbor).
If you dock at Tourlos, you won't see anything beyond an ATM and a small canteen where you can buy water or soft drinks. Your cruise line will provide a shuttle to the edge of town. Other alternatives: the public bus (1.6 euros) or a water taxi (2 euros).
If you're tendered to Hora, home to most of the ferries, you'll find a world of cafes, restaurants and shopping at your feet. (And you're within easy walking distance of the center of town and various highlights.) You'll also find tour operators there.
ATVs and all kinds of two- and three-wheel vehicles speed around corners and up and down the narrow streets. This seems to be a chronic and serious problem, not only because ATVs are a popular way of getting around, but also because many deliveries to shops and restaurants are made by mini-trucks that travel the same streets used by pedestrians.
The euro is the official currency. For updated currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. ATMs are scattered throughout town and can be the cheapest and easiest way to get money. Most shops and restaurants accept major credit cards. However, as one local said, "Cash is king." That means you may do better offering cash to strike a bargain.
There are several bank offices in Hora, open 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays and until 2 p.m. Fridays. A passport is needed when changing money.
Greek is the official language, although English is widely spoken, as are some European languages. Locals will appreciate a "YAH soo" (hello), "ef-hah-rees-TOH" (thank you) -- and any other phrases you can pick up prior to your cruise.
Souvenir shops are full of trinkets and postcards with a windmill theme. Leather items -- handmade sandals, tote bags and backpacks -- also are popular. So are the flowing white cotton dresses and shirts that are so appropriate for the island setting.
Jewelry at all prices glitters in shops windows, from the expensive 18-karat gold pieces at high-end shops to budget-friendly but stylish items (many starting at around 7 euros). For unique pieces, Sur Real (P. Drakopoulou 1), a few steps off the waterfront has handcrafted leather jewelry: necklaces, belts, bracelets and rings. The bracelets, which are the most popular items, are set with various stones (or watches) and start around 50 euros.
Shops usually open from 10 a.m. until late night; many close for a couple of hours around 2 p.m. When cruise ships are present, some shops stay open all day.
Bartenders island-wide will make anything you want, but if you want to drink like a Greek, stick to ouzo or the local brew, Mythos, which is good -- and cheap, at just a few dollars for a hefty draft.