Photo by Mary Zakheim

Photo by Mary Zakheim

I had planned my trip to Mykonos—that perfect-looking blue and white island on the Agean Sea—to perfection. My Google Maps was filled with hikes that I’d meticulously scoured on the Internet, restaurants that I was assured were “where the locals go” by anonymous bloggers, and a heavenly yoga resort that was miraculously both atop a hill and yet a five-minute walk into town.

I’m not sure why I didn’t raise an eyebrow then.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my travels, it’s that when things seem to be too good to be true… they are. And when I’ve got beautiful, wonderful, nothing-could-ever-go-wrong kindof plans… things will always go wrong. I can already hear my mother shouting, “I told you so!” from across the country.

But alas, as my travel partner and I carted our carry-on bags off the five-hour ferry from Athens, my eyes swept over the turquoise waters to the sun-drenched white houses that I’d always dreamed  of seeing and I had that dangerously confident thought: How could anything ever go wrong here?

Mykonos

Photo by Mary Zakheim

Two hours later, I was on the verge on tears, already sunburnt from climbing a hill that I swear was set on a 45-degree angle, staring hopelessly at my Google Maps, which was telling me that our hotel was somehow right in front of me, though all I could see was a construction site. Suddenly, my picturesque five-minute walk had turned into a two-hour trek—my plans unravelling before I’d even had a chance to take a shower. It took a 10 Euro taxi to take us to the other side of the construction site where, lo and behold, our yoga resort awaited. Only it wasn’t a yoga resort. It was a resort that offered yoga twice daily, for a price. It also wasn’t a five-minute walk from town. It was a 15-minute walk down craggy goat trails and spindly, congested streets.

But I’ve travelled enough to know that there’s always one thing that can turn the tide: good food. Specifically, good Greek food. So we washed our faces, put on our chic island wear, and descended into the city ready to raise our spirits with some fresh calamari and a liter of wine. Fifty Euros later, we made the steep hike back up to our hotel, grumbling about the subpar food, the ridiculous pricetag, and the sweaty walk home. It was just past 9 p.m. We’d only been in Mykonos for seven hours and already we were looking at the next four days with trepidation instead of excited anticipation.

Mykonos food

Photo by Mary Zakheim

How could we turn this around?

The next morning, we laced up our tennis shoes and headed out on the first hike that I’d planned, to the Armenistis Lighthouse on the island’s northwest coast. We wound our way up narrow roads, the ocean to our left and careening lorries to our right. After an hour, the lighthouse popped into view. It was framed on either side by purple wildflowers, the island of Tinos hazy in the distance, the unbelievably blue water cascading around the picture-perfect moment. We stopped and stared. We snapped some pictures and I paused to gaze at the scene again. It was beautiful. Effortlessly. The flowers, the sea, the island—they weren’t trying to be stunning. They just were.

That’s how we tried to experience Mykonos after that—not trying to make it into something that we wanted it to be, something that it’s not. We adjusted our expectations.

Mykonos

Photo by Mary Zakheim

We asked locals where they’d grab a bite to eat. We went on two more hikes—one to a beautiful secluded beach (insert name of beach) and one to a hidden winery (name of winery) that even our hotelier didn’t know about! We stumbled into local bakeries and made new friends and discovered a side of Mykonos that I couldn’t ever have planned with all my Internet scouring and Google Maps-making.

My Top Mykonos Recommendations

Take these hikes from Mykonos Town: to Armenistis Lighthouse, Agios Sostis Bach, Ano Mera town, and Vioma Organic Winery and Farm

Go to Maria’s in Mykonos Town for fair prices. We purchased a liter of wine for 10 Euros, which, in Mykonos, is a steal! We also enjoyedthe stuffed grape leaves and tzatziki.

Mykonos

Photo by Mary Zakheim

Hard to believe, but there is a 24-hour convenience shop by the bus station that sells the best mini-baklavas for 1 Euro… (it doesn’t have a name!).

If you walk (or drive) along the highway from Mykonos Town to Ano Mera, you’ll find many tiny bakeries and tavernas that the locals frequent. Go to these places for a taste of authentic Mykonos life.

 

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