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Greek Island Hopping: Mykonos and Santorini

June 15, 2011 by

Windmills in Mykonos TownIf you tend to get bored after a few days in a single destination, consider visiting Greece, where it’s easy to hop between neighboring islands. I recently spent time on Mykonos and Santorini, which are linked by regular two-hour high-speed catamaran service. Crowds thin and room rates fall in September and early October, making those six weeks a great time to visit. Here are resort options on both:

Mykonos: If you love sun, fun, and nightlife, this party-centric island is the one for you. But couples with a more low-key or romantic sensibility can find lots to love, too. You’ll enjoy its bohemian charms, especially from sunset on, and spending three or four days here – and renting a small car or one of the ubiquitous ATVs (Quads) – will let you sample its many beaches, appealing small eateries, and the maze of streets in Mykonos Town (don’t miss sunset from the patio of a small bar or café in Little Mykonos, with its view of the island’s iconic windmills – shown above at left).

Beach at Santa Marina Resort on MykonosWhere to Stay

Santa Marina Resort & Villas: Conveniently located on Ornos Bay, about 2.5 miles from Mykonos Town, this 25-year-old Starwood Luxury Collection property makes a great base if you plan to spend significant time in town (there’s a free shuttle several times a day). With its 96 rooms, suites, and villas staggered up a hillside above three pools, a hot tub, and a palapa-lined beach (shown at right), Santa Marina’s layout lets you get in some aerobic exercise (as do most Greek Isles resorts). Rooms are spacious with private outdoor terraces and modern bathrooms, with somewhat simple décor and bold local artwork, while one-bedroom suites and two- to four-bedroom villas have their own terrace with an infinity pool. Breakfast is served overlooking the main pool, while the Beach Restaurant serves taverna-style Greek specialties all afternoon, the Colonial Pool restaurant offers Mediterranean cuisine, and the dinner-only Marina Club Restaurant features seafood and Asian fare. The Lotus Spa offers a range of massages, facials, and body treatments; rooms from $295/night.

Donkey sculpture in Mykonos Blu LobbyMykonos Blu: The bold and contemporary Mykonos Blu (www.mykonosblu.com) on trendy Psarou Beach greets its guests with vibrant blue life-size statues of adorable donkeys in the otherwise white lobby (shown at left). That’s just the start of the visual treats: The 111 blue-and-white Cycladic-style bungalows, suites and villas all have a cocoon-like blue “phototherapy” shower, a polished stone tub, a painted cloud-effect ceiling and a canopy bed of sexy white voile. Some suites and all villas have private Jacuzzis or pools. The resort’s two restaurants, Aegean Poets and L’Archipel, and Delos Lounge are also creatively designed, while the two-level seawater pool seems to meld into the horizon. Down below, guests can relax on full-service beach chaises, from $361/night.

Belvedere Hotel: Couples who prefer a cool poolside vibe to a crowded beach and want to be within an easy stroll of the numerous dining options in Mykonos Town should consider this chic, 43-room boutique hotel located in its heart. Public spaces, redesigned a few years back by David Rockwell, are heavy on intriguingly carved wood and stone and include the Belvedere Bar and the Belvedere Club Restaurant, serving gourmet Greek cuisine. The hotel is also home to Matsuhisu Mykonos, an outpost of famed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa. The understated and uncluttered rooms and suites are either Classic (white on white with modern wood furnishings) or New Generation (bright white with marble floors, aquamarine accents, and cutting-edge bathrooms), from $375/night.

View of Oia on SantoriniSantorini: Home to what is undisputedly the iconic Greek Isles image – the white Cycladic-style buildings and blue-domed churches of Oia spilling down the cliffs toward the ancient Caldera, shown at right – Santorini is more sophisticated than party-centric Mykonos. But that upscale edge comes with higher room rates and pricier menus. Still, with its shop- and taverna-lined cliff-side towns (the main one is called Fira but Oia is the star) and atmospheric local wineries (the whites and rosés are quite good), Santorini makes an ideal companion to Mykonos. Again, rent a small car or ATV and spend at least three days to savor its ambience.

Where to Stay

View from Mystique on SantoriniMystique: If you can splurge on a stay at this four-year-old Starwood Luxury Collection resort (www.mystique.gr), ethereally designed with gently folding ecru curves and dramatically perched on the cliffs in Oia (shown at left), go for it. Just be aware that there are hundreds of steps to climb each day (who needs the gym?). Mystique has just 18 rooms, all decorated in soothing neutral tones in a variety of luxurious textures with one-of-a-kind driftwood lamps and private terraces with a dining area. There’s an infinity-edge pool with an adjacent Aura Pool Bar, as well as the Charisma Gourmet Restaurant and a “Secret” Wine Cave. Borrow bicycles to explore Oia (the main street is an energetic climb up from your room) and then relax with an in-room massage before watching Santorini’s famous sunset, from $729/night.

Room at Vedema Resort & Spa on SantoriniVedema Resort: While its location is not ideal – a few miles from the sea and pretty much in the middle of nowhere in the tiny traditional village of Megalochori – 45-room Vedema Resort (www.vedema.gr) could appeal to couples who want to sample but not stay in tourist-jammed Oia. Vedema, which is built around a 400-year-old winery, has the look and feel of small village with whitewashed buildings linked by bougainvillea-draped cobblestone pathways. Rooms and suites are decorated in crisp white and classic blue (shown at right), with modern bathrooms and outdoor terraces (some with Jacuzzis). There are sea views from the pool terrace and the quiet, chaise-lined courtyard with a large Jacuzzi is a nice spot to relax with a glass of rosé and a book. The resort runs several shuttles a day into Fira, where you can shop, enjoy lunch and then catch a bus or taxi to Oia for the sunset (a taxi back to the hotel costs about $40). There’s also a shuttle to a black-sand beach lined with comfy chaises and umbrellas and serviced by a beach bar. For delicious and affordable Greek cuisine (the spinach pies and baklava were both terrific) stroll to nearby Feggera Café Restaurant (www.feggera.gr), where half of Vedema’s guests dined late into the night when the public spaces were taken over by a boisterous private party, from $536/night.

See our Mykonos Travel Guide and Santorini Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages and more travel deals.

2 Comments

  • Karen says:

    My husband & I are avid golfers and are wondering about golfing in Santorini and Mykonos.

  • Jackie Procter says:

    Great post! If you visit Santorini and don’t want to get bored, you must go to the winery located in the village of Megalochori!

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