A waving Greek flag positioned against a bright blue sky

Mykonos vs Santorini: Which Island Should You Visit?

03 Feb 2019 By Ellie Roddy
A waving Greek flag positioned against a bright blue sky

You know you want to visit a Greek island and you have managed to whittle it down from hundreds to just two – Mykonos and Santorini.

The two main islands in the Cyclades are among the most beautiful in the whole of Greece, they both boast glorious weather and breathtaking views – which makes choosing between them even harder.

So it’s Mykonos vs Santorini – which island is right for you?

 Mykonos 

An elevated view of the iconic windmills on the Greek Island of Mykonos with the Aegean Sea in the distance

 The picturesque island of Mykonos is known for attracting the rich and famous. A-listers flock to its shores to experience the luxury this island offers. While it’s celebrated for nightlife, it is possible to find a quiet spot to escape too.

Nightlife: If you’re looking for a party atmosphere then this isn’t only the best island out of the two, it’s one of the liveliest in the country. Much of the nightlife takes place in Mykonos Town and on Paradise Beach – two of the most popular places to head for a night out are Paradise Beach Club and Cavo Paradiso.

The busy Paradise Beach on the Greek Island of Mykonos filled with sunloungers and blessed with white sand

Beaches: It’s easy to access the beach, wherever you are on the island. The azure water laps long stretches of golden sandy coastline across 30 beaches in Mykonos– it’s idyllic and the perfect place to relax.

You already know to head to Paradise Beach if you want to dance with the sand between your toes, but it’s easy to find family-friendly ones too. If you have little ones in tow, head to Platis Gialos or Agio Stefanos. There are also plenty of watersports on offer from banana boats and jet skis to scuba diving and parasailing. 

Shopping: Mykonos is known for its designer shops such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Matoyianni Street in Mykonos Town is the place to head if you want to treat yourself. One of the most popular stores, where you may spot celebrities browsing the aisles, is Soho-Soho.  

Little Venice in Mykonos with restaurants lining the water's edge and houses sitting over the water

Views: You’ll want to see Little Venice while you’re on this island – buildings sit on the edge of the water, in the most romantic part of Mykonos. Make sure you are here for sunset, if you think it’s beautiful during the day, it’s spectacular as the sun starts to go down. Don’t miss the view of the windmills with the backdrop of the Aegean Sea, this is one of the island’s most iconic scenes.

Sightseeing and activities: Make sure you take the short boat ride to Delos. This uninhabited islet is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is believed to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. It was one of the most sacred places in ancient Greece and is now an archaeological site scattered with ruins for you to discover.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Temple in Delos surrounded by ancient rock ruins

 Accommodation: If you’re heading to Mykonos to fully immerse yourself in the nightlife, then you’ll want to stay at the heart of it. An ideal location would be in or between Mykonos Town and Paradise Beach.  

Food and drink: If you’re a fan of seafood then you’ll love Mykonos. Here you can find the freshest fish and octopus which can be seen hanging out to dry in the harbours. You can’t book a table at Kikis Tavern, which you’ll find above Agios Sostis Beach, but it’s worth making your way up here for the fish that is grilled on an outdoor barbecue.

As with many of the restaurants on this island, you can enjoy a beautiful backdrop of the sea. To wash it down, ouzo is popular and goes perfectly with octopus. 

Most popular reason to visit: Mykonos is the place to visit if you’re looking for a party atmosphere that is a little more upmarket.    

Tourist season: June to September– this island is very quiet through the winter with many places closing their doors until summer.

Santorini 

Sun-soaked views over the Iconic Oia in Santorini featuring whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches

There are two sides to Santorini – on one side, whitewashed villages are perched high above the caldera, on the other you can lay your towel down on black sand beaches. This island is small enough that you can choose which part you’d like to base yourself and easily explore the other as well.

Nightlife: This is not the island to head to if you’re looking for a lively, party atmosphere. There are a few bars in the capital, Fira but these won’t stay open very late and you won’t find clubs or beach parties. If you want peace and quiet and to avoid revellers spilling out of brightly-lit venues that pump out music until the early hours of the morning, then you’ll love Santorini.

Red Beach in Santorini with its unique rose-coloured rocks and beautiful waters

Beaches: Santorini is home to some of the most unique beaches not just in Greece, but in the world. The most interesting is Red Beach – which stands out from the rest due to its rare colour. The best way to see this beach is from the water, so take a boat trip for the perfect view.

Head round to the east of the island and you’ll find the black sand beach of Perissa and on the other side of Mount Vouno, the popular and longest beach, Kamari. The water is safe, calm and clear, the perfect conditions for swimming. There are no beaches on the west of the island. 

Shopping: There are plenty of independent shops on this island so you’re sure to find a unique souvenir for yourself or a gift for a loved one. Many of these can be found in Oia and Fira. The main street in Fira is known as ‘Gold Street’ because there are more than 40 jewellery shops.      

Santorini's famous sunset showing whitewashed buildings and a bright orange sky

Views: The views here are breathtaking. The picture-perfect part of this island, Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia, is where you’ll find whitewashed buildings with blue-domed roofs perched on a clifftop high above the turquoise sea with views of the caldera and volcano. In Oia you can see the most beautiful and famous sunset in the world. 

Sightseeing and activities: Make your way to the top of Mesa Vouno Mountain, between Perissa and Kamari, to explore Ancient Thira. This archaeological site is around 365 metres high and boasts wonderful views across the sea. You might also like to take a tour of the volcano, Nea Kameni and visit Palea Kameni to bathe in the hot springs which reach temperatures of 35°C.

The beautiful ruins of Ancient Thira set high above the sea on the Greek Island Santorini

Accommodation: Some of the most luxurious hotels in Greece can be found on Santorini. If you want to wake up to views that will take your breath away every morning, before jumping into an infinity pool, you’ll want to book a room on the west of the island. If you would prefer to laze around on the beach and swim in the sea, then head for the east.

Food and drink: This island is known for its wine and there are plenty of vineyards where you can sample a bottle, which is unique thanks to the volcanic soil. One of the best and largest is Santowines Winery – take a seat on the terrace and enjoy views of the caldera and volcano. When it comes to dinner time, make sure you try – fava, tomato fritters, white eggplant, kopania, apochti and capers.

Most popular reason to visit: The romance and luxury of this island often attracts couples, especially those celebrating their recent nuptials.

Tourist season: April to early November – this island is quiet during the winter months but there are places open and you will find things to do during low-season.

Have you decided which island you are going to visit? Remember, you don’t have to settle for just one – island hopping is incredibly popular and therefore easy in Greece – particularly within the same cluster. It’ll take just over two and a half hours to travel from one to the other, and you’ll get to enjoy the view of both islands from the water as you travel.

So, why not choose one to base yourself on and then hop on the ferry to make sure you see the other one too?

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