For lovers of wild Mykonos summers, the travelers who come to the island in early autumn resemble movie-goers entering a theater just as the end credits are starting to roll. But this is the time when the island begins to follow a different script: the super yachts depart, the nightly parties come to an end, the beach bars are boarded up and the Athenian DJs and singers return to the capital. The beaches gradually empty. The groups of tourists wandering the alleys of the Chora become more sparse, giving space for the authentic Mykonos to breathe once again.
The sounds of “Despacito” can no longer be heard echoing from every corner and it appears that even the weather relaxes. “It shows kindness,” the locals say of the easing of the strong meltemi winds that September customarily brings. Roughly until the end of October they live their own ‘small summer’.
It is not by chance that the foreign painters who have made the island their home are particularly fond of the season. “I arrived on Mykonos one night in October following the first autumn rain after having traveled for 12 hours on deck. In the morning the sun dried the whitewashed houses and the atmosphere was brilliantly clear – so much blue everywhere, high and all around, it made my gaze come alive. Without knowing what summer on Mykonos meant, I decided to stay.” So I am told by the Canadian artist Brian Piccini one afternoon at his house, close to the lighthouse.
The fall was also when Mexican painter Luis Orozco (“Luisakos” to the locals) bid farewell to his friends at the end of their holidays on the island in 1960. “What kept me in Mykonos was the light,” he tells me one day in the wonderful garden of Cine Manto in Chora. A few weeks remain before the island begins experiencing the cold of winter, which is no different from that in the rest of the Aegean. But before the north winds turn chilly, these are the reasons you should visit before the final curtain falls on the season:
1. Kayaking on the wild side
Kayaking in Mykonos will bring you into close contact with the wild natural beauty of the island, giving you access to parts of the coastline that cannot be reached even by conventional boats. You will paddle through turquoise waters between towering rocks and into sea caves. Among the wildlife you may spot are hawks, crocodile lizards basking on the rocks and even dolphins along the 4-6 mile route.
The journey is enjoyable and not exhausting even for newcomers to the sport. Organized tours set of from Panormos and the journey takes place in the area of Aghios Sostis. If the seas are calm you will paddle in front of the famous windmills and Little Venice and explore the nearby uninhabited islet of Bao. The trip includes planned stops for swimming, short hikes and a picnic.
Tours are guided by Kostas Siopiros and his British wife, Jo. Both are accredited by the British Canoeing Union, know the island inside out and will reveal all of its hidden secrets.
Tel, +30 694.243.4242
Kayak tours available until mid-October
2. Cycling through vineyards
Grab a mountain bike and follow Dimitra as she guides you across the northeastern slopes of Mykonos. In 2014 she returned to her home-island in order to integrate bike tours into the family business, the biodynamic vineyard of Vioma.
Setting off from the estate near the village of Ano Mera, you will ride across paths and country lanes without fear of cars and take stops to snap pictures on the beach or by little churches. Routes are planned according to the physical condition of the group (up to 17 people can be accommodated). The easiest routes end at the remote pristine beach of Fokos, while more demanding ones reach the beach of Lia.
On the uphill return journey keep in mind your reward: a table in the vineyard laden with local products and wine produced by the estate.
Tel. +30 697.229.9282
3. Beachside horseback riding
Ideal for horse-loving adventurers and incurable romantics, for all those who want to explore the northeastern, bucolic side of Mykonos, as well as for those who want to ‘win’ Instagram with a single photo: sunset on the beach riding a horse splashing through the waves. The approximately 6.5 km route (two hours in total including a stop to eat) is equally thrilling.
Setting off from the stables of ‘Horseland’ in Ano Mera, you will travel down country roads next to farmsteads and fields until you reach the artificial lake and damn of Ano Mera. This time of year the lake is a refuge for migratory birds, among them herons, swallows and falcons gathering their strength for the upcoming journey southwards.
Even if you have never been on a horse before, you will feel secure in the capable hands of guide Fanis Rouvas – a permanent resident of Mykonos and horse-expert with 30 years of experience – along with his well-trained staff.
Tel. +30 694.577.8962
4. The culinary explorations of local cheeses and charcuterie
To your itinerary add a tour of the modern and visitable creamery that was opened last May by Giorgos Syrianos. A third-generation cheese-maker, he and his partner Thanasis Kousathanas will, over the course of an hour, guide you through the cheesemaking process. The tour ends with a glass of wine and a tasting session where you will try sharp, fresh xinotyro, spicy kopanisti and Mykonian yoghurt.
In a specially designed space you can also have a three-hour lesson of Mykonian cooking provided by a local cook. You will create (and of course try) specialities of the island such as onion pies, miniature cheese-pies, pasta with local cheeses and Greek salad with xinotyro.
During your stay on the island, also do not forget to try the local charcuterie – namely louza, a naturally cured pork, made by the masters of the craft: the butchers “Menagias” (in the Tagoo district), Madoupas (in Yialos) and Markaras (Fabrika and Ornos).
Aghios Lazaros tel. +30 22890.23970.
Daily tours 07.30-15.00 (and outside of normal working hours by appointment)
5. Exploring Chora’s museums without the crowds
The Aegean Maritime Museum is housed in a 19th century Cycladic kapetanospito (the grand homes that once belonged to the island’s merchant captains) in the island’s Chora. Among the artifacts on display are everything from antique naval instruments to a parasol that once belonged to Manto Mavrogenous, a local heroine in Greece’s war for independence.
The most impressive exhibit is the 127 year-old mechanism of the legendary lighthouse ‘Armenistis’ that was retired in 1983 and today lights up the rear garden of the museum. The museum’s treasures also include the antique sailing vessel Evangelistria, which was recently moored in Mykonos and can be visited free of charge.
Right next door to the Maritime Museum you will find Lena’s House, a recreation of a traditional 19th century Mykonian residence. Stepping over the threshold, you will feel that you are a guest in an elderly woman’s home rather than a visitor to a museum.
On the dressing table next to the painted Venetian bed, the lamp is lit and the prayer book open. On the walls of the living room hang antique mirrors and Mykonian embroideries. It is as if the owner of the home has only stepped out for a bit and will soon be returning home. In truth the last owner of the home, Lena Skrivanou, died in 1968 after which her descendants gifted the home to the Folk Museum of Mykonos of which it is now an annex.
The main building of the museum, located in the charming Castro district, likely dates to the 15th century and took its current form in the 18th. The guide will show you through the living room, parlor, kitchen, bedrooms and hallways – through 6 halls in total covering 320 sq.m. where various useful and decorative items from the last four centuries of Mykonian life are on display. Among the more impressive exhibits are the collection of 200 votive offerings, the 18th century Venetian screens, and the collection of Mykonian earrings.
Also, do not miss the exhibition “Vanity: Stories of Jewelry from the Cyclades” in the revamped Archaeological Museum. The majority of the 230 items are on display to the public for the first time and include jewelry dating from 6,000 BC until the modern era from 19 islands of the Cyclades.
Among the museum’s most valuable pieces is the ‘Pithos (vase) of Mykonos – a unique anti-war piece from 670 BC depicting the fall of Troy.
- Aegean Maritime Museum, 10 Enoplon Dynameon, Tria Pigadia, tel. +30 22890.22700, open until the end of October, 10.30-13.00 and 18.30-21.00 entry 4 euros.
- Lena’s House, Tria Pigadia, open daily, 18.30-21.00, entry free.
- Folk Museum, Kastro, Paraportiani Square, tel. +30 22890.22748, open daily except Sundays, 10.30-14.30 and 17.30 – 20.30, entry 5 euros.
- Mykonos Archaeological Museum, Old Port, Chora, tel. +30 22890.22325, Opening hours until end of October: Monday 15.00-22.00, Tuesday and Thursday to Sunday 09.00-22.00, Wednesday 09.00- 16.00, entry 4 euros.
6. Having Delos (almost) entirely to yourself
In October, the number of daily visitors to one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece drops to a handful and the heat of the sun wanes, making a tour of the ruins of the ancient city a magical experience. If time allows, head to the southern side of the Archaeological Museum and follow the modern path over the districts that have yet to be excavated and climb the steps hewn into the rock for 20 minutes to reach the peak (133m above sea level) of Mount Kynthos for a panoramic view over the ‘Island of Apollo’ in the heart of the Cyclades.
The hand of Apollo, the original Delian lions and many more incredible artifacts make the collection of ancient sculptures at the Archaeological Museum of Delos one of the best in the world. Fall in Mykonos is Also the Perfect Season for:
From Mykonos boats leave daily at 10.00. From Tuesday to Sunday two extra boats leave at 09.00 and 11.30. Tickets cost 20 euros return. Schedule applies until the end of October. Entrance to the archaeological site and museum: 12 euros.
Visiting the local hangout, Bakoyia cafe
Every sunday after church, locals gather at the traditional cafe of Bakoyia (tel. +30 22890.23552) for a cup of coffee and a good gossip. At this ‘hole in the wall’ which has opened at 7am every day since it first opened in 1978, the Mykonians, “argue and resolve their differences about politics and sports.”
In the little kitchen about 200 eggs are fried every day on the small gas stove. “In the winter we drop to about 90,” they say. Until about three years ago the frying pan was invariably manned by Vasiliki, although today the cafe has been taken over by her daughter Asimina and granddaughter, Vaso who will fry, poach or scramble your eggs, serving them with mezes such as louza (the local cured meat) small fishes and ‘mostra’ the traditional Mykonian salad with tomato, kopanisti cheese, capers and rusk.
Swim like its 1969
Mykonos has a total of 25 beaches of which 15 are organized. From the end of September and gradually until the end of October, the sunbeds are removed from many, most of the beach bars are shuttered and gradually the beaches are returned to their original, virgin beauty.
Experience an ancient ritual
A somewhat savage custom with Dionysian roots is relived every October in Mykonian homes. It begins rather… bloodily with the slaughter and butchering of a pig and then turns in to a familial celebration with louza, siglino (cured and smoked pork respectively) and other choice charcuterie. It’s very likely that you will be invited to join even by a total stranger.
Cruise on Zanni’s traditional caique
In the harbor, seek out the boat called Phoebus, a wooden caique built in 1948 that belongs to the Mykonian sculptor and sailor Zannis Koukas (tel. +30 22890.24970 / +30 694.473.8018). He purchased it in 1998, restored it and decorated it with his sculptures and today offers daylong cruises around Mykonos, Delos or other neighboring islands.
Enjoy Little Venice
At this time of year you won’t have to wait long to get a table at the much-photographed seaside part of the Chora. Enjoy a sunset cocktail sans-crowds and the constant jostling that comes with high season at Vicolo, Scarpa and Galleraki.
Cheer on local athletes
The event of this season is not some celebrity-packed party with champagne flowing like water, but the 29th Aegean Island Athletics Meet (Aigaiopelagitikoi Agones Stivou) which will be hosted this year for the first time on Mykonos at the Municipal stadium on the 7th and 8th of October. In total 600 athletes will take part from 18 Aegean islands.