WHILE Mykonos has evolved into a playground for the rich and famous, it’s lively nightlife still makes it the ideal place to let your hair down.
MYKONOS town is just warming up at midnight as we wander through the area known as Little Venice, named because of the lofty houses with bright balconies jutting out over the Aegean Sea.
“Which bar is the best?” I ask a waiter from a nearby taverna. He looks me up and down. “Depends what you’re into,” he replies, winking.
“Well, we’re married straight girls who like dancing to gay disco music,” I say, not missing a beat.
He points us in the direction of Semeli Bar, where revellers are already boogying to a medley of Black Eyed Peas, Abba and Greek pop. We soonjoin in.
Whatever your persuasion – gay, straight, married, single, young, old – if you’re out for fun, then this tiny island in the Greek Cyclades is the ideal place to let your hair down.
I visited 25 years ago as a backpacker and it wasn’t quite as glamorous then (rooms were £2 a night and a cheese pie was considered fine dining). But over the past decade it has morphed into one of the hippest destinations in the world. It’s the kind of place where you might easily bump into George Michael in his Speedos or, in our case, the multi-millionaire coiffeur Charles Worthington.
We stayed at one of a new breed of uber-cool boutique hotels, Grace Mykonos, situated above the beach at Agios Stefanos, with its kaleidoscope of sun parasols and the most authentic Greek tavernas on the island.
On arrival, we are handed a glass of champagne and told to relax, which isn’t difficult amid the typical Mykonian architecture, all dazzling white and minimalist. It’s the perfect backdrop for the copper and bronze olive trees by the sculptor Constantinos Valaes, which stand in the reception area.
He’s just one of the Greek artists showcased in the hotel’s own Gallery Skoufa (see what I mean about cool?).
I feel instantly transformed from a tired 40-something mum-of-three into a cooler, younger, less stressed version of myself. We love our two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite with its huge arty photographs on the wall.
There’s a plunge pool on our terrace and a bottle of sparkling wine chilling – perfect for our indulgent girls’ weekend.
At the pool, we feel like we’ve stepped into a photo shoot. We settle down on the designer loungers and the pool attendant rushes over to position our umbrella.
“Be a darling and bring us the cocktail list,” I rasp.
I’ve only been here an hour and I’ve turned into Jackie O. Cabanas with huge pillows are dotted around the pool with views down to the beach.
For a night of pure hedonism, you can party poolside at Paradise Beach at the island’s largest club, where a dressed-to-impress crowd go wildevery night – but we take our pleasure a little more sedately.
We head first to Alley, a cocktail bar with a terrace for people-watching in the thick of the town’s cobbled streets, where popcorn is served in mini supermarket trolleys and we discover the delights ofapple martinis.
Restaurant Kostas is a popular choice, with rich seafood risottos, moist chicken souvlaki and some good house wine.
The bars near the water’s edge in Little Venice are wonderfully atmospheric, especially when the moon is full. We enjoy cucumber mojitos at Verandah, listening to Judy Garland numbers being belted out from a gay piano bar above us.
Mykonos town has had 40 years to get used to tourism and it has adapted well, retaining its Greek identity. It is a maze of snow-white alleys and sugar cube houses trimmed with blue. It’s a much quieter place during the day, in spite of the daily deposit of cruise ship day-trippers.
We got happily lost wandering up to the four iconic 16th Century windmills, popping in and out of art galleries and jewellery shops, where fine gold filigree is the catch of the day.
The interior of the island is barren and dry (thank God for that burst of purple bougainvillea that livens up the landscape) but the beaches are some of the most beautiful in Greece. If you can keep up with thelife of an international poseur all day as well as all night, then oil up, stick on your superstar shades and lounge around at Psarou, Paradise and Super Paradise Beach.
We head instead to Ornos Beach, where small boats shuttle beach-hoppers to the sands on the south of the island. Ornos is popular with locals and has a more relaxed vibe. And you don’t feel like you’ve got to hold your stomach in after lunching on fried prawns and octopus at the lovely beach shack-style Ithaki.
Most visitors here don’t go in for too much sightseeing, preferring to sleep on the beach all day and party all night.
However, if your hangover permits, it’s worth making the effort to cruise across to tiny, uninhabited Delos, just one mile south-west of Mykonos town. It’s one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, dating from about 1000BC. It’s now an open-air museum, full of huge pillars, an amphitheatre, ruined houses, mosaics and marble statues.
By the fourth night and partied out, we admit defeat by dining under the stars at Grace’s Mediterranean restaurant. We tuck into a sharing platter of soft shell crab, followed by rack of lamb with honey potatoes, rounded off by cocktails until we agree on an early night – at 2am.