The sun is beating down on Super Paradise Beach and gym-sculpted bodies are sizzling on neatly placed loungers.
At Paraj, a new restaurant overlooking this coveted spot — open for just five days before my visit a few weeks ago — 100g tins of Iranian caviar are being sold for £1,030 apiece, while a small shaving of Australian black truffles can be sprinkled over your lunch for £107. To drink? Perhaps a Methuselah — eight bottles in one — of the French rosé Chateau Romassan, a snip at £2,230. That’s if it’s drunk at all: plenty of visitors, including fallen BHS tycoon Philip Green, come to the island’s beach clubs to spray champagne over fellow dancers like Formula One stars on the victory podium.
The diminutive Cycladic island of Mykonos (just 33 square miles) has always had a wild side. But in recent years it’s gone bonkers — all the more reason, many say, to check it out.
Mykonos Town, above, is the most touristy part of the island and sees plenty of cruise-ship custom. But it’s also intrinsically Cycladic, says Oliver, a warren of whitewashed houses and flagstoned streets studded with souvenir shops, bars and winsome restaurants
Supermodels Gigi Hadid, Kate Moss and Emily Ratajkowski are pictured here at the launch of the Nammos Village shopping mall on Mykonos in 2018
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Mariah Carey, supermodels Kate Moss and Gigi Hadid, pop star Justin Bieber and a long list of English footballers and Instagram influencers come here every year to peacock and party.
The trend arguably started in the 1960s, when Jackie Onassis, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly were lured by the 300-plus days of annual sunshine. Brigitte Bardot pouted for pictures here wearing only a towel.
Before mass tourism, there were only a couple of hotels, plus the island’s famous windmills. Today, 16 remain, largely built by the Venetians in the 16th century, with seven looming over the main town of Chora.
The smart set now hang out at Mykonos’s beach clubs — Super Paradise is one — chucking back Whispering Angel rosé and ordering platters of expensive seafood.
One afternoon, however, I meet Gill and Sheila, both from Warwick. These sprightly friends are in their 80s — and on their first trip abroad since Covid.
‘Look at the water!’ says Gill. ‘It’s like a millpond. It’s so wonderful to get away after spending so long cooped up at home. We haven’t been further than Southwold for two years.’
Mykonos Town (Chora is just the Greek word for ‘town’) is the most touristy part of the island and sees plenty of cruise-ship custom. But it’s also intrinsically Cycladic: a warren of whitewashed houses and flagstoned streets studded with souvenir shops, bars and winsome restaurants.
This summer promises to be a vintage season. The beach clubs and restaurants are putting in extra orders of wagyu beef, king crab and champagne.
Many places — not least some of the buildings in the main town — are being given a fresh lick of paint. And since they cost about €150 per day, I hope the mahogany sun loungers at Nammos — perhaps the island’s most over-the-top beach club, a favourite of DiCaprio and Green — have been spruced up, too.
The Russians have typically been a crucial Myconian market, but Moscow bookings have collapsed. One of Vladimir Putin’s largest yachts supposedly spent weeks moored off the coast here last summer. A waiter told me it was ‘the size of an island’.
Oliver enjoys a cocktail at a bar in the Little Venice neighbourhood of Mykonos Town
Hotel Santa Marina is the only hotel on Mykonos to have a private beach. It also has a lively branch of Buddha Bar (above)
Hotel Santa Marina offers B&B rooms from £430 per night, based on two adults sharing (santa-marina.gr). British Airways (ba.com), easyJet (easyjet.com) and Wizz Air (wizzair.com) all fly to Mykonos.
But spraying champagne is not everyone’s idea of fun — and that’s why a stay at Santa Marina, some ten minutes out of town, is well worth considering. It’s the only hotel on Mykonos to have a private beach — so you won’t be charged for a lounger.
The hotel started life as the private home of a Greek tycoon who bought an entire peninsula near Ornos Bay on the south of the island. Now it has 101 rooms and suites, plus, in the hills above the main hotel, 13 swanky villas.
There are two restaurants: Mykonos Social, run by the globe-trotting British chef Jason Atherton, and a lively branch of Buddha Bar, the high-end pan-Asian chain with outlets in Monaco, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Paris.
Thanks to the hotel, we roar along the Aegean one day in a rigid inflatable boat to Delos, the sacred island nearby, and troop around the 3,000-year-old ruins. Then we eat sushi aboard a traditional Greek kaiki, or sailing boat, and swim in the bracing sea.
The beach club Scorpios — open to all but now owned by the Soho House group — is also looking good, playing chilled-out dance music and offering sunsets and shrimp and sea bass ceviche with lime and chilli.
On our final night, as we drink a cocktail in Chora’s ‘Little Venice’ — a row of bars mounted on stilts over the sea and facing toward the sunset — three or four hefty waves crash on to our table and soak us and our neighbours. The waiters, versed in such things, mop up the flood with towels.
We follow this with dinner at Kadena, a lovely, well-priced harbour restaurant — for grilled sea bream with tabbouleh and peerless people-watching — and finish off with pistachio gelato from DaVinci a few doors down.
Only an unexpected firework display from a superyacht moored beyond the harbour is a sudden reminder that this is, after all, a billionaire’s playground — even though ordinary mortals like me can enjoy it, too.