The idyllic island of Mykonos was one of the first Greek isles to become an international travel destination. Renowned as a haunt of the rich, its nightlife is a glittering whirl of lights, music and parties.
It’s a far cry from the days of the beautiful, pure simplicity which once characterized this Aegean island.
The island becomes a celebrity favorite
The super-rich, like Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos, began to arrive on Mykonos in the 1950s in their personal jets. In 1954, Queen Frederica of Hanover organized a cruise to the Greek islands for many of the princes and princesses of Europe.
Photos of popular actors such as Marlon Brando, Grace Kelly and Richard Burton, together with the Greek actress Melina Mercouri, reveling in their Mykonos summer holidays were the best publicity the island could dream of. Jackie Kennedy visited Mykonos, as well, in 1961.
In the ’70s, when gay couples discovered Mykonos, there were so many ships arriving at the island, they could not dock at its port.
Travelers were ferried to the coast in smaller boats, and the first thing they saw were rocks and some small white houses. Mykonos is still a popular spot for LGBT travelers to Greece.
Mykonos’ beaches were much less crowded in those days. And of course, there were no beach bars, beach-side restaurants or sun beds, like there are today.
But from that point on, Mykonos started to transition into the cosmopolitan island and famous tourist destination as we know it today.
With its traditional architecture, the white-washed houses, the narrow streets (“kalderimia”) and the abundant natural beauty which surrounds it, Mykonos remains a favorite among the most discerning travelers.
Mykonos was once a budget destination
The first time I set foot on Mykonos was in late September of 1977. Fresh out of high school, a friend and I took our sleeping bags, a change of clothes and a few hundred drachmas each, and after about ten hours on the boat landed on the beautiful Greek island.
We took the bus from Chora to Paradise Beach, where we went camping, each of us paying twelve drachmas per day to set our sleeping bags down and use the facilities, which at the time were primitive.
In the camping restaurant, a plate of gemista, or peppers and tomatoes stuffed with rice and herbs, cost five whole drachmas.
I should note here that in 1977, one dollar was equivalent to 37 drachmas.
When we went to party in Chora, a beer cost 50 drachmas and drinks were an unbelievable — for us — 100 drachmas. Yet we had a great time, because at 17 it’s easy to have a great time on a Greek island in the summer.
When another friend of ours arrived, we somehow put together a whopping 110 drachmas between us and splurged on a three-bed room in Chora.