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Mykonos vs Santorini: The Battle of the Greek Giants

Mykonos and Santorini are the most popular Greek islands
Mykonos and Santorini are the most popular Greek islands among tourists. Credit: dronepicr/Giuseppe Milo/CC-BY-2.0/Greek Reporter illustration

Mykonos and Santorini are the absolute giants when it comes to a holiday on the Greek islands. Pictures of the two islands are often on the cover of tourist guides to Greece, while the names of famous people who visit the country are very often connected to one of the two pearls of the Aegean.

Both are part of the Cyclades cluster of islands and both have fanatical visitors. Yet there are many differences between them that often baffle someone who absolutely has to choose between the two.

Greek Reporter will try to give you the scoop on the pluses and (very few) minuses of the two Cycladic jewels.

The beaches of the islands

When one visits Greece, to swim in the cool, crystal-clear waters of the Aegean and then lie on the beach is an absolute must, almost rivaling a visit to the Acropolis.

Here Mykonos has a slight advantage. There are plenty of wonderful beaches with golden sand and blue waters, stereotypical of the Greek islands. At the same time there is easy access to them.

Beaches like Psarrou, Elia, Paradise and Super Paradise are world-famous; they will give you all that you wish from a beach on a Greek island and more. The Super Paradise beach, for instance, turns into a huge party with loud music and cocktails starting in the afternoon and continues until exhaustion.

Mykonos Greece Vacation
Mykonos Port. Crédit: Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Mykonos’ vibrant beaches are mostly party areas. They are places to see and be seen and not ideal for families. They cater mostly to younger people who visit the island to party and flirt.

Santorini beaches are different. After centuries of volcanic activity, the island has beaches with red sand, others with black sand and others with pebbles. In fact Santorini has the most atypical Greek beaches because of its geology.

Red Beach is the island’s most famous, with red sand and a huge, imposing red hill in the background. Then there is the pebbled Kamari beach and Perissa beach with black sands and calm waters. However, due to the mountainous terrain, access to the Santorini beaches is not as easy as it is on Mykonos.

Eating and dining

Pictures of a plush dining table with the sunset on Santorini’s Caldera as a backdrop are cherished the world over. A romantic dinner on beautiful Santorini is something all couples
wish to have at least once in their lives.

In this respect Santorini has a great advantage: locals grow many vegetables, and the island is known for its great wines. The rocky, sloped, volcanic terrain is ideal for vineyards and local wines are famous the world over. So, food in Santorini is fresh and light Mediterranean, overall. And the service is warm and friendly.

Santorini. Credit: Dimitra Damian/Greek Reporter


Mykonos’ nightlife is famous all over the world, competing with Spain’s Ibiza in attracting great DJs and performers. Wild parties are common on a nightly basis.

The party on Mykonos starts when the sun is up and ends when the sun comes up again. Party animals start at the beach bar with their swimsuits on, take a break to have dinner and wear their stylish clothes, and go out to one of the island’s many clubs to dance, flirt and drink.

Santorini is almost the opposite of that. The island is ideal for quiet romantic getaways or traveling with kids. Here the highlight is the sunset, with many visitors planning their day around where to watch it each night, whether from Oia and Fira or on a yacht out at sea.

Nightlife on Santorini is quieter, but that doesn’t mean that the island lacks clubs and people don’t party. On the contrary, the island has its share of good clubs for those who want to go wild, and pubs for a drink or two.

The choice

The two islands are very different in several respects, and the choice depends entirely on what one wants. For a family vacation, Santorini is preferable, as it is quieter and has several places to visit. The Thira Archaeological Museum, the Prehistoric Museum of Thira, or the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum are worth visiting. The geology of the island could also be educational for older children.

Santorini is also the best choice for a romantic holiday for couples. Sipping a good wine and watching the sunset on Santorini could be the cover of a romantic novel.

Now, if your idea of a holiday is to party, party, party, watch celebrities letting loose, and mingle with the rich and famous; or if you are single and wish to meet a like-minded partner, Mykonos is the island for you, hands down.

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