Known for its fun-loving, party-hard approach to life, the reputation of Mykonos precedes it – but things are not always as they seem on this small Greek island.
Yes, there are parties-a-plenty, but there are also many opportunities to sink into a slower pace of life; one that feels more attuned to the island’s humble beginnings, when it was known for fishing and flour production. Its modest way of life began to change in the 1950s and 60s when the international jet set discovered its beauty; some of the more well-known names visiting during that time include Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, Marlon Brando, Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. Except in Mykonos, it’s not. Big names from across the globe continue to visit. Yet – and this comes as a surprise to many who visit – the island has retained much of the charm and character of days-gone-by. The windmills that once churned wheat to make flour are no longer in use but they still stand proudly on many hillsides and overlook Mykonos Town which, while proud of its cosmopolitan lifestyle, remains a home and work place for many families with ties to the island that stretch back generations.
One such family is the Daktylides, owners of nine hotels across Mykonos – the Myconian Collection. Founder, George Daktylides, grew up during more simple times on the island, trading local cheeses and fish for imported goods such as sugar and coffee. He went on to establish the first public bus network in Mykonos, then its first hotel outside of the main town and then, in 1979, its first luxury hotel – the Myconian Ambassador.
WHAT TO PACK
While the Daktylides family have gone on to become successful hoteliers in Mykonos, they’ve remained true to their roots. All properties are still family run, with Vangelis Daktylides – the Lausanne hotel school trained son of George – at the helm of Myconian Ambassador, a Relais & Chateaux property. Located on the island’s southern coast, set ever-so-slightly back from Platis Gialos beach, this is an ideal spot for those who aren’t in Mykonos to party – or for those who want to sample the island’s nightlife but return to a peaceful retreat.
Built into the beachside hill – and with wonderful views across it – Myconian Ambassador strikes the tricky balance between maintaining a sense of the island’s essence while offering a modern escape. It’s constructed using materials in tune with the island’s heritage, such as stone, but is white, bright and inviting the second you step inside its spacious lobby, elegantly dotted with velvet sofas and unique, fun pieces of art.
With seventy rooms across 10 categories, most with sea views and many with private pools or hot tubs, the choice of places to stay here is diverse. Entry level rooms – named Sea Breeze – offer 28 square metres of space while the largest accommodation – The Villa, designed as a private home – stretches to 330 square metres and can sleep up to 18 guests. There’s also a choice of style. Thalassa Suites with white walls, marble floors and a trendy design – splashed with green and blue accents via furnishing and art work – are ideal if you’re looking for clean lines and contemporary design.
For something more traditional and cosy, the Passion Suite with exposed stone walls and a natural colour palette suits. It comes with a hot tub with views across postcard-perfect whitewashed buildings that tumble down towards the Aegean Sea. Thalassa Suite number 805 might be one of the best rooms on the property.
The Food + Drink
You won’t have to travel far for elevated Greek cuisine, on-site restaurant Efisa has mastered the art. Here, dine on Greek-inspired pastas such as the Aegean Lobster Pasta or Homemade Ravioli made with Myconian cheese, or select a fish-based dish: the fish soup uses an original recipe devised at Mount Athos. The zucchini balls and saganaki are unmistakably Greek, and the slow-cooked Myconian lamb is served with smoked eggplant and yoghurt. Tie it all together with a Greek Salad on the side.
Breakfast is served both buffet and à la carte style, and consists of everything from freshly-baked pastries and charcuterie boards to stuffed vine leaves, Greek yoghurt with local honey, baklava, and eggs cooked-to-order. Lunch is best ordered pool-side and cocktails enjoyed at George’s Bar.
The Little Extras
The flawless service is immediately noticeable when you walk through the hotel doors. Bags are swiftly taken from your hands, a refreshing welcome drink presented, and an efficient and comfortable check in delivered. The attention to detail and anticipation of needs continues throughout the property (where staff numbers seem to outnumber that of most hotels) and service excels throughout; from the concierge to the wait staff, spa team to cleaners. The hotel’s taxi service is equally helpful as the island only has a handful of public taxis, which are generally hard to come by.
Head to the subterranean Thalasso Spa to while away a few hours in a state of pure relaxation. You can’t go wrong with your choice of treatments; options vary from massage to facials, scrubs and wraps, each using products from Augustus Bader, Elemis and Linge St Bath. There are options for children to indulge too, ask about the family experiences. But, for something extra special, take part in the therapeutic journey through three pools, each heated to different temperatures. There’s also a small on-site gym which, pleasingly, comes equipped with reformer Pilates equipment. Take a detour through the hotel towards room numbers 800 – 810, you’ll find a giant chess set en route.
The To-Do List
If wining and dining are your go-tos of an evening, Mykonos not only offers countless options, but world-class options. Beefbar – located on the island’s western coast just a 10-15 minute drive from Myconian Ambassador – has become a favourite. Beefbar by Riccardo Giraudi has set the standard for steak houses across the globe, and they know how to choose iconic locations. Mykonos is no exception. In a setting best described as barefoot luxury, sample some of the best beef cuts in the world as you gaze out across the Aegean Sea, small boats bobbing in the foreground. The Black Beef and Filet Frites dishes are must-orders, but don’t miss the Passion Fruit Tiradito either. It’s as intriguing and as tasty as it sounds.
Elsewhere, spend an evening at swanky global names including Zuma, Matsuhisa, Buddha Bar, COYA, Bagatelle…the list really does go on. In Mykonos Town, share sundowners with friends at rooftop Skybar before dining at Katrin, which lays claim to being the island’s oldest restaurant – be sure to order the vine leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat. If the night is still young, head to one of the late night bars. Caprice is always popular and stays open until the small hours.
By day, if you’re not soaking up the sun at your private pool, drinking a cocktail or two at the hotel’s large pool-bar, or sipping on a Freddo Espresso in Little Venice, head to one of the beach clubs located a few minutes from Myconian Ambassador. Nammos and Scorpios are ever-popular choices, or take a walk along the beach to discover plenty of (comparably) low-key beach clubs to lay down your sunhat.
For something off-the-beaten-Mykonos-track, hire a car or buggy for the 20-minute drive through untamed countryside to the lesser-frequented east coast. Destination: Agios Sostis, a so far unclaimed stretch of sand offering free access. Bring sun cream, towels, water and snacks. The facilities here are limited. History buffs and curious minds should pay a visit to nearby Delos, the mythical birthplace of Apollo and one of the most important archeological sites in Greece with an impressive museum detailing the country’s long history.
History, culture and mythology play an important part in drawing tourists to Greece, but Mykonos has set itself aside in other ways. When George Daktylides opened Myconian Ambassador – the island’s first luxury hotel – his foresight was ahead of its time: Mykonos has proved less the destination-de-jour of the jet set, more the destination-du-siècle (of the century). But George got something else right too: the importance of maintaining the essence of Mykonos alongside creating a luxury base for visitors. His concept has stood the test of time, and is perhaps more relevant today than ever before as travellers increasingly look for cultural experiences blended with fine dining, luxury service and a stylish place to relax. Myconian Ambassador ticks all the boxes.
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