A simple search through Instagram will quickly prove that Mykonos and Santorini are two of the most extensively photographed islands on the planet. Both are beautiful in their own right – with their sun-bleached houses, azure blue church domes and magnificent beaches with crystal-clear waters. Each one offers a similar island experience with different advantages. Here’s what to expect.
Mykonos has attracted beautiful party people since the 1960s. The bars here are high-end and glitzy; a shot at dusk with a backdrop of whitewashed alleys and blooms of pink bougainvillea equals Instagram gold. Try Scorpios, a hip beach bar, or mix with ritzy drag queens and oiled bodybuilders at Jackie O. Meanwhile, in Santorini, a couple of bars in Fira (Thira) are worth visiting, but clubs are nonexistent. To put it simply, there is rarely something happening after midnight.
Strike a balance between beach fun times and history-heavy sights in Mykonos by hopping on a cruise to the tiny island of Delos, an archaeological sanctuary that once thronged with 30,000 sun worshippers; the temple is dedicated to Apollo, the Greek god of light. Over in Santorini, the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece and dates from the Bronze Age. It’s known as the Greek Pompeii by historians.
Santorini is family-friendly but in a more active exploring way than a hang-by-the-pool summer destination. That said, there are plenty of beach resorts on the southeast side of the island, in Perissa or Kamari, which cater for kids and adults. Mykonos is geared more to a sophisticated party set with boutique hotels and pricier restaurants and bars. The luxury hotels will suit families on a blow-the-budget trip who just want a pool and great service; however, it lends itself more to party animals.
If you truly embrace the decadence of Mykonos and live the high life at hedonistic beach clubs and five-star hotels, you can expect a hefty price tag. Santorini is similar in that you can dial up the luxury factor if you like, but there is less emphasis on being flashy. In both cases, you can have a wonderful time on beautiful beaches, family-run restaurants and memorable boat trips without breaking the bank.
Where to start? Both islands are world-famous beauty spots. Take Mykonos, with its picturesque main town featuring white narrow paved streets, quaint windmills and pink blooms, plus a selection of gorgeous beaches. Santorini also has the classic Cyclades white-washed houses, plus blue-domed churches. However, its cliff-top villages elevate the views of the Aegean and sunsets above any other Greek island.
If you’re leaning towards Mykonos, we’ve compiled a list of the best hotels on the island for you, including some charming boutique stays, to help you with your accommodation search. You might also want to check out our recommendations of the best things to do on the island and the most beautiful beaches to visit here. Meanwhile, our handy listicle of the best restaurants will make sure you get to experience some mouthwatering Greek dishes during your holiday as well.
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