We have been fortunate to spend much of our lives living near beaches. And when we didn't, we made a point to travel to places with great sun and sand. From California and Florida, to Australia, Mexico, Central America, South America, the South Pacific, Caribbean and now, the last four summers cruising in the Mediterranean; we have seen, and enjoyed, some fantastic shorelines. We love sand in our toes so much that we even bought a house on a lake in North Carolina with a beach in the backyard.
This year, with our cruising route taking us to Greece, we looked forward to seeing some of the world's most beautiful beaches. The Greek islands are thought to have more beaches than anywhere else; thousands of islands, each with dozens of beaches. No one knows exactly how many there are.
The island of Mykonos is famous for its beaches and we spent an afternoon there exploring the coastline to find our favorite patch of golden sand. As we looked at the map, we were overwhelmed by the selection, so we limited our quest to eight beaches on the southern coast of the island. Paradise Beach, Super Paradise Beach, the names alone told us this was going to be a difficult choice.
In order to determine what our favorite beach was, we needed some objective criteria. On this particular day, we were looking for the quintessential European beach: a place to chill and swim, eat lunch and have a drink surrounded by soft sand and crystal clear water. These beaches are not the secluded private beaches of Los Roques or the Bahamas. They all have lounge chairs, umbrellas or thatched shades, food/drink service at your chair, everything you might want while on a Mediterranean holiday. They are organized for enjoying the sun and water, socializing, partying and for watersports (jet skis, water skiing, tubing).
We thought it would be best to start with the furthest beach and work our way back toward town, so it was off to Elia
, which in the end turned out to be our favorite. Elia was a beautiful beach with plenty of open space, nice sand, turquoise water, and waiters that ran from the bar to your lounge chair so your drink wouldn't get warm. It was quiet, without jet skis, had less people and excellent food at the restaurant. But we had to move on because we couldn't stop at the first beach and declare it the best.
Next was Agrari Beach
just a mile west, but took about 20 minutes to drive back up the winding road from Elia and then down the next winding road to Agrari. This was a wide stretch of sand with a steep slope down to the water. It was even quieter than Elia, with a nice place to relax in the shade. It was rustic and casual, but a bit too rough for our search criteria that day.
After Agrari, we headed to Super Paradise
. We had high expectations for a beach named Super Paradise. It was a large beach, had gorgeous water, but there was very little open space with lounge chairs all the way to the waters edge. Nice, but more of a night club than a beach to relax at. Pinky Beach (not on our list) next door looked more upscale and fun than Super Paradise.
The crowds got bigger and the open space smaller at Paradise
. Whoever named these beaches had a different dictionary than we did. The restaurants along the beach made it feel like we were in the food court at a mall. You couldn't tell if there was good sand for all the lounge chairs lined up with people sleeping. Clearly Paradise was the place to recover from the party the night before.
Next was Paranga
a very small beach with a small taverna and an impressive view of the yachts in Platis Gialas. No one was there, a stark contrast to Paradise.
is the place to be seen with your large yacht. The beach was so packed with beach chairs it was surprising some didn't float away in the surf. But while it wasn't our idea of fun, lots of little families were having a blast.
With our enthusiasm dimming, we pushed on to Psarou
, a trendy upscale beach surrounded by luxury hotels. We were ready for a luxury hotel. Rumor has it that there is a waiting list for the beach chairs in Psarou, some are reserved for months in advance, for months at a time.
And finally, our last stop was Ornos Beach
in Ornos Bay, where we had hoped to bring Berkeley East, if not for all the large yachts crowding the bay. Ornos is a small crescent beach, close to town surrounded by hotels, apartments and cafes. We drove down the small road, only to get stuck, having to back out the way we came followed by other impatient drivers. With no parking in sight, we pulled into a restaurant lot figuring it was the only way to see this last beach. As we waited at a table for service, we realized it was a self-service establishment where you served your own wine from a tap, but when it came to getting a glass of orange juice, the bartender did the squeezing. Fresh OJ at the cafeteria on the beach was a plus, but still not enough to put Ornos on top.
So the day was done and our search was over. Elia won our Best Beach award. We were worn out, mostly from driving the thin winding roads to and from the beaches, dodging scooters, ATV's and buses. Our expectations had been high and we were surprised by many things: first, the sheer number of beaches on such a small island was amazing; second, not all of the beaches were nude or partially nude, as the guide books lead you to believe; and third, the masses of people on the beaches, not to mention the endless vehicles, was incredible. After a while, all the beaches started to look the same to us, but as we recalled each one later, we realized they were all very unique; each with something for everyone.