Mykonos: The Pride of the Aegean

·3-min read
The turquoise sea at Santa Marina Mykonos (Santa Marina Mykonos)
The turquoise sea at Santa Marina Mykonos (Santa Marina Mykonos)

When sitting down to write the ubiquitous travel feature about Mykonos, many words come to mind to describe the glittering Greek island floating in the middle of the Cyclades — but let’s not pretend ‘undiscovered’ is one. For plenty of LGBTQ+ travellers, a week sunning and schmoozing on the hallowed isle is a rite of passage, and its reputation as one of Europe’s best spots for a hedonistic escape has been cemented by Insta stories of dazzling beachside lunches and sorbet sunsets posted by the world’s richest and most famous. It’s all part of the draw. Santa Marina Mykonos, the resort with bragging rights to the island’s only private beach, doesn’t fly under the radar either.

While Mykonos vies for the crown of see-and-be-seen isle of the Med, secluded Santa Marina provides the perfect foil for those seeking a more discreet vacation. If you can’t stretch your budget for one of its 13 private villas (with dedicated butler, of course) then settle in like I did to one of the more than 100 breezy rooms and suites, all with fabulous views, sky-high pillows and bathrobes that could double as duvets. The added bonus? I was spoilt with two secluded terraces, one reserved for tanning and the other for daily sundowners.

Matt’s sea view resort suite at Santa Marina (Matt Hryciw)
Matt’s sea view resort suite at Santa Marina (Matt Hryciw)

But we’re here to be seen at least a little, right? Michelin-starred Jason Atherton’s lively Mykonos Social all-day poolside restaurant is the place to do just that. From champagne (yes, I took the bait) breakfasts and to-die-for zucchini cheese pie to fresh afternoon dishes like cauliflower couscous with candied lemon, it all felt so bang on Santa Marina’s lo-fi luxury vibe.

Escaping the midday sun, I ducked into the resort’s signature Ginkgo Spa for that bit of pampering everybody loves. It’s got the island’s only authentic hammam, plus a salon and newly kitted-out gym overlooking the infinity pool, as well as five treatment rooms. It’s here I may have drifted off — all during a targeted facial using cult skincare line 111 Skin, developed by Harley Street go-to Dr Yannis Alexandrides. I went for the brand’s Luxury Cryotherapy Facial, harnessing the de-puffing power of both antioxidant-rich super ingredients and a chilled stainless steel globe to soothe and melt away all signs of that champagne breakfast hangover. Book in for a massage with spa manager Stamatis, too, if you can swing one — it was the best I’ve ever had.

Matt being served a spectacularly smoked Japan Old Fashioned at Buddha-Bar Beach (Santa Marina)
Matt being served a spectacularly smoked Japan Old Fashioned at Buddha-Bar Beach (Santa Marina)

But back to being seen. When the sun sets, the resort’s famed Buddha-Bar Beach really comes to life. From top-notch (and top dollar) sushi to late-night DJs, the beach restaurant turned nightclub got me dining, dancing and drinking cocktails that included tequila done in ways I’d never tried, like swimming in sweet cinnamon.

All of the above takes place overlooking an arc of the golden sand for which Mykonos is famed, but far from the island’s crowds. On the exclusive beach I had the pick of dozens of sun loungers in the resort’s sheltered Ornos Bay, where the waters were the same tantalising turquoise as on the resort’s homepage: no false advertising here.

Santa Marina attracts a paparazzi-worthy clientele, but the authentic style of its laid-back luxury, deep-breath outdoor spaces and genuinely friendly service, makes it a destination where even everyday guests like me feel like part of the look and show scene.

Matt was a guest of Santa Marina Mykonos and 111 Skin. Rooms start at £500 per night (santa-marina.gr)

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