The Other Side of Mykonos | Nōema Mykonos

In the height of summer, Mykonos is a whirlwind of fleeting images and intense moments — beaches strewn with sun-seekers, red-hot dancefloors, frenzied winds, and the dazzling white shapes that the low-lying buildings cast against the sky. But in the midst of all this wild energy, a different Mykonos beats to its own, gentler rhythm.

Setting out into the hinterlands reveals a landscape dotted with hamlets, half-hidden beaches, and a patchwork of farmsteads and fields. There is another Mykonos out there, if you know where to look.

It is the warmth and light of Mykonos that lodges itself in the memory.

If you get up early, when most visitors have just stumbled off to bed, and wander down to the old harbour, you’ll find locals buying their lunch at the little fish market. Rofos (dusky grouper) for soup, loutsos (Aegean barracuda) for the barbeque, shimmering pink barbounia (red mullet) for the frying pan — all laid out on a giant slab of marble that might have been unearthed on neighbouring Delos. A couple of pick-up trucks will be parked nearby, their dusty trunks bursting with colours and aromas: lemons and sunflowers, foraged greens to be blanched and doused in olive oil, baby courgettes with their orange flowers intact, and perfectly sweet, wonderfully misshapen tomatoes.

Walking through Chora in the early morning, you will see the set designers go about their daily tasks, just as they have always done. There are walls to whitewash, pots of basil to be watered, candles to be lit, and new ideas upon which to act. Beyond the town, there are fields to be ploughed, goats to be milked, and fishing nets to reel in. The rocky terrain is unforgiving and the choppy sea is unpredictable; but these islanders instinctively know how to coax a living from the landscapes, as they have done for generations.

When the day’s work is done, the fruits of their labour become a moment to be shared. A carafe of wine, made from grapes sweetened by the setting sun. A plate of cheese, sliced pears or ripe figs bursting at their sticky seams, some roughly chopped tomatoes sprinkled with wild throubi (a cross between oregano and thyme), a pie stuffed with spring onions and curds baked in a wood-fired oven. The warmth of the hearth epitomises the Ancient Greek concept of oikos: more than just a ‘household’, the oikos included the extended family and wider community, including the animals in their care.

The root of both economics and ecology, it’s a term that sheds light on the importance of home and community for Greeks.  Many farmsteads on Mykonos play host to standalone ovens outside, signposting the baked-in bread culture of the Cycladic islands that is often overlooked. While bread rises and paximadia rusks harden, rural communities convene, imbuing these ovens with an important social function over time. The goats, gathering on warm rocks across the island, simply mimic their masters.