Mykonos in autumn (or fall, for our American readers) is a magical place. The island breathes a collective sigh of relief as the mad rush of August subsides. The pace slows right down while the sun continues to shine brightly on this Cycladic Greek Island well into September, October, and even November sometimes.
A bustling summer is great news for Greek tourism, especially in light of the current economic crisis in Greece. The Economist spoke of record numbers of visitors this year, an increase on 2016’s total of 30 million visitors.
In fact, there are barely any signs of the crisis on Greece’s most expensive island. With holidaymakers flying in on helicopters for a weekend of champagne-fuelled pool parties, Mykonos is in its own little bubble of luxury and extravagance.
However, if you’d prefer to escape the crowds rather than party with them, then autumn is a great time to visit. Prices are cheaper and you’ll also get a glimpse of the real Mykonos, including the beautiful beaches that are hidden under tightly-packed rows of sunloungers during summer.
Before you go, though, here’s a few things you should know.
What’s the weather like?
If you’re wondering if it’s hot in Mykonos in autumn, then the answer is probably ‘yes’ although it’s not guaranteed.
September is often bathed in glorious sunshine and in the low 20s, but thermometers dwindle into the teens as the days edge closer towards winter – this doesn’t mean that you won’t get scorchers in between, though. Temperatures can vary daily between bikini weather and wrap-yourself-up-in-a-cosy-jumper cold. But if you do get the odd chilly day, it’s a good chance to explore the town.
Back to basics on the beaches
Nature starts to reclaim the sandy bays as sun loungers and umbrellas slowly get packed away and the bars and restaurants begin to wind down and are eventually boarded up. Most shut their doors completely at the end of October. By November, the beach bars resemble ghost towns with nothing but a few tumbleweeds passing through.
Back to the beaches, though. You’ll have plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy the scenery in September and the beginning of October. You’ll find other people sunbathing, but it’s unlikely to be crowded.
Autumn is actually a fantastic time to go swimming, too. The bright, crystal clear Aegean Sea is always cool and refreshing, but thanks to several months of soaking up the summer sunshine, the water is quite mild for Mykonos standards. It’s around 24°C in September/October, falling a few degrees in November. No wetsuit required, just a warm towel for when you get out!
Nightlife, restaurants and cafés
The picturesque harbour in Mykonos town really comes to life during sunny autumnal days. The waterfront cafés are full of laid-back locals and visitors alike, drinking frappés and dipping freshly baked bread into an assortment of mezze plates. With colourful wooden boats parked in the bay, you can just sit back and watch the world go by, pleasantly losing track of time.
When it comes to dining and drinking by moonlight, Mykonos is very much a seasonal island. The huge variety of bars and restaurants that buzz during summer are almost all shut during winter, so Autumn is a stepping stone between the two seasons. However, you’ll still have a lot of choice in September, such as the cocktail bars that line Little Venice and the restaurants around the main Matoianni Street.
Walks in the wilderness
Autumn is also a good time for hiking over the hilly terrain and exploring the natural side of Mykonos. Sunsets are particularly spectacular during this season, so if you time your trek right you’ll be treated to views against the backdrop of a fiery sky – just be careful you don’t get caught out up a mountain in the dark. Night falls quickly after the sun goes down.
Try the hike up to Prophet Elias Vornioti, the highest peak on the island, at 372 meters, crowned with a small church. The track is rocky and alternates between short bursts of sharp inclines and flat valley areas, but it’s suitable for most fitness levels – you can also choose to drive part the way up. You’ll be able to look down on Mykonos as well as see the history-rich islands of Delos and Rania in the distance.
Buses are less frequent in September and are taken over by the local school run by the end of October. Taxis become scarce and the fishing boats that ferry tourists from beach to beach park up for the winter. There’s also no Uber on the island. This can make getting around a bit tricky!
Good news is, you’ll still find places to rent a car or bike. However, it is also a good time of year to take advantage of the quieter roads, which are usually packed with traffic in summer, and walk around. Although, as it’s a big island, there’s only so far your feet will take you.
Cats have been celebrated by visitors to Greece for decades, appearing on everything from calendars to playing cards, and leisurely lounging on wooden taverna chairs hoping to pick up your leftover calamari.
But what happens when the restaurants close and the tourists go home? Luckily, the charity Mykonos Animal Welfare looks after them, and other animals in need too. The cats who are now out of practice in the art of lizard hunting, cluster around the designated feeding stations where volunteers bring food, arrange medical care and set up shelters when the weather gets harsh. The cats may be strays, but they’re glossy and healthy-looking.
Sweet, friendly and desperately seeking some human attention, the ones that survive the winter often go back to the villas and restaurants where they came from when they re-open again the next year. The charity also helps visitors adopt cats and give them an official home.
However, one word of warning if you’re visiting the beaches at the end of autumn: if you catch these cuties before their feeding time, at places like Paranga Beach, you might find yourself being chased along the sand by gangs of hungry cats thinking you’ve brought them food…