An Insider's Mykonos

Greek photographer Lizy Manola has spent nearly two decades documenting scenes of daily life across the globe, from Ethiopia and India to Russia and Iran, but she always returns to the same place each summer: her home in Mykonos. Manola’s homage to the beloved island through both words and images can be found in Mykonos Muse, a new book from Assouline that traces the enduring allure of the Greek isle throughout the past century. Indagare spoke with Manola to learn her insider secrets for the perfect day in Mykonos and the best ways to escape the island’s infamous crowds.

What are three words you would use to describe Mykonos? Cosmopolitan, timeless, effortless.

Why did you choose Mykonos as the setting for your home? Mykonos has always had a special place in my heart, as it is the island of my youth. I first arrived on the island by boat in 1978, and since then, I have spent all my summers here. As time went by, it was only natural for me to buy a small house in Hora, with unobstructed views of the town. Every morning, I open my window to see the sea and the port of Mykonos. It is the first sight of my day, and it means the world to me.

What are your can't-miss spots on the island?

There are a lot of amazing restaurants, but I believe Matsuhisa and  Katrin’s are the ones you can’t miss. For bars, the classic Astra bar never goes out of style, while the Scorpios beach club is amazing at sunset. Shopping on the island is also excellent, but Luisa Beach in the Nammos shopping mall is the true highlight.

If you had only one day to spend in Mykonos, what would you do? I would get up early in the morning to drink iced coffee on the port and watch the locals start their day: the fishermen, donning their traditional hats, clean and sell their fish on the benches, while the local farmers sell tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines and other seasonal vegetables, fruits and flowers. I would then walk further down to catch the boat to the neighboring island of Delos, which is home to one of the most incredible archaeological sites in Greece. Upon returning, I would go for a swim at any of the amazing beaches, and I would eat at Agios Sostis or the tavern of Fokos, both of which are small, traditional restaurants by the sea. On my way back to town, I would stop to visit the Monastery of Ano Mera, Paraportiani Church and “Little Venice” before enjoying the beautiful sunset with a drink. Finally, after dark, I would eat in town and stroll among the many bars.

During the summer—the peak season of travel to Mykonos—where can you go to escape the crowds? The great thing about Mykonos is that you can always avoid the crowds and go to quieter places, even during the height of the season in August. Some of my favorite beaches are Mersini, Kapari, Fokos and Agios Sostis (which are not organized, and there are no umbrellas there). For dining, I would suggest the Ano Mera area, and to see the sunset, I recommend going to Panormiti on the northern side of the island. Finally, for a quiet evening, I might go to Cine Manto, a small outdoor cinema with little tables where you can have a souvlaki and a beer.

What items are always in your carry-on?

As a photographer, I always carry my camera and my computer with me—you never know when inspiration will strike and you’ll see a moment that you want to capture. Additionally, I always have a book with me for when I want to relax.

What places are on your travel bucket list? Visiting the headhunters of Nagaland in northeast India; visiting orthodox monasteries and attending ceremonies in Iasi in Romania; and going to the Altai Mountains in Mongolia, which are home to Kazakh nomads who hunt on horseback alongside their golden eagles every winter: a tradition that has survived in this region for more than 4,000 years.

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