In 2022, Mykonos is of course known for its nightlife, over-the-top luxury and unapologetic excess. Word had it that Elon Musk was on the island this summer at the same time I was. I didn’t see him, but I did see Salt Bae posing for selfies with guests at his wildly expensive Nusr-Et restaurant, and I was asked to slap one of two Borat-banana-sling-wearing men who were celebrating the end of their bachelorhood.
So it was something of a relief to retreat into the quiet luxury of a thoughtful hotel. Thankfully, Mykonos still has its share of those, including the (newly redone) oldest five-star hotel on the island and one of the newest.
Built in 1960 on the Kato Mili (those famous windmills in Mykonos Town), the Mykonos Theoxenia quickly became a landmark that attracted the likes of Brigitte Bardot. Aristotle Onassis brought Jackie. The jet set followed, soaking up the island’s sun and Greece’s sophisticated simplicity.
The hotel reopened in July after an extensive transformation by VOIS architects that paid homage to and updated the original design, by postmodern architect Aris Konstantinids. It was a building that was ahead of its time. Now it’s a welcome return to minimalism.
Because it’s a landmark domain protected by the Greek ministry of culture, the new architects had to use the same traditional Cycladic building techniques that were used back in 1960. The exterior is made of the same stone that makes up the existing sea walls. The harmony with nature—and nostalgia—is clear.
Inside, the 49 guest rooms have the right kind of simplicity, with contemporary features and comfort. It’s no trouble to find a power outlet, but in the larger rooms, the whole work and entertainment zone can be hidden behind a soft linen curtain.
A few of them have private pools, but the main pool—not to mention the clear Aegean Sea right next door—is inviting, and the service from the Kou Kou Bar is friendly and quick. Same goes for the starlit poolside dinner service, in which a quiet meal of well-prepared Mediterranean dishes (grilled fish and Greek salad, of course) is served to guests who aren’t in the mood for crowds. No one cares whether you dress up.
A few miles away in Ornos, another pared-back luxury hotel with a whiff of nostalgia opened in June. Once in Mykonos is a bit snazzier than Theoxenia, reflecting the property’s past as a luxurious and cosmopolitan villa that was frequented by artists and intellectuals.
It’s quite large for a 59-room hotel, with the reception, large swimming pool and main restaurant atop a hill overlooking Ornos beach. The accommodations, in a design by architect Fivos Stavrides of F Studio Designers, are arrayed down the hillside in the style of an (enormous) ancient Greek amphitheater. Some of the rooms have “chill-out pools” in front of them, with a path over the water to get into the room. It’s an impressive infrastructure.
But inside, the rooms have a postmodern sensibility and a boho-chic design, with whitewashed walls and natural materials like copper and stone. Some of them have real trees inside. Everything is spacious and light. The Jo Malone amenities are a nice touch.
The spa, however, goes a bit more local, using organic ingredients from the Aegean Sea and Mykonian earth, which is said to be rich in nourishing nutrients. It’s small but fully equipped, and my massage hit all the right spots.
So did the poolside restaurant, where head chef Nikos Skordakis (under the guidance of the hotel group’s executive chef, Kyriakos Sotiriou, who has extensive experience in five-star hotels and Michelin-star restaurants) has put together a menu of classics from Greece and beyond. At dinner that means grilled octopus, squid and red mullet, or maybe beef tartare or crayfish risotto, while during the day there are salads, flatbreads and pastas. They’re planning on bringing on an international luxury restaurant brand for the fine dining restaurant soon.
Both hotels have one last detail that offers an escape from the Mykonos craziness. They’ve partnered with a local yacht company to offer private cruises along the island’s coastline and to nearby islands like Delos and Rhenia, and with dive centers that take guests to explore the underwater Greek and Roman ruins—Mykonos as it really used to be.
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