This Greek island is the perfect alternative to Mykonos

February 15, 2020, 12:00 PM UTC
Yachts and sailboats convene among various beaches and coves only reachable by water, and often times ladders dangling from cliffsides.
Danielle Bernabe

The winds of Milos determine each day. Strong winds encourage a joyride along the island’s unmarked roads or add comedy to a meal when bottles of olive oil tip over after a boastful gust. Calm winds beckon sea adventure as sailboats poke in and out of remote coves that were once the stomping grounds of pirates, and divers jump from catamarans for a swim to secluded beaches.

Milos, located among the Cyclades islands of the Aegean Sea, is but a whisper to Mykonos and Santorini. With merely 5,000 residents, Milos is small. But with more than 70 beaches and a handful of villages to explore, it’s ideal for getting lost, cherishing lunch under bougainvillea, and savoring the zip of a Freddo Espresso. 

It’s an island whose civilization dates back to the Mesolithic period and has wavered through millennia between wars. The volcanic landscape, rich with minerals, fostered a prosperous mining trade. Its craftsman, sculptors, and goldsmiths became synonymous with Milos art, with the most prized export being unearthed by a farmer in the 19th century, the Venus de Milo. Found near the catacombs in the village of Tripiti, it became one of the world’s most beloved sculptures, representing Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty. It now resides in the Louvre museum in Paris, but Milos is petitioning for its return.  

Today, Milos is a bit unscathed from the tourist footprint. While throngs of island goers flock to its neighbors, Milos remains slow. Rush hour there is a result of too much coffee rather than traffic, and its mellow existence is its appeal.

Sarakiniko Beach is on the north shore of Milos and has lunar-like qualities.
Danielle Bernabe

What to do

On Milos, renting a car or scooter gives freedom to explore its many beaches and villages with point and stop spontaneity. Phone service is not too reliable, and most roads are unmarked, so sharp map-reading skills are recommended.

While there many playas to discover, Sarakiniko Beach, which is often likened to a moonscape, flaunts white volcanic rocks shaped and formed by centuries of forceful tides. Make this a first to-do of the day to avoid large crowds, and if time permits, drape a blanket down for a picnic.

A side street in Plaka.
Danielle Bernabe

Meandering the villages will provide of taste of history, blue and white architecture, and cuisine. Plaka, the main town, is an endless abyss of slim cobbled walkways that ascend and descend like a pleasurable hike. Lined with restaurants, artisan shops, and clotheslines displaying aprons and linens, it’s a snapshot of quintessential Greece. Visit the catacombs in Tripiti on your way to Klima, a fishing village where local grandmothers are seen trading ingredients for dinner and teens strut their best diving techniques off the pier. Pollonia, along the northeast coast, is shaded by tamarisk trees and packed with waterfront cafés. Take a stroll or sit for a Freddo Cappuccino (or espresso)—shaken over ice to achieve a cloud of chilled, frothed milk—while watching fishing boats bobble in the sea.

When winds are tempered, hire a skipper or join a day cruise to sail to witness Milos’s many bays and grottoes accessible only by boat. Polco Sailing and Horizon Yachts offer a variety of options, from small group to private trips, that offer lunch and friendly nudges to jump off towering rocks.

Where to stay

Resting on the shores of Paliochori Beach is Artemis Deluxe Rooms, where choosing between the pool and the ocean will be the most difficult decision of the day. Suites are toned with white decor, and some are equipped with rooftop lounges. Friendly and helpful staff will assist with restaurant bookings and navigating both wind forecasts and roads.

On the volcanic shores of Pollonia are the 15 ocean-view suites of Melian Boutique Hotel & Spa. Traditional handmade furniture and art decorate each room, where sprawling balconies, some equipped with a Jacuzzi, edge the water. Or choose Miland Suites, which sits atop a hill in Korfos. Townhouse structures make up the eight-room property, and rippling pool water and umbrellas dance in the breeze while the rest of the island bustles below.

Enjoying a seaside Freddo Cappuccino on a sunny day.
Danielle Bernabe

Where to eat

There is no shortage of traditional Greek cuisine on Milos, but finding restaurants that serve up a twist can be magic. Near Paliochori, a conspicuous dirt road eventually leads to Psaravolada, a stone-built veranda overlooking the expanse of the Aegean waters. Fresh-caught crustaceans, dorado ceviche, and octopus carpaccio are served alongside a vast selection of Greek wines.

In Pollonia, restaurants pack the waterfront, but Armyra Seafood Restaurant stands out for its sleek setting, rooftop garden, and seafood dishes spun from fresh fish caught on the owner’s boat. O Hamos, a family-run tavern in Adamas, rests under the shade of bougainvillea. Menus are handwritten in multiple languages to guide diners through food sourced from the Psatha family’s farm: eggplant stuffed with minced goat and lamb, grandma’s hand pies oozing with Milos cheeses (made in-house), and piglet baked in parchment with molasses and mustard.   

Don’t expect a fast lunch.
Danielle Bernabe

How to get there

Visiting between April and June is best for enjoying the weather and outdoor activities. During the summer, there are regular flights from Athens via Olympic Air. You can also take a ferry from Athens, Mykonos, or Santorini with Seajets or SuperJet.

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