Hotel San Giorgio, Mykonos
The rope of the hammock makes a rhythmic creaking sound as it rubs back and forth on the trunk of the palm tree. My foot is slung lazily over the hammock’s edge, ready to administer the occasional nudge to ensure the gentle swing never subsides. I muster the will to raise my head in the direction of another hammock strung a few metres away, where my friend is in an equally blissful state of relaxation. No words need to be exchanged, as the expression on her face signals complete agreement: We are in paradise.
The location of our newfound paradise is atop a cliff overlooking the southern coast of Mykonos, at the tranquil Hotel San Giorgio. Despite sitting between two of Mykonos’s most infamous party beaches, this whitewashed paragon of bohemian luxury manages to remain a sanctuary of calm. The simple, organic decor of each of the 33 rooms instantly soothes, with natural furnishings, elegantly strung mosquito nets floating in the breeze, and patterned tiles offering cool respite to bare feet. Outside in the Grecian sunshine overlooking the sea, clusters of plush lounges, poolside perches and engulfing hammocks sit invitingly. We have commandeered the latter, swinging lazily in the hotel’s palm garden.
When we finally will ourselves out of the comfort of our hammocks, we head out for the day’s adventure. We’ve been warned that there aren’t many taxis in this part of Mykonos, but we manage to secure one to drive us to nearby Chora (known also as Mykonos Town). While we had considered renting a car or scooter for our sojourn, after witnessing the narrow, serpentine and uneven state of the roads on our way from the airport, we decided that any driving was best left to the locals.
Home to the picturesque row of thatched-roof windmills so commonly associated with Mykonos, Chora embodies the idyllic image of Greece in every aspect. A labyrinthine village awash in a palette of white and blue, the coastal town radiates charm, in spite of the swathes of party-seeking tourists. At first we try to apply some directional logic to our explorations of its streets, but as they take us deeper into the village, we soon decide that it’s much more fun to follow its twists and turns on a whim. We wander down cobblestoned lanes of whitewashed houses offset by colourful bursts of flowers and charming blue doors, and peek through the doorways of tiny, ancient churches lit only by candlelight. Come lunchtime, we discover an open-air restaurant tucked away in a foliage-laden courtyard and we feast on a spread we’ve come to know well during our short time in Mykonos: grilled haloumi, dolmades, moussaka, and generous dollops of tzatzki.
After lunch we resume our exploring, catching precious glimpses of local life along the way. As we dart around a corner enticed by the scent of a sea breeze, we find ourselves in a cobblestone plaza where the smooth, white dome of a church practically glows against the blue sky. We stop and stand in awe of its simple majesty. A narrow stone staircase leads down to the water’s edge and we clamber over the rocks to find the best vantage point to glimpse the iconic windmills.
The ride back from Chora is not only precarious, but – given the ageing state of the local bus we’ve chosen to take – also stifling. We arrive at the foot of Paradise Beach and make the trek over the rocky hill that separates the sandy, yacht-lined party mecca from our own blissful abode atop the cliff. But we have one last stop before we return to our room.
Veering off down a set of makeshift steps cut into the rocky cliff, we arrive at Hotel San Giorgio’s private jetty, gleefully discovering that we have it all to ourselves. The pristine blue of the water sparkles in the sunlight, revealing the patterned seabed several metres below. We strip down to our swimmers and charge joyfully down the jetty, clumsily launching ourselves into the air before announcing our arrival with an exuberant splash. Time seems infinite as we laze about in the calm of the cove, turning somersaults and trying in vain to swim to the bottom. As the sun lumbers wearily towards the horizon, we stretch out on the warm wooden slats of the jetty to let the gentle lingering rays soak into our skin. Our chatter dissipates and our silence once again speaks for itself: We are in paradise.
This article was originally published in map magazine.