Greece has been a magnet for visitors, adventurers and sun seekers for thousands of years. Gay and lesbian visitors come for many of the same reasons everyone else does. The very roots of our western traditions can be found in the bone-white monuments and ruins sprinkled throughout the entire country. Your appetite will rejoice at the variety and flavors of the delicious cuisine from the simplest of Greek salads to the most complex prepared dish.
Millennia of history stare out at you from seemingly every corner. After soaking up all this culture, many gay visitors make a beeline to one of the many islands dotting the sparkling blue Aegean.
For a postcard perfect romantic weekend, many gay and lesbian couples head to Santorini, an island formed from a long-ago exploded volcano. From the lip of the dormant crater, peer down hundreds of feet down to the bay below, with sailboats and ferries bobbin in the lagoon.
Gay women have been visiting the island of Lesbos, which is known as the birthplace of Sappho, the famous woman poet who lived in the sixth century BC and is revered as one of the earliest and most iconic lesbians in history.
Gay men, especially those looking for exciting nightlife, and the opportunity to meet others, flock to Mykonos, the gayest of all Greek destinations. Here?s where you?ll find the highest concentration of gay and gay-friendly bars, restaurants and accommodations. Like a Greek version of Fire Island or Provincetown, this is the summer getaway for gay Athenians. And this is where we focus our attention.
Mykonos is home to the only two exclusively gay hotels in all of Greece, the Elysium and the Geranium, as well as many gay-friendly B&Bs, villas, and vacation rentals.
The gay-owned, three-star Elysium has a Palm Springs resort vibe. In fact, many local gays spend their afternoons lounging around the pool where a DJ sets the mood playing groovy Euro music, and the stunning hillside views of sunset draw gay visitors from around the island to begin their evening sipping drinks from the pool bar here.
The gay-managed Geranium offers a minimalist tropical elegance that looks like it was transported from South Beach. This property is located a five-minute walk up the hill from the Elysium. Guests enjoy an attractive and large swimming pool, and the vibe here is quieter and made for couples.
At the higher end of the luxury spectrum and perched on a bluff over the Aegean, the gay-friendly Santa Marina Resort is one of the finest in Greece, with 97 rooms, suites, and villas; pools with ocean views; a full spa; private yacht rentals; and helicopter service from Athens.
Many visitors, especially traveling in groups, prefer to rent villas. One highly recommended one is Villa Liv Lem, which can accommodate up to three couples. It?s elegant, with views of the bay and the pool.
Dinner starts late, follows drinks, at 10 or 11 p.m. Some of the best and gay-friendliest restaurants include Chez Katrine, which can be expensive, but always excellent. It serves French and international cuisine. Mamacas is a trendy restaurant in an outdoor, all-white setting with extremely attractive and flirtatious waiters.
The Magic Garden is another recommended restaurant with a lovely garden setting under awnings. It?s much less glamorous than many of the neighboring restaurants but it serves simple and unique Mediterranean dishes. It also happens to be the gayest restaurant in Mykonos, thanks to the cozy popular bar at its front.
Another good, gay-popular choice is Fato A Mano, with its minimalist design and tasty dishes emphasizing northern Greek cuisine.
Appaloosa is hip and popular with locals and visitors alike, serving vegetarian and Greek interpretations of Tex Mex dishes and killer margaritas.
Besides prowling the pubs, bars and clubs, the other activities of Mykonos mostly resolve around the beaches.
Super Paradise, one of the most famous gay beaches in the world, has in recent years been usurped by the nearby Elia Beach as the most homo strip of sand on Mykonos. The whole western half of the more spacious Elia is all gay and mostly nude. The next beach beyond the rocks of Elia, Agrari, is mainly straight but you'll sometimes find an overflow of gays there too.
Be sure to grab the most comfortable and plush lounge chairs in the rental section of Elia, which also has personal snack and drink service. There is also an open-air restaurant behind the beach where gays go for drinks as the sun sets.
There are several ways to reach these beaches but the most fun way is by taking a bus to Platys Gialos (a nice beach in its own right) then boarding small boats boats to Paradise, Super Paradise and Elia. You are guaranteed to meet lots of other travelers en route.
Instead of big clubs and a DJ culture, chatty, friendly and very crowded pubs dominate the social scene. You will of course find great clubs and DJs but the focus really is the intimate bars.
At 8-8:30 p.m. everybody seems to wander to the Little Venice/Kastro section of the town, where the bars facing west fill up with patrons watching the sunset. One of the best spots to watch is gay-friendly Veranda, with an upstairs terrace overlooking Mykonos' famous windmills.
The most popular and consistent sunset spot is the super friendly Montparnasse Piano Bar, by a gay couple, who pour the killer drinks and can answer any questions you have about Mykonos.
Kastro Bar (beside the Paraportiani church; +30-22890/23-072) is a quiet venue a few doors down filled with classical music, comfortable couches and chairs, with a friendly staff.
Mykonos' notorious nightlife begins after dinner. First, everyone seems to head to Porta Bar (+30-22890/27-807) on a tucked-away no-name alley just behind the port. It gets packed most nights, spilling out in to the alleyways.
The dance bars include Pierro's (+30-22890/22177). The first gay bar when it opened over 30 years ago, Pierro?s added a second space upstairs named Pierro's Cafe and is now the most popular gay disco on the island (with nightly entertainment). Icarus (+30-22890/227-18), has a pleasant rooftop terrace (and a drag show every night at 2 a.m.).
You can pick up your standard touristy tchotchkes pretty much anywhere on the island. There?s one gay-popular clothing boutique that?s well worth visiting, called Sabbia Summerwear, a fashion store with clothes mostly from Italy. This is where you can get your Euro-gay look on.
As for culture, there?s plenty of it on the island, you just have to tear your self away from the nightlife and beaches to discover it. There are windmills built by the Venetians when they ruled this part of the Mediterranean.
There?s also Mykonos's uninhabited neighbor island of Delos (a short ferry ride away), birthplace of the studly sun god Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis, goddess of the moon and home to a 4,000-year history, as evidenced by its incredible ruins of temples, mansions, and statuaries.
Mykonos Island boasts a long list of reasons for its popularity as a summer resort. This far-flung, picture-postcard island with gorgeous scenery, good shopping and fine dining has drawn well-heeled Greeks for decades. Mykonos' labyrinth of twisting, narrow streets, its numerous blue-and red-domed churches (there are as many churches as residents), limpid waters, luminous skies and continual, life-giving breezes charm visitors from all over, and lure many of them back every summer.