What better place to chase the light than at its god’s very birthplace?
From the white, scallop-edged balcony at Mykonos Grand Hotel & Resort, I can see golden rays of sunlight streaming down from the sky, igniting the wispy edges of a plump cloud and warming the cobalt surf below. It's an ethereal scene—for a moment I wonder if Apollo himself might descend from that cloud and find a seat on the sandy beach.
After all, I'm staring at the island of Delos, birthplace of the god of light (and today's destination). Even in October, when the party isle of Mykonos settles into a more languid pace, the winding, gray stone roads of Mykonos Town overflow with locals and tourists in alfresco cafés lunching over Greek salads (absolutely no lettuce—just a beautiful mix of ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, red onion, and whole blocks of feta drizzled with olive oil). After a quick ferry ride to Delos, I wander among the ruins of early Aegean civilization, the stark landscape punctured with rock walls. I stare up at the tall columns, what we're told was once the foundation of a grand home. I feel an electric charge that starts at my feet as I trace my fingers over some ancient Greek letters carved into sandstone. On the way back to Mykonos, I sit next to a French woman; she says she's wearing SPF 50, but marvels at her rosy tinge from the sun. We dub this the "Mykonos glow"—bronzed by the gods.
As the sun begins to set, the bright white, curved structures of town—boutiques, restaurants, and bars—blaze orange and pink. Winding along the walkways, it's easy to get distracted by whimsically painted doors and flowering bougainvillea hanging from balconies. "This is one of the best places on Earth to get a little lost," a kind (and handsome) Greek man tells me, and then points me in the direction of the highly recommended Kounelas Fish Tavern. I settle into my cozy corner table lit by a soft blue lamp, and order the fresh catch of the day—but first, I need to pick it out. From the fishermen's cooling drawers, I'm presented with silver-bellied sargos (sea bream), scarlet prawns, and a gaggle of cockles; I choose a medium-size fish, which is served with rice and boiled potatoes. The flavors are simple. The meal is extraordinary.
For a nightcap, I head back out into town and end up in the Little Venice neighborhood, where the stout white bases and thatched caps of giant, round windmills preserved from the 16th century overlook the harbor. I take a chair two feet from the water at Caprice of Mykonos. At the moment my neat martini arrives, a wave curls up from the sea, adding a few droplets of salt to my drink. Just another gift from the gods.
Photos, from top: TravelStock44/Getty Images; Marco Simoni/Alamy