- The Greek island of Mykonos is known as a party capital and is a vacation hot spot for millionaires and billionaires.
- Ibiza, Spain, has a reputation as one of the top places to party in the world, with thumping 24-hour clubs, wild pool parties, and gorgeous beaches.
- I recently visited both and decided to compare my experiences, as many travellers choose between those islands for their vacation.
- While Mykonos is no doubt stunning, from its beaches to its resorts, I found it to be overpriced and overcrowded when I visited over the summer. Ibiza, on the other hand, felt accessible at different price points and relatively easy to book and enjoy, even in peak season.
If you are looking for a 24-hour party, Mediterranean beaches, and a place to vacation like the rich and famous, there are probably two destinations that come to mind: Mykonos, Greece and Ibiza, Spain.
While Ibiza has long been a party capital of the world, thanks to its association with thumping house music and super DJs like David Guetta, Mykonos is the up-and-comer.
Over the past several years, the number of international arrivals to Mykonos has nearly doubled, as the cool rich kids and their freshly scrubbed yachts, superyachts, and mega yachts have taken to the Greek isle’s inviting waters. Hundreds of thousands of vacationers have followed suit.
I had own expectations before visiting each island. In both cases, I expected to find a bifurcated paradise divided between the world’s wealthy and famous having a private ball and crowds of vacationers, hard-partying dance-music junkies, and cruise-shippers peeking in for a glance.
While such a dynamic is present on both Ibiza and Mykonos, I found the two islands to be drastically different in temperaments, options, scenery, and vibe. With this in mind, I decided to compare my experiences of visiting Ibiza and Mykonos to see which is the better place to visit for most travellers.
Here’s how they stack up:
Measuring just 33 square miles in size, Mykonos is a sunny and cool Greek island stuffed with hip boutique hotels, thumping beach clubs, haute couture shops, white sandy beaches, whitewashed alleyways, and swanky restaurants.
Located in the Balearic Islands of Spain and around 220 square miles, Ibiza is known both for its swanky beach hotels and villas frequented by the wealthy and famous and for its thumping nonstop clubbing scene.
Getting to Mykonos is pretty easy, so long as you are coming from Europe. The airport has direct connections with most major European cities (I flew in from Larnaca, Cyprus). But if you are coming from the US, you will likely have to fly to Athens first and either hop a short flight or ferry from there.
Flying to Ibiza is a bit easier. It’s a much bigger airport, handling nearly 8 million passengers last year versus 1.2 million in Mykonos, and therefore has a lot more routes going to it. If you’re coming from the US, however, you’ll still have to transfer somewhere.
Getting out of the Mykonos Airport is another story. During the summer season, there’s a public bus stop in front of the airport. But, if you aren’t a bus person, you’d better book a transfer with your hotel. There are only 31 taxis on the entire island.
Leaving the Ibiza Airport is quite a bit easier. As soon as you step out of the airport, there’s a bus stop for various bus lines that head to different parts of the island. Meanwhile, the airport alone has 139 dedicated taxis during the summer season. I had no problem grabbing one.
Whenever I travel, I try to approach it from both a budget and luxury perspective. Mykonos has a decent mix of budget hotels and guesthouses, but trying to book them in July was a mess. The cheapest (livable) place I could find was the Marinas Studios, near Ornos Bay, for 110 euros a night. It was a fine basic room, about 10 minutes from Mykonos town.
When I visited Ibiza in August, however, I had no trouble finding a variety of reasonable options, particularly if I was willing to stay in Sant Antoni de Portmany, Ibiza’s second biggest town. I stayed at Hostal Torres, a recently renovated boutique hotel in the center of town, for 100 Euros/night.
If there’s one thing Mykonos had no shortage of, it was gorgeous beaches and calm, blue-green waters. My only knock is that most of the best beaches were dominated by beach clubs.
Mykonos has 25 beaches strewn along its coast, each with a different vibe. The beaches on the island’s north coast are known for being much quieter and nudist-friendly. No matter what you are looking for, you can probably find it.
As Ibiza is considerably larger than Mykonos, there’s a lot more variety in beaches, like Cala Conta, a gorgeous beach with rock cliffs and sand dunes and …
… Cala Gracioneta, a quieter beach with beautiful shallow water that is perfect for snorkelling. While there are more than 70 beaches in total (and lots of hidden ones), I found the Mykonos shoreline to be more consistently stunning. But, honestly, it’s hard to go wrong.
Outside of the beaches, the main thing to see in Mykonos is the windmills that sit above the Hora, or main town of the island. But during sunset, and when the cruise-shippers come in, the area is swarmed with people trying to get selfies.
The Hora, with its classic Cycladic architecture, cobblestone streets, and blue and white paint, is the other main sight in Mykonos. The residential streets are dreamy.
But the commercial ones can be quite hectic. The alleyways are packed from sunset until late into the night during peak season, as everyone descends to have dinner or do some shopping.
While there are plenty of kitschy souvenir shops to get a T-shirt or postcards, many of the streets are lined with luxury shopping from top international brands as well as Greek designers. The vibe shifts to upper-crust very quickly.
The most popular place to watch the sunset in Mykonos is Little Venice, a row of fishing houses that line the waterfront. The area has been converted into restaurants and bars, with chairs overlooking the surf.
Ibiza has its own charming old city with cobblestone streets called Dalt Villa. It sits above the modern city and is surrounded by an impressive city wall that you can stroll over. While Mykonos’s Hora was more picturesque for an evening stroll, I can’t help but think history buffs will be far more impressed by Ibiza’s structures.
On the west coast of Ibiza, Sant Antoni de Portmany is the main town. In contrast to Ibiza Town or Hora in Mykonos, it seemed much sleepier during the daytime. Most of the restaurants were closed and no one seemed to be strolling around.
There’s a stunning variety of things to see in Ibiza. Once you head away from the main towns to the island’s north, you’ll find a vast, green countryside.
Dotted throughout the countryside are small villages that became famous in the 1960s and 1970s as hippy enclaves, like San Carlos. They’re a ton of fun to visit for a day to shop in or have a coffee.
The towns still have a bohemian spirit, even if the prices have gone up with the times. I found plenty of shops with both local designers and made-in-China faux-spiritual clothing and jewellery.
While Ibiza has its share of haute couture shops (no Louis Vuitton, though), what I really appreciated about the island was its tradition of hippy markets, like Las Dalias. On Saturdays, locals set up stalls and sell their handmade wares.
If you’re looking to get off of Mykonos, there are a ton of day trips nearby. Ferries run to nearby islands like Tinos and Paros or you could get a boat tour to the nearby archeological site of Delos.
The main day trip near Ibiza is the beautiful island of Formentera, which has spectacular nature, diving, and wildlife.
As far as getting around Mykonos, your best bet is the public bus system, which is convenient, cheap, and just about your only option. Taxis are impossible on the island. You can rent a car or a bike, but be aware, the island is small and the streets are smaller.
Ibiza also has an extensive and convenient bus system, but taxis are far more accessible. I never had a problem calling one. In addition, given that it’s a larger island and less mountainous than Mykonos, it’s far easier to drive around if you decide to rent a car or bike.
Eating on a budget in Mykonos means gyro and souvlaki, souvlaki and gyro. I got this pork souvlaki plate for 10 Euros in Ornos, an area known for having many reasonable tavernas.
But, as soon as I headed to Platys Gialos, a somewhat ritzier beach area, there was no cheap food to be found. At Agia Anna Beach, I ate at Nikolas Taverna, many people’s favourite place to get authentic Greek food on Mykonos.
Open since 1967, Nikolas Taverna isn’t cheap, but, for eating on the beach, it offers some of the most reasonable prices around. The dorado, if I remember correctly, was around 22 Euros. Much of the fish is caught by the owner.
But where Mykonos really shines is its high-end restaurant scene. One of the swankiest places to eat dinner is Ling Ling Hakkasan, a Michelin-starred restaurant that will run a couple of hundred bucks for two. But that’s assuming you get a table.
Ibiza, meanwhile, felt like it had a much wider range of budget options, from pizza and kebabs to a 12 euro paella. And, of course, I found Can Terra, an absolute gem of a tapas bar. Wine and tapas each went for about 3 euros a glass or plate.
Ibiza also had places like Can Caus, a grill and restaurant located on a farm in the countryside. The restaurant sells all local Ibizan products and many of the meats come directly from the farm. I ordered the ox rib for two ($US56), which comes seared with a grill to cook at the table, but there are many cheaper options.
Or you could go to Atzaro, a hotel and spa. All of ingredients at the restaurant are sourced from nearby farms. While definitely at the higher end of fancy, the restaurant does offer a 3-course lunch menu for 30 euros.
If you really want to go all out, Ibiza has its own edition of Nobu. I had the Gambas al Ajillo “Nobu Style,” a classic Spanish dish ($US50) which used shrimp from nearby Formentera. It was a simple, garlicky dish that shined with the local, fresh seafood.
For those looking for a day party, Mykonos is the king of the chummy beach club party. So long as you can pay. Nammos is one of the hottest spots, with loungers practically stacked on top of each other and champagne-doused lunches that easily top $US400 for two.
Around sunset, Scorpios Beach Club fills up and revelers go until midnight. The club is known as the hottest and most expensive place in Mykonos. But for those rich or good-looking enough to get in and be treated like royalty, it’s supposedly a blast.
But just about every beach on Mykonos’ southern side will have a DJ playing some chill beats. If that’s your thing, it really sets the mood.
In Ibiza, Playa d’en Bossa is the center of the day scene. Clubs, beach bars, and resorts line the mile-long coastline.
Ibiza is also known for having wild pool parties during the day. I attended a Sunday pool party at Ibiza Rocks Hotel. By 5 p.m., the crowd was lit.
In contrast to Mykonos, some of the biggest DJs play pool party sets at everywhere from Ibiza Rocks to megaclub Ushuaia. I saw British group Rudimental perform.
Mykonos’ nightlife is known for being intense, going deep into the night. It’s mostly focused around bars like Skandinavian Bar & Disco, a landmark spot on the island.
While Skandinavian was a ton of fun, the scene can get very exclusive very quick. Astra Bar, seen here before the party got bumping, is a seen-and-be-seen kind of place. You aren’t getting a spot on the terrace unless you are popping many bottles.
Mykonos doesn’t have a ton of clubs, but it does have Cavo Paradiso, , a 2,000-person open-air club on a cliff overlooking the Aegean. Many international DJ superstars like Afrojack consider it a legendary venue.
Nightlife in Ibiza is all about the clubs. And, if you are into EDM, you might get lost in the options. Many of the top European DJs will have summer residencies at the best clubs, meaning that no matter what night you show up, there’s a good chance a superstar is playing.
Ticket prices aren’t cheap. When I went to see Norwegian star DJ Kygo at open-air superclub Ushuaia, I paid $US60 a piece and a beer runs $US14 or more. But, in truth, it’s more of a concert venue with top-of-the-line production value than a simple club.
And that’s without even talking much about Pacha, the original super club in Ibiza and now one of the most recognisable brands in nightlife. If you’re a club rat, a pilgrimage to Pacha is all but a necessity.
So which is the better island for your next vacation? It depends.
Personally, I had a much better time on Ibiza than I did on Mykonos. While I visited both islands during peak season, Ibiza felt much more able to handle the massive influx of tourists, while Mykonos just felt … crowded.
Beaches, clubs, roads, and tourist attractions felt overrun in Mykonos. I’m sure if I visited the island a decade or two ago, I would have come back singing the praises of a magical Greek island, but today, the island feels ill-equipped to handle the sheer number of people that want to vacation on the 33-square-mile island.
In Ibiza, I had a number of excellent budget lodging options to choose from, deserted beaches along the coast to lounge on, an entire countryside to explore, and zero trouble booking tickets at even the hottest nightlife events of the week.
Mykonos had more naturally stunning beaches with possibly the bluest waters I’ve ever seen and the day parties on the beach were much more hip than Ibiza’s. But, at the end of the day, most of the parties felt like a scene. You were either wealthy or beautiful or you were nobody.
It may be because Ibiza is a party hotspot for young Spaniards as well as the vacation set, but Ibiza’s clubs felt accessible and welcoming.
I think it comes down to money. Because Mykonos is so crowded and expensive, it really only makes sense if you are a millionaire, billionaire, or someone wanting to feel like one for a week (savings account be damned).
It sounds weird to say but for most people, from backpackers to families to couples on honeymoon, I’d recommend Ibiza as the island to see.
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