177km (96 nautical miles) SE of Piraeus

What is it about Mykonos that has captured the world's imagination for over 40 years and refuses to let go? Though it is an undeniably beautiful island, it isn't the prettiest Greek island, or even the prettiest in the Cyclades. It used to be the island's cosmopolitan lifestyle, luxury hotels, and nightlife drew crowds, but today many of the more popular islands claim to be able to compete with that. It used to be its title as the party capital of all Mediterranean islands that set it apart, yet today Spain's Ibiza shares that title. So what is it then?

It all began with the picture-perfect town of labyrinthine roads leading you in circles around the beautiful cubist Cycladic architecture that attracted the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis in the '60s. With their stamp of approval, Mykonos became the place to be for anybody who was anybody. Soon, in the hedonistic '70s, it became the island version of Studio 54, making world headlines on celebrity pages and magazines. The sheer contrast of a traditional Greek fishing village and the type of tourists it attracted -- gay partiers, international jet-setters, celebrities, and models -- made the island a unique place to visit, and it captured the world's imagination.

If this is your first visit, you'll find lots to enjoy -- especially if you avoid mid-July and August, when it seems that every one of the island's million annual visitors is here. Then again, what is Mykonos if you can't experience some of its legendary nighttime vibe for yourself? I suggest (for first timers) an early July visit. It's busy enough so you can understand what all the fuss is about, but not choked with visitors like late July and August, when even finding a table at a restaurant can be difficult.

Keep in mind that it's very important to arrive here with reservations in the high season, unless you enjoy sleeping outdoors and don't mind being moved from your sleeping spot by the police, who are not charmed to find foreigners alfresco.

If you come in mid-September or October, you'll find a quieter Mykonos, with a pleasant buzz of activity, and streets and restaurants that are less clogged. Unlike many of the islands, Mykonos remains active year-round. In winter, it hosts numerous cultural events, including a small film festival. Many who are scared off by the summer crowds find a different, tranquil Mykonos during this off-season, demonstrating Hora's deserved reputation as one of the most beautiful towns in the Cyclades.