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Society

Greece’s Loud Party Islands Want to Pump Down the Volume

September 1, 2022

MYKONOS – Unless you like the hedonist lifestyle – champagne at 1000 euros ($1003) a bottle, watching scantily-clad young women dancing on tabletops, partying with loud music until the sun comes up, and watching it go down surrounded by thousands of others jockeying for a selfie , then the islands of Mykonos and Santorini, and some others, aren’t for you.

And that’s what’s worrying residents and officials alike there, seeing ant-like swarms overtake where they life, the infrastructure unable to cope, ruining the image that brought them there, and Greece’s Tourism Ministry wanting to divert there to quieter, out-of-the way islands where there’s some sense of serenity, not near insanity.

In a feature for The New York Times, author and journalist Sheila Yasmin Marikar wrote about Greece’s party islands wanting to change their reputation of excess and restore, if they can, what they used to be.

That includes the island of Ios, where she went, 25 miles north of Santorini, whose popularity – once ranked the most favored island in the world – has brought a different kind of crowd than Mykonos, but just as noisy.

The three islands, she wrote, have come to symbolize lotus-eating and over-indulgence and the antithesis of what Greek islands that haven’t been discovered yet can really offer the country’s lure.

She got that oh-oh feeling when she and her husband arrived at Ios on their ferry and saw they weren’t exactly alone, the surfeit of people swallowing up what was left of any sense of charm.

“We …  elder millennials on the cusp of middle age — were shoulder to shoulder with teenagers, hordes of them, youthful energy bounding off their dewy skin,” she wrote.

“These kids had come to party. We had … not. We sought good food, local wine, to somehow come home healthier than when we left,” she said, but they weren’t going to find it there, where crowds gather like goats.

There are spots on Ios where you can get away from the kids and the partiers, craggy hills and cliffs but unless you want to get down with the music and rock and hip-hop and drink away, you likely won’t like it.

“It’s a place to party,” said Katerina Katopis-Lykiardopulo, a photographer who collaborated with the author Chrysanthos Panas on Greek Islands,” a coffee-table book, she added.

“Back in the day, there were hippies, there were drugs, there were people sleeping on the beach.” Katopis-Lykiardopulo said. “Is it still a party island? Do teenagers still come? Yes, of course. But the island is making an effort to be more than that.” Is it working?

SHHHHH … HMMMMMM

Ios wants you to find the slow lane too, look at the stone architecture, feel the breeze in quieter spots – if you can find them – paces like Calilo, a resort offering wellness instead of wildness, mantras instead of martinis.

It represents, she said, a different way of vacationing on a Greek island, even as residents and officials on Mykonos and Santorini want to find some way to tone it down and develop attractions that aren’t high-decibel.

“When we enter this place, we leave everything negative behind,” said Sandy Parisi, a Calilo concierge who showed them the way through a light-filled breezeway free of distractions.

That’s not Mykonos. The site The Invisible Tourist, which says it’s geared toward travelers with a mid-range budget, poured praise on Greece for its gorgeous beaches and crystal clear waters – this year there are stinging purple jellyfish to deal with – but said Mykonos stands out for what you don’t want.

“Mykonos is overrated and things turned out to be the complete opposite of what I had envisioned,” the site said of the disappointment that many others discover, too late, on the island where you can’t get away from crowds, even on beaches where lounge chairs are an elbow’s distance apart.

The writer, Alyse, said what awaits are irritating dining experiences – in some places there are 50 or more tables with numbers on them and several have been called out for gouging tourists, and dining spots have tables tucked in alleys with people brushing right up against you.

And on “The Party Island of Greece,” she said: “Nightlife doesn’t actually start until the early hours of the morning,” if you’re staying in the main town don’t count on sleeping.

On Santorini, which gets some 2 million visitors a year – and their money – even those riches were enough to keep officials in 2019 from setting a cap on cruise ships, limiting them to 8,000 people a day disembarking.

On Ios, Calilo has gone the other way, the same path the country’s tourism officials are pushing to reduce the overcrowding on the most popular islands and have you discover a slower way of life elsewhere.

“The purpose of this experiment, if I can call it that, is to bring as much positivity, love and freedom to people as we can,” said Angelos Michalopoulos, who owns and operates Calilo, as well as six other restaurants and hotels on the island, with his wife, Vassiliki Petridou, and four of their five children.

“A lot of our guests say when they come here, they’re entering a fairy tale,” said Petridou, the couple from Athens. “They can be kids again. Most people come to Greece for the pools, the party and the nightlife. We want to break that cycle.”

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