Set like gems in the sparkling blue Aegean Sea, each of the Cyclades islands has its own character. For Mykonos, the local culture is a mix of the sacred and the profane. This island is the gateway to the neighboring unoccupied island of Delos, the sacred center of the Cyclades.

With more than a million visitors a year, this 30-sq-mi/80-sq-km island gets busy in high season. For those who don't like crowds, spring and fall are the best times to visit.

If your notion of a Greek island is old ladies in black and fishermen mending their nets by the harbor, Mykonos will be an eye-opener. In fact, it will probably surprise even the experienced traveler. Mykonos has more than 400 churches and chapels, as well as several nude beaches and its share of gay striptease and drag shows. Fashion models strut their stuff, and the nightlife can be as wild as anywhere in the world. Prices are high, too, but the food and shopping are better than almost anywhere else in Greece.

Mykonos Town, the capital, is the center of activity on the island. Don't let its reputation for bacchic behavior discourage you from visiting. Go during the daytime if you want to experience a more traditional side of town. Take time to stroll its warrenlike streets, many of which are no wider than a sidewalk. On each side are smooth, whitewashed cubes whose doors and windows are splashed with bright colors. Bougainvilleas, clematis and geraniums cascade from the wooden balconies.

Be sure to peek inside a few of the red-domed chapels scattered around the island. Most are tiny, peaceful places. There are also several small museums that contain some interesting artifacts.

Outside the capital, the beaches are superb, provided you don't mind sharing them with a few thousand other people. Inland are few trees and lots of rocks, so although it's not the most attractive of islands, it does have character.

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