This upscale, low-key spot on the hedonistic island of Mykonos is Instagram catnip

Words: Jonathan Whiley

Poolside at Cali Mykonos and a familiar, quintessentially English voice fills the balmy, salt-lashed air. Holding court on the adjacent table is Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. For a man who has made his career from skewering the class system amid the country houses of England, the hedonistic hotspot of Mykonos is the last place I expect to see him. This is no fleeting visit – a chat with his wife reveals they have a home on the island. Mykonos, it seems, is full of surprises.

While famed for its parties and nightlife, the Cyclades island has long drawn creatives to its shores, mingling amid the designer boutiques and A-list celebrities. Jackie Kennedy first visited with her sister in 1961 and a comet trail of stars followed, with Mykonos becoming a byword for glitz, glamour and beach clubs (the aptly named JackieO’ is still going strong).

On the south-east coast of the island, life spins to a slower beat. Cali Mykonos opened in 2022, an upscale, low-key hotel run by young American-Greek owner Kyriakos “Eric” Mourkakos. Space is in abundance; sleek, whitewashed rooms are dotted on the cliffside like cubes of feta, with the best boasting heated saltwater pools and generous terraces. The main pool, meanwhile, is Instagram catnip; sprawling across an impressive 130 metres.

Below lies a sheltered private beach and dock with two of the hotel’s private yachts (a champagne-fuelled trip exploring the coast proves a highlight). A fitness centre, yoga and pilates studio is also on site and when the hotel reopens for the season, it will unveil two new spa suites, padel courts, a new sunset cocktail spot and new cooking classes.

The food here is consistently excellent; from lighter options – watermelon summer salad, wild greens with local cheeses, freshly caught fish – to decadent caviar and wagyu New York striploin all served by friendly, local staff.

In its first full season, there were small signs that Cali was still finding its feet; one day they ran out of tomatoes at the start of lunch service and several housekeeping requests required extensive chasing. Its size too can be both a blessing and a curse; when it’s quiet – as it was occasionally in early September – it can lack a little atmosphere.

Don’t let that put you off. It’s early days and there are some lovely touches – complimentary ironing, a complimentary shuttle service to Mykonos town (a 20-minute drive) – and all the makings of a modern-day Greek classic.

Opens April 29,