Things to Do in Greece: S.A.L.T. Experiences and Making Cheese in Mykonos

Today, we are in Mykonos. One of Greece’s most visited islands, Mykonos, part of the Cyclades chain of islands, owes its popularity to its beaches, nightlife and beautiful white, flat-roofed houses with shutters of cobalt blue. On other trips here, we’ve admired its iconic windmills, snacked on mezze in Little Venice, its most picturesque waterfront village and splurged at artisans’ galleries. Today, though, we head up to the hill of Agios Lazaros to learn how to make cheese at Mykonos Farmers, one of the best things to do in Greece, especially for foodies.

Myzithra cheese in Mykonos
With George’s guidance, we make his mother’s myzithra, a fast-cooking traditional cheese./Lucia Griggi

Why Did S.A.L.T. Experiences Choose Cheese in Mykonos?

“Wherever you go in Greece there are these great, simple cheeses made by families and small producers,” S.A.L.T. Director Adam Sachs tells us. “George Syrianos, a third-generation cheesemaker, is an ideal host because he’s passionate about the topic. Making cheese and looking after his animals is clearly tied with childhood memories and pride and love for family and local customs.”

And for guests? “Food really comes alive when you have a chance to see it made and described by someone like him,” Sachs adds.

The Tour: Did you know that one of the most famous delicacies of Mykonos is its soft, kopanisti, a spicy cheese spread? At Mykonos Farmers, we take a tour of the cheesemaking facility and then mosey into a charming kitchen space, with a vast island where those of us who want to get our hands into the cheese can take part.

“I’m not a factory. I am a traditional place that makes cheese. I want to give the experience to my visitors to taste the cheese and yogurt that I’m used to eating. What I’m doing makes me very happy. This is my life. It’s not a story. It is my life.”

Yiorgos “George” Syrianos

Cheesemaker Yiorgos “George” Syrianos is a big part of the appeal of our time here. Credit some of that to the fact that he knows his way around a story (and another part due to his strong resemblance to George Clooney!) that will make you feel intimately connected with real life in Mykonos. He’ll tell you that he initially refused to become the third generation of cheesemakers in his family and worked as an electrician before some wayward goats showed up … and he wound up adopting them, which led him back to the family path of cheesemaking.

We learn why the organic ingredients he uses, all locally sourced, make for healthier cuisine. We sample house-made yogurt that is the smoothest, creamiest I’ve ever tasted (and you top it with marinated cherries that George has bottled). We sample Mostra (barley rusks covered with kopanisti and fresh diced tomato). We make an authentic Mykonian onion pie and the sweet, cinnamon- and honey-infused Tsimpita pie, both made with a ricotta-like cheese called tirovolia.

We eat everything we create, accompanied by a fresh, crisp Mykonian white wine. Of all the things to do in Greece, this has to be one of the top experiences.

Cheesemaking in Mykonos
Cheesemaker Yiorgos “George” Syrianos shares his art as part of S.A.L.T. Experiences in Mykonos./Carolyn Spencer Brown

Inside Tips: Don’t bother with breakfast — and you’ll want to skip lunch, too — because it’s a feast. And, get this: You don’t have to love cheese or even care too much about making it to have adored this visit (in fact, one fellow guest told me he was dragged, kicking and screaming, by his wife and daughter, and he had, he says, “the best time.”). And enjoy the ambience; Perched high on a hill, Mykonos Farmers’ has a lovely stone terrace with breathtaking views over the white rooftops and the Mediterranean Sea.

More Info: S.A.L.T. Experiences’ Mykonian Cheesemaking lasts about 3.5 hours. The shore excursion is available on summer cruises to Greece that call at Mykonos on Silver Moon and Silver Dawn.

Excited about cheese and S.A.L.T. programs now? Learn more here.