3 nights at Cavo Paradiso, the gem of Greece’s nightlife on the Aegean sea
The turquoise sea crashes against the rocky cliffs, feet away from the booth at Cavo Paradiso on the Grecian island of Mykonos.
An ocean breeze cuts through the humidity as Solomun salutes the rising sun with a delicate balearic melody. The crowd buzzes and our three days in paradise kicks off on a high note. Less than an hour ago, our pond hopper touched down on the small Greek isle of Mykonos, an extravagant party location for European elites. If Ibiza is the Las Vegas of Europe, than Mykonos may as well be Miami.
Just a tad bit bigger than 33 square miles, Mykonos was once a quaint island and home to families of humble farmers and fisherman. Today, the island’s rocky landscape and idyllic white architecture have become one of the premier party destinations in Europe — if not the world. At the center of it all is Cavo Paradiso, a pioneering club whose owner, Nikos Daktylides, a native to the island, took a leap of faith over 20 years ago to create what is today one of the most breathtaking clubs in the world.
Built into the cliffside, Cavo’s backdrop is an endless and impossibly blue sea that blends into the sky at its distant horizon. During its construction, naysayers questioned the feasibility of a club built on such unforgiving terrain, but like any dream made manifest, where there is a will, there’s a way. In 1993, Cavo Paradiso opened its doors to the public. Since then it has been run by a tightly knit and small team that may as well be family: a group of beautiful people with beautiful personalities who have not only embraced, but lead, the evolution of nightlife and dance culture on the island.
It’s not just the breathtaking views that make the club so memorable, it’s the team’s wealth of knowledge and careful curation of talent that has established the club as a must visit venue for any self-respecting electronic music fan. Nearly every one of the world’s top DJs have spent time in the venue’s venerated booth, from the young Paul Oakenfold and a younger Steve Angello, to Tiësto when he was still playing trance, to even the late, great Frankie Knuckles during the early years of Chicago house.
The hospitality manager and one of the club’s resident DJs, Stathis, greeted us as we entered Cavo on that first morning, fresh off a long flight and just in time to catch the closing 2 hours of Solomun’s performance. Stathis is a jovial man. Though bearded and in his mid 40s, the island life and his own brimming optimism has allowed him to maintain a youthful exuberance. His smile beams as he shows us around the club. He has an obvious sense of pride in everything he does and the club’s rich history.
Stathis has worked at Cavo for 20 seasons, watched the rise and fall of the sun over the Aegean more times than he can count, while playing host to the best DJs in the world. He was here for the ’90s boom and the lull of the early 2000s, and he is just as optimistic for the current crop of electronic music now making its way to the rocky shorelines of Mykonos.
We share drinks, laughs, and war stories as the horizon glows with the impending sunrise before we head back to the Myconian Avaton, a hotel owned by the Daktylides family that serves as the home base for our three days on the island. It’s as idyllic as the club, a relaxing refuge less than 10 minutes away with the calming soundtrack of the nearby sea.
The next morning, or rather, mid afternoon, Stathis gives us a tour of the island he has called home every summer for two decades. White homes and hotels pockmark the rocky landscape while yachts line the coast, each more extravagant than the next. There was never much of an economy on the island until the post WWII prosperity of the 1950s transformed the 33 square mile rock into a bastion of wealth and hedonism that still continues to this day. That night, Cedric Gervais provides the entertainment, blurring the lines between what one would expect from the Miami regular and his own understanding of the refined palette of the European audience.In sharp contrast to Solomon’s melodies and breezy balearic vibes, Gervais’s performance bridged the gap between true house music and the dance floors of American clubs. The crowd was younger and more energetic, and the club itself adapted to fit the mood. All of the usual production, confetti cannons, pyrotechnics, and immersive LEDs transformed the space into something out of Las Vegas’s book.
Our final evening is spent with Sebastian Ingrosso, another frequent Cavo Paradiso performer who draws in the largest crowds of the weekend on Saturday evening. Ingrosso takes the stage and the crowd erupts. There’s a sense of candor and an air of casual poise to Seb’s presence behind the decks. Maybe it is the setting or the crashes of the sea on the rocks, but there is little familiar here. He plays to the crowd as a DJ, rather than an entertainer as they are so often forced to do during high profile festivals. He is relaxed, punching through with raw house cuts designed for the setting, not the set list.
For an American exhausted by the crowd’s and stereotypes of the bottle service culture in the United States, Cavo is a breath of fresh and briny air. Ranked the 22nd best club in the world in this year’s DJMag poll, Cavo boasts a JBL Dance 5 soundsystem and a room that is twice as large as Ministry of Sound. Meanwhile, the club maintains a balancing act of bookings that bring in the both the super-wealthy bottle service patrons and the tried-and-true dance music aficionados to packed houses every single night. For any dance music fan seeking an alternative to the increasingly homogenous Ibiza experience, Mykonos and Cavo Paradiso are a very real, and likely far better, destination trip for clubgoers worldwide.
Cavo’s 2016 lineup is slowly rolling out, providing a host of opportunities for you to experience one of the jewel’s of the European club circuit.
Photo Credit: Johnny Panopoulos