Everyone who asks me about Greece asks about Santorini. When people picture Greece, they visualize the blue, rounded roofs and the stark contrast of white and blue. Santorini is one of the most ‘touristy’ areas of Greece, especially during the peak of the high season. Here is what to consider BEFORE YOU GO to Santorini;
What is referred to as many as ‘Santorini’ is officially known as the island of Thira. The main town of the island is called Fira, but the images that come to your head when you think of Santorini are from a village called Oia.
It should be noted that most of the island does not look like this, just one small town. Overall, Thira is a cliff-faced, volcanic island covered in unique wineries. It’s much more than the postcard-esque photos you see online.
Time of Year is CRUCIAL
My mother and I visited Santorini at the end of April. Even though this was VERY early in the season, it was still very crowded at the tourist destinations. The streets were nearly at a standstill as buses trafficked tourists around the island. And restaurants were difficult to get a table at during sunset. If you can visit earlier or later in the season, the experience will be far more intimate. Regardless, you will be sharing your experience with many other people.
The tourism season in Greece slowly begins after Easter. This is when many of the local shops, restaurants, and hotels open. The height of the busy season is June, July, and August; this is when locations are most crowded. Things slow down as the season come to a complete around the end of September. Traveling in Greece between September and April is very tricky in many places; take extra caution with arrangements when planning a trip during this time.
The Famous Village of Oia
Oia: [spelled many different ways] is arguably the iconic visual of Greece. It really does look just like the postcards do! This seems to be the sole purpose that many people come to Greece, however, I would compare Oia to a museum more than a town or experience.
It feels very rich and exclusive. The only way to access most of the village is to pay the outrageous prices of accommodation, it is blocked off to visitors. Essentially you have a single walkway along the top of the village that can connect down to the waterway. Sounds alright, right? Now, imagine this walkway packed with hundreds of people trying to take romantic photos and selfies that make it appear as if they are the only ones there. I literally elbowed people trying to take a selfie that made it look as though I were the only one around.
Yes, it is a lovely and picturesque area to walk around. We planned to spend sunset there but quickly changed our mind upon arriving and realizing we would rather not. DON’T PLAN YOUR TRIP TO GREECE AROUND THIS VILLAGE. If that is all you want to see, then you are better off looking at photos of people on Instagram pretending to be having an intimate moment as hundreds of people walk by or photos from professional photographers.
Don’t Underestimate Fira Town
Most people stay in or near the main town of Fira. It is a bustling town with a variety of food options and shops along with a strong Greek culture still present.
It is a fun area to walk around, you can even walk the 588 steps up or down to the waterfront! The food ranges from nice, local seafood restaurants to cheap gyro shops. All of the buses connect from here to the rest of the island, allowing you to access anywhere you would like.
It’s Easy to See a Beautiful Sunset
Santorini is also famous for its spectacular sunsets. There are boat and sailing trips to watch it from the water. Alternatively, for cheaper, you can see the sunset from most of the island as it is a crescent-shaped island.
Oia is a popular spot for the sunset, but watching the sunset from anywhere else will be more intimate. Many of the restaurants have rooftop dining areas that allow you to eat with a view of the sunset.
Santorini isn’t known best for its beaches. Instead of sand, you will often find rocky beaches since it is a volcanic island. Many of the beaches are easily accessible by buses and are located near cute beach towns filled with friendly locals.
A simple google search will show you the most popular beaches. I would encourage you to find more ‘small town’ beaches that allow you to meet some Greek people. After all, why go to a country if you don’t meet the people?
I ended up enjoying my time on Santorini. Oia did disappoint me, but luckily there is more to the island to enjoy.
Santorini is one of the most picturesque places my eyes have ever seen.
Have you been to Santorini? Am I being dramatic in my perception of Oia? Comment below if you would still be interested in going to the island or if you would rather go elsewhere.