Updated: Jan 6, 2019
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Let's start this post as clear as possible: Overrated. Yes, you read it. Could we start this post by saying great things about this volcano island? We could, but you would think this would be one more post from another travel blogger saying the same.
Santorini is one of those places that everyone pictures in there mind as the perfect romantic spot. The fantastic sunsets in Mediterranean warm waters, the fabulous food, wine and vivid life. Well, some of it is in fact true, even though slightly different from what we pictured.
Portugal, Italy and Spain, along with Greece, are very culturally similar: low pride in their heritage or rich history. Southern Europeans are normally complaining, even if the complaining is just a cultural thing. Confusing? I guess.
Let's start with basic things: Santorini, or Thira, is actually an archipelago consisting of Thíra, Thirassiá, Asproníssi, Palea and Nea Kaméni in the southernmost part of Cyclades. One eruption destroyed the earliest settlements, once a formerly single island. As a result also forming the volcanic caldera. The lagoon itself is connected to the Aegean Sea in two places, in the northwest and southwest. Due to the depth of the caldera, only large ships can anchor in the bay. And that is what exactly what you will notice: large ships arriving with large groups of tourists for the day. This happens to turn certain locations, such as Firá and Oía, almost impossible to walk at certain hours of the day. And here is the main issue with Santorini: overrated and overtourism. With its large ships arriving, and with only few hours to visit, there is a constant large number of buses parked and delivering their large groups of tourists, that block every street of the main attraction areas.
Like any other place, overtourism can destroy your travel plans. Oía suffers from it.
The landscape of the island is very distinct depending on where you are. In the east, you can find a more flat landscape with traditional beaches, although far from traditional Mediterranean islands due to the volcanic composition of the soil. The west the side of the island is where everyone wants to book hotels; enormous cliffs, fantastic sunsets and popular white houses on the edges of the cliffs, facing the caldera.
What most of the people expect to see are the white houses where you can have a fantastic sunset view from a private hot tub or pool. Hotels explore every little space available facing the Caldera, in places as Oía or Firá. This also results in overpriced hotel rooms, and is easy comparable to the east side, where you can find hotels for a quarter of the cost in Oía. Well, in fact you pay as much as you want for what you look for. We normally try to avoid touristic locations, not only does that allow us to save some cash, but we can also interact more with locals in a more relaxing environment.
We decided to stay slightly out of Santorini, in a place called Oía Suites. We found our hotel through booking.com but I'm sure you can find them on hotels.com. We had an amazing view to the caldera as well as very calm and relaxing environment with only a 5 min distance walk from Oía main street.
Traveling to and from the island.
There is the common sense that being on a Greek island, traveling to Santorini requires to pass through a major city, normally the capital, Athens. Well, in fact you can find some companies traveling from any other major European city, and it may help out in terms of cost and time. Several of them are actually low cost and you could travel for something as low as 100 euros round trip, sometimes even less. Companies like Vueling and others are part of the "good" low cost companies in Europe. But nothing works better than checking out all the offers. Use something like sky scanner and you will be able to compare and find great deals.
We did fly to Athens, enjoyed the capital for few days (we will come back this soon) and also explored Milos (another story coming up soon) before Santorini. In both cases, we used the ferry services. With low cost air companies, there is no need to depend on ferry transportation. Is wasn't as charming as we expected.
Food, wine and spirit.
Everyone knows it, but it isn't hard to get wonderful food anywhere in Greece. In Santorini, however, you can expect the extra euros coming out from your wallet. Isn't much more than Athens, but it has risen throughout the years with tourism. We normally try different restaurants all the time, and it was not an exception this time. And definitely worth it. There are several great local restaurants that are slightly isolated from the main streets, and they are better than we can describe. By this moment you already understood that we always try to avoid popular places. It is a fair conclusion. But anyway, we would like to recommend a few places in Oía that we definitely loved: Meze Meze (photo below) and Lefkes have a very elegant modern touch experience of Greek cousin, even without losing what the Greeks have the best: tradition.
Santorini Wine is also very popular and, being ourselves wine appreciators, with all the merit. There are some wineries you can visit while in the island, but unfortunately we ran out of time for all of it with only 3 days.
Transportation On the Island.
Cars, mopeds or 4 wheelers. You will find any rental option in the island, to take advantage of during your time over there. I would lie if I would recommend you to stay in enjoying your overpriced hotel room with your views, but in fact we are not those type of people. Therefore, we always try to visit the least popular places, and it is always worth it.
Hotels normally will recommend rental companies, with their own fees, etc. Remember that this is a very small island with very limited parking, which may be difficult to deal with. We took the safer option by renting a 4 wheeler for one of the days. It was enough to drive around all the island, visiting Firá, Cape Columbo with a unique black sand beach, arriving to Ammoudi Port to see the sunset. Definitely worth it if you are looking for some adventure. If you are a car person, then use something like auto europe to find rentals ahead of time, especially if you are picking it up in the airport. Remember, get the smallest car possible for easier parking.
Sunsets and Sailing.
This is probably the more extravagant experience that not everyone would consider, but we would love to recommend for few reasons:
1. The sunsets in Οία are, generally very popular, and the viewing points are normally over saturated;
2. If you want to visit the hot springs in the caldera, (not as hot as you may think and don't wear white clothes or silver jewelry because of the sulfur rich water).
Most of the hotels have their own agreements, and they are slightly more pricey than if you go directly to the sailing companies, since you avoid the middle man. However, they normally have their own transportation figured out, which helps. If you don't want to deal with it, just follow the hotel suggestions and you will be fine. In the end, it's all about what you want to do, not what people tell you to do.
Thank you for reading and hope you have a great travels in the future. Let us know if you used any of our suggestions and don't be shy, ask anything.