Santorini The Popular Kid of the Greek Islands

Notes from the road

I’m torn by Santorini.

On one hand, the village of Oia is truly one of the best places on Earth to watch the sunset. It’s the epitome of a whitewashed Greek Island village, all pink bougainvillea and blue-domed roofs. On the other hand, you can’t enjoy it when cruise ship-loads of white-haired tourists form a bottleneck in the narrow walkways, which, by the way, are definitely not designed for walking frames and hip replacements.

It’s painful to see Instagrammers twirl and pose at vantage points clearly market “DO NOT CLIMB”, damaging property and illegally flying irritating drones. And if you want to enjoy the best views and restaurants and don’t have hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers, it’s going to cost you.

But if you still wish to visit and insist on staying in Oia, there are ways to do it. Follow my lead and find a reasonably priced Airbnb with a pool and unimpeded sunset view. Treat it as a lock-in, gazing at the panorama in between trips to local bakeries and mini-marts to self-cater with fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, eggs, Mediterranean antipasto and wine (lots of wine). For me, it meant limited opportunities to be infuriated by others and feel ripped off.

I’ve stayed in Santorini twice, and doubt I will again. A big part of me feels that in visiting, one contributes to over tourism. There are other islands where the food is better, life is slower and there’s a noticeable absence of used-car-salesman sleaze that was apparent in more than one Oia-based entrepreneur that I encountered.

Why include Santorini on Seasoned Traveller at all, then? The locals survive on tourism and it’s a bucket list item for so many. If you still want to tick it off, it’s important you know what to expect and make time to explore beyond Oia, where you can still find a taste of the old Santorini. It’s not my place to tell you that you should spend your time and money at other Cycladic islands, but if you have the slightest inkling that we might be similar, well, maybe it is.

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