You’re planning your trip to the Greek islands and start thinking – Is Santorini overrated? Is it one of those places you always hear about then are disappointed by it once there? Short answer: yes. Long answer... it depends on what you're looking for.
I went to Santorini this spring… Seriously, it is as beautiful as the pictures people post all over the internet, but it's also as crowded as those pictures. This is why shoulder season came in clutch for us. I loved spending time on this gorgeous little island.
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I spent a week in Greece altogether, but 2 days in Santorini. There are so many incredible Greek Islands to visit, but Santorini was the one on my bucket list. We flew in via RyanAir and continued on to Mykonos via ferry from there. People always want to know specifics of the spots I visit, and I have an answer for all of them in Santorini! I’ll also show you how to avoid being a super tourist while doing them, because who wants to be like that?
1. It is pictured as romantic but really…
Friends can go too without a problem. Santorini is known as a spot for romantic getaways, and yes, it is pretty romantic. However, my friend Elizabeth and I had an awesome time! Many of the people we met were couples, but there is so much to do in Santorini.
We were so busy enjoying the beaches, food, museums, and views that I don’t even remember if everyone we met was there as a couple or not. What I do remember is having a blast and seeing so many gorgeous places. We rented a car and drove all over the island, checked out awesome beaches, and hiked along cliffs. So Santorini doesn’t have to be romantic—it can be adventurous and a blast for you and your friends.
2. The crowds will be intense, but…
You can avoid it. Yes, it can be crowded. Two things about this one: first, if you want to avoid crowds, avoid the cruise ship port. The crowds doubled because of the cruise ships. We went in April, right at the beginning of tourist season, and as soon as the cruise ships left it was like everything changed. So many people left on the cruise ships. Second—we got up early.
We hiked along the coast from Fira to Oia (didn’t make it the whole way, SURPRISE!), but we were alone! Nothing is really open before 10 am. Get up early, and no one will be around.
Also, we avoided crowds because we went in the off-season, wait if you can! The only time we dealt with crowds was in Oia at sunset (pictured above).
3. Sunset in Oia is nice but not worth a visit, but…
Okay, this one is just wrong! The sunset in Oia is probably one of the prettiest things I have ever seen. Don’t let people tell you it is not worth it. If you aren’t staying in Oia, you will have traffic getting there so plan ahead. Don’t stay at the old Byzantine church either because everyone goes there. We got there after the sunset started, and there was barely space to stand in the middle!
Instead, find a spot along the cliffs early (close to the church) and wait. We ended up seeing a gorgeous sunset, and while there were tons of people, posting up early and making sure we weren’t in front of anyone helped us out a ton! It is not overrated—it really is that pretty!
4. Hotels are super pricey but…
There are affordable options. It’s not expensive compared to other places in Europe I’ve been (I’ve been to England, Italy, France, and Turkey). During the high season, you’ll definitely pay more than the off-season—SURPRISE. However, Fira is more affordable and still has gorgeous cliffs just like Oia.
The hotel we stayed in was just $95 (this was off-season price) but had a gorgeous view and amazing staff. Loved staying there. Look outside of Oia and rent a car for just $35. Free parking is available all over the island so you will avoid having to stay in a more pricey area with fewer tourists around you all day. You can check out more places to stay in Santorini here.
5. The beaches are just as nice somewhere else but…
The beaches are as pretty as people say they are and the water is really that pretty and super unique. If you didn’t know, Santorini is a volcanic island which is what gives it the gorgeous cliffs. It has a black sand beach, red sand beach, and more. It was a little cold in April, but we were still able to get into the water for a bit. I really liked how clean the beaches were although the sand was not as soft as you would hope.
As I said, get there early and try to post up for the day if you are there in high season. In April, we basically had the whole beach to ourselves, which is awesome. Free parking is available at the beaches, too.
6. It’s expensive but…
There are affordable options. The pic above is of me in Ancient Thira—we paid 4 euros to get in! It was beautiful. We didn’t pay over $15 for a single meal. We paid less than $100 for a hotel in Santorini. Our flight was $37. Beaches were free, drinks were cheap, car rental no big deal. Do I need to keep convincing you?
7. The food is too pricey...
Two big things to remember on this one: Oia is the most popular for dinner. Make reservations if you want to eat at a restaurant there! Second: things were not that expensive.
We found Santorini cheaper than Mykonos, where we headed to next. As I said, we didn’t have to pay over $15 for any meals—except for our splurge night, which still felt like a deal because of how much we got!
We had an incredible meal which included appetizers, dinner, wine, and dessert for just $60 a person, and this is a luxury dinner at one of the top 10 restaurants in Oia! In DC, I could easily spend that on a normal restaurant without including dessert. So while this meal was not cheap, it was so delicious and worth every penny.
8. The shopping is expensive...
Look for locally made and sourced goods! While Santorini was definitely cheaper than Mykonos, we still bought only a few things in Santorini. Heading to a more expensive island after had us wishing we had bought more! It was definitely a great place to shop!
8. Getting around will be hard but…
Santorini has tons of transportation options. Renting a car was only $35, ATVs were everywhere for rent, and there is an excellent bus system that goes all over the island. Most hotels have shuttles or car service for a small fee as well. Don’t rely on taxis though because there are only about 20 for the whole island so they are very pricey and often difficult to find. So while you can use taxis, don’t rely on them as your only resource of transport!
So if you haven’t guessed yet. I definitely don’t think Santorini is overrated. There’s so much to experience in Greece, and whether traveling with friends or on a romantic trip, you can have an awesome time! Don’t skip Santorini—skip the crowds and stay away from the spots you know will make you feel like a tourist. Check this out if you’re looking for more things to do while in Santorini.