Nestled in the southern Aegean Sea lies the small Greek island that has captured the hearts of many travelers seeking beauty, luxury, and history. Santorini, with its breathtaking caldera views, charming villages, and ancient archaeological sites, is a popular destination for those seeking an unforgettable travel experience. But is Santorini worth it?
If you’re a young couple looking for a luxurious escape that blends culture and history with stunning sights, you might wonder if Santorini is the right choice. With so many tourist traps and overrated sights out there, it’s important to know if this island truly lives up to its reputation. Fear not, as I’ve got you covered.
In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into what Santorini has to offer and help you decide if it’s worth visiting. I have often been to Santorini and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this post, we’ll explore the island’s rich history, vibrant culture, and unique landscape, as well as tips on how to avoid the typical tourist traps.
One thing I can tell you in advance – Yes, Santorini is worth visiting (if you know how)! Now let’s find out why!
Table of Contents
- Why is Santorini so popular?
- Downsides of visiting Santorini
- Upsides to visiting Santorini
- Conclusion: Is Santorini worth it?
- About the Author
Why is Santorini so popular?
Santorini is one of Greece’s most popular vacation destinations, attracting visitors from all over the world. Many postcards and wallpapers feature beautiful white-washed houses with blue dome churches in front of the deep blue Aegean Sea.
But not only the famous white house village of Oia is responsible for Santorini’s popularity. The island’s unique landscape, shaped by a volcanic eruption over 3,000 years ago, is a major draw for travelers seeking unique sights. And rightfully so, I have never seen a more magical place than Santorini.
Santorini is also known for its luxurious accommodations, vibrant nightlife, and delicious cuisine. Many luxury travelers come to Santorini for the incredible hotel suites with infinity pools and a view over the volcano.
But there is more to the island than parties and restaurants. Visitors can explore ancient ruins and museums to learn about the island’s fascinating past, or simply relax on one of the many beautiful beaches. Lastly, the island is famous for producing delicious wines, that can be sampled in wineries all over the island.
Downsides of visiting Santorini
There are downsides to every vacation destination, and Santorini is no exception. The picture-perfect image of an amazing sunset in front of the white-washed houses is not quite realistic.
Before talking about all the reasons why Santorini is worth it, let’s explore some of the downsides of the island – and how to get around them.
One of the main drawbacks of visiting Santorini is the high volume of tourists, particularly during peak season (July and August). This can lead to crowded streets and long lines at popular attractions.
It’s estimated that the island receives around two million visitors per year. During the peak season (July and August), the number of tourists can be particularly high, with some estimates suggesting that up to 18,000 visitors arrive on the island each day.
Especially the streets of Oia become so crowded that it is impossible to move during sunset time. Even if you book a private hotel suite with a terrace you will most likely have the crowds walking a couple of meters over your head (don’t be fooled by the pictures online).
Sadly it does not only attract a lot of people but also a kind of traveler that I would much rather avoid. Oia is filled with pretentious people spending money left and right without any appreciation for the island and its people.
It makes me sad to see how some people there behaved. Many restaurants and hotels sadly cater exactly to that clientele. Truth be told, we had some nasty run-ins with rude people in Santorini.
In my opinion, Oia is amazingly beautiful but it is also my least favorite spot on the island. Luckily, you can avoid the crowds with these helpful tips:
- Find alternative sunset spots outside Oia like on the Profitis Elias Mountain or from a Catamaran Sunset Cruise
- Avoid Oia altogether: there are so many other beautiful villages with white houses in Santorini ripe for exploring. You can avoid Oia and its crowds by visiting Imerovigli and Firostefani instead. If you wish for even fewer people, check out Pyrgos and Megalochori.
- For those of you that desperately want to see Oia at least once, I recommend going very early in the morning. The streets are quiet and it is extremely beautiful.
- Travel outside high-season. We visited in June and July and both times it was quite crowded. Going in April, May or September will help you avoid the crowds in Santorini.
Santorini is sadly quite commercialized for tourists, particularly in the more popular areas of the island. Many shops, restaurants, and hotels cater specifically to tourists, and prices can often be higher than in other parts of Greece.
Many locals feel that the island has become overly developed in recent years, with a focus on luxury accommodations and tourist-oriented attractions. Authentic and down-to-earth places are much harder to find nowadays.
However, there are still plenty of quieter, more authentic areas to explore if you’re looking to escape the crowds and experience a more traditional side of the island. It’s all a matter of knowing where to go and planning your trip accordingly.
Here are my tips to avoid becoming a victim of the overcommercialization in Santorini:
- Book your accommodation in the more quiet parts of the island. Pyrgos and Megalochori are amazing choices for a relaxed and authentic experience. Don’t get me wrong – hotels there are still very chic and luxurious, but the villages are much less crowded and by far not as overpriced.
- Do your shopping outside of Oia and Thira. These are the main shopping areas and everything is hopelessly overpriced.
- Same goes for restaurants – make sure to eat off the beaten tracks
- Book experiences guided by locals instead of tourist attractions
Santorini can be an expensive destination, especially compared to other parts of Greece. Prices for accommodation, dining, and activities can be quite high, particularly during the peak travel season. Luxury accommodations and high-end dining options can be especially expensive.
Out of curiosity, we did make a reservation in high-end places in Oia once or twice. The food and the view were good but not worth the money. And we did not like the crowd.
However, there are also more affordable options available, such as budget-friendly hotels, local taverns (love it!), and low-cost activities like snorkeling, hiking and exploring the island’s ancient ruins.
It’s important to budget accordingly and do some research to find options that fit your budget while still allowing you to experience the best of what Santorini has to offer.
The best way to save money in Santorini is with booking the accommodation. Staying in Megalochori, Kamari or Pyrgos is a great option to avoid getting ripped off. Hotels are still luxurious and chic, but much more affordable.
But even off the beaten tracks, Santorini is more expensive than many other holiday destinations. There are ways to have a memorable stay in Santorini without spending a fortune.
Lastly, I would not recommend Santorini as a budget-friendly destination. You might not have a great experience if you have to skimp out on all the fun experiences and constantly have to watch your budget.
Santorini may be challenging for people with mobility issues. The island is built on uneven terrain, and many of the streets and alleys can be steep and narrow. You can not reach every hotel with a car and the cobblestone streets are not wheelchair friendly.
Santorini’s volcanic activities are a major part of what makes the island unique. The volcano is considered dormant today, but there are still some signs of volcanic activity on the island. You can find hot springs and volcanic rocks all over the island.
There is no immediate danger for visitors to Santorini. The volcano is closely monitored by local authorities and scientists, and there are strict safety measures in place. Even locals we have talked to see no cause for fear – but they do stay alert.
Keep in mind that there have been small earthquakes and minor eruptions in the past. Luckily, they have not posed any significant danger to tourists.
That being said, it’s important to be aware of any warning signs or alerts issued by local authorities regarding the volcanic activity. In severe cases, this might mean an interruption to your vacation.
Lastly, you should also take care when visiting the hot springs. The water can be extremely hot and potentially dangerous. Also make sure to not wear light-colored swimsuits, as the water stains.
Overall, with proper precautions and awareness, you can safely enjoy Santorini’s unique volcanic landscape and activities.
Upsides to visiting Santorini
Now that we have heard so many downsides of visiting Santorini, you might be wondering why I think it is still worth visiting. For every downside I mentioned, there are many beautiful things that absolutely make up for it.
Here are some of my favorite things about Santorini.
Diverse and stunning landscape
Santorini’s landscape is strikingly beautiful and worth seeing. Santorini’s landscape offers a unique mix of beaches, cliffs, and rugged terrain. All of that is the result of a series of volcanic eruptions.
The most impressive part of the landscape is the caldera, which was the result of an eruption. After the explosion, the island’s center collapsed, creating a large water-filled crater known as the caldera. Today every major hotel and restaurant offering a view over the caldera is beloved by tourists.
Santorini is also famous for its distinctive black, red, and white beaches that are the result of volcanic activity. The beaches are unique and offer something for everyone. From the black sand beach of Perissa and the white beach of Perivolos to the red sand beach of Red Beach, each offers its own unique beauty and charm.
My favorite feature of Santorini are the dramatic cliffs that offer stunning views of the ocean, especially during sunset. Whether you go hiking along the cliffs or are taking a boat tour around the island, be prepared to be amazed.
If you are interested in exploring more of the landscape of Santorini I recommend renting an ATV. It is the easiest way to get around the island and you get a great chance to explore off the beaten tracks.
The famous villages of Santorini are some of the most beautiful and unique places to visit on the Greek islands. With their stunning architecture, breathtaking views, and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder why these villages are so special and attract visitors from all over the world.
The most famous village in Santorini is Oia. It is located on the northern tip of the island. It’s known for its stunning sunsets, whitewashed buildings with blue domes, and winding streets lined with shops and restaurants. Pink bougainvillea flowers provide an amazing contrast with the white houses.
Fira (or Thira) is another popular village that sits atop a cliff overlooking the caldera. Here you can find a variety of cafes and bars as well as plenty of shopping opportunities. It is also the capital city of Santorini.
While Fira and Oia are the most famous of the villages, they are not my favorites. Both are very crowded and it is hard to enjoy the scenery with so many people there.
My favorite villages in Santorini are Imerovigli, Firostefani, Pyrgos, Kamari, Akrotiri, and Megalochori. Each one has something unique to offer visitors and many of them provide you with the picture-perfect photo background that you have dreamed of.
These are some of my biggest reasons why visiting Santorini is worth it.
The locals of Santorini are known for being friendly and welcoming. Whether you’re a traveler or a longtime resident, you’ll be greeted with warmth by the people of Santorini.
Locals are known to offer travelers helpful tips on where to eat, what places to visit, and what activities to do while on the island. They love having guests in their homes and enjoy telling stories about life in Santorini’s picturesque landscape.
Our favorite experience in Santorini was taking a walk with a local guide through a historic village. We learned so much and the man was extremely kind. He told us all about the traditions in Santorini – and showed us traditional cave houses.
What makes the locals even more special is that most speak multiple languages. So no matter which language you speak, you’ll almost always find someone who can help you out.
If you, just like us, assume that the locals are fed up with the tourists then you couldn’t be further from the truth. In every hotel, cafe, or restaurant locals have been nothing but cheerful and nice to us.
Are you looking to meet some friendly locals? Check out the traditional Greek Taverns on the island and take it from there! I suggest Tavern Mythos in Pyrgos or Tavern Alexander in Kamari.
The sunsets in Santorini are truly a sight to behold. The sunsets here are some of the most beautiful and romantic in the world, with an incredible backdrop of blue domes, white-washed buildings, and stunning views of the Aegean Sea.
Santorini sunsets are so special because they offer a unique combination of colors that can’t be found anywhere else. The sky is filled with shades of pink, orange, yellow and purple as the sun sets over the horizon. I have never seen anything like this in my entire life. This is also why we decided to get married in Santorini at sunset.
Watching the sunset from one of Santorini’s many viewpoints provides a magical experience that will stay with you for years to come. Keep in mind that the popular viewpoints in Oia are probably going to be very crowded. Finding an alternative romantic spot to see the sunset is key to a stunning experience.
If you are looking to make the sunset even more special, why not watch it from a catamaran gliding through the Aegean Sea? Santorini Sunset cruises are extremely popular – for a reason.
It is worth it to visit Santorini just for the sunsets alone.
Delicious Regional Products
There is a huge variety of traditional products produced in Santorini. They include delicacies, such as the famous white eggplant, tomatoes, and capers. I am not a huge fan of veggies, but I did enjoy tasting all the regional products. They have a very distinct salty taste.
The island is also known for its delicious local wines. Santorini is famous for its white wines, which are produced primarily from the Assyrtiko grape variety. Make sure to book a wine tasting in a traditional Santorini winery and learn all about their special way of farming wine.
Other traditional products you’ll find here include olive oil, honey, seafood, herbs and spices, yogurt, and Greek cheeses. The island also produces various handmade goods such as pottery and leather goods.
If you’re looking to take some of this local flavor back home with you, visit one of the many shops all over the island. This makes for a great sustainable souvenir from local production. We bought some really sweet bowls in stunning blue colors for my mum there!
Interesting Archaeological Sites
There are quite a few super interesting archaeological sites to check out in Santorini.
The Akrotiri Archaeological Site is sometimes referred to as the “Pompeii of the Aegean”. This Bronze Age settlement was discovered in 1967 and still contains many well-preserved buildings and artifacts dating back over 6,000 years.
The Ancient Thera Archeological Site is an area of ruins located on Mesa Vouno hill that date back to ancient Hellenic times. I found the ruins not extremely interesting (you’ll need a lot of fantasy to make out a building) but the view from up that hill is stunning.
The Minoan settlements of Akrotiri offer visitors a glimpse into the lives of the people who inhabited this island thousands of years ago.
Santorini is for sure not a beach destination in the most traditional sense. The beaches are usually volcanic pebble beaches. So if you are looking for an island with dreamy, white sand beaches, then Santorini might not be the right place for you.
However, some fabulous and unique beaches on the island are worth checking out.
- Perivolos Beach: This stunning beach features powdery black volcanic sand and crystal-clear waters, making it a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Red Beach: Located near Akrotiri, Red Beach offers visitors an incredible sight with its towering red cliffs that overlook turquoise waters. It can be a bit hard to reach, the best way to check it out is with a boat excursion.
- Kamari Beach: Kamari is one of the most developed beaches on Santorini and has all sorts of facilities including shops and many bars and restaurants serving delicious local food. This is the liveliest beach in Santorini, and the boulevard is fun to experience for a day.
- White Beach: White Beach is located near Akrotiri with its white sand contrasting perfectly against the dark rocks of Santorini’s coastline. This beach is worth checking out.
Some of the beaches on the Santorini coast are amazing for snorkeling and diving. For watersports enthusiasts, visiting Santorini is worth it.
Do you need travel insurance in Santorini? Yes, travel insurance in Santorini is highly recommended. Unsafe roads, water sports accidents, and food poisoning are only a few examples of when travel insurance could come in handy. EKTA offers worldwide travel insurance with 24/7 service and no hidden fees or restrictions.
Santorini offers some of the best dining experiences in Greece. There is a huge variety of restaurants catering to all kinds of tastes. From traditional Greek taverns to upscale spots with a sunset view, there is something for everyone in Santorini.
The local cuisine includes classic dishes such as moussaka and tzatziki, as well as freshly caught fish served straight from the Aegean Sea. For fresh fish make sure to check out Ammoudi Bay, it is quite famous for it.
Restaurants in Santorini are known for their fresh ingredients and authentic flavors, making it an amazing culinary destination. If you are a foodie, then visiting Santorini is worth it.
Keep in mind that many restaurants overcharge for their location. You will get your money’s worth in food outside Oia and Thira for sure. My favorite spot to go for a nice dinner is Pyrgos. The cute little town has many nice restaurants with a view.
Conclusion: Is Santorini worth it?
Yes, Santorini is worth the hype. The island offers amazing beaches, picturesque little villages, friendly locals, and a stunning landscape.
Is Santorini overrated? Everything worth having in Santorini comes at a price, and it is important to choose wisely to avoid getting ripped off. The famous towns of Oia and Thira offer many overpriced hotels and restaurants and cater to a very specific luxury traveler crowd.
Luckily, you can avoid that mess altogether because there is so much more to discover in Santorini besides Oia. Travel off the beaten paths and keep your expectations straight, then your vacation in Santorini will be a huge success.
Santorini is a unique island in the Aegean Sea that offers charming little villages, a stunning volcanic landscape, and high cliffs that provide an amazing view over the sunset. It is also home to fabulous luxury hotels and restaurants that make a stay quite comfortable.
Santorini is a magical place that got its shape and landscape from a volcanic eruption under the island. Not only is the landscape impressive but the small cliffside villages with whitewashed houses and blue-dome churches attract many visitors every year.
Yes, sadly there are parts of the island that are very pretentious. Many luxury travelers come to Santorini for fabulous hotels and chic beach clubs and restaurants. Especially around the famous town of Oia, there are many people that only care about luxury and not about the island or its history.
About the Author
Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in the Netherlands. She spends about half of the year traveling to various destinations together with her husband.
She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.