Santorini: Should it be on your Greek Island bucket list or not?

Santorini: Should it be on your Greek Island bucket list or not?

Ah, Santorini. Home to some of the planet’s most romantic sunsets and sexiest pools. With its sultry black volcanic ash beaches and awesome crescent of cliffs jutting into the sky from a drowned caldera,

Santorini ties with Mykonos as the most desirable island in Greece (and the most photographed!). But does Santorini live up to the hype? Is it really the only “must visit” island in Greece?

The most famous Greek island
Does Santorini live up to the hype?
A miss during summer #1
A miss during summer #2
A miss during summer #3 
A Greek island like no other
Best time to visit Santorini? #1
Best time to visit Santorini? #2
2021 Season

The most famous Greek island

Ah, Santorini. Home to some of the planet’s most romantic sunsets and sexiest pools. With its sultry black volcanic ash beaches and awesome crescent of cliffs jutting into the sky from a drowned caldera, Santorini ties with Mykonos as the most desirable island in Greece (and the most photographed!). In fact, this Cycladic pin-up is rarely out of the top ten when it comes to dream holiday destinations all around the world. It’s also the island most likely to rank first place in surveys of which Greek destination travellers wish to visit first, when planning their holidays in Greece.

But does Santorini live up to the hype?

Is it really the only “must visit” island in Greece? And if you’ve already experienced Santorini, should you consider visiting other Greek islands? My point of view is that it depends on what kind of experience you are seeking. For sure, Santorini simply has to be done. At least once in your lifetime. Personally, I prefer those more low-key and off-grid Greek islands that have not been discovered by the masses and will not suffer in the foreseeable future from over tourism. Can Santorini become one of these islands?

Photo credits: Anastasios Kotinas

Reasons to give Santorini a miss during summer #1

Santorini’s massive popularity has sadly come at a price. That is not to say that it isn’t a wonderful island or a “must visit” destination. But its world-wide fame has led many to think that it’s the only beautiful island in Greece – and more specifically, that no other sunset in Greece can possibly measure up to the spectacular sunsets of Oia. Truth is, before the pandemic, if you had visited Santorini from mid-May until mid-September, chances are that you would not even have had the opportunity to watch this legendary spectacle due to the crowds choking the narrow lanes of Oia; all angling for that best view and that best photo. Judging by the countless videos and photos you see on social media, many visitors are so intent on “getting the shot”, they miss out completely on soaking up the mystical magic of the actual sunset. Before the pandemic, there were even long queues for securing a good photo shooting position in the most sought-after spots. In my book, you should never ever have to queue for a sunset!

Reasons to give Santorini a miss during summer #2

Besides that, because of the crowds visiting Santorini in warmer months, there is too much traffic clogging up the meandering narrow streets of the island. Who wants to spend their summer holidays being stuck in a traffic jam, instead of experiencing the beauties of this incredible island?

Reasons to give Santorini a miss during summer #3 

Pre-Covid, it was not uncommon to see more than 6 or 7 cruise ships pulling into port to visit Santorini every day in summer. You can imagine how crowded the island became. Especially if you consider that all of these cruise ship passengers pile into the same slim lanes of Imerovigli and Oia and onto the same few beaches. During the 2020 season, lucky visitors got to enjoy the rare privilege of having Santorini almost all to themselves due to the travel restrictions.

Santorini: A Greek Island like no other

Coming back to whether Santorini lives up to its hype, I would have to say yes. Thanks to its singular wild beauty and geological interest - legacy of the most violent eruption in recorded history – it is definitely worth seeing. Additionally, Santorini packs a cosmopolitan vibe, an outstanding gourmet Greek scene and a huge variety of genuine cultural experiences to enjoy.

When is the best time to visit Santorini? #1

If you want to encounter Santorini as a “hidden gem” and have a more intimate experience, I strongly recommend going from mid-September until beginning of November, or from mid-April until mid-May. During these off-season windows, the weather is still very pleasant. It’s still sunny but not too hot. Most importantly, of course, it’s much less crowded! Locals are on-hand to enrich your connection to Santorini with insights about their captivating culture, history, gastronomy, geology and architecture. It feels like the island is truly transformed during this period.

When is the best time to visit Santorini? #2

If your travel plan only allows you to visit Santorini during summer time, consider spending less days. I’d recommend avoiding weekends or combining your stay with a more mellow island close to Santorini, like Amorgos, Anafi, Folegandros, Ios or Milos. Check the days when cruise ships are docking at Santorini (Santorini is one of the most popular destinations in the East Med cruise itineraries) and try to align your visit for days when there are less cruise ships calling into Santorini. And concentrate on some of Santorini’s less publicised tourism highlights (look out for another blog story coming soon with some top Santorini tips to inspire you).

2021 Season

Hopefully from summer 2021 onwards, traveling will be easier and Santorini will have the opportunity to welcome visitors again in less crowded and hectic conditions. This sounds like a win-win to me and one that will allow travellers to appreciate every minute of their stay or short visit on this must-see Greek island marvel.

Stay tuned to read about the 25 epic highlights of Santorini during late fall or mid spring!

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