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A little underwhelmed with Santorini

We went to Oia, Santorini with expectations of a blue ocean in the caldera and lots of blue domed buildings, as seen in popular pictures.

At least on the day we arrived, June 10, a bright sunny day, the caldera sea was anything but blue. Our hotel was 2 minutes walking distance from the center of Oia and we had to hunt for the blue church domes - found about 3-4 of them. One had to go down a path off the main shopping street in Oia. Starting at 7 am in the morning, there were lots of to be married couples (mostly Chinese) with their photographer who lined up to take pictures in a very small area near the blue domes, hogging the area for 5-10 minutes at a time. They also trespassed on a hotel private property while taking pictures, which led to the owner (an old lady) getting upset and yelling for everyone to get out of there. From what we could tell, this is the area which appears in all (if not most) photos of Santorini with the blue domes.

We didn't find Santorini much more scenic compared to Hawaii or parts of California. Certainly if you're going to Greece, check out Santorini. I know our opinion probably differs from the vast majority, but thought we would share it anyway.

Posted by
1179 posts

Part of your mistake is going to Santorini in the high season. It’s a zoo then.
Go in early September. The crowds are less and it is still beautifully warm.
I also note that you only went to Oia? Is that it? Did you not go to the archeology sites like Akrotiri? How about the black sand beaches at Kamari? Did you not take a caldera tour? Did you not go to Fira?
I’ve worked in Hawaii many times, I’ve lived in California. Santorini is very different from both those places. Why then are you even trying to compare the two?

Posted by
350 posts

Andy, I appreciate your thoughts on your visit. Thanks for taking the time to post.

Posted by
8293 posts

Santorini is stunningly beautiful. Took my breath away. Hawaii did not.

Posted by
971 posts

I agree that Oia is a freakin zoo in high season and yes it's the same blue domed buildings that show up in most pictures. However I still adore Santorini, it's just something you won't find anywhere else inn the world. To me the best parts of my recent visit to Santorini was finding a quiet restaurant on the edge of Fira and just lazing there enjoying the caldera view, or hiking up to the classical greek ruins of Ancient Thira in the early morning and having the place almost to ourselves, or visiting the 3500 year old ruins of Akrotiri (while all the young tourists on the bus there continued to the beach, leaving the ruins nice and quiet).

Posted by
5697 posts

Most places in Greece that I have visited are more genuine than Santorini, which these days has become too Disney-esque and suffers from too many day trip cruisers. Now isn’t high season in Greece as most European schools haven’t started their summer holidays.

Posted by
1780 posts

We were in oia three weeks ago with our young adult children. Our sons, aged 21 and 25, ran off to explore as soon as they dumped their stuff at our rental house. They came back an hour later and told us that we simply had to go see the town—it was just unbelievably beautiful.

They got up early like you but perhaps because it was still shoulder season, they had the place pretty much to themselves.

And the hike from oia to Fira was quite simply the most beautiful hike any of us had ever done.

There were a lot of people at times on santorini when we were there the last week of May, especially during the sunset. But never so many that it distracted from our enjoyment. From your post, it sounds like three weeks makes a big difference.

Beth

Posted by
5750 posts

Timing is everything. So many places are now just under too much pressure.

Posted by
3241 posts

I'm not a constant visitor to Disney(have only been 4 times, none since 2001) but it's not a bad thing for a place to be compared to Disney because Disney does a lot of things really well. My favorite part of our trip to Santorini was the view of the caldera from our hotel room in Fira. I was disappointed that Akrotiri had not reopened when I was there in 2008. We did do the volcano hike and did not go to Oia.

Posted by
1780 posts

I live in Florida and have been to Disney many times and as much as we enjoyed santorini, I would agree with the comparison. It is not genuinely Greek.

Still it was a fabulous place to begin a tour of Greece-at least in May!

Beth

Posted by
1179 posts

Now isn’t high season in Greece as most European schools haven’t started their summer holidays.

But other places have started their holidays. And they bring crowds too.

You can pretty much forget June-August. Too many people.

Posted by
681 posts

I also live in Florida and have children that work for Disney. I must agree with that comparison with Oia. We could not wait to get out of there. Yes, it is beautiful but so crowded that all you did was to get elbowed. I did enjoy other parts of the island especially the East side. I enjoyed Paros. Felt the same way about crowded Mykonos but then I got to go to Delos from Mykonos. Delos was an amazing side trip.

Posted by
156 posts

We were in Santorini for 3 nights about 2 weeks ago. Yes it was touristy but we found it incredibly beautiful. The sea was always deep blue and the sunsets amazing. We stayed in Firostephani which was quieter so maybe that made a difference. Took the sunset caldera boat tour and stopped at 3 beautiful yet different beaches- well run with good food and drink. I do agree that there wasn't as many blue domes as I had expected but the cliffside views of the caldera did not disappoint.

Posted by
975 posts

If you haven't been to any other island or the mainland of Greece and pick Santorini as your first island to visit you can either be awed or turned off, depending on time of year you go. High Season will find over-the-top tourism and high prices, huge cruise ships spewing out hundreds, if not thousands of day trippers turning the island into every-man-for-themselves. How "Greek" it is can be very debatable. Disneyland is used by many, others are awed by the cadera-side villages and sunsets, many others are turned off by the hordes of tourists elbowing each other to get by, get the best photos or just rushing around like ants in a colony.

However, there is more, a lot more to Greece than Santorini or Mykonos or other "Big Name" Islands. You can find spectacular scenery, vistas and views on other less touristed islands, less crowds, lower prices and more "Greek". Don't forget the mainland which is a whole other aspect of Greece. The Peloponnese is a wonderful area and has some of the best archeological/historic sites in Greece and may offer a more traditional and "Greek" experience.

Always do your research before you go to any foreign country, don't be lured into visiting somewhere by glossy magazines or websites. Avoid the "calendar" photos of a destination, ask questions, check out various websites/forums. You may find other areas of Greece or any other foreign country far more authentic and real than the "Disneyland" versions always showing up on-line.

Posted by
7988 posts

Been there twice, one time too many. Love Greece but not Santorini, not authentic.

Posted by
8293 posts

Suki, in what way is Santorini not authentic? While I am asking, what actually makes a place “authentic”? And how can I tell the difference between an authentic destination and a phoney destination? Does it depend on the number of tourists? I hope I am not living in an inauthentic Canadian city!

Posted by
975 posts

Kaeleku:

That is a perfect explanation. You said what many believe but put into a wonderful way.

I've never been to Santorini but have seen all the photos and videos and while it appears to offer spectacular scenery I just can't fathom being surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of tourists pushing & scurrying around to witness a sun set and thinking this is what a Greek Island is all about.

Do your reserach and you'll find numerous Greek Islands and part of the main land that can offer just as spectacular scenery, lower prices, less tourists and a more authentic Greece.

Posted by
2896 posts

The answer to whether to see Santorini (after being bombarded with "postcard images" for years) is yes IF (1) you strategize WHEN you go (2) WHERE you stay and (3) HOW LONG to visit ...,

• WHEN -- NOT in July-August for many reasons (A) hugest crowds of all (B) So hot you'll need a swim & hotel pools are co$$$tly If you go in APril-May-Early June or Sept-Oct the crowds are less and so are temps. ALSO about When: M-Th are when the Mega-Monster cruise ships (2,000-3000 psgrs) dock, as many as 3-4 per day .... Sat-Sun only 1-2 small ones.

• WHERE -- (if you want a caldera location) Unless u want to be in a $$superluxe "bubble" hotel w walls and spas, in OIA you'll be impacted by massive crowds in the lanes from 10-4, and 6 - 9. Ditto for FIRA TOWN. Either FIROSTEPHANI or IMERVOGLI are bypassed by the throngs; the former has advantage of easy walk to FIRA, local dining... the latter may require car rental.

• HOW LONG -- In my last 4 trips taking along "newbies", I've set a limit of 36-48 hours -- allows 1.5 days for sightseeing, 2 sunset dinners (not in Oia), and a couple of quick dips in a neighboring pool my hotel had the use of ... arrival noonish of day 1, ferry out on morning of day 3. They all expressed satisfaction with seeing the highlights, then moving on to more authentic isles.

Posted by
4 posts

Andy - I appreciate your thoughts on Santorini. I'm going out of my way to visit it on our trip and it is useful to have a more tempered perspective to set my expectations.

Janet - Thanks for the suggestions on where/when to stay. We are going mid-September. Do you think it would be useful to have a rental car in Santorini? We are just going for one night taking the ferry from Naxos and I'm debating whether to bring our rental car with us from Naxos.

Posted by
122 posts

I was in Santorini this summer. I liked staying in low key and less $$$ PERISSA. From tghere I could take a local bus and visit FIRA for the day and then escape the crowds.Worked for me!

Posted by
2896 posts

Divarose - I answered your car query Re naxos/santorini on your own thread.

Posted by
7988 posts

We were very happy to leave Santorini and return to more authentic parts of Greece. We met other visitors who felt the same way. The view is nice, the rest disappointing.