Known as one of the most beautiful places in the world, Santorini is a destination on everybody’s bucket list. But, is Santorini worth it, and should you include it in your trip to Greece?
Before we answer this question, let’s start with some basics. Santorini is part of the Cyclades and is located at the south end of the Aegean sea.
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The Cyclades, which means encircling islands, are named this way because they form a rough circle around the sacred island of Delos, which was the legendary birthplace of Artemis and her brother Apollo.
Santorini is just one of many Greek islands but what makes it truly unique is its catastrophic history.
In 1600 BC a devastating eruption destroyed the center of the island, sinking the center and separating it into three parts. It was this eruption that created the island’s cliffs that now house the towns of Fira and Oia, built on the edge of the high caldera dangling right at the fringe of the sea.
These phenomenal views, architectural wonders, and white-washed buildings are what make Santorini stand out from the crowd.
This island is the only inhabited caldera in the world and has even been linked to the myth of Atlantis.
Nevertheless, although it is one of many Greek islands — and arguably the most famous of them all — the question remains, is Santorini worth it? Here are just a couple of things to know before going to Santorini.
Reasons To Visit Santorini: The Pros
One of the major pros of this island is that it is the only Greek island with the unique geology of being a caldera with a volcanic center. This means that Santorini has a unique offering of landscapes that no other Greek island can claim.
Here are some other reasons to visit Santorini:
Let’s start with the most obvious pro as one of the main reasons to visit Santorini is the views. As mentioned previously the villages of the island are mostly built on the edge of cliffs that offer stunning sea views perfectly coupled with white-washed houses and bright blue-domed churches.
It seems like no matter where you go on the island, you will have no shortage of beautiful views to enjoy.
A quick tip: Visit the Balcony of the Aegean, also known as Imerovigli, which is the highest and most central part of the caldera. Also, make sure to go up to the top of Skaros Rock for undisturbed views of the island.
Is Santorini worth visiting for its sunsets? Definitely.
Santorini is known for its breathtaking and unforgettable sunsets. As the sun dips below the horizon the sky is painted in hues of pink and red that are a perfect contrast to the cobalt color of the Aegean Sea.
As the day turns to night, most visitors will head over to the northern village of Oia, which is one of the most famous places to watch the sunset on the island. From this viewpoint, visitors can watch the golden hue of the sun wash over the whitewashed towns and blue-domed churches that cascade down the caldera. It truly is an unforgettable experience.
Be warned that its sheer beauty also means that it can get incredibly crowded. If sunset watching in Oia is on your bucket list, make sure that you come 2-3 hours early and make sure to bring sunscreen, snacks, and some drinks.
If you are looking to beat the crowds, remember that all the caldera villages that are built on the west side of Santorini facing the volcano such as Imerovigli, Fira, and Oia offer lovely views.
The Stunning Hotels
If you are looking for luxurious, unique boutique hotels that offer turquoise blue infinity pools that open up to a stunning view then look no further than Santorini.
It is undeniable that the hotels on this island have not only invested their money but also their time to create one-of-a-kind oases for the weary traveler looking to relax in the lap of luxury.
It is because of volcanic hills and cliffs that Santorini is also home to many hotels with cave suites and cave pools. Technically, most are not actually in a natural cave, but instead, feature rooms, suites, and pools that are built into the cliffside.
Santorini is home to some of the best hotels in all of Greece, but make sure to book ahead.
The Food & Drink
Is Santorini worth visiting for the food? Of course! Whether you are craving traditional Greek food, or are missing home, the island has a large variety of restaurants and cuisines at your disposal.
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And if you are a wine-lover then you’ll be pleased to learn that Santorini also produces a range of wines from approximately 40 indigenous Greek grape varieties.
The flagship variety remains the Assyrtiko, which accounts for 65% of the cultivation. It is also famous for its sweet, red wine, Vinsanto.
If you are interested, you can always visit some of the wineries on the island, such as Santo Wines or the Venetsanos Winery.
Finally, each meal will also be perfectly paired with Santorini’s radiant view and landscape.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a view? Yes, please.
The beaches in Santorini are also quite varied and unique due to the island’s volcanic origin.
On the east coast, travelers can visit Kamari and Perissa beaches for their volcanic black sand or head on over to Red Beach which is home to large pebbles and red walls that overlook the sea.
Along with the unique sand, the island is home to the most beautiful clear turquoise blue waters that are just begging you to come in for a quick dip or a prolonged underwater adventure.
The volcanic formations also offer a different type of experience for anyone yearning to go snorkeling or scuba diving.
Last but certainly not least, is Santorini safe?
The answer is: YES.
Of course, there are risks everywhere, however, Santorini is a very safe destination. The island has a low crime rate and it is rare for tourists to be targeted.
The only precaution we’d recommend is to watch your step on the caldera after you’ve had a couple of drinks.
Reasons To Visit Santorini: The Cons
Although the pros may seem to outweigh the cons, there are a couple of things to know when traveling to Santorini as these particular cons may heavily influence your Santorini travel plans.
Santorini is a little over 75 square kilometers in size (under 45 square miles). However, during high season the island can be incredibly crowded.
In 2019 the island attracted over 2 million visitors.
Santorini is also a popular cruise destination, in 2018, 439 cruise ships docked in Santorini, making it one of the most popular ports of call on Adriatic Sea cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean. In fact, Santorini ranks 7th in Europe’s busiest cruise destinations.
If you are looking to grab that iconic Instagram shot in Oia, then be forewarned that the narrow streets of the town are often packed so full of people that you’ll have to quite literally shove your way through the crowd.
There is something unappealing about being crammed into a small space like a sardine for a couple of hours just to see a sunset.
Furthermore, a lot of the Instagrammable spots have been blocked off from tourists and many signs have been posted around town warning against trespassing.
Finally, there is also the problem of photographically challenged tourists who tend to do anything for that perfect “Instagram shot” and are taking selfies around every corner.
It Is Expensive
Crowds also mean an increase in pricing, especially if you are looking to stay in the villages of Oia and Fira. However, the price can greatly depend on your needs.
A week-long vacation in Santorini can vary between USD$1,000-$5,000 per person, depending on the level of luxury you are interested in.
Nevertheless, if you are a budget traveler then there are also budget-friendly options.
So is Santorini cheap? Not exactly, but it can be less expensive if you are a little flexible.
Don’t expect to find a budget hotel in Oia perched on the cliff, however, if you travel a little outside of town, you can decrease that accommodation budget.
Whatever you do decide, make sure to always book in advance, this includes restaurant reservations as they often book up quite quickly.
The Tourism Effect
Last, but not least, let’s talk about authenticity.
Over-tourism, in effect, brings with it a type of inauthenticity. Gone is the ability to see the old style of living, sitting down with locals and chatting in broken English-Greek while eating fresh fish and sipping some ouzo.
Instead travelers will see products, food, and accommodations that have been created specifically for them. This is why, for example, there are a lot of restaurants that serve international cuisine on the island. This can be both a bad and a good thing.
When walking around the island, make sure to be extra critical about individuals claiming that they offer unique or authentic experiences, products, or food.
Ask questions, talk to the locals and try to focus on wandering off the beaten path as a way to experience a more local side of Santorini while also beating the crowds.
The Final Verdict: Is Santorini Worth Visiting?
Santorini is the only Greek island with the unique geology of being a caldera with a volcanic center. It is also home to some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world and incredible views that will take your breath away.
So is Santorini worth visiting for those reasons alone? Yes.
However, Santorini is more than just views and sunsets. It is home to delicious Greek cuisine, local wineries, rich history, interesting local culture, and enchanting villages.
As a result, Santorini should be on your bucket list, but if you wondering how long to stay in Santorini, you might want to limit your time to 3-4 days to capture enough of its magic without too much of the cons.
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