Is Santorini Overrated? A Backpacker’s Verdict
The Greek island of Santorini is the opposite of a hidden gem destination. Its pristine white buildings, set against a backdrop of turquoise sea, circulate social media daily. Most of the accommodation featured in these videos and photos include private villas complete with pools, but let’s face it, for those of us backpacking the Greek islands, these types of lodgings just aren’t realistic. Without the luxury hotel experience then, and knowing how the crowds flock here each summer, is Santorini overrated?
I chose to visit the island because, like others, the postcard-ready pictures online seduced me. However, wary of what I suspected might be an overpriced and busy tourist hub, and being a traveller that usually looks for budget destinations, I allowed myself only two nights.
In hindsight, I wish I’d given Santorini more of my time because if I could describe this island in one word, the word would be majestical.
Let me summarise why for you…
Surprisingly welcoming locals
From the moment I arrived on the island, I felt a complete sense of calm and tranquillity, which was largely helped by encounters with locals, who always offered greetings as I passed. You have no doubt experienced that in many holiday destinations, shop and restaurant owners barrage you with reasons to buy from them as you try to stroll the streets.
Not in Santorini.
Here, the owners patiently allow you to walk past, or stop to browse their stall, before wishing you a good day even if you leave empty-handed (for the record I could have bought plenty!)
A diverse volcanic landscape
The amount of open space on Santorini completely contradicted my expectations of a built-up island. These were mostly set by reading media reports of fed up residents and a strain on local infrastructure, which is silly as I recommend against using newspapers as travel guides (though I’m sure some locals in Oia and Thira do take issue with the tourism boom).
Actually, the whitewashed villages are really only a fraction of what the land is made up of. There are rolling green hills and windmill-dotted fields, humongous rocks to climb, hiking trails across ridges, a prehistoric city, and beaches that offer black, white, or even red sand!
More sunset viewpoints than Oia
Here’s where I tell you something controversial; I didn’t watch the sunset from Oia on either of my nights on Santorini. The reason I didn’t, is because the incredibly clear and colourful sunset over the caldera can be seen from all over the west side of the island. Whilst Oia may be the most renowned spot to view it, Instagram Stories from other bloggers have shown me it’s also crammed full of people, which put me off.
Instead, I spent the first evening watching the sun go down from the southernmost point of Santorini, where a lighthouse sits on a cliff and rocks offer the perfect front row seats. On the second, I treated myself to dine alfresco on a restaurant balcony in Firostefani, which is a quieter and just as stunning version of Oia.
Budget food options
Greek food is out of this world tasty, and the best part is that buying from a typical Greek café or kebab shop on Santorini is really inexpensive. A portion of Gyros (meat, onion, tomato, oregano, tzatziki, and sometimes chips, wrapped in a pitta) can be bought for as little as 2.80 euro, but trust me when I say that one is more than enough to fill you up!
Santorini also has lots of self-catering accommodation and hostels, plus a large Lidl store, making eating on a budget a breeze. Though I would recommend dining out for sunset just once. My meal at Remvi Restaurant cost 40 euro for an appetiser, gorgeous pasta dish, and two glasses of wine – not bad for a fancy restaurant!
Picturesque alleyways and colourful doors
I lost count of the number of times I found myself saying, “Oh, that’s a nice door!” or, “Oooh, look a pretty alleyway, let’s go this way”. Again, Oia is the most well known for its maze of marble stone paths leading through cliff-poised buildings, but my favourite village to wander was Pyrgos.
Pyrgos is situated nearer to the middle of the island, but still on the west coast. It’s a little smaller than Oia, but feels more authentic and has fewer tourists competing to get the best photo angle.
Unfortunately, my self-imposed time restriction meant I couldn’t do any of the activities on offer for visitors to Santorini. When I arrived though, I scribbled a list of all of the things I’d like to do, and these were on it:
- Swim in the thermal waters
- Hike the active volcano
- Explore the prehistoric city
- Visit Skaros Rock
- Walk the Red Beach
- Cliff jump at Amoudi Bay
I’m pretty sure had I continued to explore, I would have found even more to tick off the Santorini bucket list. Still, I guess this means I have to return! Not a problem, I’ll gladly be back on another trip.
Oh, and in case you hadn’t gathered by now, no, I do not think Santorini is overrated. In fact, I think if you’re on the verge of including it in your Greek island hopping experience, you can stop searching for more information now and book the flight/ferry. Perhaps I’ll see you there!
Have you visited Santorini or any of the other Greek islands whilst on a budget? Is Santorini overrated in your opinion? Let me know what you thought in the comments below, and share this post with friends!