Santorini, Greece. Oia city with white and blue houses in Aegean Sea. Thira, Cyclades Islands.

Confession: I’ve never been to Santorini. I’ve always avoided places where young couples insist on rose petals being placed on floors rather than vases and the island is a prime hotspot for such crimes against botany. Whenever I have free time to plan my own travels, I tend to pick places where I can find something local and unique, with as few people happy to wear “I Love New York” t-shirts as possible. I like to get lost, or find a different “me” in a new city.

It’s why I’ve jumped off the island of Bali over to Nusa Lembongan, or headed for remote stretches of the Mexican highlands rather than its beloved sunny beach resorts.

But this summer, I’m throwing in the towel – joining all the loved up masses and heading to check out Santorini.  Because really – it’s just too f**king beautiful to miss out on any more.

After putting a trip to Santorini off for years, for all the reasons discussed above, I’ve given in, and I’m going during peak season. Why? I’ve seen too many pictures that don’t look real, even though I know that they absolutely are.

With perhaps a little persistence from my partner, I came to realise that some places on earth are so naturally stunning, even people can’t ruin them and you can’t let other people keep you from seeing them with your own eyes. Santorini is undoubtedly one of them, no matter how many tourists send donkeys to the chiropractor. And yes, Laura is a massive ABBA fan.

Deciding to go was a leap, but finding a place that would do the experience justice with jaw dropping views at a price under $1000 a night was an even greater peak travel challenge.

Every hotel on the island purports to offer very best views and the effortless luxury we collectively crave, but Oia, Fira and Imerovigli, the main “cities”, on Santorini bring starkly different takes on these promises, even if they all involve white washed concrete and deep blue seas. In short: Oia and Fira seem to be where most of the main action is, while Imerovigli is a 10 minute walk out of the hustle.

In my eyes, this island is about all things “non hustle”, so I went with Imerovigli. A few reasons: Fira is where the cruise ships dock, and is generally the busiest and most mainstream tourist centric of the Santorini towns. It’s known to be loud and attract more of a party scene than one looking for serenity might admire. A party is scene perhaps nice at times, but I don’t want to live in it, at least not here.

Oia is known for iconic sunsets and the most renowned architecture, but so is everywhere. Because people are told to go there, it tends to get crowded in the evenings and resorts cleverly extract extra bucks to enjoy the views. Oia sounds like a great place to pop along during the day, which we totally will, but most people tend to say that for mornings and evenings, you can’t beat Imerovigli. With that in mind, that’s where we’ll lay our heads.

Santorini, Greece. Oia city with white and blue houses in Aegean Sea. Thira, Cyclades Islands.Imerovigli is the most laid back of the three, but offers easy access to Fira if you want it and most importantly – it’s the highest elevation. I’m there to go “holy sh*t” when I look down the side of a cliff into the boundless blue ocean, and the higher the elevation, the more I imagine myself to be saying that. From everything I’ve read, being right next to Skaros Rock is pretty cool in itself, especially as the rock can block the sunset for people to the left in Fira, but not our location.

Side convo: does anyone else go over the top on research?

I always laugh at my travels because if you, like y-o-u ask me where to go, I’d all too easily spout off a few places and convince you not to think twice. When it comes to picking my own accommodations and spots however, I’m a total mess. I study pictures, reviews and other resources like I’m trying to earn a doctorate in the destination. In the course of my Santorini dissertation studies, many of the most stunning pictures turned out to be from Imerovigli.

Furthermore, I found a place called The Vasilicos, with only seven suites, a sister winery, its own chef and outstanding reviews. It was booked when we ideally wanted to go, but I actually became slightly obsessed with the place to a point that I ended up shifting my travel dates to book a last minute rate on alternative dates. It wasn’t cheap by any means, but in Santorini terms, for a high end experience it was on par or below, price wise. I’m not sure I’ve actually ever been so excited to stay somewhere.

Like many of you, I have my own ideas, hangups and barriers with travel. But as I get over my silly convictions about not being part of the crowd, I realise more and more that there are places which are so beautiful you can’t help but join them. It doesn’t matter how cool, uncool or popular something is if it’s that way because a freaking volcano exploded and sent volcanic rock cratering into the earth to dig out insane hillsides. Even ships full of tourists won’t be able to spoil this one for me.

Where should I give into next?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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10 Comments

  1. There are plenty of beautiful places in Santorini other than Oia, you can definitely get away from the crowds and have more of an authentic experience if you do

  2. We have been traveling for about three years. Pretty much 10 months out of the year split between cruise ships and exotic destinations with two months at home for doctor, dentist, family and replenishment then back out on to the road/ocean again.
    We travel for fun to iconic interesting places and we do it all or most all on miles and points. When you travel every day there isn’t always time for extensive planning. We generally spend at least 5 days in a location but sometimes we actually don’t leave the hotel because we need a break from touring and planning. On one level it seems a waste because here you are in ______ (fill in the blank cause we have been there or will be there) and here we are sitting back and taking in the view of Sydney harbor from a nice hotel or a high floor at the JW Marriott on Hong Kong Island gazing out to Kowloon and the harbor instead of being “out there”. And then there are the times where one of us gets sick. Yup it happens. Some cute little kid walks by and coughs and viola a week later you have a cold that kicks your but for a week. That is the sad part because we are moving on to the next place when it is time and if we missed out on say Rome well we will just have to come back since all of the travel plans are already set. So past the initial plan set up, and we do add to it as we go if we are sitting around planning too much we aren’t “out there” while we are actually there.
    Do we miss out on some stuff? You bet we do. Sometimes we groan that we could have stayed at this or that hotel or gone to the other city instead of this one but far and away where we end up seems to be the best overall winner, best views, hotels transportation and value.
    I have a friend who is the opposite. He will spend months planning a trip of three or four weeks. Searching planning and thoroughly enjoying the process and then maybe change his mind and chuck it and start with a new plan. He takes far less trips but I don’t think he is missing anything. He has traveled to those places in his mind and he does take some of the trips physically. I guess my point is there isn’t one way to travel or travel plan it comes down to what makes you happy and fulfilled and that’s why we travel and travel plan isn’t it?
    It is a long post I know. I actually started to write it for our personal blog and I started typing it in the box for posting to godsavethepoints just as a starting place with the idea of copy and paste and at the last minute thought I would post and hopefully someone else found it interesting.

  3. Santorini is majorly overrated, but if you’ve never been you should spend a day or two.

  4. My wife and I went to Santorini probably 15 years ago when it was on no-ones radar. It was beautiful, cheap great hotels and amazing food, wouldn’t go there now as it’s too trendy for us. Beautiful photo ops

  5. I appreciate what you are saying, still it’s best to go off-season. It’s not one of our islands where one would go for the beaches. It’s more the ambience and the landscapes, and yes, too many people ruin that. Nevertheless enjoy!

  6. Gilbert, I am glad you have taken the plunge and decided to visit what is an extraordinary place. But contrary to popular belief, I still think it’s possible to combine the plush for the views and also mix it with something local and unique. But unfortunately comes down to organising transportation arrangements whilst you are there. First off, I think you are spot on with accommodation location, Imerovigli is the best choice with great views and you have bagged a plush place to enjoy it. The negative is that you do not have any beaches at your feet (although you may have a private pool where you booked) and to get to beaches you need transport. Also helps with visiting other parts of the island. Best option is hiring a scooter/moped to allow getting to all sorts of places. Taxis are exorbitant, looking at 20-30 euro a ride no matter where you are going. Local bus is handy but timetable and limited services as well as early last bus run impose huge constraints, as are the hordes of tourists they carry. For good authentic local experiences in terms of food, I have found Metaksi Mas and O Kritikos (the Cretan) Tavern great options. The latter also is great value for money when looking for chunky meat portions. However, both are inland without the cliché views. Given I had the spectacular views from my accommodation in Imerovigli, I wasn’t fussed travelling inland to look for places where locals would dine. In terms of beaches, I always head to Vourvoulos Beach, where most locals go and the odd tourist who may have booked some cheap accommodation in this area, a sort of run down beach in terms of old umbrellas and deck chairs, but here there is no commercialisation and loud music bashing your ear drums, just a more wild part of the island for swimming. The beach area also has a quaint local fish tavern called to To Limanaki (small port), nothing grandiose but good old fashioned typical Greek menu. Being Greek, I just enjoy these run of the mill places with really good food and able to have a decent conversation with those running the place without the throngs of tourists. Naturally, if you have hired a scooter/moped, makes it so easy to visit all the other beaches with different coloured volcanic sand where most people stay if they want a beach. In terms of wineries, I think Santo Wines is worth a pop, given it where the Union of Santorini Producers I believe have their premises. They offer wine tasting experiences that do not break the bank and also offer the views at the same time. Not saying the above is what one should follow, just an example of how you can combine getting the benefits of the cliché attractions of Fira, Oia and Imerovigli with a few local and unique experiences thrown in. Enjoy!

    Apologies for the long post

  7. Go further south on the caldera, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Who ever says Santorini is overrated, Bah! Humbug!!! It is unique.

  8. My wife and I went in May and totally agree it’s worth the hype. Just as pretty as the pictures. Separately, she went to Mykonos and felt that was overrated, but she possibly attributed that to her advancement in age.

  9. I’ve been to Santorini 7-8 times, but gave up a couple of years ago when I was stuck for HOURS in traffic (in the same trip I saw the then new McDonalds…. NO!)
    I’ve stayed from 3* hotels to one of the best suits (pool, jacuzzi, hammam,…).
    I have two tips:
    1. don;’t go for the most expensive place, yes you’ll get an amazing room but the view is the same from everywhere, and also the vast majority of places have extremely limited privacy, people will be able to look into your teracce/private pool
    2. In front of Imerovigli (just in front of Grace) there are some steps that lead to a big rock – you can walk there and climb on the rock if you are reasonably fit (use trainers not flip-flops). It akes about 20 minutes to get there. Take a bottle of something with bubbles with you if your thing. From there you get the best sunset views – uninterrupted, with everyone else behind you, no buildings, no filthy pools, no overpriced cocktails, just raw view like nature intended and not the island developers.

    enjoy!

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