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In recent years, Santorini has dominated social media with its beautiful blue dome buildings, photogenic caldera views, and breathtaking sunsets. Part of the Cyclades, a group of islands in the Aegean Sea, Santorini has jumped to the top of many bucket lists. You may have found yourself scrolling through endless Instagram posts and TikTok reels and wondered: is Santorini worth it? After finally traveling to Santorini, I have created this list of pros, cons, and things to consider to help you determine if Santorini is right for you. My short answer is: It is worth it if you manage your expectations and are looking for a relaxing vacation.
Pro: It is as stunning as it looks on Instagram
Yes, truly. It is just as beautiful as you see on Instagram. Santorini took my breath away when I first stepped out of the airport. It was difficult not to stop and take pictures of everything. The landscape and architecture were a sight to behold, with the endless white buildings and staircases. My hotel room opened up to a balcony from which we could see the magnificent caldera view. The sea itself sparkled a beautiful blue, and I sat there for hours soaking everything in with a glass of wine and a book. Walking through Oia, every spot was a perfect Instagram photo op, and there was something very romantic about the island. However, because of this…
Con: Everyone and their mother was there for a photo op
When I say it was crowded, I mean it was CROWDED. Even when waking up at the crack of dawn to take photos, there were lines for the famous photo spots. The island is generally very catered to tourism. Expect to walk shoulder to shoulder with other tourists looking to see the same sights as you. If crowds aren’t your thing, a quieter Greek island might be for you.
You can also forget about the popular sunset lookouts (like the Oia Castle). You would need to arrive 2 hours early to secure your spot, which I don’t think is worth it. Many of the shops were selling the same types of trinkets and clothing, and the majority of people you meet are other tourists. For someone who loves experiencing the culture of a new place by connecting with the locals, Santorini was a different experience. You can find locals to connect with, but getting an insight into authentic local life is difficult.
Tip: You can avoid disappointment by setting your expectations. You already know how famous Santorini is, so go in expecting crowds and try to find areas off the beaten path. Do not google the best spots to watch the sunset and expect those spots to be free of tourists. For a beautiful sunset spot, head over to the start of the trail from Oia to Fira. There you can watch the sun setting over the glowing town of Oia with fewer people around you.
Pro: Santorini is perfect for a relaxing vacation
If you are the type of person who loves a staycation, Santorini may be worth it for you. It is an ideal place to sleep in until noon, walk around the island to see the caldera from different angles, and try some famous Santorini wine. You can even take a catamaran ride (which I highly recommend) to see the island from different angles and dip in the water. The catamaran also offers a fantastic sunset view (without the crazy crowds!). Or you can stay at your hotel and spend time tanning on the balcony or swimming in the pool (if your hotel has one).
Con: Limited activities
The towns are small, and you can explore each in a few hours. If you are the type of person who loves being active, there are limited options. You can walk the famous path between Oia and Fira (which I highly recommend) to soak in different views. However, make sure you are prepared for this physically, especially in the summer. I saw many people who looked miserable on this hike because they underestimated the weather and terrain. There is also the option of going to the beach, but most people come to Santorini for the caldera view, and the beaches are on the other side of the island. You can try a few off-the-beaten-path activities, such as horseback riding on Eros beach or kayaking in the sea. However, I found them to be similar to excursions in other beach destinations. Two days was honestly enough time in Santorini.
Other things to consider:
The island is costly. For Santorini to be truly worth it, you need to splurge a little. You can save money by staying in the eastern part of the island, staying in a hostel, or cooking your meals. However, most people go to Santorini for the stunning views seen on Instagram. They want to stay in a hotel where they can walk out and see the magnificent caldera and splurge on Greek cuisine and Santorini wine. That experience, unfortunately, comes with a higher price tag. It is better to visit Santorini when you have the funding for a more luxurious experience.
Tip: I highly recommend Captain John’s in Oia to get the best value for money. Though I would not consider this a budget hotel, it is more affordable than most of the stays in Oia starting at around $300 a night during the peak season. It is also one of the few places where you can get a balcony, hot tub, and a full view of the sunset over Oia at that price point. They also deliver a homemade breakfast in the morning with a mix of traditional Greek and standard breakfast dishes for you to enjoy on the balcony!
I do not recommend going in the summer. I know this is a popular tourist season, but it is HOT. You will melt and want to return to your hotel after walking around town for an hour. It is much better to go in the shoulder season to avoid the blazing sun (and summer cruise ship crowds!). I know that may be difficult, especially for families with kids (though I don’t recommend this destination for kids in the first place). Still, you will thank me when you enjoy the island with fewer people and more moderate weather.
Santorini is definitely not worth it for those with mobility issues. You may think this is obvious when seeing the photos, but I was surprised by how many people were unprepared to climb the smooth (and sometimes slippery) stairs. Be prepared to walk up and down to get from place to place. Mobility is also one of the reasons that I do not recommend this destination for families. It can be challenging to corral young children, and it is more of a honeymoon destination than a family destination.
Santorini is worth it if you manage your expectations concerning the crowds, have a little money to splurge, and are there to see the breathtaking views (and take many photos!). It may not be worth it if you prefer a more active vacation, want to avoid big crowds, or want a more authentic local experience. I genuinely enjoyed Santorini, but there are so many other destinations that I would choose before it. Is it worth it? Yes. Is it overhyped? Also yes. Will you still enjoy yourself there? Most likely!
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