Santorini is one of the most popular islands in the world. When you see photographs of Greece, you’ll likely come across an image of Santorini. This photogenic island has kept travelers intrigued for years and will for years to come.
So how do you enjoy one of the most beautiful places on earth and not be over run by crowds? We have answers.
Getting off the beaten path in Santorini is still possible, you just have to get creative. And we’re all about creative travel.
Here are some travel tips for escaping the crowds in Santorini…
Stay on the East Side of the Island
Look for a hotel or villa on the east side of the island, which is less crowded. Kamari and Perissa have luxury and budget friendly options within walking distance of beaches with views. Kamari is typically more active than Perissa. You’ll get more of a local village feel in Perissa.
Staying on the east side, will help you experience more of Santorini and get some rest too. The most popular and crowded villages on the island, Oia and Fira, are on the west side. Cruise ship guests also spend the day in one or both of these villages, making them particularly crowded between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Ground transportation will be necessary to get to the east side. You can rent a vehicle, take the bus, or hire a driver/taxi. Car rental companies are extremely convenient to work with and will even deliver a vehicle right to your hotel. Most hotels also have shuttle service to/from the port and airport.
Visit Oia in the Morning
Oia has those famous blue domes. It really is one of the greatest Instagram shots of all time! But to experience Oia and enjoy it with some elbow room, you’ll want to arrive by 8:00 a.m. Head straight to the blue domes upon arrival. (Click here for the best location to get the iconic photo.) At this time of day you’ll have less people in the photo versus mid-morning when the spot will be overflowing with travelers. The lighting is also best in the early morning, with the sun coming up behind you.
For the rest of the morning, wander through the narrow streets of the village. Shop and be sure to wander down the less traveled streets to take in the architecture.
Leave late morning, as the cruise ship guests will start to arrive and the temperatures can get very high with the sun beating down. If you are a cruise ship guest, see Oia upon your arrival and rent a motor vehicle to explore other parts of the island for the rest of your time on Santorini.
Watch the Sunset
Hundreds flock to Oia in the evening for the sunset. While we highly recommend experiencing the sunset from Oia at least once, there are other amazing spots (and some may argue, better spots) around the island to capture the evening’s main event. In fact, when the sun sets in Oia, it can be difficult to get a good photo or have a romantic moment due to the number of people standing around.
One of our favorite ways to take in the sunset from Santorini is with a panoramic view of the caldera. Go to the opposite side of the caldera from Oia to get this view – near the Akrotiri Lighthouse. You can stop along side of the road to watch the sun go down and there is usually very few people around.
Go Wine Tasting
Santorini is known for Assyrtiko, a white grape that takes over the majority of vineyards on the island. It maintains high levels of alcohol and acidity. When you visit a winery, they’ll tell you all about how the unique way grapes are grown on the island and the history of the vineyards. It’s fascinating! Some of the best wineries on Santorini are off the beaten path. Do a Google Maps search to find all of the wineries. Click here for a list of our favorites.
Finding Your Way Around
The roads on the island can be busy, but don’t let that stop you from renting a vehicle to get around. Simply take it slow and enjoy the view. But if renting a vehicle isn’t your thing, you can take the bus or hire a taxi. However, there are very few taxis on the island so we recommend making arrangements through your hotel.
Experience Santorini for yourself! Leave a comment below to let us know how you traveled off the beaten path and what you found.