People fighting to get sunset picture in Santorini

Why It’s Totally Ok to Skip Overrated Santorini

This is the time of year when pictures of Santorini, that iconic island in Greece, invade social media feeds across the world. The pictures might be of gorgeous white windmills high on a cliff overlooking the sea, or of Santorini’s famous cave houses lit up like lanterns at sunset. Or they might involve the posters themselves casually perched on a wall – melting into the island’s background in white and baby blue clothes they just happened to have packed. Call it “Santorini camouflage.”

Skip Santorini: Why this white walled city is overpriced and overrated
Trolling for Instagram likes in my Santorini camouflage

The posts and pins might come from newlyweds gallivanting around Greece on their honeymoon, that kid next door who took a year off college to travel the world with a rucksack, or some travel blogger trying to convince you that Santorini is the most magical place on the planet.

But, whatever their content or source, these photos are really just meant to do one thing: make you insanely jealous that you aren’t in Santorini right now.

Skip Santorini's sunset shots
My top performing photo on Instagram

Well, don’t be.

I just finished a trip to Santorini and, as someone who travels the world full time, I can tell you that Santorini is one of the most overpriced, overcrowded, and overrated travel destinations on the planet.

Santorini is Wildly Overcrowded

Santorini is famous its Instagram spots — especially at sunset. In fact, the most liked photo on my Instagram account is from Santorini. The simple truth is that Santorini is social media gold – guaranteed to up your like count. 

But do you want to know what’s really going on behind the cameras over on Santorini?

Freaking madness.

Just check out this photo of tourists fighting — literally, people were shoving each other — to get a shot of the sunset:

People fighting to get sunset picture in Santorini

And you know what is really crazy about that picture? That is one of the LESS BUSY sunset viewpoints on Santorini. I couldn’t even make it to the more popular photo spots until much later because people were jammed in like sardines.

I wish I could say that Oia, the iconic white village on the island, is only crowded for sunset. But, at least during the summer, it is mobbed at all hours by cruise ship excursions, European glitterati, and Chinese tour buses. The narrow walkways get so crowded that at times getting around can make you feel like you’ve been conscripted into a sweaty mosh pit of humanity gyrating to Santorini’s siren song.

And for some reason, Santorini seems to bring out the worst impulses of its visitors. Everyone there is aware that Santorini pictures are guaranteed to perform on Instagram, so they’ll do just about anything to snap that jealousy-inducing pic.

The photo madness is so out of hand that the local school has to post these signs everywhere outside its playground, warning tourists not to take photos of the children:

SIgn on overrated Santorini saying not to take photos of children
The local school had to post this!

Santorini is Massively Overpriced

Oh, and even forgetting the crowds, Santorini’s outrageous price tags are reason enough to give it a pass. This is definitely not a place for people looking to travel the world cheaply. Thanks to the influx of oil magnets mooring their yachts below the cliffs, one of those iconic cave houses in Oia — almost all of which are now converted tourist rentals — will run you over 500 euros per night. At one of Santorini’s many made-for-tourists restaurants, you can easily drop 50-100 euros on a Greek dinner that is about as authentic as Donald Trump’s tan.

While social media might have you think that Santorini is the only Greek game in town, in fact there are dozens of other photogenic islands worth the time and money you’ll save by skipping Santorini. Many of these are just as beautiful but far more authentic and affordable. For example, in nearby islands such as Ios and Naxos (edit: an earlier version incorrectly spelled this island), you can rent a white house overlooking a stunning seascape for a fraction of the cost you’d pay in Santorini. And on forgotten but charming Andros, you may be the only visitor in town.

Bottom line: if you want to know how to travel cheap in Europe, the answer is simple: skip Santorini!

Santorini Is Simply Overrated

In short, Santorini is to the Greek islands what Chobani is to Greek yogurt — superficially appealing, mass marketed, but entirely less satisfying than the real thing.

Skip Santorini's overcrowded streets
An average day in Oia

I’m sure I’ll catch some grief from Santorini defenders eager to protect the integrity of the many Instagram likes they so carefully curated on their overpriced Greek adventure. So let me concede a few caveats to the above.

First, I visited in June. Perhaps the island is more enjoyable in the less crowded months (though June itself is actually still shoulder season!) and so perhaps I missed the best time to visit this part of Europe.

Second, most of my criticisms are targeted at Oia because that’s the iconic social media shot that is subject of this article. Santorini itself is a big island and there are quieter locations to be found further afield, sure.

And, lastly, I’ll grant that Santorini is a beautiful island with some cool cliffs and decently blue water. Some people may find that Santorini makes the perfect romantic escape.

But guess what? There are a lot of other gorgeous places on this planet. To me, Santorini’s not THAT special. Sorry, not sorry.

Bottom line: while different people experience places differently and plenty of people do seem to really enjoy Santorini, it really didn’t fit well with me and I’ve heard from many others that I’m not alone.

So for those of you who are sitting at home filling with envy over those beautiful Santorini pics on social media, relax.

Trust me, you can die content without ever setting foot on Santorini.

The truth is that Santorini, for all its beauty, is overpriced, overcrowded, and overrated.


What do you think? Am I missing something? Tell me your thoughts in the comments! 

And download a free Lonely Planet Guidebook to Greece using this trick! Plus, learn what to pack for your trip around the world

Why it's ok to Skip Santorini: An article on how the Greek island is overcrowded, overtouristed, overpriced, and overrated.
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28 thoughts on “Why It’s Totally Ok to Skip Overrated Santorini”

  1. haha good to know. As someone who’s never been, based on the pictures and what I’ve heard, it’s easy on my bucket list. But it’s good to know that there are alternatives. Is Ios and Paxos easy to get to?

    1. While you might have to fly into the Santorini airport (though you can also go via Athens or Mykonos), the ferries in Greece are pretty solid and it’s easy to use them to island. The one hang up I found is that they are much pricier than you would think. The 90 minute ride from Santorini to Ios ran me 50 euros, which seemed on the heavy side.

    2. I think the writer might have meant Naxos,not Paxos.Paxos is great but nowhere near Santorini.Whereas Naxos,Paros and Ios are all on the same ferry route as Santorini and actually a shorter journey to reach.

    3. It’s not Paxos as it’s put in this article she either means Naxos or Paros both of which are next to each other and very easy to get to, you can get a boat to them from Santorini in bout 4hours and Ios is the next door Island to Santorini, but this is more for younger party goers, of course you can find a quiet spot though

  2. I had exactly the same experience and opinion on Santorini the first two times I’ve visited. But then I went in February and it was amazing. Very quiet and beautiful. So if you ever pass through this parts of Europe again in the winter definitely give it another try. You may be pleasantly surprised!

  3. Santorini looks like it is horrific in Summer – crowds like that would definitely have tainted our view. However, like the previous comment by Helena, we went in winter. We stayed for a week in early December and it was beautiful. In fact on the morning we visited Oia we were virtually alone … apart from a few villagers and the miles carrying their loads. We had a great bargain on our hotel and cheap car hire. So I would say that Santorini is definitely a must do in the winter!

  4. It’s funny but I’m a little relieved. I booked a Greek trip through a website and it doesn’t include Santorini, Mykonos, or Crete. I was feeling a little FOMO on missing out on Santorini (even though the places I’m going look stunning). One of the reasons I didn’t book Santorini was initially the crowds.

  5. Mike Gorczynski

    This is hilarious. Is it seriously packed like this all the time I guess demand is high. Being this over crowded it brings down my potential enjoyment factor because of the crammed feeling of packed tourists although beautiful scenery nonetheless.

    Really thinking of beautiful natural spacious green Kefalonia. Many beaches and viewpoints and close excursion to Zakynthos Shipwreck beach. Also explore the west around the bats to Xi and Petani and the west by Paliostafida Makris Gialos, the north west by Myrtos, and north of Kefalonia by Fiskardo and you have very very complete experience and itinerary in my analysis whether it’s honeymoon or vacation for family or couples.

    Maybe stay in the nicer hotel for 7-8 nights then switch to the other one fur next week.

    So I recommend the hotel by Xi beach, Thalassa Boutique hotel, and Fiskardo Bay Hotel

  6. Rajesh Sanghvi

    hi,
    if not Santorini then which nearby island u suggest & can we go for a day visit to santorini from there.
    if any idea about time it would take.

      1. Hi Nicola – well, the way I use the word overrated is intended to capture exactly what you say – that it’s become too popular for what it is. I’m sure it was a nice island before the hoards of tourists, but it’s an example of irresponsible management of tourism. As just one example, the decision to allow cruise ships at all is one that I think really ruins Oia and contributes heavily to the problem.

  7. I will agree in some of the above comments, but there is more in Santorini than just a sunset in Oia, there are hotels with rates starting from 40€ per night, you can have authentic Santorinian cuisine or Greek if you prefer you just have to look for it and avoid some very touristic places, and you will not pay an arm and a leg. There is more to see and do on this island beyond taking a picture to increase your views in instagram or facebook in order to gain something out of it. Is the island like it was in the 80s? NO and it isn’t better, it’s not the island we fell in love with as the mass tourism destroid a lot of the authenticity. On the other hand there are many locals keeping the tradition of hospitality alive.
    “For example, in nearby Ios and Paxos, you can rent a white house overlooking a stunning seascape for a fraction of the cost you’d pay in Santorini. And on forgotten but charming Andros, you may be the only visitor in town.”
    As i have travelled the Aegean Islands for 8 Years I can tell you that there are beautifull islands all over, every one of them has something to offer,
    but Ios in July and August is worse than Santorini and expensive as all the small islands (Amorgos, Folegandros, Sifnos etc) as they have a very low number of accomodation.
    There no island of Paxos nearby… I think you ment Paros or Naxos as Paxi island is in the Ionian see a bit far from Santorini…
    Yes Paros and Naxos (which I prefer) are beautiful and with nice villages but I spend the same amount of money as I have spend in Santorini (for hotel and meals) and again is a matter of choise.
    Mykonos is by far more expensive than Santorini
    Milos is also a very nice island, Sifnos also or Syros.
    The Cycladic islands are around 30 to choose from.
    Last thing about the ferries, there are fast vessels (catamaran type) which are more expensive than the normal ferries but faster, on the other hand the distance and the difference of travel time is not so big.

    1. All fair points. Have heard from many people who enjoyed Santorini but also from many others who felt as I did. Ultimately, I think it’s an example of a place that has succumbed to the worst of mass tourism.

  8. That is verry verry true. You just must to know where to go and when to go. Santorini was not like that befor 4 years. But it is still magical. If you want to Enjoy it, go in May or September, October. It is not so busy. And I can say that the prices in Santorini it iss almost like in Paros Naxos and much more cheaper from Mikonos. You can find nice room to stay in Kamari and Oerissa(the beach side of the island) also Megalohori, Akrotiri and Pirgos. But I sugest Perissa and Kamari, near to the beach. (30 until 80 euro) and you still can visit Oia by the bus, and of course the Stuning Imerovigli(magical but more quayet) Firistefani and Fira.For tipical good Greek food and good Prices the restorant “Me taksi mas” in Ekso Gonia “Raki” in Megalohori, “Kira Thira” in Firistefani.And manny taverna in Perissa. Which is famous with that.Santorini it is really magical. It is just to know where to go..Enjoy

  9. I am sorry for your experience. But lett me say that you can’t compare the Beauty of Santorini with no other island. You just must to know where to go and when to go. Santorini was not like that befor 4 years. But it is still magical. If you want to Enjoy it, go in May or September, October. It is not so busy. And I can say that the prices in Santorini it iss almost like in Paros Naxos and much more cheaper from Mikonos. You can find nice room to stay in Kamari and Oerissa(the beach side of the island) also Megalohori, Akrotiri and Pirgos. But I sugest Perissa and Kamari, near to the beach. (30 until 80 euro) and you still can visit Oia by the bus, and of course the Stuning Imerovigli(magical but more quayet) Firistefani and Fira.For tipical good Greek food and good Prices the restorant “Me taksi mas” in Ekso Gonia “Raki” in Megalohori, “Kira Thira” in Firistefani.And manny taverna in Perissa. Which is famous with that.Santorini it is really magical. It is just to know where to go..Enjoy

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