If Mykonos was crowded, Santorini was definitely more so. One of the top destinations for cruise guests and honeymooners alike, I was genuinely shocked by how crowded it was- even in the shoulder season.
To be fair, our first impression of the town was at sunset- if there was ever a time for people to be out and about, it was then.
The main section of Oia (pronounced something like ee-ah), is a long stretch of marble tiling. There are a few offshoots, but mostly to private residences, and town squares are few and far between. Every visitor that comes to Oia is funneled down this main corridor by default, which did make leaving town after sunset feel quite a bit like waiting in line at Disney World.
Don’t get me wrong, the town itself is spectacular and definitely worth braving the crowds- at least for a day. Located on the edge of a volcanic crater, the cliff side is lined with iconic white painted houses and blue domed roofs, all overlooking the crystal clear Aegean Sea. Stepping into Oia feels like stepping into a dream. Even something as simple as a coffee with a view of the caldera was an experience I’ll treasure for years to come.
The streets are framed with storefronts of varying pricing and quality so there’s plenty of shopping and eating to be done. If you’ve got the time to eat lunch or dinner in Oia, I highly suggest you step over into Sunset Villa for a delicious Greek meal at Roka. Not only is the food delicious, but the prices were reasonable, and it was housed in a structure from 1912!
As far as sunsets go, I found my favorite view by heading down to Amoudi Bay. You’ll have to squeeze past a few restaurants over to the cliff side on the left, but you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful view of the sun setting into the ocean, the cliffs, and the town above.
We had tried a different sunset viewing point up in the town, but found the view from Amoudi to be both more beautiful and- even better- more private. Some of the more accessible view points had nearly a hundred people squeezing in for the view!
Though the view from Amoudi Bay is incredible, please make sure you’re confident that you can make it back up those stairs! The famous mule rides you may have seen on the island are there for good reason- the guide offered a ride back up for 100 euros and I seriously considered it.
Despite the sheer volume of visitors to the island, I did find there to be an incredible sense of comraderie. People were super respectful of each other’s experience of the island- we’d wait out of frame for a photo to be taken, or wait in line patiently for a chance at a photo with a particular background. After sunset, I was compelled to pause halfway up my wheezing climb back from Amoudi Bay to join in the town-wide spontaneous round of applause for the sunset we’d all experienced together. I was happy to be there, crowds and all.