My life on Santorini started with the arrival on the world’s infamous Santorini airport most people have a hate relationship with (there’s no love). I had no idea how long I was going to stay. I didn’t have a return ticket. All I had was a hope I’ll be able to find an apartment and make this my home. But more on that later. Stepping out of that plane felt much weirder than the first time I came to this island. Perhaps it was because this time, I was staying for a much longer time. Or maybe it was because I didn’t have a decent sleep for about 48 hours because I stupidly decided to spend the night at the airport.
Living on Santorini
I’m writing this solely because it really irks me when people tell me they are going to go island hopping and stay on Santorini 1-2 day max. Huh? How can you possibly get the full Santorini experience in just a weekend? Not to mention you’ll find many things closed on a Sunday, including restaurants and supermarkets. In all honesty, you’d be throwing away your money – take it from someone who stayed on Santorini for almost 4 months and would do it again in a heartbeat. If you do it, I hope you realize your mind will keep on coming back to this island until it forces you to come back – it’s what happened to me.
So how long should you stay on Santorini?
It depends when you’re visiting. I can imagine why people choose short-term stays during the summer season. It’s crowded AF. Seriously. I’ve never been on the island during the summer season and I stopped going to Oia after April because the crowds ruined the fun. But for a true Santorini experience, I recommend a week. Do a tour, and do a couple of them. Sit down in a restaurant and talk to the locals. Dip your toes in the ocean, go hiking from Fira to Oia, rent a mountain bike, make a challenge to visit every single beach restaurant on the island, seeing the sunset from many different angles, go visit the Santorini animal shelter (and adopt a Santorini puppy while you’re at it!), eat true authentic Santorini tomatoes, visit the hidden beaches on the other side, watch a movie in the open cinema… can you really do all that in a weekend?
Staying on Santorini for a longer time (and during the off season) allowed me to support businesses that normally don’t get any traffic until about May. I learned a lot about Santorini locals and how hard they work to make your summer magical (without a day off for the entire summer and in terrible heat, mind you).
Obviously, this is your decision, but if you ever stumble upon this article, you should really consider giving this island a chance for longer than just 2 days. Trust me, it’s totally worth learning to not flush the toilet paper and drinking only from bottled water.
There’s more to this island than sunsets. It’s the people that bring you the real magic. 🙂
Life has a goddamn weird sense of humor.
A few years ago, when I first visited this beautiful island, I stumbled upon this quirky bookshop called Atlantis Books – I fell in love with the front door quote, the fairytale-like atmosphere, the funny messages, and the loft bed that looked like a perfect place to chill with a favorite book. I also spent a lot of time in a picture-perfect hippy bar, one of the few on the island that served vegan food. And when I say it was perfect, I mean it, it was perfect. I had a quite a famous Tumblr blog back then and their manifesto picture became quite popular (and 1k pins on Pinterest :O). I was so in love with the vibe of the place, I knew I was going to come back.
Fast forward two years. It was my first year of living in Madrid and I just left my au pair family to start my new job. I settle into my wonderful room in a flat right opposite the Royal Palace, and one day, stumble into this quirky shop that had a very cosy, fairytale-like atmosphere. It seemed too good to be true, so I asked about the similarities – turns out, the owners also own Atlantis Books on Santorini.
Fast forward to a couple of more years, now living on the island. I’ve been relentlessly looking for volunteering opportunities for the last 5 years with no luck. More of a habit than an actual search, I did my usual ‘volunteer on Santorini’ check a few weeks ago – the search usually includes Workaway.
Lo and behold, guess where a volunteering opportunity popped up.
On this very island.
And guess where?
At the hippy bar I loved so much, which now extended into a hippy hostel.
Life is weird. But if there’s one thing I learned it’s that all roads lead to Santorini.
And before someone says “well if you don’t like it, go somewhere else” – meh. I consider Santorini the most magical place on Earth, but just like Disneyland, ever magical place has its problems. The Greek are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, so I’m guessing the roots of these issues lie somewhere else. It’s something you don’t notice unless you stay here for more than just a few days. And even though I constantly rave about this island, there are a few things about Santorini I absolutely hate (just 3, hope that makes you feel better).
Alright, here’s the thing. Considering you can’t drink the Santorini tap water (unless you like desalinated water) and need to buy plenty of water bottles for your everyday life, I’m surprised the island has no recycling system. Not to mention the amount of toilet paper we use because we can’t flush anything down the toilet (yup). Grocery stores automatically give you bags and they are FREE (I’ve been living in Spain and London for far too long). I’ve yet to see a recycling system to minimize any environmental issues the island could face (or is facing). I know, I know, it’s an island after all. But there needs to be a solution for this, right?
Very little respect for animals.
Although there are cats, dogs and donkeys everywhere on this island and there are many loving interactions, I’ve seen donkey handlers kick donkeys to get them to go in the right direction. Hundreds of pets get abandoned after seasonal owners return to Athens to escape the winter (many locals leave Santorini in October and return in February or March). Santorini’s animal shelter has more than 100 dogs waiting to be adopted. Donkeys have to walk on horrible cobblestone stairs and carry enormous amounts of weight under the hot Santorini sun. And when they’re unable to do their job, there’s a good chance they will get abandoned or killed. Yep.
The summer season.
I’m not a huge fan of the summer season. The thought of having to reserve your spot in Oia 3 hours before the sunset is just crazy. The way buses get too full, the way accommodation is literally sold out months before (but places are completely empty Jan – April and October – December), you need to reserve your restaurant table,… everything needs to be planned waaay in advance, or you’ll be left with nothing. Santorini summers are magical in many other ways, but crowd control isn’t one of them. The place below is FULL of people during the summer season!
Ah, Santorini. You’ve stolen my heart, but….