I might not be living on Santorini anymore, but that doesn’t mean that the island isn’t constantly on my mind. Following my dream and moving there has been one of the greatest experiences of 2017 and quite frankly, nothing will ever be able to top it. Saying that, I was able to experience a lot of memorable things on the island a lot of people miss. I believe Santorini is more than just a weekend getaway – it can really bring out some of the most memorable experiences of your life ever if done correctly.
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.
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….
As I’m writing this, I have now been living on Santorini for a few weeks. It’s not merely enough to come to any big conclusions, but since my obsession with this island is so huge, I think I’m able to give a pretty decent statement on what living on Santorini is actually like. Sometimes I still can’t believe I made this move that used to seem so far away and so unreachable. And yet, living on Santorini came so naturally, I was able to adapt to the pace of this island super easily.
What Living on Santorini is Actually Like?
Alright, let’s start with a few factual things.
1. Finding an apartment on Santorini
I came during the off-season, thinking this would be incredibly easy. Wah wah, fail. I still don’t know what I’ll do about my summer accommodation. But finding an apartment on Santorini, basically, consists of your networking and Greek skills. The price for the non-holiday apartments available for monthly rent is actually pretty decent depending on the location (starts from €350 per month)
But finding an apartment is a completely different story. It’s impossible. Santorini’s in a crisis that seems to cater to tourists, and the more you ask around, the more you realize how serious this situation is for locals who are trying to make a living on this island. I’ve been warned that it’s been exceptionally hard for the past few years and many locals are waiting for the tax authorities to come and clamp down the prices.
Asking around. I am currently doing an outreach to ALL possible hotels on the island. I asked my landlady of my current hotel apartment. I’m going to learn how to say “do you have an apartment available for rent” in Greek, go door to door and hope for the best. I have a plan B and plan C, so I’m not particularly worried and am aiming to avoid Santorini during the summer season.
May – September is Santorini’s high season. Everyone wants to stay on the island. So find your apartment early (or after September) if you’re really thinking about living on Santorini.
2. What’s the weather like on Santorini during winter?
I got sunburnt in February 2017. The weather’s cold during winter, with quite a lot of rain until maybe May. I’m considering myself lucky – I haven’t seen much of rain since I’ve been here, but I’ve also spent some time on Santorini a few years back and May was a hell of a rainy season.
But when the winter gets sunny, it’s exceptionally warm.
One thing I love about Santorini is its beautiful sky that allows for the sun to shine bright and make the place just a little bit warmer on cold days. I walk from Karterados to Fira on a daily basis and it’s funny how I have to take off my jacket the minute the sun hits my face. And then put it back on as soon as it disappears. Of course, summers are nothing but awesome.
3. Things you don’t know about living on Santorini
Santorini water is desalinated – vom.com to drink and I try to avoid cooking with it. This means that every week, I go and buy a six pack of a bottled water and tend to use it for everything (even drinking tea).
Everything’s closed on a Sunday – Which means you have to plan to buy enough water bottles to last you for the weekend (surprisingly, this has been the weirdest thing to think about).
Wi-Fi connection on Santorini – I have a love-hate relationship with my Wi-Fi connection. It’s a part of embracing the simplistic life, but as a digital nomad, it’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made. The upload speed means it takes about 5 minutes to upload any picture, yet alone video. But hey, that’s the price you pay.
You can’t flush the toilet paper. Yup. Not even number 2s. Gotta bin it. Or, you know, take the advantage of European bidets if you happen to have one.
4. But besides all that…
Living on Santorini is absolutely magical and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The privilege that I’m able to do this is beyond me and I am extremely thankful. I know this is a dream for many – and I encourage you to do it.
The friendliness of the locals – I love having talks with Lucky from Lucky’s – one of the best gyros on the island. No matter where I go, people are just astoundingly friendly and they have a lot more time to talk during the off-season.
The chill pace of life – I spend about 2 hours per day in Fira and those 2 hours feel like 2 days. You’re taking in every single moment and it does tremendous things for your mental health.
The food – I’m biased because Greek food is very similar to Slovenian food, but man. If you’re a fan of carbs (and you should be), Santorini’s the place for you. I love getting fresh bread from the bakery every single morning and get a 1kg of Greek yogurt and honey to get me through the week. Don’t even get me started on the gyros (shoutout to Lucky’s gyros in Fira).
The sea therapy – As someone who works more than 50 hours per week, being able to take an hour off to stare at the ocean (and the view Santorini offers) every day is extremely important. Listening to the waves, breathing in the sea air, watching the stars at night… Combined with the slow and chill pace of life, this is the best way to live.
The confidence of making your dreams come true – Santorini charms the lives of many. I’ve spoken to so many people that had the same mentality as me – after they left the island for the first time, they just refused to believe that this is it. It didn’t give them a break. I bought Santorini souvenirs and had them on my desk as an encouragement to follow my dreams. I had DREAMS of the island almost every day. I never wanted anything more in my entire life. It took almost a year to make this work. But I’m so glad it did. Will I stay here forever? I’m not sure – I’m very tempted to make Rhodes my base and return to Santorini for at least 4 months out of a year. But let’s wait and see what the future’ll bring. The most difficult step has been done, I’m just going to go with the flow 🙂