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Considered one the gems of the Cyclades, the magnificent island of Santorini is a dream destination for many, but the volcanic island may be victim of its own success. With a shocking number of visitors per day during the summer, visitors are often forced to wait in line to eat in a sought-after restaurant or to simply watch the sunset in Oia. So here are a few ways you can escape the crowds while vacationing in Santorini.
Santorini’s peak season is mid-June until September. To avoid the crowded streets of Oia, the best bet is to visit the from April to early June, or from September to November. While the beaches may not be particularly enjoyable from November to April, the sights and sunsets definitely still are (and without the masses).
While the sunset from Oia is a must-see at least once in your lifetime, many other locations are available to watch the sunset with fewer people. In Oia, try near the church of Agios Ioannis of the sea (Aï Gianni tou Thalasinou) or by the waters in Ammoudi, 214 steps away from Oia. From Finikas, the church of Aï Lia (Agia Lia), in the upper part of town, offers a spectacular view of Oia and Thirassia. Enjoy beautiful views from the Skaros rock in Imerovigli or from the lower part of Fira.
With its narrow streets, blue-domed churches and sun-bleached buildings, Oia is definitely a beautiful little place, and its position is ideal for watching the sun disappear into the sea. But for an equally magical show, minus the crowds trying catch a glimpse of the sunset, head instead for the sunrise. Bonus point: find a nice spot to enjoy a delicious breakfast with the view over the caldera.
Some restaurants in Oia and Fira cost more than anywhere else on the island just because of the views they offer, and that’s a shame as there are plenty of tavernas with delicious food and without lines. The Cave of Nikolas in Akrotiri is a great place to eat seaood, as is Ta Dychtia in Perivolos, and we highly recommend To Psaraki in Vlychada and Krinaki in Finikas.
When it comes to beautiful villages, Santorini is much than Oia and Fira. Spare the hustle and visit inland villages such as Pyrgos, Messaria, Emporio, Exo Gonia, Katherados, Vothonas and Megalochori – all with the same narrow streets, blue-domed churches, colorful houses and pleasant cafés by the square. But if the caldera view really is non-negotiable, Firostefani and Imerovigli are equally beautiful and less crowded than Oia and offer the most fantastic views of the caldera.
The hike from Fira to Oia is a beautiful walk that lasts approximately two and a half hours, depending on walking speed (try doing it in the morning to avoid the heat and have the path to yourself), but why not try the hike from Pyrgos to Profitis Ilias, the highest peak on the island? The hike is about 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) and leads to the monastery of the same name on the mountain. From there, enjoy 360-degree views over the whole island and the caldera.
Perissa and Kamari, two black sand beaches are some of the most popular beaches on the island, which means they are usually crowded during the summer. For quieter swims, head to Vlychada, where fine black sand and pebbles awaits: sunbeds and umbrellas occupy one part of the beach, but further down are relatively quieter corners. For even more tranquility, Koloumbos beach in the northern part of the island has black and red pebbles as well as a huge rock formation offering shade in the heat of the day.
Of course, the perks of staying in a hotel are countless, but nowadays, there are many diverse accommodation options to choose from. From Airbnb rentals to small pensions or hostels, anyone can find something for their budget.
Escaping the crowds in Santorini may not be easy, but getting off the beaten track is definitely possible. Plenty of little unsuspected treasures abound: rent a scooter and explore hidden beaches near the airport, stopping wherever you are to enjoy the sunset – we promise, no matter where you are, it is bound to be beautiful.