Santorini Greece Realities – The Stuff No One Talks About (Will the REAL Santorini please stand up)
Okay, you probably see the word Santorini and want to vomit because let’s face it, EVERYONE seems to go to Santorini. They all write about how it’s easily one of the most beautiful places in Greece or how AMAZING the sunsets are (the sunsets are lovely but it’s the same sunset you see at home, just in a different location), but no one ever seems to look at the Santorini Greece realities.
I mean sure, they throw in some pictures with quintessential, greek, white washed buildings with blue shutters, and a classic, domed Greek church, with a cross on top, just for good measure. But no one ever seems to mention the down sides to visiting Santorini. Sure, it is amazing place, but it’s not perfect. And people just seem to conceal this fact by plastering, postcard quality pictures all over Instagram. And instead of examining the realities of visiting Santorini, you are left jealous and wondering, deep down, why can’t I photograph as well as them (blogger problems on Instagram)? And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, observe the photographic evidence on your left. Fondly referred to as Exhibit A. A photograph taken in Fira, the capital of Santorini (No, I am not above these things either).
Now, I get why people do this. I mean, this island is a total paradise and the pictures taken here are truly stunning. But there is so much more to this island than pretty sunsets and alluring photos. And for the record, I am not trying to dis these people at all. Their posts are beautiful and valid and I commend them for sharing the enthralling beauty of Santorini with people who may never get to visit this amazing Greek paradise.
But (You knew there had to be a but.), I get bored of seeing the same posts over and over again. Plus, if you have ever read my blog, you know that I am never one to go with the grain. I have always prided myself on daring to be different, both inside and out of the blogosphere (Sorry, no pink Mohawks but I may rock some Dr. Seuss Converse sneakers).
That’s why I am not going to give you a run of the mill post about MUST SEE SUNSETS or the 10 BEST INFINITY POOLS IN SANTORINI or the TOP 10 PLACES KIM KARDASHIAN TOOK A SELFIE (I made this last one up. I don’t even know if they have been here but I feel like they probably stayed in a villa with an infinity pool. Either that or the island built one for them. LoL) All these topics have been done before (where do you think I got the idea? LOL). And to be honest, they probably did a way better job than me because they actually know how to take photos.
No, this post is about all the little things that no one ever mentions about Santorini – all of which are important to know if you’re planning a 7 day Greece itinerary. You know, all the little secrets that everyone hides so that it seems like utopia (Sorry to burst your bubble but Santorini is far from perfect). Well, I’m talking about it now and exposing the 15 Santorini Greece Realities that No One Talks About (And it’s not all bad because I had a blast here).
1. The “hot” spring is lukewarm warm at best and smells like rotten eggs.
Ummm. Yeah. So when I asked what I should see and do in Santorini, I got this speal about an AWESOME hot spring that I just had to try. Well, I did and the hot spring had pockets of warm water that quickly and unpredictably dissipated into cold water. Add in some slimy algae on the ocean floor ground and I was over the entire experience pretty quickly.
Plus, because the hot spring is created by a volcano, you come out of the water smelling like rotten eggs (Yeah, volcanos emit Sulfur and that’s where the lovely odor du jour comes from. Bill Nye the Science Guy would be proud of my knowledge!). Come on now! No, Greek men will be enticed by my alluring, foreign ways if I smell worse than a puberty ridden teenager with bad BO (body odor). Come on volcano, don’t ruin my social life! I have needs!
2. I’m sorry but the Volcano trek was a letdown.
Everyone kept telling me how “Amazing” this volcano trek and discovering volcanic Santorini was.
Well, I did it and was kind of like, “And? Where’s the awesome?” There was no magma, no smoke or fire, no cool pool of water in the center of the volcano. Nothing. It was basically a huge hole in the ground with some rocks and grass. I mean, there were some lovely views from the top but I kind of expected more.
Plus, I know I was not the only one who felt this way because I saw the look on people’s faces which read, “Seriously, this is it?” So if you do this trek, just be prepared for a regular hill and not a view right out of National Geographic.
***If you want to try the Volcano and “Hot Springs” tour for yourself, I am all about it. I hope you love it way more than I did!***
3. The Buses are Awesome
There is really no need to rent an ATV on Santorini (Mykonos is a different story) because the buses here are awesome. They are labeled, efficient, make regular stops, and pretty much go wherever your tourist’s heart desires. Plus, they are cheap. Tickets are around 2 euros and are bought on the bus, so save yourself some money and use this reliable cheap form of public transportation (Side note. Why do people always rent motorbikes on vacation, that they have no idea how to drive? Like, do they think they are indestructible because somehow you can’t get hurt on vacation? I never rent these things because I feel like I would kill myself. But that’s just me)
This one I really don’t get. Everyone raves about the insane beauty of the sunsets in Oia, but I don’t see the big deal. Sure, the three sunsets I saw there were lovely, especially against the white-washed buildings of Oia, but it didn’t change my life. Honestly, I enjoyed the sunset from my room more because I wasn’t fighting off busloads of tourists just to get a better view, away from the hordes of families yelling at their kids to be quiet and to stop running on the slippery cobblestones. Yeah, I went on vacation to relax and not to do battle with the tourists who sought to conquer and destroy my sunset serenity (I’ll take my sunset in my room, with a baguette and some cheese. Thanks so much. And pass the Excedrin. I need one after the 12 tour buses that almost ran me over on the narrow streets of Oia).
***Why not skip the hordes of people and choking on bus fumes and go for a romantic Santorini dinner and sunset cruise? Sounds way more fun than me coughing up a lung in Oia. #justsayin***
5. The people are so lovely! Shout out to the Baklava guy!
Forget the scenery, shout out to the awesome people. Everyone from the hot chef to the hotel owner (Who gave me a present as I was leaving, and it was nice too! Like something I would want to wear and not just some left over bargain from the bottom of a sale bin.) to the Baklava guy were like the nicest people ever. I mean, the Baklava guy even gave me a free chocolate Baklava, which was like the best thing I ever ate, and then told me I didn’t need to buy anything. Well, of course I bought everything because it was amazing and I feel like getting fat is kind of my vacation job requirement. Plus it was all home made and traditional Greek food so actually, it was a cultural experience (I love my justifications here).
As an added bonus, whenever I mentioned that I was from the US, they didn’t throw stones at me or try to exercise any evil demons out of me. They were actually really friendly and told me how much they loved the United States (I told them they didn’t have to like it because I didn’t really it, but everyone was still impressed that I was from New York).
But the most shocking thing about the people here was that some of the hot men were actually nice. Like really nice. Like, not just nice because they wanted to get in your pants nice. Rather, they were nice just because well, they were lovely human beings. I was shocked and it was a refreshing change from some of the male shenanigans I have dealt with in New York. I think the only person that wasn’t super friendly was the bus driver, but he didn’t really speak English and people ask him the same questions over and over again so I guess I would be grumpy too.
***Why not take advantage of local hospitality and book a Santorini highlights tour with wine tasting? I mean how many times do you get to visit paradise? Am I right? If only I had the funds to do this right now. Sigh. I’ll live vicariously through you***
6. Do not ride the donkeys (And stop calling them donkeys because they’re horses).
I’m sorry. They advertise these donkeys that take you up and down the three hundred some odd stairs that take you from the old port in the city of Fira itself, but they are NOT donkeys. Donkeys are little and gray. These animals were huge and distinctly not gray, horses (possibly mules but I didn’t check their nether region to be sure. But I think they were horses), that you hop on as they trip up and down these rather steep and slippery stairs. Sure, it all sounds romantic, riding a traditional donkey up the cobble stone steps, as you gaze over the crystal blue water, with the boats of the port gently swaying in the breeze. However, you have no helmet and let’s just say that nothing ruins a vacation faster than acute head trauma. Besides, a local told me that these “donkeys” fall all the time. So save yourself the concussion and skip the 5 euro, supposed donkey ride.
7. After your trip here, you will want to use the escalator for the rest of your life.
Umm, so if you want to climb the literal stairway to heaven, just head on over to Santorini because I have NEVER climbed so many stairs in my life. Seriously, my thighs were screaming in agony for me to stop the madness! Sure, I am not some triathlete, cross-fitter who rolls Monster Truck tires around for fun, but I can climb a set of stairs. And the stairs on this island are everywhere.
I mean, in Oia, the only way up from the port is by stairs or by donkey. And since I value my remaining brain cells, I took the stairs. So just be prepared. That and maybe hop on a stair-master before you visit. Or don’t be dumb like me and NOT take the cable car up the hill, from the old port in Fira.
8. Shocker, its super touristy (Wait, Versace isn’t indicative of authentic, Greek culture? No way!)
I went in May which is technically off season. Well, it sure didn’t feel like it with the 40 plus tour busses heading in and out of Oia. Couple this with souvenir shops galore, a McDonald’s, a line down the block for the cable car, people hawking “donkey ” rides, and several Gucci and Versace retail stores, and you feel like you’re in a giant shopping mall. Like, am I even in Greece or am I in some pseudo-western culture, alternate reality. You know it’s touristy when the restaurants have no menus in Greek and serve super traditional items like pizza and burgers and call it their “speciality” (Stop it. Burgers aren’t authentic Greek food? Mind officially blown! Sorry. That was my sarcasm showing). Okay. I must confess that Not the whole island is like this but you need to get off the beaten path to feel like you are in Greece and not on the cover of a honeymooners vacation guide.
9. The Guys are HOTT!
Everywhere I turned it was like a buffet for my eyes. I’d see one guy and think, “Oh he’s hot.” Then I’d see another and think, “Oh, he’s hotter.” Then I’d see the next guy and I’d think, “No, he’s the hottest!” Until the next guy walked down the street and the endless cycle started all over again.
I swear, the highlight of my trip was when the super hot guy at the hotel concierge became my Facebook friend. In that moment I felt like maybe dreams really do come true. That is until he deleted me the next day.
But whatever. We were friends for like 12 hours so that counts right? I can feel you looking at me and shaking your head. Just go with it and don’t ruin my fantasy. He’ll friend me again. And show up in New York. On a horse. LoL. Just kidding. I know he won’t come on a horse. He’ll come by plane (Totally kidding on all accounts).
10. The food in the US is slop compared to what they serve in Santorini (#teamgreekfeta. Sorry American feta, but Greek Feta is just Betta)
You’re probably like, “What the hell Kelly? You just gone done telling me that all they serve are burgers and pizza?” Well, some places do, but if you look around, you can find some bangin’ (Sorry.That’s my attempt at using authentic, New York, street slang.) Greek food.
Hidden among the abundance of tourist trap restaurants, are a few gems that serve awesome bread, feta, spinach pie, Baklava, etc. Plus, the price at these places is usually ten times lower because they cater to the locals and not the hordes of cruise ship passengers descending upon the island (I was a tourist too so I really can’t judge. But I’m selfish and wanted the island for myself. Lol).
11. Buy your bus tickets ON the Bus (Among other things)
I feel so bad for the people who work at the bus station and get the same questions like 10,000 times a day. So to save them from a nervous breakdown, you buy your tickets on the bus, the bus times are posted on the wall of the bus station, and tickets cost 1.60 euro anywhere on the island, except for ticket to the ferry port which costs 2 or 3 euros. This way, you can save the bus employees some hassle and maybe help them become a little less disgruntled (P.S. Do yourself a favor and do NOT watch them drive. The roads on Santorini are extremely narrow and the buses are HUGE. So if you watch the driver, you may have some increased anxiety. Either that or you’ll be saying last rites in your religion of choice).
12. Just do it and walk from Fira to Oia (3-4 hours of your life that is totally worth it).
So I didn’t make it all the way because I er… Well… I got lost. Sad but true. I just wasn’t sure which way the path went. But the portion I walked had amazing views and a lot less people because let’s be honest, most people would rather hang out in their infinity pool than walk three hours from one town to the next. But someone living there told me it was the most worth while walk on the island, and I believe her (If only I wasn’t so directionally challenges. Grr).
13. A lot of the Greek people in Santorini are not actually from the island.
Literally almost every person I talked to was from Athens. Apparently, they all flock to the Greek Islands to make a bunch of money during the tourist season. They then head back home and swan dive into their riches and live like kings (kidding). Therefore, most of the Greek people you encounter are probably not locals, like this hot chef on the bus who… Okay, you get the idea. We’ll save that story for another day.
14. The ferries usually aren’t on time.
Look, I hate being late because the anxiety it gives me is just so not worth it. But if you take a ferry, just keep in mind that it
probably won’t be on time. So no need to rush to the port, just so that you can sit around and inhale all of the exhaust fumes from the various ships docked at the port. I mean, I know you want to stand around, in the hot sun, with all your stuff, in a crowded, ferry port waiting area, where only half the people wear deodorant, but try not to get there too early, as hard as that may be.
15. STAY AWAY DURING PEAK SEASON (June-August roughly)
Omg. Just don’t even attempt Santorini in August, when most Greeks have their holidays and travel to the Greek Islands. I mean, it was packed when I went in May, and that isn’t even the official start of the tourist season. Even at that time, most of the hotels were fully booked, so I don’t even want to think about how many people take over the island in August. That, coupled with higher prices means that you’re better off going during the off-season if you can at all help it (Think October. Perfect time to visit. Also check out this and this if you’re headed to Athens ).