Let’s face it, when scrolling on Instagram and searching for Santorini, Greece, you are confronted with the beautiful captures of white house’s ranging alongside the steep cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea. I get it, because this had also fooled me to put Oia, Santorini, on the top of my bucket list. However, what you are seeing on Instagram is unfortunately not the full reality. Luckily, there are several alternative places in Santorini where you can soak up the island’s unique atmosphere, without the crazy crowds! 

Oia, Santorini a Tourist Trap?

Now please bear in mind that we visited Oia in high season in July 2021. We experienced that it was extremely overcrowded, full of influencers lining up to take photos and overloaded with souvenir shops. I started asking myself: “Is this truly the authentic Greek experience I was looking for?” “Or just another tourist trap?” As you can tell, I was extremely disappointed. 🙁

I did line up for about 20 minutes or so to take some photos, or used my selfie stick to reach above the crowds and managed to take some awesome shots. 

Santorini Greece
Santorini Greece
Greek Church, Hiking to Oia
Greek Church, Oia

You need to imagine it was around 38 degrees in Oia, 3pm in the afternoon and we were strolling around the village without any water. My boyfriend finally found a spot where he could sit down, away from the crowds, to cool down in the shade. After 2 minutes an influencer started shouting at him: “HEY YOU, CAN YOU PLEASE MOVE, YOU ARE RUINING MY SHOT”. For us this was the cherry on top and time to leave this place! 

Oia is beautiful though and if you ever visit, do make sure you at least go see it. Try to avoid the crowds by visiting in the morning or off season to have a better experience. We were seeking the Authentic Greek atmosphere and did not find this in Oia. Maybe you might! We are extremely allergic to overrated tourist places and are always seeking more local experiences. Below I’ll be describing 2 Oia alternatives where we found our authentic Greek experience that we were longing for. 

Santorini Greece
Santorini Greece
Santorini Greece

Oia Santorini – Alternative Villages to Visit

1) Visit Imerovigli

An authentic Greek local village with picture perfect white house’s climbing down the steep cliffs. It’s a small village with a few local restaurants offering one of the best sunset views in Santorini. Make sure to visit end of day to take some photos, stroll around the town and have some local Greek food overlooking the beautiful sun set over Santorini. 

Imerovigli Sunset
Imerovigli Sunset
Imerovigli, Greece
Imerovigli, Greece
Imerovigli
Imerovigli, Greece

If you are more active and seeking adventure. There is also a hiking trail that will take you directly to Oia alongside the steep cliffs. Amazing views guaranteed! 

Tip: Make sure you hike the morning or end of day to avoid the crazy summer temperatures as you won’t find a lot of shade along the way. 

2) Explore Pyrgos 

Want something even more local than Imerovigli? Visit Pyros, a true hidden gem and one of the most authentic Greek villages of Santorini. Pyrgos is situated more in-land surrounded by by vineyards producing amazing Assyrtiko white wines.

Pyrgos, Greece
Pyrgos, Greece
Kantouni Restaurant, Pyrgos
Kantouni Restaurant, Pyrgos

The village itself is alive with steep medieval alleys home to many wine bars, local tavernas, galleries and boutiques. Make sure you have some amazing local Greek food while enjoying a glass of Assyrtiko white wine. A highly recommend trying Kantouni restaurant for some traditional Greek delicacies. 

Tip: Santorini island is rather small, you’ll be able to visit Oia or any other village from wherever you stay. Just book a car, buggy or scooter and go explore the island.

Where to to stay in Santorini 

If you want the true Santorini bucket list experience, indulge yourself with amazing Aegean Sea views from your private Cave suite. Also read Santorini The Divine Cave Experience

Divine Cave Experience, Santorini

How to get to Santorini? 

There are 2 ways to get to Santorini, directly by plane or by local ferry.

Should you arrive by local ferry, be careful. The port of Santorini during high season is a massive tourist trap! You are basically stuck in a port surrounded by high ranging cliffs. Scooters, buggies, cars and quads are quickly sold out. Make sure to make a booking in advance or you will be paying the ultimate tourist price for a taxi or mini bus. 

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