Santorini. Should we go?

Aug 19th, 2008, 02:31 PM
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Santorini. Should we go?

My husband is deeply interested in Greek history, and last year we visited Athens (his first time, my second), and he enjoyed it immensely. We plan to return when the new museum of the Acropolis is opened.

My question is this:

I've been thinking he might also enjoy adding a short trip to Santorini, but I'm not sure. And what makes me unsure is that neither of us enjoyed being in the Amalfi coast, beautiful as it is, because neither of us enjoys being someplace so tourist-oriented.

Where we live right now is actually a beautiful place, so we don't need a beautiful vacation. We went to the Amalfi area to see Pompeii and Paestum. The Amalfi scenery is indeed exceptionally beautiful, and it was nice to see. . But we prefer not to travel to places so dominated by tourist restaurants and tourist shopping.

So I guess my questions are:

Is there an off-season in Santorini? I don't want when there are risks of storms, but how soon or late could we scoot in there?

Is there a pleasant corner of Santorini that is unaffected by mass tourism?

Is there a good strategy for avoiding the worst of the tourist impact?

Are Santorini's archeological sites open to the public?

I hope I don't sound too fussy. Santorini looks stunning. But I think, personally, my husband would really rather not go beyond Athens if the native life of the island has been replaced by tourism.

What was your experience?

puntemes is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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Go in early Oct. and stay in Oia at the north end---spectacular ! We liked a place named Esperas.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 04:02 PM
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Yes, you should see Santorini--it's a crescent shaped island around the deepest bay in all of the Aegean, as the rest of the island blew out in a volcanic explosion in 1625 BC and inspired the legend of Atlantis.

And yes, stay in OIA, a small charming village at one end of the island. I fell in love with a very special hotel called PERIVOLAS a number of years ago--just 14 rooms, built into caves that used to hold wines, all carved into the side of a cliff overlooking the water. This hotel was on the cover of Conde Nast's TRAVELER about ten years ago.

There were fabulous ruins at AKROTIRI at the other end of the island--discovered just 40 years ago I think--but someone told me that they have been closed to tourists. Check this out--but the best mosaics, etc. from Akrotiri were already removed to museums in Athens. Enjoy!
JanDelaware is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 06:00 PM
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Thank you both for your responses.

If early October is the optimal window, then we wouldn't do it this year, since we have a November trip to another part of Europe planned.

I think we might revisit Athens sooner than next October, however, so perhaps we could combine a trip to Santorini with a visit to Crete, or Rhodes or Cyprus --??? Maybe Turkey???? These are also of historical interest to my husband. (I tend to plan these things as a surprise gift to him.)

I will keep tabs on whether the archeological sites on Santorini are open.

I checked out the recommended accommodations. They are lovely, but I wonder if my husband and I could make do with B&Bs. We don't need a pool, especially in October. But it's too soon to start thinking those specifics.

Thanks again for the comments and if anyone else wants to chime in, I'd appreciate it. I'm especially interested to know what Santorini is easily combined with -- that is, my husband would surely like to see Istanbul, and probably Rhodes or Cyprus -- or perhaps someplace else I'm missing (wish Lebanon were safer!)

So if not Athens, then Santorini plus---? We love ruins and museums!

Thanks again.
puntemes is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 06:11 PM
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I'm fairly sure the ruins on Santorini are still closed due to the death of a worker. They closed early in 2006 and haven't reopened. My HB is also interested in Greek history - he teaches high school history. Santorini is VERY touristy. Huge cruise ships pull in to the harbour every morning and hordes of tourists spend their days shopping before disappearing at about 5pm. Two nights would probably be plenty and it is worth it to experience the amazing view of the Calderra. Did you go to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens? I went there thinking "an hour or two should sort this out", but my HB is so knowledgeable it was like having my own personal guided tour. We spent an entire day there and loved it.
cathies is online now  
Aug 19th, 2008, 06:22 PM
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Yes, we went to the museum in Athens. I actually booked us into the closest hotel to the museum I could find so we wouldn't feel rushed, and could go as often as we liked. My interest in Greek artifacts is almost entirely aesthetic. For me the great discovery was Minoan art and culture. Just so fresh and timeless! And no matter how many times you see them, the beauty of Greek statues just impresses you again and again.

Looking at the prices on Santorini, I get the impression it must be very, very touristy. I'm holding my breath a bit on this one. I'm sure I'll be back to ask more questions. I am thinking we will revisit Athens next march, and take a few non-island daytrips from there as well enjoy Athens (we like the cafes there too!)

And I'll try to learn more about Santorini (I'll even ask some Greeks!).

Thanks again for your input.
puntemes is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 06:23 PM
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Akrotiri is still closed to the public, has been closed since September 2005 when a British tourist was killed (not a worker). Plans are still in limbo for the reconstruction of the protective roof covering that collapsed. Supposedly work is to begin at the end of the year, but who knows? It is Greece, after all! When it does finally begin, completion of the work will take at least a year.

Ancient Thera will be open on the summit of the hill between Perissa and Kamari Beaches. The Nomikos Conference Center has an exhibit of artifacts from Akrotiri, and Fira has the Museum of Prehistoric Thera.
brotherleelove2004 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 06:33 PM
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Sorry Brotherleelove2004, I should have checked!!
cathies is online now  
Aug 19th, 2008, 06:45 PM
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Are these permanent exhibits or limited in time?

Also, when you say the summit will be open, would it be open in October (2009)?


puntemes is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 08:02 PM
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I suspect that the exhibits are not permanent, but I think they are long-term to compensate for the closure of Akrotiri.

Ancient Thera will be open in October, 2009 barring any unforseen situations.
brotherleelove2004 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 08:20 PM
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puntemes, if your husband was enthralled by the Acropolis and the natl. Museum, your next trip should include a visit to the near part of the Peloponnese, and the central place to stay there in order to see 3-4 ancient sites easily is -- Nafplio. It is only 2.5 hours from Athens on a modern (scenic) highway along the water and over the corinth Canal - either by rental car or comfy a/c hourly interctiy bus.

This town on the Bay of Argos is a World Heritage Site (designated for its near-perfectly preserved Old Town), which has overlays of many eras -- ancient Greek walls, the Venetian fortresses and Turk fortifications, and then the history of being the first capital of Free Greece in 1828. THe place is visually stunning, with fortesses on the top of town, in the bay, and the amazing Palamidi behind the town on a Gibraltar-size ROCK.

Staying in Nafplio, you can rent a car there and in one day or 2 you can see Mycenae (the ruins of the Iliad-era warriors), Tiryns (the same era fort, with NO tourists), Nemea (a Sacred Games Site 2nd only to Olympus -- with arena, theatre, museum, temple -- and Epidaurus, with its amazing INTACT theatre that seats 15,000 and is acoustically perfect.

Here's a slide-show by Fodorite Stanbr, showing the attractions of Nafplio, and ending with a few shots of the ancient sites listed above.

Nafplio is not promoted by the greeks very much -- because they want to keep it to themselves! I don't think your husband would consider it 'touristic' because most of the visitors (at least in May and in september in the 4 x I've been there) are GREEK.

E-mail if u want more info ... this area is tops for lovers of greek history. (For an island filled with ancient hsitory from Minoans on, go to crete -- but that's another whole subject!!).
travelerjan is offline  
Aug 19th, 2008, 10:17 PM
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Dear puntemes,

I hope I'm not being too contrary...

I've been to Greece only twice. Once for 2 weeks and to various islands plus 3 days in Athens, and once for a week on Santorini. I also spent a week on the Amalfi coast.

First, let me confirm the ruins on Santorini are still closed as of this past October with no indication of a re-opening.

Second, if you found Amalfi too touristy and touristed, and don't care about views, then I don't recommend Santorini.

There are other places in Greece where there is more in terms of archeology. Of all the islands we visited, Santorini seemed the most limited this way given the closed ruins. We do like views so we were fine, but I don't think it's what you're looking for.

You might also consider heading to Ephesus in Turkey if you haven't been.

gruezi is offline  
Aug 20th, 2008, 12:02 AM
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Given your requirements, it seems to me time would be better spent on the mainland than on Santorini. But don't just stay in Athens - Delphi, Meteora, and numerous sites in the Peloponnese will satisfy your husband's interest in Greek history.

Look for some guidebooks that specialize in archaeological sites, eg Greece: An Oxford Archaeological Guide or Blue Guide Greece: The Mainland
Heimdall is online now  
Aug 20th, 2008, 01:06 AM
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I've been to Santorini, when Akrotiri was still open (which was fascinating). It can't be denied that Santorini is beautiful but VERY touristy and expensive, which we found off-putting. We went to see the sunset at Oia - along with all the crowds - where else is the sunset applauded!

I have had many trips to Greece and there are plenty of other places to enjoy the history and scenery, without the crowds. The Peloponnese or northern mainland would be a good choice and is easily combined with Athens. Another choice would be to go to Crete where it possible to do a day trip to Santorini.

Personally, I would go back to Santorini - I'd like to see it in spring - but probably not for more than a couple of days, combined with another island and not until Akrotiri re-opens.
Maria_H is offline  
Aug 20th, 2008, 08:52 AM
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We have been to Athens, Nafplio, Santorini and Cyprus. All are wonderful locations.

The only time of year we have gone to these various locations is September and early October. Mid September the tourists start to settle down a bit compared to July and August.

Nafplio - we loved it. Quieter. Beautiful scenery, nice B&Bs and great local food.

Santorini - stayed in Oia at Atlantis Villas - wonderful wonderful wonderful. Yes it is touristy but when you stay on the Caldera side in Oia, you can see the sunset from your villa and miss all the crowds.

Cyprus - been there 10 times (married to a Cypriot). I just love it. There are touristy areas but there are alot of quieter relaxing locations. We are going again next year for 3 weeks in mid September.

You can't go wrong wherever you choose. Enjoy.
Byron1 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2008, 11:01 AM
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I also vote for the Peloponnese and/or other parts of the mainland. So many incredible ancient sites very close together. You can see beautiful countryside as well as get in the Greek history you are searching for.

I also love Meteora. We were there the end of June and it was practically empty. I believe it's been more "discovered" in the past ten years so maybe more crowded now during that time of year. Not so much ancient Greek history but history, nonetheless, and what striking beauty! A place like no other.

Crete is also a great place to visit. You can definitely get away from the tourists there! Quite a bit of the island is fairly uninhabited, really. Also, Knossos is there for a taste of the history.

My husband and I are very active, enjoying hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, etc. We also like the history aspects of travel. Greece can meet all those desires in one trip.
wug is offline  
Aug 20th, 2008, 12:20 PM
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Great! Thank you for all this fantastic info and wealth of links and pointers.

Reading everybody's input, what I think we'd really like is to make two trips next year: One that combines Athens (and closeby mainland sites) with the Peloponnese, and the second trip to combine Crete and Santorini. (And a third trip Cyprus and Turkey???)

Before I met my husband I toured parts of Greece and Turkey (including amazing Ephesus), and I do know Napflio and its dramatic monuments (I spent an entire week in Tolo, before there was a single high-rise there!). I would very much like to show him that area, and see Mistras myself again. So I think that's a definite go, once the new museum at the Acropolis is open, I hope in spring.

But next October, I think we should just suck it up and go to Crete and Santorini, and even buy some worry beads, drink ouzo, pet a goat, etc. When we were in the museum at Athens we bought a DVD about Crete, because we so much wanted to see more of Minoan culture -- and the DVD was all about where to party in Crete! We were disappointed -- although it's pretty obvious that if you go way into the interior you can find an amazing Cretan life. But we of course would head to Knossos, compromised as that is.

We are tourists, too, so we'll fit in! And we wouldn't have missed such places as Pisa, Basilica San Marco, the top of the Empire State Building, the fountains of Versailles and other great touristy sights. We'll survive. My husband -- who is a scholar of the history of political ideas and their migration -- I think just has to see Thera and that spot. We'll probably book a B&B instead of a villa, but we'll go.

Thanks for all the input, and I will be in touch janetsgreece as I proceed with Napflio planning. Thank you for that offer.

Also, since someone asked, I will report that sunsets are also applauded at the Oasis Bar above Lake Travis in Houston -- but I imagine it's a different sunset, if not a different sun, in Santorini.

Thanks again.
puntemes is offline  
Aug 20th, 2008, 12:27 PM
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puntemes -

A million years ago I used to spend my summer weekends on Fire Island off of Long Island and sunsets there were also applauded...the crowds a bit smaller than Oia though

Sounds like you are making some good decisions. From everything you have said here, I just don't think Santorini is what you are looking for, and there are so many other places that will suit your interests better.

gruezi is offline  
Aug 20th, 2008, 12:48 PM
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I believe they also applaud the sunset in Key West although I've not witnessed it. I much prefer the sunRISE on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
cindyj is offline  
Aug 20th, 2008, 01:00 PM
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Thanks, gruezi, I appreciate you're trying to save us from what could be a mistake (we have regretted some of our travel choices), but when I talked with my husband last night about Santorini, and its problems with overtouristing, he just has such a strong feeling about it being the very cradle of Western civilisation -- it is a piece of ground and sea that he wants to see. And I forgot how much he likes calderas. You can't imagine how many calderas I've not climbed. (I sit at the local cafe and catch up on my reading. It'll be nice to be sitting above one for a change!)

And for me, so long as I can get Greek yogurt for breakfast, I'm up for anything.
puntemes is offline  

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