Yea I know this position is going to be a pretty rough one and I swear I didn’t come to it lightly…
So, Oia, Santorini is one of the most Instagram exposed locations in Greece likely due to it’s architecture and cliff-side location. Worth noting there’s a ton of spots like that in Greece so Oia was likely on the right influencer feeds at the right time to explode. And you know it when you go there, everyone is posing for for the gram at all times. I’m not saying that’s bad, heck I do it plenty. I am saying there is definitely a level where a place feels like it exists solely for social media and Oia seems to have passed that threshold for me.
Now it isn’t just tourist/traveler behavior that is indicative of this. Oia itself feels like it was build solely as a tourist destination. There isn’t much history there other than being the site of a caldera and a historic eruption, which is dope don’t get me wrong and that fact on its own is not indicative of anything. However you pair that with the fact that Oia really only has the same 3 or 4 types of stores repeated over and over, the same, tourist type of restaurants repeated over and over, and the same copy/paste vibe you get from only the most “touristy” of places.
Add to this that whenever you look up a blog or a guide to Oia it is really the same thing. Look at the domes, take pictures by domes, watch the sunset. As an avid traveler all the places to stay are basically the same, everything is a 5 minute walk, and all the prices are basically universal. This leads me to one of my main points for this argument, the costs. So when comparing Oia to other popular tourist cities, I always ask myself what is the possibility for a variance of experiences. Basically, if a few very different people go to a location, how different will their trips be? In Athens, Mykonos, or even Fira on the same island, there’s some nuance. You can find smaller restaurants, bars with different drinks, prices to indicate a level of layers on the experiences or how niche they are, even just different things to do period. In Oia, everyone will pay the same higher prices and very similar restaurants with, honestly, very similar views of the cove to see the same sunset. Some people will ride the donkeys which YOU SHOULD NOT DO AND I’VE WRITTEN SIMILAR THINGS BEFORE. The donkey treatment in Oia is some of the most obvious animal abuse/exploitation I’ve seen and that is something I can say as a fact, doesn’t even come close to the panda dilemma I had in the past. Anyway, nobody in Oia is like “Hey, did you go to the secret bar where you drink out of fish heads?” because things like that don’t exist there. Everyone goes to the restaurants that view the sunset everyday and that’s the activity.
Granted, you can go jump off a cliff, which I did and was cool and may negate this entire post but that cliff jumping was followed by walking up a ton of stairs passing by a bunch of mistreated donkeys which dulled those feelings.
I also acknowledge maybe I am just being a travel elitist. I’ve been to a lot of places and seen so much that even complaining about this is likely ridiculous. This is very likely a once is a lifetime spot for some people, and again, that’s OK. This is just my opinion and it is no more valid than anyone else’s. I dunno maybe I’ve just gotten jaded. I totally go to places just for gimmicks in the past and that’s basically what Oia is, a gimmick. I guess this gimmick just wasn’t for me. Maybe I was tired of the line of people taking pictures outside of my hotel next to some flowers.
I don’t know but I think all travelers/tourists have feelings like mine sometimes and that’s OK to express. Sometimes a place just doesn’t click.
My emotions are all over while writing this post honestly. I was very frustrated by the faux image of Oia presented by a lot of bloggers that just feels so…fake? I won’t say I’m immune to it hell this blog alone probably falls prey to it but this just feels so blatant and ignores that tightrope walk in favor of lighting the rope on fire. Oia feels like it was designed to completely extract money from tourists, convince them they had the time of their lives based on money spent and generic experiences, and then expel them. It is a very beautiful city that has no residents, just Airbnb renters. It is a city of delicious cuisine, for 40 to 50 Euro per person on dishes that are similar quality for 10 Euro in Athens. It is a city for the sunset view, if you feel like wading through crowds of hundreds to see something that happens every single day and is nearly identical in hundreds of spots in Greece. You get the idea. Overall, just stay in Fira, make a day trip to Oia for the photos, then head back. Fortunately this blog isn’t popular enough to dry the ire of the Council of Travel Bloggers so hopefully my opinion isn’t taken to heart by those that found Oia life changing or whatever. Maybe just ignore this post.