Still, go check it out for yourself and see if it’s worth the hype.
If there’s one thing everyone raves about in Santorini, is the sunsets. Two hours before the sun goes down, cameras are poised, tourists crowd around window seats inside restaurants despite costly bills at the end of the night. For the other hundreds of folks who didn’t book restaurant tables ahead of time, they cram the ridges that wrap around Oia. Like colonies of ants following a scent trail to find food, tourists are hungry for that perfect shot of the much-buzzed-about Santorini sunset people rave about after returning home.
So we did it. For two hours, we waited amid heavy summer wind. We waited. And waited. And…waited.
The sun had set. People along the ridges applauded. They quite literally clapped, and cheered at the sight of nature performing its quotidian. The sun and its daily disappearance below the horizon due to Earth’s rotation had somehow ignited emotions of a Greek tragedy.
We were baffled. Did we miss something? What exactly was the big deal? Was it the setting of the Caldera? Was it about the reflection glistening off of copious blue domes? We simply didn’t get it.
From 2004 to 2015, the number of hotel beds in Santorini grew 50%. In the last eight years, this romantic island’s population increased from 15,000 to 25,000. In 2017, CNN listed Santorini as one of twelve destinations that travelers might want to avoid in 2018. Why? It might just be about this perplexing sunset!
The thing is, it IS pretty damn gorgeous. A silken sun sinking into dark mustard waters of the Aegean Sea. Layers of harmonious white cubic houses, cobblestone streets casted by the shadows of a dimming sky become a dreamy hypnosis to any traveler’s eyes. It is, however, comparable to sunsets in many other places in the world. Think: the Sahara Desert, over the skyline of temples in Angkor Wat, the canals of Amsterdam, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, even the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles.
I’ve been to all of those places. I’ve personally witnessed sunsets from the Sahara to Santa Monica, and they’re ALL just as breathtakingly marvelous as the one I witnessed in Oia, Santorini. None of the other destinations, however, has made a marketing gimmick out of its alluring sunset. In fact, from the Taj Mahal to the Sahara Desert, there was always an immense sense of peace which overcame my nomadic spirit as I witnessed the sun working its mundane magic. Wondrous rays of orange and red often slowed down my moving soul, because no one else was around to shove my shoulders, to cluster my body. Selfie sticks didn’t overpower nature’s quiet enchantment.
Whether you’re in Imervigli, Fira, or Firostefani, sunsets are gorgeous anywhere in Santorini. But Oia holds the title as the “best sunset on the island,” though the origin of such a reputation remains in a fluster. We decided to ask several local restauranteurs and entrepreneurs, the consensus was: it’s a promotional tactic. The truth is, sunsets in Santorini are just the same as beautiful as other sunsets around the world. All you have to do, is to look up.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the sunset, it’s still a bucket list item that one must check off. First, ask yourself whether you want to be a tourist or a traveler. If you KNOW you’re a traveler, then this is what we recommend regarding the sunset:
- Don’t overpay for window seats at the restaurant. Don’t pay for expensive dinner menus serving mediocre food.
- Buy a few beers and ciders at a grocery store that you’ll pass by.
- Bring a scarf because the sea breeze gets chilly, even in July.
- Find a ledge, and wait for 1-2 hours for nature’s performance.
- Clapping is optional. It also defines whether you’re a tourist or a traveler.
- Don’t wait until the very end to leave the premise. Crowds will fill up narrow alleys like sardines and it’ll take an extra hour to get out of Oia if you’re not staying there for the night.
Similar to how underwhelming many say about the Mona Lisa after seeing it at the Louvre Museum, many travelers have left Oia with parallel question marks after witnessing the sunset. Go check it out for yourself, and see if it’s worth the hype.
Photos: Wendy Hung
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