Santorini is without a doubt an elopement and wedding photographer’s dream! Beautiful traditional Greek architecture, the otherworldly view on the caldera, colourful flowers and trees, pastel everywhere you look, the stunning blue sea and dreamy light that you only seem to get on Mediterranean islands. I get the hype around eloping and getting married on Santorini!
A few days before the shoot I did the caldera hike from Karterados to Oia (about 12km) to become familiar with the island and scout wedding photography locations. This 3 hour hike (if you stop here and there for a Frappé coffee, Greek salad, picturesque alleyways or just take a break to soak in the views… make it more like 5 or 6 hours) But hey, that’s the beauty of exploring!
If you intend to do the caldera hike, my tip: start early! And with early, I mean sunrise early.
That way you not only beat the crowds, but you will also dodge the heat which gets super intense especially during the last section of the hike. And while we are at it, don’t forget to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and good shoes either. This hike is really intuitive, you can’t go wrong if you stay as close to the caldera edge as possible, even if you get side tracked or lost – all you need to do is find your way back to the path closest to the edge.
When I came by this spot close to Oia, I knew I wanted to shoot here! The sweeping views from the caldera in the evening light are one of the dreamiest I’ve ever had the pleasure to photograph a couple. I love mountains, that’s no secret – but I’d not be too sad if I could shoot these magic pastel colours every day for the rest of my life. A nice side effect: privacy, lots! Everyone heads to the very tip of Oia or other places like the capital Thira or Imerovigli for sunset – but the rugged and wild caldera edge will be the most quiet and majestic place (at least in my opinion) to watch the sunset.
So here’s my top 5 top tips on how to beat the crowds on your elopement or wedding day on Santorini
Start early and schedule your shoot at sunrise before all the cruise ship tourists start to flock in. Extra benefit: it won’t be hot as hell
If you have to shoot at sunset, pick less busy villages like Imerovigli or Firostefani
Try to find a spot outside the villages with direct access to the caldera or a beach on the other side of the island (Perissa, Akrotiri) for a more rugged and wild feeling with stunning views. Explore the island for yourself first and don’t go where everybody tells you to go for “the best view”. Because, well, everybody goes there.
Book a private sunset boat tour
Consider going in shoulder season or, if you are really adventurous, in off-season. The weather can be tricky to handle and it can get really cold, but Santorini is a whole different island during off season – quiet and with most places closed, you’ll have the island almost to yourself.
On a more personal and different note – not everything is sunshine and oleander on Santorini. Being a sucker for animals, I was heartbroken to see the sheer number of stray animals (and especially cats) foraging the garbage at night on my way back to the hotel. I was aware of this problem on Greek islands before (and basically any other Mediterranean island), but the situation on Santorini has been brought to my attention in particular following the heartwarming story of Nala and Dean, a cyclist and his rescue kitten who met by chance and who are trying to make the world a better place. If you don’t know their story, go check it out! But fair warning, it will tear you up.
Hence the revenue of this shoot goes to Sterila Santorini Cats, a local animal shelter whose volunteers work hard to ease the suffering of the stray animals on the island without any government funding.
Imagine if every tourist donated only 1 Euro to the cause – wouldn’t Santorni be even more beautiful to visit?