The whitewashed walls, cobalt blue roofs and stunning sunsets of Santorini have long been catnip for selfie-stick toting hordes, leading to over-tourism that threatened to destroy the Greek island. Then along came Covid-19 – and the chance for a fresh start, says Felicity Byrnes.
It’s high summer, and long-time local and tour guide Lefteris (“call me Lefty”) of Blue Shades of Greece is showing me his side of Santorini. We’ve ended up in Megalochori, one of the island’s interior villages, ablaze with bougainvillea dripping rainbows of lilac and crimson with pops of Aperol-spritz orange against the whitewashed buildings. But something’s missing. Preparing to take a photo, there’s no need to wait for bodies to wander out of shot: there aren’t any. It’s hard to imagine, but this is Santorini – without the crowds.
Against a backdrop of a world ravaged by the pandemic, Santorini has remained a virus-free bubble. “It isn’t lucky that we’re Covid-19 free,” says the newly elected mayor of Santorini, Antonis Sigalas. “We closed the island, and we closed it quickly.”