Santorini's popularity soars but locals say it has hit saturation point

Greek island draws millions of tourists but residents talk of pressure on infrastructure and divide between haves and have-nots.

This year close to 2 million holidaymakers will visit Santorini, lured by the beauty of a place receiving charter flights and private jets direct from European capitals. More than 850,000 will arrive on the gargantuan cruise ships that moor daily in the crescent-shaped isle’s volcanic sea-filled crater. “Santorini is unique,” says Konstantinos, one of the impeccably mannered waiters serving local sparkling wine on the terraces of Oia’s exclusive Fanari restaurant. “It is not Greek, it is totally international."

It is a scene far removed from the gruelling 1950s, when mass migration followed a devastating earthquake that resulted in most of the island’s merchant elite fleeing to Athens. Electricity only arrived in 1974. Memories of poverty are still visceral and real.

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