Oia, pronounced as “Ia”, is the best known of all the picturesque villages of Santorini. It is globally famous for its spectacular landscapes, the iconic sunsets and high end hotels with swimming pools hanging above the dramatic cliffside. It is certainly the most iconic part of the island, but also Greece in general. With the jaw-dropping views of the volcano and the island of Thirassia, Oia is a place that will take your breath away.
Oia is a place full of enchanting and dreamy streets, atmospheric restaurants and boutique shops. Here is where you can spot the signature blue domes and witness the iconic Santorini sunsets.
SUNSETS IN OIA
Although Oia can be described as peaceful and idyllic, it comes to life when the sunsets. The sunset in Oia is truly an experience you cannot witness anywhere in the world. It’s a time of the day when the narrow streets fill up with tourists and locals who gather on stairs and rooftops in order to cherish the sunset. It feels like every time the sun dims in the sea is a call for a celebration. In fact, people clap hands when the sun completely sets, calling it a day. The sunset colour palette completes the extraordinary beauty of Oia and offers an unforgettable sight.
HOW TO GET TO OIA
In order to experience the beauty of Oia, you need to reach Santorini and that is either by a plane or ferry. The island is a popular tourist destination and the affordable flights are available from major European cities including Athens with multiple domestic connections.
Santorini is also a popular ferry stop with its port in Athinios. You can take the ferry directly from Athens or explore Santorini as a part of an island hopping experience which is incredibly worth doing when in Greece.
Oia is located approximately 17 km from the airport and 19km from the port. The distance between the village and the capital of the island-Fira- is 12 km.
When on the island, you can either arrange a transfer with your hotel or local taxi company, or rent a car or ATV which will allow you to freely explore other natural wonders of Santorini.
GETTING AROUND OIA
The tiny streets of Oia can be best explored on foot and this is due to countless steps. Although the trek around Oia is rather moderate, you need to consider that this village is not easy to move around for families with small children. Many hotels and key locations like Ammooudi Bay are only accessible by stairs carved in the pavement.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT OIA
Although Santorini is an all-year-round destination, the best months to visit the island are late April-October. These months guarantee pleasant weather with less rainfall and winds than winter months. This is also the timeframe when most of the hotels are open, as they tend to close their door to tourists from November until April.
Although June, July and August guarantee the best weather, these are also the peak travel months which means a considerable increase in hotel rates and rentals. The top hotels with private infinity pools which are one of Santorini’s main selling points, can come at a very hefty price when booked for the high season. Sigala
If you however do mind your travel budget, aim for booking your trip in April or October for the best deals.
WHAT TO SEE IN OIA
Oia is packed with scenic photo backdrops and these are best explored when simply wandering its charming streets. There are, however, a few things you must do when in Oia.
1. Visit the church of 3 blue domes
Located amongst the white-washed houses, the church with 3 blue domes forms the most iconic photography backdrop in Santorini.
2. Hike to Amoudi Bay
If you’re after some authentic Greek cuisine that has been sourced and cooked locally, head to the stunning Amoudi Bay to sample the top culinary delights. The place is also ideal for swimming, as it is surrounded by the most breathtakingly blue waters that Greece is best known for.
3. Hike from Oia to Thira
If you’d like to witness another incredible village of Santorini-Thira- you can take an 8 kilometers long hike from Oia. The scenic hillside trek guarantees the most spectacular surroundings and a great outdoor experience.
4. Visit the castle of Agios Nikolaos
The castle of Agios Nikolaos dates back to the 15th century and is one of Oia’s most popular locations.
5. Take a wine tour to Sigalas Winery
Calling all the wine lovers! Discovered in 1991, there’s Sigalas Winery which is located in the vicinity of Oia. The place continues to make quality wines that will please even the most demanding connoisseurs.
6. Go shopping!
Oia is packed with boutique souvenir stores that sell beautiful hand-made pottery and traditional gifts. There are also many stalls that sell quirky hand-painted pictures and drawings of the island, which make for the perfect souvenir to give to a friend.
7. Visit Atlantis Bookstore
Atlantis Bookstore is one of the most iconic bookshops and it cannot be missed by any book lover visiting Santorini.
8. Snap a picture at Kastro Oia Houses
Kastro Oia Houses is a set of small cave-style rooms which have become an Instagram postcard of Santorini. This peachy-coloured hotel is a perfect backdrop for your grid shot!
PHOTOGRAPHY IN OIA
Without a doubt, Oia has become insanely popular over the past years thanks to a huge social media exposure, which only topped the overall hype this place has had for years. If you are looking for the best photography opportunities in Oia, you need to set your alarm for early hours and head to the key spots before the crowds wake up. The sunrise will award you with the dreamiest and soft light and the best locations will be just for you to play around.
Although Oia is best captured at sunset, you should then focus on capturing the panoramic landscape shots as the streets will be packed with travellers and locals. It will be very hard for you to find a quiet spot to photograph from and for this reason it’s worth booking a hotel with the best caldera views.
DRONES IN OIA
Since the 1st January 2017, the whole island of Santorini has become a no fly zone, which means that it is illegal to fly a drone in Oia and other villages.
The main reason for the drone ban is the size of the island which does not guarantee the safe distance between the towns and airports as well as multiple helipads. What is more, many of the hotels and private villas are exposed to the seaside, which means that flying a drone would put you in a high risk of infringing someone's privacy.
Although you may have seen people flying their drones in Santorini, it is officially banned and they are risking getting a fine which would be an expensive addition to already expensive holidays.
WHERE TO EAT IN OIA
Katharos Lounge – The beach location, the relaxed vibe and great variety of vegan and vegetarian options.
Piatsa Souvlaki Grill House- If you’re after a traditional 5-star Souvlaki, this is the place to get one.
Melitini – Your best, traditional tapas restaurant serving the authentic Greek meals as well as traditional beers and wines.
Elinikon – This restaurant is the best place to go if you are looking for traditional Greek food with the tourist prices that are often present in the busier areas of Santorini. Visit this restaurant for a late evening dinner and watch the sunset over the sea.
Lauda Restaurant – Locally sourced food served over the panoramic Caldera views.
Roka Restaurant- Roka is a charming restaurant nestled in an early twentieth-century building. It provides a quirky and unique atmosphere and is a perfect place for a dinner out.
Armeni Restaurant- If you love fresh seafood, Armeni is the ideal restaurant for you to stop by. Located in a tavern-like building, this restaurant serves seafood as fresh as it comes.
WHERE TO STAY IN OIA
With the huge popularity comes the price tag which you may notice when searching for the best place to stay in Santorini. However, along with ultra-luxurious pool villas there comes more affordable options too!
-Charisma Suites: Located below the signature Oia’s windmills, Charisma is a boutique hotel providing cave-style suites and private pool villas. The highly-rated hotel is one of the best options to book for your stay.
-Marizan Cave Suites: On the more affordable side there’s Marizan cave Suites, nestled just above the famous Amoudi. Only a step outside your room will greet you with the most jaw-dropping views of the Bay and cliffs.
-Aspaki Hotel: Located just next to the blue-dome church, Aspaki is a boutique property hosting ultra stylish villas overlooking the bluest Aegean Sea.
-Canaves Oia: Along with the infinity pool, white-washed cave style interiors, and breath-taking sea views, Canaves Oia Suites and Spa is the ultimate place to stay for those who cherish the luxury stay experiences.
-Filotera Suites- The rooms at Filotera are equipped with individual balconies and pools that provide you with a private view of what’s best of Santorini. The moderate budget is another huge advantage of booking a stay here!