On the northern side of Santorini, on a perpendicular slope of the caldera, Oia is a Cycladic village with the most unparalleled beauty! The cosmopolitan aesthetic, the well-dressed visitors, and the astonishing views on the background represent the uniqueness of Oia village (attention! I-a and not O-i-a). This easily explored town is a perfect destination for a romantic getaway but also for an unforgettable family trip! This village impresses with the charming white-washed houses, the picturesque alleys, the peculiar bays, and the variety of cafes and restaurants that makes a walk on it, a walk to remember! So here are some stops you have to necessarily make while in Oia! But wait a minute! We almost forgot to remind you of the one and only thing you must keep with you! Your camera (or your latest iPhone ) of course! You can’t leave Santorini without shooting the most famous city in Greece!
Watch the sunset from the Venetian castle of Agios Nikolaos
Hundreds of years ago, when Santorini was a Venetian territory, Oia was one of the most famous “Kastelia” (defended hamlet) of the island. It was named “Kasteli of Agios Nikolaos” due to a beautiful church that was dedicated to Saint Nikolaos. However, after the destroyed earthquake in 1956, a significant part of the traditional settlement dropped into the sea below the caldera and disappeared forever. Today, the castle has two and three-story houses, close to each other, forming an external wall, while the inside narrow streets remind a labyrinth. These legendary ruins of the Venetian castle constitute the most famous spot to admire the world-famous Oia’s sunset and to realize that nothing can be more admirable than the vastness of nature itself.
- Visit the castle of Oia, early enough, to find a comfortable spot and to avoid the dozens of crowds. You are now ready to hug your beloved ones and enjoy an imaginary romantic spectacle that you will never forget!
- If you are early bird and dislike the crowds, go there during sunrise. Grab your camera and capture beautiful colors from a really unique perspective.
Capture the 3 blue dome churches of Oia
The architectural grandeur of Santorini is reflected generously in its unique chapels and old churches. All of them demonstrate artificially the devotion of Greek culture to Christianity. The truth is that among the rest, the 3 Blue Domes churches of Oia stand out in almost every single postcard of the island! Unquestionably, the most reproduced and photographed Santorinian blue dome churches are Agios Spiridonas and Anasteseos churches. The 3 blue domes, located on an unnamed road, are quite difficult to spot and almost impossible to reach using Google Maps! Nevertheless, here are some useful instructions to follow starting right from the main entrance of Oia’s pathway, where the famous Passaggio Cafe is located.
- From Luno Café head west on Nik. Nomikou. After approximately 600m you will find on your right hand the main square of the village (Panagia Platsani church).
- With the church behind you, head south toward Nik. Nomikou, towards St. Nicolas Castle for about 41m and continue down the street.
- On your left-hand, you will find a downhill diminutive path, right before the “Alexandros Jewelry” store. Turn left and follow it.
- At the end of it, you will notice an old door with brown color as well as two paths to follow, one on the left and one on the right of the door. Both roads lead to the 3 blue domes churches. That’s it! Now take the right alley, follow it until the end, grab your camera and start… shooting! You find it!
Admire the Panagia Platsani- the main church of Oia
The imposing church of Panagia Platsani, which is dedicated to the Akathist Hymn of the Most Holy Theotokos, was formerly located in the Venetian Castle of Oia. After the earthquake of 1956, was ruined and rebuilt in 1965 at its existing location at the heart of Oia’s pathway to avoid potential repeated collapses. The church consists of a large white building and five domes (the largest of which is painted blue). In the front of the building stands out the arched windows, a bell tower in the shape of a pyramid containing six bells as well as a gilded mosaic exactly above the entrance door. Based on Easter the church is celebrated 16 days before Easter when visitors can admire a religious procession.
Discover the hidden area of “Sidera”
Going back to the late 19th century and early 20th century, on the right hand of Oia’s main pathway, on the backside of Panagia Platsani, a monumental neighborhood meant to house medieval wealthy families and the shipowners of the island in large, two-story impressive buildings. The wider area was named “Sidera” and the particular buildings “Captain houses”. The “Captain houses” were built following the neoclassical standards of the time with clear influence by Venetian and Renaissance architecture. Returning back to 2021, most of these beautiful houses were destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1965 and replaced by boutique hotels and inviting restaurants. We definitely recommend you to visit “Sidera” while strolling around Oia, which still retains its dignified character.
Find out the two remaining Windmills
Another architectural piece of jewelry of Santorini is the windmills which are almost 70 on the entire island. Santorini, is moderately windy, a fact that was exploited by the locals for centuries, who created windmills to grind wheat by almost unlimited wind energy. It’s been said that the windmills were not only used to ground flour, but also to house entire bakeries, playing an essential role in the industry of the island. Nowadays, windmills are useless, since the majority of goods are produced by the mainland, with much more modernized methods. However, they have converted into hotels and restaurants keeping the same strange interior aesthetic. While strolling around Oia, you will be excited by two iconic windmills on the northwest coast of the village, close to the famous Venetian castle of Agios Nikolaos, especially if you are looking for an inspiring photo.
Have fun at Ammoudi Bay
And this is where time stops and all you have to do is just admire the treasure of nature… Of course, we are talking about the old port of Oia, the picturesque and tiny Ammoudi Bay. The port is located 25 minutes on foot by pitching a sequence of steps (around 200) starting from the Venetian Castle or 15 minutes by donkey riding, or even less than 10 minutes by car/cab from the center of Oia (bus terminal). In the Ammoudi bay, coexist harmoniously with the traditional character, the crystal-clear waters, the romantic view of the sunset, and the traditional taverns with fresh seafood to offer visitors an unforgettable tasting experience exactly by the sea! The bay hides also a secret swimming spot from which visitors can reach a small island that has a popular ledge to jump off. To find it just go through all the taverns, follow the dirt road and that’s it! Take off your clothes and have fun!
- Make sure that you are wearing comfortable shoes!
- Even during the summer months, a light jacket will be essential in the evening hours.
- Book your table in advance if you wish to dine during sunset hours.
- Be patient if you reach the port by car. There is a free parking area with a short walk to restaurants, however, it can be boisterous during peak hours.
Walk down to Armeni Bay
Just a few meters south of Ammoudi Bay stands out another peaceful and diminutive bay. In the past, it was the old port of Oia and was named Armeni Bay. The crystal-clear waters, the scenic views of the caldera and the island of Therasia as well as the pebbly beach, makes the bay an ideal spot for ultimate relaxation under the mesmerizing Μediterranean sun! You may reach the bay by descending almost 300 steep of a stone staircase. The steps begin approximately at the middle of Oia’s pathway, exactly after “Thalami” restaurant, or by a donkey ride! Alternatively, for the laziest, small boats run daily from the port of Ammoudi to the port of Armeni, a distance that takes less than 10′ minutes. Today, the port of Armeni has no sunbeds, etc., and features only a few buildings along with a tavern and a small dock only for private yachts.
Enjoy Shopping & eating
And let’s talk now about finesse. Well, Oia is indeed the most elegant among the rest villages of the Cyclades! All over its main pathway, visitors can enjoy unlimited shopping therapy. Within the 1km distance of the main’s pathway of Oia, exquisite art galleries, souvenir shops, boutiques of luxury brands fancy, more casual restaurants and romantic cafes can make you, for sure, fall in love with this town. As for the prices, the truth is that is quite overrated in comparison with Fira, but still worth buying!
Atlantis Book Store
For the more sophisticated, one of the most famous shops in Oia is Atlantis Book Store in which you will find an immense selection of English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, and Greek literature, collections of poetry, philosophy, art, and the company of cats! Yes! You heard right! At this book store, you may rent a cat while reading or you may read a book to your rental cat!
As for the foodies, of course, we have you covered! If you desire Greek food with a touch of modernization, then Skala Restaurant will be ideal for you. In case you prefer a lighter meal while gazing at the mesmerizing views of the caldera, a fresh fruit salad, or a delicious brunch menu, Passaggio Café is what you searching for. If you wish to company quality local ingredients with an impeccable selection of local wines then Oia Vineyart suits you perfectly. Contrastingly, if you want to experience something really unique, a breath away from Oia’s center, Lefkes Restaurant promises a delicious savory journey of flavors inspired by Greek & Mediterranean cuisine.
Looking for accommodation at Oia?
Whether you are looking for a luxurious accommodation experience in the heart of dreamy Oia or a precious time away from the bustling crowds, this town will once more fascinate you.
If you are aiming for the first category, the White Pearl Villas is the ideal choice to do so! Fourteen luxury, individual properties with a capacity of 2 to 5 guests, carved in the volcanic rocks of Oia, combine high standard facilities, sophisticated aesthetics, and discreet luxury promising an unforgettable vacation experience.
On the other hand, the Elysian Santorini, including twelve suites with a capacity of 2 to 4 guests, at the heart of Finikia Village, boasts its beautiful sea and sunset views, modern layout and facilities, and private heated pools. Located just a few minutes’ walk from the center of Oia, at an authentic and peaceful settlement, offers moments of tranquility and relaxation.
Wondering how to reach Oia?
There are several ways to reach Oia from any location on the island, either by public or private transportation.
- Airport to Oia: 17 km
- Port to Oia: 23 km
- Fira to Oia: 12 Km
- Imerovigli to Oia: 9.4 km
- Kamari to Oia: 20.4 km
- Akrotiri to Oia: 22.3 Km
Prices & time with local buses:
- Airport to Oia: 1.30min total, 3-5€/passenger (requires change buses at Fira)
- Port to Oia: 1.40min total, 3-5€/passenger (requires change buses at Fira)
- Fira to Oia: 25min total, 1.60€/passenger
- Imerovigli to Oia: 15min total, 1.60€/passenger
- Kamari to Oia: 1.45min total, 3-5€/passenger (requires change buses at Fira)
- Akrotiri to Oia: 1.50min total, 3-5€/passenger (requires change buses at Fira)
*You may check here the official timetable.
Prices & time with taxi:
- Airport to Oia: 25min, 50-75€/route
- Port to Oia: 30min, 60-80€/route
- Fira to Oia: 20min, 35-45€/route
- Imerovigli to Oia: 15min, 25-35€/route
- Kamari to Oia: 30min, 50-70€/route
- Akrotiri to Oia: 40min, 60-80€/route
Remember that it is always preferable to rent your own car/ scooter to save money and time (in some cases ).
Well, this is it! Now is your turn to finally visit Oia. You will then realize that a single article cannot even present half of the alluring energy of this mythical town…