For the ultimate experience in Santorini, visit Oia. Years of gazing upon its picturesque white churches with vibrant blue domes have finally become a reality—the once tranquil village is now thronged by thousands looking to witness its famed sunsets every day. When you only have time for one place on this island paradise, make sure it’s Oia: your dreams will be fulfilled!
Where is Oia Santorini?
Oia is a small village found on the north-western edge of Santorini (Thera) in Greece, just 7 miles away from its capital Fira and 10 miles from airport. It sits 120 miles off the mainland and southward of other Cycladic Islands, including Ios and Anafi. Oia lures travelers with its vibrant attractions within 20 minutes of a car ride from Fira!
Perched away from the hustle and bustle of Fira, Oia offers a tranquil escape for visitors to admire its unparalleled architecture. From captains’ houses to Blue Domes and cave dwellings, this pedestrian-friendly town is teeming with mesmerizing structures that draw people in droves all day long – so it’s definitely not something you want to miss if you’re ever visiting Santorini! Trust us; you’ll regret it if you don’t experience what Oia has to offer.
Oia is renowned for its trendy and luxurious restaurants, as well as a remarkable shopping experience. All the prestigious high-end goods are available in this town – it’s no wonder why Santorini attracts so many influential people from all over the world! You may not even realize how many hotels there are to choose from since they blend right into the cityscape of stunning traditional homes. With Oia being such an exclusive destination, you’ll surely find something special here that will be worth your while.
If you elect to stay in Oia, prepare yourself for a stunningly unique experience. Built along the Cliffside, swimming or beach-going is not possible – that requires moving to another side of the island with flatter terrain. What sets this village apart from others on the island is its marble avenue running through its entire length!
Every remarkable destination, including Oia, has its own secrets that only locals and tour guides know about: when is the perfect time to enjoy the town without encountering throngs of tourists; wonderful pathways for an unparalleled sense of solitude even during peak tourist season; charming coffee shops and eateries with exquisite coffee and meze – making you feel as though you belong here.
Although the town appears minuscule, it actually encompasses more than a mile along its caldera expanse.
Inside their secret sanctuaries, colorfully painted doors lead to hidden havens of comfort and luxury. Picture yourself in a lavish villa or five-star hotel tucked away inside a cave pool – exquisite seclusion just for the two of you and genuine Greek hospitality awaiting! These quaint little homes are worth far more than meets the eye.
Oia’s history stretches back to the Middle Ages when St. Nicholas Castle was crafted and raised here in an effort to safeguard the northern end of the island. At that point, there were no homes outside castle walls as a precautionary measure, leaving locals with little choice but to reside within its grounds. As safety became more certain in the 18th century, population growth enabled ships to be built at Armeni Bay just beneath Oia’s watchful eye – by late 19th century, it had become Greece’s third largest fleet provider among all other villages!
Years ago, the masters of Oia would journey far and wide to export their renowned Vinsanto wine. They’d bring back goods that could only be found abroad—this is when the Captains’ Houses were constructed. It wasn’t until early in the 20th century that this place was officially named Oia. To learn more about its origin story, ask your guide while you explore on a private tour!
Interesting information about Oia
Oia is touted to be the spot for delectable homemade ice cream, romantic eateries, plush hotels, and villas – as if taken from magazine covers. This breathtaking gem in the Aegean Sea lures some of the most fashionable people around at any given time. Every year in early October, it also hosts a Free Runners Championship, where participants jump from rooftop to rooftop!
To ensure you get the best possible photos, we recommend avoiding Oia during summer midday hours. The sun is unpleasantly hot, and its rays do not fall in a manner to create attractive visuals around this time.
Explore this town wearing a hat, equipped with water, sunscreen, and plenty of space on your camera’s memory card!
When the city is inundated with travelers, a private tour guide can be your saving grace. They can quickly whisk you away from the bustling and crowded streets to bring you ease and relief. Don’t forget that those narrow alleys have been intentionally designed to confuse nefarious pirates, so it’s easy for even locals to become disoriented. Let your personal guide lead the way!
Best time to visit Oia Santorini
Santorini is a one-of-a-kind paradise that draws visitors from all over the world, particularly during peak season, which occurs in July and August. Amidst this influx of tourists to Oia – renowned for its unparalleled beauty and breathtaking sunsets – you may feel as if you’re visiting an amusement park rather than a wonderland. To avoid these disappointingly overcrowded conditions, we recommend avoiding Santorini altogether during the summer months. We visited shortly after lockdowns lifted in June 2020, yet even then, it felt inundated with people; now imagine how many more have come since! Therefore our advice stands: visit only when the crowds are sparse or nonexistent.
For a more pleasant and affordable experience, we recommend traveling to Oia, Santorini, during either late April – early June or mid-September – October. These are the “shoulder seasons,” which take place outside of peak season but still provide long days with warm weather and sea temperatures. Additionally, you’ll be able to enjoy cheaper accommodation rates as well as lower costs for food and drinks than those in peak season—plus, your visit will ultimately reduce environmental impact while helping extend tourism access for locals too!
Best time of the day to visit Oia
At the break of dawn, you won’t regret visiting Oia. Before hordes of tourists arrive at 9 am, this is your time to explore and bask in its ethereal beauty without interruption. The attractions, laneways and viewpoints are all yours – just make sure not to disturb any photographers! Additionally, what better way than watching a captivating sunrise over the caldera? When it’s time for a retreat back home (or perhaps somewhere quieter on Santorini), don’t worry about feeling overwhelmed by crowds because they will still be asleep at that hour. We guarantee you’ll never forget these precious early morning moments in Oia!
Although it does require a bit of effort to discover the perfect spot for taking in Santorini’s renowned sunset, you’re guaranteed to agree that it was worth every second! Once will be more than enough, but make sure your cameras are ready.
Watch the sunset at Oia
Experiencing the breathtaking views at Oia Castle’s ruins, a luxurious hotel infinity pool, or even from atop a sunset cruise are just some of the ways to marvel at Santorini’s world-renowned Oia Sunset. The vision of white buildings and blue domes with Caldera cliffs colorfully lit by mesmerizing pinks, purples, and golden pastels as day transitions into night creates an awe-inspiring experience that is truly unforgettable – even if shared among thousands!
If you’re looking for a spectacular view of the sunset, Oia is definitely where you need to be! Whether it’s at the beach or in town, there are many places worth exploring. However, if you want the best vantage points around, then here are your must-see spots:
Get ready to arrive early in order to claim the best spot on this iconic island, and perhaps even the globe! You won’t be alone. Thousands of others will join you at this spectacular sunset viewing point, so make sure you come prepared with water (or your favorite beverage!) for an evening of shoulder-rubbing and conversation amongst strangers as you wait together for nature’s daily light show.
Near the blue dome churches
The captivating sunsets near Agios Spiridonas and Agios Anastasis—better known as the two iconic Blue Domes of Santorini—are best enjoyed from nearby public laneways. Be respectful, though: much of the area surrounding these churches are exclusive private property; kindly heed any posted signs you may encounter.
At Ammoudi Bay, the scene is extraordinary during the day; however, when nightfall arrives it’s a whole different universe. The tavernas and sunset bars are an ideal spot to observe day turning into night while savoring one of Santorini’s most captivating sunsets experiences.
Things to do in Oia
Fira to Oia hike
For a peaceful and picturesque escape, magnificent Fira to Oia (via Imerovigli) hiking route offers an awe-inspiring 6.5 miles journey along the caldera’s backbone with iconic white wash villages, spectacular ocean views from clifftops and endless cerulean Aegean Sea below! Reclaim your peace of mind on this stunning trail which is conveniently tucked away in Santorini – a renowned tourist hotspot that often gets overrun with visitors.
The hike from Fira to Oia will take you a leisurely 2.5 – 3 hours, taking in some of the most picturesque villages (including Imerovigli), hotels and sightseeing spots such as Skaros Rock and churches along the way. Academize this experience further by allowing yourself ample time for meal stops and exploring; making it an all-day adventure! For optimal comfort levels amidst Santorini’s heat, start your journey early in the morning so that you may truly appreciate what the trail has to offer on your unforgettable trip. The path on Santorini is exposed to the strong sun, so be prepared with plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen when you go. When it’s time to return home after your hike, don’t worry! You can catch the bus from Oia to Fira or vice versa for only 1.80 euros.
Get lost in Oia’s beautiful streets
While Oia is renowned for its vibrant sunsets and being a tourist hotspot, the village offers more than those two elements. It’s no surprise that this place has become the epicenter of Greece – from the classic buildings tumbling down to the ocean, to blue church domes popping up in all directions, lush windmills and remarkable shopping experiences alongside flavorful cuisine; it’s hard not to be mesmerized! The main streets may get congested with travelers during golden hour but if you go off-the-beaten path just slightly then you’ll find yourself immersed in captivating small alleyways full of peace and serenity.
Although Oia is renowned, it’s important to remember that many people still call this place their home. Being courteous and respectful should be the utmost priority when visiting – this means no climbing on roofs (especially churches), jumping fences or signs marking private property, but rather standing in awe of its beauty without disrupting those who live here for centuries. Instagram worthy shots are achievable without having to be obnoxious and inconsiderate!
If you are passionate about fashion, accessories, ceramics, and home decor items and have a bit of extra money to spend, then Oia is your ultimate shopping destination. You will be spoilt for choice with the array of stores that line Nik Nomikou – the main street through town! Jewelry shops offer something special here; they display stunning pieces from local artists as well as recognizable brands.
For fashionistas, the high-end stores in Greece have unique items with prices to match. Not to forget the amazing ceramics stores which offer a wide range of pieces like plates and vases! While it’s too bad that our time in Greece was cut short, we would have certainly taken home a few souvenirs if not for another month traveling. To fully immerse yourself into the culture, do make sure you buy from local artisans as much as possible – this helps support them directly and keeps money within their own communities.
Explore Oia’s castle
Resting high above the whitewashed caves and homes of Oia, you’ll find Agios Nikolaos tucked away among vibrant red cliffs. Although it’s hard to discern nowadays, its ruins were once part of a 15th-century Venetian castle that served as a watchtower against marauding pirates in the region. Today we know this series of structures as Castle of Agios Nikolaos or simply Oia’s castle.
In 1956, the castle was destroyed in a catastrophic earthquake, however these days its walls are breached by thousands of sightseeing tourists that come to admire the gorgeous sunset every day. The ruins must be seen during daylight hours when there aren’t as many people around – it can then be enjoyed all over again at dusk for an even more enchanting experience! Don’t miss out on this spectacular site: visit for its majestic beauty and unforgettable sunsets.
Step inside the amazing Atlantis Bookstore
William Blake’s words, “Great things are done by those when men and mountains meet,” set the tone perfectly for Atlantis Bookstore. Nestled between two rustic marble lanes in bustling Santorini, it is easy to overlook this hidden treasure – but step inside and you will be transported a million miles away from all of the hustle and bustle. Unlocking its doors reveals a world full of wonder that cannot be matched!
Established in 2002, the majestic Atlantis bookstore overlooks the splendid Aegean sea. With its cavernous wooden interior filled with books from rare first editions to new releases and a courtyard that offers stunning views of the famous caldera, it might just be one of the most picturesque bookstores on Earth – though Porto’s Livraria Lello could have something else to say about this. Here you can find your ideal spot for enjoying Hemingway’s pages while admiring breathtaking scenery!
Sites at Oia
When in Oia, a must-see is the majestic Panagia Platsani Church (Virgin Mary Platsani), which stands on the main square. Constructed after 1956’s devastating earthquake destroyed its predecessor, this cathedral has since become an iconic symbol of rebirth and resilience to visitors near and far.
The church of Santorini is one of the most affluent, with a plethora of icons – the two miraculous icons being that of Virgin Mary. Inside you’ll find an abundance of “tama” and offerings from those who had their prayers answered. The wooden iconostasis deserves special distinction, as does its name day celebration on 15th August; during which time religious processions take place in honor of Virgin Mary’s shroud.
Panagia Platsani is usually accessible to guests, barring the afternoons, Sundays, and religious holidays.
The Blue Domes
If you’re looking for the iconic Blue Domes of Oia, then look no further! You can find these photos seen around the world in the first lane on your left as you head from Oia’s main square to St. Nicolas Castle. To make sure that you don’t get lost and miss out on this stunning sight, we highly recommend taking a private tour so that all your needs are taken care of!
Nicolas Castle (Kastro), the sunset place
At the northern end of St. Nicolas island, you will find remnants of an ancient medieval castle perched atop a cliff and surrounded by throngs of tourists taking in one of its most famous attractions: watching the sunset. But if you’re seeking an even more breathtaking view, why not take a private tour to explore some equally magical yet undiscovered destinations? We guarantee that with our guidance, your search for the world’s best sunsets won’t be in vain!
Standing atop the Castle, you will be able to witness both parts of Oia at their finest. The views are so magnificent that it’s no wonder why the entire fence is adorned with locks and ribbons! If you’re lucky enough, you can take pictures of windmills basking in the backdrop of Ammoudi Bay’s resplendent emerald-blue waters and red rocks. Keep your eyes peeled for mules or donkeys meandering down from Oia as well! Even after nightfall, when only one’s torch can suffice – Oia looks just as breathtaking if not more captivating than before!
The windswept isle of Santorini was once home to numerous windmills, and during the period of Turkish rule, its nickname became “The Windmill” in their native tongue. Nowadays, with all edibles coming from other islands or mainland Greece, milling wheat has been deemed unnecessary – but still, these beautiful structures were restored for a different purpose: as tourist attractions! Located in the west-facing area at sunset and visible even from afar on top of the castle wall, tourists will be able to enjoy this picturesque scene that harks back many centuries ago.
The grand and magnificent homes of Oia, decorated with bold red volcanic rock, are truly a sight to behold. These illustrious mansions were constructed by Santorinian captains who navigated their way as far as Europe and beyond in search of trade opportunities–their success granting them the finances needed for these luxurious dwellings filled with rare pieces from all over the world.
The captains set up their dwellings in the less hilly region of Sideri, away from the Cliff. However, this could not save them from an intense earthquake which occurred in 1956 and resulted in damaging much of what they had built. Sadly, many of their mansions were unable to be recovered after; a reminder for locals and all of Santorini as to how one event can drastically shape lives.
You can find these endearing abodes across the island, yet here in Oia you can tour a boutique shop or stay at an inn that retains traditional style. Surprisingly enough, this unique form of architecture was only made possible through a devastating volcanic eruption in the 17th century BC! It left behind a thick layer of pumice which shielded inhabitants from strong winds and foul weather while also keeping out moisture to create warm living spaces virtually free-of-charge.
In the past, sailors could only afford a cave house, making them an ideal choice for surviving earthquakes like the 1956 quake that left no damage in its wake. Now, though their cost is exorbitant, caves with Caldera views remain popular due to their year-round comfort: no need for heating or air conditioning!
Attractions around Oia
If you’re an avid movie-goer, then no doubt you’ve seen the bay from “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.” Just in front of Oia Castle (Kastro) are 214 steps taking one down to Ammoudi – a charming bay teeming with huge red rocks. When viewed from below, the town is absolutely majestic; making your lunch or dinner even more delightful! Whether it’s fresh fish, seafood or just some pictures for Instagram – make sure to take full advantage before heading off for sustenance. The waters here have such stunning hues that they easily transform any landscape into something quite magical and unique!
A visit to Ammoudi is not complete until you witness the scintillating sunset that surpasses even the vivid beauty of nearby Castle. Furthermore, after having your meal there’s no need for climbing stairs as an external road leads directly back to Oia – making it easy and convenient to book a taxi or arrange transfer! As crowds flock here in droves during peak season, do make sure you have a reservation beforehand if planning on visiting then.
Take a meandering journey along the spectacular coastline of Santorini by departing from Ammoudi in one of our luxurious catamarans or boats. Marvel at the beauty as you pass near volcanic islands and take a refreshing dip in natural hot springs that are heated by volcanoes!
If you’re coming from Oia, the path to Armeni is an easier alternative than going down a flight of stairs to Ammoudi. Moreover, if you want another mode of transportation back up into town, donkeys and mules are available there too! As for this port’s history – it used to be filled with shipyards as well as fish taverns in its heyday; however, all ships that went in and out of Santorini were eventually moved over to Athinios Port instead. Consequently little by little this port became empty until now where only memories remain.
During the peak tourist season, people flock to Armeni in search of a swimming spot. It is not exactly what you would expect as beach – no sun beds or umbrellas here! Nonetheless, its crystal clear waters can be enjoyed with proper water shoes. Its unique charm lies in the red stones that line its shores; use this opportunity for an unparalleled bathing experience!
In summer, a few taverns open in Armeni, where you can grab a cup of coffee or water. Since it is not an overly touristy place, chances are that you will be there by yourself. We understand how thrilling this may sound to some travelers; however please bear in mind that visiting the area comes with its own set of risks – red rocks and pumice stones can become unstable leading to landslides or rockfalls. To minimize any risk of injury caused by such accidents, there is a metal net protecting the Cliffside walls at all times. Sadly, multiple fatal accidents occurred on this path that warranted the ban of travel between Armeni for safety precautions.
Oia is a mere 2.5 miles away from the real gem of Santorini, Baxedes beach. The stunning shoreline was once untouched and wild but has recently been adorned with umbrellas and sun beds – making it just as comfortable as its luxurious surroundings. Don’t worry if you forget your towel or swimsuit either; changing cabins are available along with convenient movable canteens to provide snacks, drinks, and water!
Be aware that the black sand of Santorini can become quite scorching under its intense sun. Additionally, when the North wind blows, Baxedes is not a suitable spot for relaxation as it has an inclement sea and sandy air that will make your beach time less than enjoyable.
Before entering the sea, be mindful of its powerful currents that can sweep sand away and create pits in the ocean bed. Warn your children to watch their step so they don’t fall down! Luckily, during summer months Santorini enjoys many windless days allowing you to swim safely at Baxedes beach.
How to get to Oia
If you are thinking of exploring Oia during peak season, there are some excellent ways to get there. However, it is best to decide which option works for you depending on your plans and the time of year.
For travelers looking for a cost-effective way to get around Santorini, the bus system is an excellent option. Bus tickets are just €1.80 and can be bought with cash directly from the driver. Most of these buses connect Fira –– great if you’re staying there, but not so much if you’re in Imerovigli! If that’s your case, then don’t worry: hop on one of those buses and simply switch at Fira to reach Oia hassle-free!
Traveling by bus in Santorini is a popular option with tourists, as the buses themselves are well-maintained and air conditioned. However, during peak season they become increasingly full so you may find yourself standing for part of your journey.
Buses run frequently, though their schedules can be restrictive when trying to fit all that this incredible island has to offer into one day. If visiting at the height of summer it’s best to get there early and expect queues – which have been known to turn slightly chaotic!
Scooter or ATV
If you’re looking to explore Santorini as much as possible while on a budget, renting a scooter or ATV is your best option. We had an amazing experience with our rented ATV – it allowed us to take in the stunning sights from Fira all the way up to Oia for sunrise! The route takes roughly 30-40 minutes and during peak season it’s vital that tourists have access to more flexible transportation than cars or buses. So if you want ultimate freedom without breaking the bank, rent an ATV!
If you’re planning a scooter excursion in Greece, be sure to bring your motorbike license – it’s required for renting one!
For travelling around the beautiful island of Santorini and to Oia, car rental is a questionable choice. Not only are those cars extremely costly during peak season, but roads become overcrowded with traffic leading to commutes that can exceed two hours! Additionally, parking spots in Oia can be especially hard to find so if you’re able we recommend avoiding renting a vehicle altogether. We have experienced this ourselves – even when visiting during pandemic times – as 30-minute drives stretched far beyond their original time frame due to gridlock on the streets.
To make sure that your arrival in Oia is seamless and without hassle, it’s wise to reserve a transfer service ahead of time. This ensures you can hop into a taxi, minibus or private VIP car quickly after disembarking from your flight. That way, you won’t be left waiting in worry for transportation! We recommend Welcome Pickups as the best private transfer.
Traveling to 🇬🇷 Greece soon?
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🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Greece. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.
📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.
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