Oia is a traditional settlement on the Caldera cliffs of Santorini. Situated in the north, and the most famous village on the island, Oia is romantic, picturesque, and a delight to all who visit her. Perhaps one of the most photographed places in Greece, Oia cemented its’ place in the international community’s mind at the 2004 Athens Olympics when it splashed across our TV screens (several times) in glorious technicolour, as part of the introductory scenes to Greece.
Inspiring artists, poets and visitors alike, Oia is best known for breathtaking sunsets. What many people don’t know is that the sunrise in Oia is equally magical. Small white houses tier the hillside, interspersed by splashes of rich okra, deep fuchsia, cobalt blue, oyster pink and earthy red. Smooth paths wind across the Caldera, interrupted now and then by a small church, and at every corner there is something new to discover.
Apano Meria tou Kosmou
In older days the village was known as ‘Apano Meria’ or ‘Anomeria’ and the inhabitants were called ‘Apanomerites’ – which in Greek basically means “the place on top”. A well known Greek author and Santorini native, Kadio Sigala, wrote a wonderful book about Oia and entitled it ‘H Pano Meria tou Kosmou’ – the place on top of the world. A few years ago we met an old gentleman of 89 years old from Karterados (another village on the island). He confessed that he had only visited Oia twice in his life. When we asked “why?” in amazement, he answered “Oh well, it’s very far to get there and I’m not partial to foreigners.” He also told us that he had never left the island, and almost never left his village. At that point, images of Samwise Gamgee and Hobbiton flashed through our minds.
So, what should you do in Oia?
Well it depends if you’re pressed for time, or not, as the case may be. Picking the perfect spot to watch the sunset is a must. A common misconception is that the sunset can be seen on the same side (west) of the Caldera as other villages on the island i.e. Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli etc. Where you should really go is north east towards Oia’s Castle, another of Santorini’s 5 “Kastellia”. It’s not hard to find – once you’ve wandered through all the streets, made a mental list of everything you want to buy (don’t cart your shopping on your sunset quest, you’ll rue the day), take the main Oia path and keep going. At a certain point the path forks – take a left. The route starts to descend to a clear view of the Caldera. Turn right at the bottom and go straight. In 3 minutes you’ll arrive at the castle. Cameras are a must, good walking shoes, a warm throw-over just in case and there you have it. The view overlooks Ammoudi Harbour with its’ little fishing boats and waterfront taverns, and Thirassia island. There are several restaurants and cafes at sunset point – some need a reservation, some don’t – best to get there early. If you want to ‘go native’, find a wall, a rooftop or a step to park your bums and breathe ..
Last year we had friends visiting, so we took them to Oia for the sunset (how could we not). We too parked ourselves on a wall, and after the best sunset in the world, we went to dinner – in Oia – on the Caldera – under the full moon – magic. The great thing about Santorini during the summer is that everything stays open late. Which means you can still browse, shop, have a drink and a meal after sunset.
“TO DO” LIST – FULL DAY IN OIA
- Coffee & Snacks at a local cafe
- Morning swim at Ammoudi – dive off the rocks
- Midday or afternoon lunch at Ammoudi Port
- Late afternoon cocktail & drinks
- Visit the Castle for Sunset
- Evening Shopping
- Moonlit Dinner on the Caldera
Places of Historical Interest
There is a Naval Museum housed in a 19th century Captain’s Mansion that illustrates the island’s maritime history.
Buses to Oia
Buses leave from Fira fairly regularly (every 30 minutes, every 15 for sunset time in the high season). Sunset in Oia is very popular and the buses are usually busy, so allow for enough time to get there. The distance from Fira town (Santorini’s capital) to Oia is about 11 km.
The Community of Oia is made up of the following settlements: Oia village, Finikia, Koloumbo, Baxedes and Paradisos to the east and Tholos to the west. Tholos is the second farming village of Oia. Also included are the little fishing harbours of Ammoudi & Armeni. Thirassia island is under the jurisdiction of the Community of Oia.