Whoever hears Santorini, mostly thinks - without knowing its name - of the white artists' village Oía, in the very north of the small island. Everyone knows the pictures of how countless white houses nestle picturesquely into the cliffs. Is Oía really the most beautiful city of Greece? Without having seen them all, I would say probably one of the most beautiful. One thing is for sure: it's really just as dreamlike here as in all the pictures. Here you can find all my tips for your dream holiday on the Greek Cyclades island.
How to get to Oia?
There's no airport in Oía. The only airport of Santorini is located quite exactly in the centre of the island, close to the capital Fira. However, the drive to Oía in the north or Perissa in the south does not take more than half an hour. Santorini is incredibly small. There are actually only about 700 inhabitants living here.
The cheapest option is to book your flight to Athens and from there fly half an hour further to Santorini with a budget airline. Ryanair flies several times a day from Athens to the various Greek islands, often for less than 30 Euros. Most flights going to Santorini have a stopover in Athens anyway. If you book both flights independently, you may be able to add a few days in Athens - that's how we did it.
Santorini Oia - When to go
I would recommend you to travel to Oía shortly before or after the high season. Then the weather is still the same as in midsummer, but the tourist rush has at least abated a little bit. In August, there are approximately ten times as many tourists for every hundred inhabitants and everybody is treading on their feet in the small alleyways.
During the sunset in Oía, I had the feeling that a major part of the visitors is only here for this reason. All restaurants with sea view are completely booked out between 7 and 8 p.m. and the best places on the observation deck are besieged hours before. Already in the afternoon, buses from other parts of Santorini arrive to take tourists to Oía for the sunset and pick them up again around 8 pm. But it does look dreamily beautiful when the sun, against the background of the white houses on its cliffs, disappears into the sea.
You should, however, either be one of the first on the sunset platform at the old fort or enjoy the spectacle while dining in the bay or on a viewing balcony (reserve your table early!). Alternatively, you can sit on the wall halfway to the harbour and have an almost as beautiful view all to yourself.
You might be wondering now if there are other things to do in Oía besides watching the sunset. Absolutely! You can spend a day strolling through the many small studios of the different artists and jewellery shops and in between enjoy the delicious food in some of the Greek taverns. On a walk through the alleys you will also pass one or the other windmill, from which you not only have a unique view, but which also prove to be a great photo motif.
Although there is no real beach in Oía, but on the many big rocks alongside the Ammoudi Bay it is wonderful to lie in the sun. This has the advantage that if it gets too warm, you can immediately jump down into the waves. Also, the towels are not close to each other like on other beaches in Santorini. Just keep in mind, that after swimming you have to walk up the 218 steps again.
Because Santorini is so small, you can easily go to a nearby beach on a quad bike or scooter if you don't want to miss a sandy beach. Monolithos and Baxedes are two less frequented, relatively beautiful beaches, practically in the middle of nowhere. But you will not find real dream beaches in Santorini.
In the very south of Santorini, near Perissa, is the Black Beach, which has hardly any sand, but a mixture of gravel and stones. The Red Beach, ten kilometres south of Fira, got its name from the red rocks that surround it.
Boat tours Oia
If you like boat tours, you will also get your money's worth in Oía. There are snorkeling tours, sunset boat tours and various tours to the surrounding Greek islands. Depending on your time and budget, you can choose between a half or a full day or a few hours.
Rent a quad or a scooter
Santorini is so tiny that you could probably walk around it in a day. If you have rented a car directly at the airport, you can enjoy a relaxed view of the entire island. But also on a quad bike or scooter you can easily get to the other end of Santorini. The bus connections are not quite optimal. You have to change every time in Fira at the latest.
A tip for self-drivers: there is only one petrol station on the island and it is located in Fira. But the way between Oía and Fira is worthwhile anyway, specially on a quad bike or scooter. Here you drive directly along the cliffs with a breathtaking view of the sea.
Hike to Fira
If you prefer to explore the island on foot, you can take a four-hour hike from Oía to Fira. You will hike directly at the edge of the crater with a view of the sea. If you do the whole thing in midsummer, you should be reasonably fit, as there are some mountains to climb on the way.
Alt-Thera & Perissa
A small tip for all those who also want to explore the area around Perissa: On the mountain on the outskirts of Perissa lies the 3000 year old mountain village of Alt-Thera. As the ruins already close at 3 p.m., I unfortunately cannot say if the entrance fee is worthwhile. But the way up is worthwhile in any case. The climb itself is already beautiful and takes about one hour. When you reach the top you have a panoramic view of Perissa on one side and Kamari on the other.
Oia - best hotels
One of the main attractions in Oía is probably the bath in the infinity pool during sunset. But you have to pay a lot for this luxury. From 300 Euros a night you can either get your own apartment with whirlpool or at least a hotel room with a public pool and sea view.
If you travel on a small budget, Marcos Rooms, only a few minutes away from the sunset spot, is an alternative. Here you do not have a pool, but you can have breakfast on the panoramic terrace overlooking the sea and an unbeatable location for a reasonable price.
Restaurants in Oia
You should reserve your table for dinner in any restaurant in Oía. The best view on the setting sun you will get from Sunset Café. The Katharos Lounge offers vegetarian and vegan food, also with a view of the sunset. But I liked it best in the harbour of Ammoudi Bay. Here you sit at a few small tables directly at the water. In Ammoudi Fish Tavern there you'll find great saganaki, stuffed vine leaves and everything the heart of a Greece vacationer desires. You feel like dessert in the middle of the night? The most delicious desserts you can get at Melenio Café.
Did you now feel like travelling to Greece? Then read my blog about the hippie town Matala on the neighboring island of Crete.