oia santorini

Discovering the Timeless Charm of Oia Santorini: A Journey to Greece’s Enchanting Cliffside Village

Oia Santorini or Ia is a small village and former community in the southern Aegean Sea on the islands of Thira (Santorini) and Therasia in the Cyclades, Greece. Since the local government reform of 2011, it has been part of the municipality of Santorini, of which it is a municipal unit. It covers the entire island of Therasia and the northernmost part of Santorini, which it shares with the municipality of Santorini. The main street is called Nikolaou Nomika. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 1,545 and a land area of 19,449 km2.

Oia Santorini was formerly known as Apäno Meria, a name that is still found locally as Pano Meria, and the inhabitants are still called Apanomerité. The ancient Greek Oia was one of the two ports of ancient Thera and was located in the southeast of the island where Kamari is now.

Oia Santorini reached its peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its economic prosperity was based on its merchant fleet, which carried on trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially from Alexandria to Russia. The two-story governor’s houses built in the highest part of the village are a reminder of the former prosperity of the village. Part of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1956.

Oia Santorini is best known for its breathtaking sunsets; truth be told, the sunrise in Oia is also magical. There are two types of dwellings in Oia, the cave houses dug into the volcanic rock on the cliffs of the Caldera and the captains’ houses.

Oia Santorini is the most beautiful village in Santorini, which recently started to look like a charming town, every day thousands of people are eager to see the famous sunsets of Oia.

Location of Oia Santorini

oia santorini

Oia Santorini is located 11 km from Fira and is a pedestrian town.

Most visitors come here to admire its unique architecture, captain’s houses, Blue Domes, cave houses, and the sunset.

You can see crowds here at any time of the day as it is a must-see if you are in Santorini. Otherwise, you will have to come back!

Things to Do in Oia Santorini

Oia Santorini is the place that people think of when they think of “Greek summer holidays”. But Oia is much more than just its famous sunset. It is the most beautiful town of Santorini, with countless colorful streets, outrageous views, world-class food and wine, excellent shopping, and local adventures.

Best time to visit Santorini

From the end of March to the beginning of June and from the beginning of September to the end of October are the best times to travel to Oia Santorini. During these times, you can enjoy the warm, sunny island weather and go on adventures like scuba diving, hiking, and swimming in the ocean.

Most Popular Place in Santorini Greece

Caldera is perhaps the most popular place in Santorini and travelers from all over the world like to stay there. In fact, it is one of the most beautiful natural monuments in the world. This 300-meter-high basin was formed after a violent volcanic eruption that occurred in 1613 BC.

Assuming your trip falls during peak season – which is between late June and early September – the weather will range between “hot” and “excruciatingly hot”. Light, breathable fabric is key: see-through linen, sheer tops, and shorts during the day; flowy maxi dresses or kaftans for an evening dinner.

Oia Santorini is known for its elegant and expensive restaurants as well as great shopping. The truth is that in this city you will find all beautiful, high-quality, expensive and exclusive goods. Santorini is regularly visited by all the famous and important personalities of the whole world, that is why every expensive world-famous brand is presented here.

oia santorini

Hotels in Oia Santorini

This city hosts an incredible number of hotels, although most of them you wouldn’t notice if you thought they were just the houses of the locals.

The whole place is built along the Cliffside. If you stay here, don’t expect to swim in the sea – the beaches are on the other, flat side of the island.

Oia Santorini is the only settlement on the island that boasts a marble avenue running its entire length.

Santorini Greece Secrets

Like any remarkable place, Oia Santorini has its secrets:

• Places known only to guides and local residents,

• When is the best time to visit a city without crowds,

• Amazing ways to feel alone even during the busiest days,

• Small cafes and small taverns with delicious coffee and meze that make you feel like you belong to the city.

Everything seems so tiny, yet the city stretches for at least 2 km along the Caldera.

What else can you find in Oia?

A door leading nowhere; dollhouses of white, pink, and light blue colors, hiding in their caves real Greek hospitality. What you think of as a small house can easily be an expensive villa or a 5-star hotel hiding in a cave pool providing complete privacy for just the two of you.

Tips to Visit Oia Santorini, Greece

• Avoid visiting Oia Santorini during the summer midday hours. The sun is too hot at that time and the light is bad for photos.

• It’s a good idea to walk around this city wearing a hat, a bottle of water, sunscreen, and plenty of space on your camera’s memory card.

• When the city has too many visitors, only a private guide will save you time and take you out of the city in the fastest way, away from the main street blocked by people. Remember, all those tiny stripes are there on purpose to confuse the pirates, so you can easily lose your way.

Museums of Oia

  1. Private maritime museum
  2. Byzantine Museum of Musical Instruments

The Church of Panagia Platsani

The Church of Panagia Platsani (Our Lady of Platsani) is a cathedral standing in the main square of Oia. You will definitely visit the city. It was built after the earthquake in 1956 – due to fatal damage to the original church.

Nevertheless, it is one of the richest churches in Santorini, with many icons, two of which are miraculous icons of the Virgin Mary.

The wooden iconostasis attracts special attention. The feast of the church is celebrated on August 15. In the evening you can see a religious procession. Panagia Platsani is open to visitors most of the time except for afternoon hours, Sundays, and religious holidays.

Blue domes in Oia, Greece

To tell you the truth, you can find the Blue Domes not only in Oia but also the famous ones you see in many pictures of Santorini. To see those, turn into the first lane on the left leading from the main square of Oia towards the Castle of St. Nicolas. To be sure of your journey, we recommend taking a private tour.

St. Nicolas Castle (Kastro)

The remains of the medieval castle of St. You can find Nicolas on top of a cliff at the north end of the island. You can recognize the castle by the crowds of tourists as it is the most famous place to watch the sunset.

We wish we could say that we agree that the best sunsets in the world are here, but we know much better and more peaceful places. Would you like to see them? It’s easy to take a private tour.

What else will you see when visiting the Castle?

The castle is the perfect place to see both parts of Oia Santorini at their best. The views are so breathtaking you won’t want to leave. Why do you think the whole fence is full of ribbons and locks?

It is a great place to photograph the windmills and Ammoudi Bay with its fantastic emerald blue waters and red rocks in the background. If you’re lucky, you’ll see mules and donkeys coming down from Oia.

Late in the evening, the castle can only be visited with your own torch, but Oia looks just as exciting or even better at night!


Wind Island naturally had a lot of windmills. During the Turkish occupation, the Turks called Santorini “Windmill” in their own language. Nowadays, all food is brought from the mainland and other islands, so flour is no longer produced, and windmills are not needed. The ones you see here in their impressive beauty have been restored to serve as attractions. The windmills are located on the “sunset part” of the island and are easily visible from the castle.

Captains’ Houses

The large, beautiful mansions of various colors decorated with red volcanic rock are truly impressive. You will mostly find them in Oia, as the famous Santorini captains who traveled as far as Europe and the Black Sea lived here. International trade made them rich, so they could afford to have the best things in their homes and brought rare pieces from different countries.

The captains set up their quarters, the Siders, in a flatter part of the city, away from the Cliff. However, this did not save them from a strong destructive earthquake in 1956 that caused them to be damaged. Not all of the captains’ residences managed to be restored afterward, leaving a memory of the event that changed the lives of local residents and the entire island.

Cave houses

You can find these surprising houses all over the island, but in Oia, you can also see them from the inside, visit one of today’s shops, or choose a hotel in a traditional style.

A natural disaster in the 17th century BC – a terrible volcanic eruption – allowed us to build biodomes at almost no cost. A thick layer of pumice stone covering the island saved the poor people from the winds and bad weather and gave them a warm place where water could not easily penetrate.

Sailors living in previous centuries could only afford to have a house of this type, but cave houses were the ones that survived the 1956 earthquake without damage.

Today, the cost of such a cave overlooking the caldera is enormous. In winter, there is no need to heat the interior, while in summer the temperature is pleasant even without air conditioning.

Interesting information about Oia

It is widely believed that Oia has the tastiest homemade ice cream, the most romantic restaurants, and the most expensive and elegant hotels, and villas, while the pictures taken in Oia look like the cover photos of famous magazines. There is no doubt that this jewel of the Aegean Sea is sure to be visited by most of the most charming people.

At the beginning of October, Oia hosts the World Championships of Free Runners, where young people jump from one roof to another.

Oia Santorini History

The history of Oia dates back to the Middle Ages, when the castle of St. Nicolas was to protect the northern part of the island. Back then it was just the castle with no houses outside. For security reasons, the locals had to live inside the castle walls.

When the danger passed, in the 18th century the population began to build ships. In the Gulf of Armeni below Oia, the locals established shipyards and already at the end of the 19th century this village had the 3rd largest fleet in Greece.

Oia captains traveling abroad exported the sweet Vinsanto wine and brought goods that could not be found in Santorini. This was the time when the captain’s houses appeared.

It did not get its modern name of Oia until the beginning of the 20th century. Why and in whose owner? Ask your guide during your private trip to Oia.

Tourist Attractions at Oia Santorini

Ammoudi Bay

Many of you know this brownie from the movie “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”. From Oia, you can go to Ammoudi by 214 steps, starting right in front of the castle (Kastro). Donkeys and mules use the same stairs. Ammoudi is a charming bay located below Oia and its huge red rocks. The place looks incredible from here, making your lunch or dinner even more enjoyable.

We go to Ammoudi to eat fresh fish and seafood. The waters here have such a striking color that makes the whole landscape quite stunning. Don’t forget to take a picture before you go to lunch. Ammoudi is also famous for its sunset, which is more impressive than the one visible from the castle.

The good news is that there is no need to climb the stairs after lunch or dinner. There is an external road to Oia, so you can arrange a transfer or call a taxi from one of the tavernas. Ammoudi is usually full of people in the afternoon, so if you plan to come during high season, make sure you have a reservation. Ammoudi is the place of catamarans and boats – they leave from here to show you the beauty of Santorini from the sea, pass near the volcano, and swim in our volcanic hot springs.

Armenian Gulf

You can walk to Armeni from Oia. There is a path smoother than the stairs to Ammoudi. A donkey or a mule can be obtained on the return journey. First, we had shipyards here, later – fish taverns. This port was where all ships arriving in Santorini made their first stop before all marine “traffic” moved to our new port of Athinios. The small port was slowly abandoned. Nowadays, large tourist “pirate” ships occasionally come here, while visitors to Oia descend on Armeni in the warmest months in search of a place to swim.

Armeni is not exactly a beach as you might expect, although you can swim in its clear waters with water shoes on. The red stones give the bay its own charm. There are no sunbeds or umbrellas. In the summer, several taverns may be open here, where you can have a coffee or buy water. Since Armeni is not a very touristy place, you will most likely be alone here.

We imagine some of you are excited to read this article. Keep in mind that coming here is at your own risk and all responsibility is yours. Red stones and pumice are not very stable. Landslides or rock falls can occur here from time to time, even though the Cliffside is protected by metal mesh. Unfortunately, there have been several fatal accidents on this road, followed by a ban on going up and down to Armeni for safety reasons.

Beaches and places to swim near Oia Santorini Greece

Armeni Bay represents one of these places and has been described above.

If you like to jump into the water, you can try to go down to Ammoudi and follow the path on the left side that leads from there to the small island with the church of St. Nicholas. You can only get to the island by boat or by swimming.

You will need a vehicle to go to other places around Oia. The closest beach location is Katharos, located 1.5 km from Oia. It is actually a cape with huge rocks and some small patches of sand and pebbles, hit by high waves due to the northerly winds. Access to the sea is quite problematic.

Katharos is a wild beach that is not suitable for children. No shade, no sunbeds, no umbrellas. There is a small beach bar on the way to the sea. A much better place to swim and the actual beach is on the flat side of Santorini and is called Baxedes. The distance from Oia is about 4 km.

At first, it was a wild beach, but a few years ago sunbeds and umbrellas found their way here. In addition, the beach now has changing cabins and several mobile canteens where you can get drinks, snacks, and water. You need to know how to go to Baxedes Beach. Keep in mind that the black sand gets very hot under the bright Santorini sun.

When the wind blows from the north, Baxedes is not a good choice because the sea will be rough and the sand in the air will not allow you to feel comfortable enough to enjoy your time on the beach. Another thing is the currents that move the sand on the sea floor in one way or another and create depressions. Remember to step into the water so you don’t fall. 

Warn your children about this in advance.

In Santorini, there are many windless days in the summer, which means that you will be able to enjoy swimming at Baxedes Beach.

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