If you want to have vacations in the ultimate Greek summer postcard, look no further than the village of Oia, Santorini (Thera). Everything that is typically associated with the perfect Greek island aesthetic is there, from the white sugar cube houses huddled together on dry ochre slopes overlooking gorgeous deep blue waters to the blue-domed churches and the gorgeous beaches.
Oia is tremendously famous and popular for its amazing vistas and stunning sunsets. So much so that during high season, you may need to queue up to visit a lot of its hot spots.
But there is a lot more to know and do about Oia in order to fully enjoy your time there, whether you’re aiming for a romantic getaway or a family experience.
This guide will walk you through the best things to do in Oia as well as everything you must know to make the most out of a dream destination.
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Planning a trip to Santorini? Check out my Santorini guides:
How to spend one day in Santorini
A 2-day Santorini itinerary
A 4-day Santorini itinerary
How many days do you need in Santorini?
Santorini on a budget
Best islands near Santorini
Where is Oia?
Oia is a village on the island of Santorini (Thera), in the Cyclades. The Cyclades are located in the Aegean Sea and they are the biggest and most famous Greek island group.
Oia is located about 12 km away from Fira, Santorini’s main town, and about 23 km from its port (Athinios). It was called “Apano Meria” in the past, which means “the upper side” and its dwellers are still called “Apanomerites” which literally means “the guys from the upper side”.
Once you have arrived in Santorini, you can get to Oia by car, bus, or taxi.
If you opt for a car, you can rent your own, which will give you more versatility to explore Santorini in general, or you can get a prebooked private transfer which you can arrange for online.
If you want to try mass transportation, you will need to take the bus to Oia. Buses leave for Oia from Fira, the airport or the port every hour or so, but you must first double check the bus schedules to account for changes depending on the season (they are less frequent when not in high season).
A brief history of Oia
Oia is mentioned as early as the 1200s, when the Venetians founded the Duchy of Naxos and Oia (then called Apano Meria) was one of the five local citadels of the feudal lord there.
From the 16th century onwards, now part of the Ottoman empire, it is regularly noted in relevant maps and by the mid-19th century it is renamed Oia (pronounced EEah). During that era Oia flourished as a seafarers’ town that numbered more than 2,500 people and knew prosperity thanks to trade.
Oia’s economy declined in the 20th century due to wars and economic depressions coupled with migration and overfishing. When disaster struck in 1956 in the form of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which significantly damaged the town, the once prosperous population had declined to only about 300 people.
However, Oia rebuilt itself and reinvented itself as the Cyclades’ most picturesque and gorgeous village, and a new era of flourish began through tourism.
Climate and weather in Oia
Oia’s climate is Mediterranean, which means mild rainy winters and hot, dry summers. During the winter months temperatures are around 10-12 degrees Celsius while in the summer months temperatures average around 30 degrees Celsius. However, during heat waves, the temperature can climb up to 40 degrees.
Oia, like all of Santorini and the Cyclades in general, is very windy, which helps temper the heat of the sun during the summer but also makes it seem colder than it is during the winter.
The sea is at its warmest during August and September, but it’s warm enough to swim in by June or even late May.
Things to do in Oia, Santorini
The sunsets in Oia
Oia is famous for its sunsets, and for good reason: the sky erupts in pink, orange, purple, and blue hues in a perfect pastel painting you get to watch dynamically shift towards the darker blues and purples of the twilight.
There are many places to enjoy the sunset from, and each one has its own unique magic and charm, so make sure to enjoy the sunset from more than just one spot. There is of course the famous Byzantine Castle to enjoy the sunset from, with its panoramic view of the kaleidoscopic dome, but you must anticipate having to share it with crowds even if you go early.
You can alternatively opt to book a table at a restaurant to enjoy the sunset at- though you will need to book well in advance- or take a bottle of wine and enjoy it at several other spots that offer gorgeous experiences of it, such as the windmills, the hillside, or the caldera.
Consider that all of the locations listed below also are amazing places to watch the sunset from, so why not combine the two?
The Castle of Aghios Nikolaos was built in the 15th century by the Venetians to fortify the town from pirate attacks. It takes its name from a beautiful rock-hewn church by the same name.
Though the 1956 earthquake caused a few parts of it to collapse, the Goulas (the watchtower) is left intact, offering stunning, sweeping views of the caldera. It’s extremely popular during the sunsets, so make sure to visit during that time at least once, even though it will be crowded.
The blue domed churches of Oia
Oia is where you will find the most of those iconic, blue-domed churches that feature in so many of the most beautiful photos of the island. Just as they are beautiful on the outside, they are so inside: a quiet, tranquil shelter off the scorching sun with scented air from the incense and byzantine art and relics all around.
If you are lucky enough to be around when one of the churches is hosting a “panygiri” as the parties in the honor of the church saint are called, make sure to attend: good music, good food, and good wine are given out while people dance and sing.
The beaches of Oia
You shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to swim in the gorgeous blue waters of the Aegean Sea and enjoy the various beaches that offer themselves to sunbathing and lounging about!
One of the best to experience is Ammoudi Bay, which boasts some of the most crystal-clear waters you will ever swim in!
The beaches near Oia are extremely diverse, from solid, hard volcanic rock outcroppings you get to slip into the water from to lush, sandy beaches featuring dramatic craggy backgrounds. You will be able to reach most of them on foot or by bus. Look for the beaches of Baxedes, Koloumbos, Katharos, Ammoudi, and Armeni.
You can’t miss them! There are clear signs everywhere which you can follow even if you decide to walk there.
If you are in Oia, exploring it all on foot is a must. There are countless staircases, hidden paths, side streets, and unexpected little terraces to discover and enjoy the view from which you otherwise can’t find.
When it comes to its architecture and layout, Oia is literally a treasure hunt of spots for the perfect Instagram post while you create memories for yourself and your loved ones. Invest the time and energy to wander around at your leisure in order to manage to find them.
The hiking & sailing
If you feel adventurous and have good stamina, hiking from Oia to Fira is a unique treat. Its winding, hilly streets will challenge your body while the gorgeous views reward your eyes as you put in the effort.
If you are up for some exploration but don’t feel like hiking, then the sailing tour of the caldera is for you. You will be taken by boat around and in the caldera while you are given interesting information about it and a fascinating piece of history as you enjoy the amazing surroundings and dazzling views.
There are a couple of cruises I suggest:
The Santorini Catamaran Red Cruise with Meal & Drinks (you can choose between a morning one or a sunset one)
Volcanic Islands Cruise with Palea Kameni Hot Springs
Oia is full of unique shops full of souvenirs and arts and crafts that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Browse around in all of them to find gorgeous pottery, unique replicas, traditional serving sets or decorative plates, beautiful icons, postcards, and edible goods that are locally made.
Each shop has its own personality and character, as a lot of them are kept or source their products from local artisans, so don’t assume you’ve seen them all until you have, indeed, seen them all!
The iconic bookstore
Atlantis Bookstore is a staple of Oia and a must-see as one of the most unique and magical bookstores in the world. It’s a beautiful Cycladic sugar cube building with a colorful entrance, featuring books in several languages, genres, and types. It’s cozy and cool, a perfect afternoon getaway from the scorching sun and an exploration all on its own.
Atlantis’ terrace is a treat to enjoy for its breathtaking view, and so pretty that you’re bound to take at least a few selfies in it!
Oia was a hub of wine making for centuries, so wine tasting while you’re there is a no brainer.
The best way to do it is to book a wine tasting tour or visit Sigalas Winery which is where a lot of Oia’s wine heritage is being kept alive. Enjoy the Winery’s vineyard and the view, especially during sunset!
If you go for the wine tasting tour, you can spend an unforgettable half-day visiting Oia’s three main wineries and taste all of the volcanic bouquets that Santorini’s 12 wine varieties have to offer with an accompaniment of cheeses and snacks.
Restaurants in Oia, Santorini
Oia is also known for its high-quality tavernas and restaurants. In Oia, you can have traditional food as well as fine dining in various cuisines, including fusion. Some of the restaurants there are world-renowned. Make sure you book well in advance, preferably when you are planning your vacations to make sure you can safely enjoy everything you want.
Some of the best restaurants you can find in Oia include:
1800: A beautiful time capsule of a restaurant that will take you back to the time of the great captains of Santorini, as it is housed in an authentic captain’s house built in 1845. You will taste excellent Mediterranean cuisine as you enjoy the gorgeous view.
Sunset by Paraskevas: Located at Ammoudi beach which is renowned for its fish tavernas, Sunset is one of the best of its kind. Founded by a couple of experienced in-home, traditional cooking methods, they boast a top-secret lobster-with-pasta recipe you must not miss out on.
Armeni: The ultimate traditional tavern, and a great place for fresh, authentically cooked seafood.
Melitini: A great place for relaxed, authentic Greek cuisine and a great selection of local beers and wines. It’s the definition of high-quality tapas restaurants.
Katharos Lounge: For vegans and vegetarians, Katharos is the place to go. Situated right on the seaside, you will enjoy great dishes while you hear the waves lapping at your feet.
Paradox Thai Food & Lounge: A high-quality ethnic restaurant serving excellent, authentic Thai food right there in Santorini is where to go for a change in gears when it comes to culinary delights.
Lycabettus Restaurant: The place for fine dining, Lycabettus features its award-winning executive chef to guarantee you are served the best modern Greek cuisine has to offer, as well as fusion cuisine and new techniques.
Hotels in Oia, Santorini
Oia is home to some stunning hotels with infinity pools overlooking the caldera, the best sunset views and unique architecture. Here is a selection of some great hotels in Oia.
Canaves Oia Suites & Spa: A luxurious hotel built on the cliff overlooking the caldera. It features 2 swimming pools (1 of them is infinity style), an à la carte restaurant, and beautifully decorated suites and rooms.
Katikies Santorini – The Leading Hotels Of The World: Perched on the cliffs of the caldera the hotel offers luxurious whitewashed rooms with private terraces, 2 restaurants, and open-air and indoor hot tubs and swimming pools.
Filotera Suites – The suites at Filotera offer individual balconies and pools that provide you with a private view of the gorgeous sea ahead; the suites and balconies are so idyllic that you will find yourself not wanting to leave the hotel! The hotel also has a beautiful restaurant.
Laokasti Villas: A traditionally styled complex offering budget friendly studios, apartments and villas. The hotel feutures a garden, a swimming pool and an a la carte breakfast.