When you picture the siren-like Greek island of Santorini, chances are you’ve conjured up a vision of Oia, its whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches that spill over the caldera.
Oia, Greece, lies on the northern tip of Santorini and is the island’s second-largest village after Fira. Inspiring travelers for decades with its dazzling good looks, Oia is one of the most photographed places in Greece, known for its postcard-pretty sunsets, twirling windmill, and plunging cliffs.
From sampling some of the best Greek dishes in town to uncovering deserted beaches and exploring independent art galleries, Oia offers plenty of activities and sights that will etch this beautiful little town into your memory.
Castle of Oia
Also known as the Castle of St. Nikolas, the Castle of Oia has flanked this northern position since the 15th century. Built during the Venetian period using lava rocks, the crumbling castle offers unwavering views of the rugged Santorini coastline.
This spot is no secret and it’s easy to see why. Travelers visit the fortress, now mostly in ruins, for the astounding front-row view of one of the best sunsets in the world.
Visit the castle, its partially-intact watchtower, and the small caramel-colored St. Nikolaos Chapel, which was built around 1450. Carry your camera to capture the moment and the soaring caldera views.
Oia Steps & Ammoudi Bay
Oia’s 278 steps wind almost 400 feet down the caldera, leading to the languid Ammoudi Bay.
Facing the island of Therasia, Ammoudi Bay is a small, crescent-shaped harbor at the bottom of the enormous red and black volcanic cliffs. It’s lined with quaint restaurants with tables neatly laid out beside the water.
Saunter down the steps carved into the rockface and once you’ve reached the shore, cool off with a swim.
Tranquil sailboat and catamaran tours depart from the bay, too, offering the chance for travelers to sail and swim deeper in the glittering caldera.
You could also visit the more low-key island of Thirasia—just a 10-minute ride across the water from Oia—for its lazy, slow-paced, volcanic Greek beaches and authentic tavernas.
Windmill of Oia
If you’re visiting Oia, Greece, chances are you’re going to want to photograph the town’s handsome windmill.
Situated on a breezy spot, high up on the hill, the milk-white windmill with a thatched, pointed roof was built to grind and produce flour to make bread, pastry, and other Greek staples.
Wander to this scenic spot to soak in the breathtaking views of one of the most beautiful places in Greece. There are plenty of spots from where you can capture the windmill’s sails spinning in the distance, too, including from Oia Steps as you wander down to Ammoudi Bay.
Oia’s Blue-Domed Churches
Oia’s two blue-domed churches are a bright beacon among the town’s whitewashed walls, mirroring the color of the Aegean Sea.
Among the most photographed churches in the world, the pair cling to the cliffside. One is the 1865-built Anastasi Church. Dedicated to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Anastasi features a pink bell tower next to its skyline-defining blue cupola.
Next door is Agios Spyridon Church, built in 1867 and named after St. Spyridon, with its signature blue dome and matching blue bell tower.
Wander through Oia’s slim alleyways, photographing the churches from different perspectives as you approach. Go early to try and beat the crowds.
Things to Do in Oia, Greece
Relax on Oia’s Beaches
Soak up the delicious views of gently bobbing boats just offshore from Armeni Beach, a secluded spot below Oia, Greece. The shore is pebbly here so consider packing aqua shoes to enjoy the water.
For an even more secluded spot, make your way to Paralia Katharos in the far northwest of Santorini. There are no facilities here, which only adds to Katharos’ wild and unspoiled charm. You can walk from the center of Oia, which takes around 20 minutes and offers spectacular coastal views along the way.
The typically crowd-free Paralia Mpaxedes, lying just to the north of Oia, is another dramatic volcanic beach in Santorini where you could lay down a towel to soak up the island’s glorious scenery.
Take a Cooking Class
Few immersive travel experiences compare to cooking delectable local dishes, taught by locals, on vacation. In Oia, Greece, you could do just that on a visit to the Secret Santorini Kitchen.
Start off with a delicious homemade lemonade followed by an olive oil tasting. You’ll then roll your sleeves up and don an apron to create dishes such as a creamy tzatziki dip made with yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, and garlic.
Learn the process behind tiropita, small feta cheese-filled pastry parcels, and the sticky-sweet orange pie dessert. Once you’ve mastered a range of Santorini dishes you’ll dine in the pretty courtyard on your freshly made creations.
Discover Oia on Foot
Exploring Oia on foot is the only way to get around this densely-packed village. Oia’s tapered streets are filled with bursting pink bougainvillea and lined with cafés, restaurants, cocktail bars, boutiques, and galleries that open up to breathtaking views at regular intervals.
Browse the artwork and photography of local artists at Galanopoulos Art Gallery, run by the owners of the nearby Karma restaurant.
Oria Art Gallery is the place to go for beautiful photography of Santorini and Mnemossyne Gallery sells handmade jewelry, including gorgeous rings, bracelets, and earrings.
Head into the cavernous Atlantis Books for its excellent selection of new and secondhand tomes published in a number of different languages, and pick up colorful pottery at Canava.
Stop by Oia’s Nautical Museum of Santorini to learn about the island’s seafaring past. Founded in 1956, the museum is set within an elegant building with palm trees outside.
Inside, there’s an exhibition of nautical relics, including shipping instruments, ship models, rare photographs, and portraits of historical shipping figures.
Marvel at the Church of Panagia Akathistos Hymn, with its six-bell tower and turquoise domed roof, and the equally photogenic Church of Panagia Platsani, with its peach-painted walls.
From glamorous rooftop bars to quaint courtyard restaurants, there is an overwhelming number of places to stop and refuel in Oia.
If it’s early in the day, try the iced coffee, freshly baked bread, and sweet baklava at Passaris Bakery. Later, why not enjoy a rest at Fino for laid-back cocktails and local wines?
Visit Domaine Sigalas Winery
Nestled on a wide-open plain, a 10-minute drive from the center of Oia, Domaine Sigalas is the town’s local winery, and notably one of the best in Santorini set among 40 hectares of vines.
The rows of grapes—Assyrtiko, Athir, and Aidani white and Mandilaria and Mavrotragano red— benefit from the rich minerality of the volcanic soil, combined with hot summers, and the salty sea air.
Wines run the gamut from the pale lemon-hued dry white wine produced from 60-year-old Assyrtiko grapevines to the robust Mavrotragano, with its deep ruby-red color and notes of cherries, blackberries, and blackcurrants.
Book a tasting to sip on some of the delicious white, red, and rosé produce, following a tour of the estate. Each wine is served with a dish prepared by the estate’s chef.
Walk the Oia to Fira Path
This six mile-route skirts Santorini’s west coast between Oia and the island’s capital, Fira. It’s a hearty hike, but well worth it if you’re prepared with the correct footwear and plenty of water.
Pass the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Holy Chapel as you hike to beautiful Imerovigli and its famous landmark, Skaros Rock.
Look for swooping birdlife—house sparrows, quails, swallows, rock doves, and seagulls—and stop for a well-deserved ice cream on the route. Snack shacks and roadside tavernas are dotted along the route.
The reward for your hard work is unending sea views of the volcano of Santorini on Nea Kameni and the larger, inhabited island of Thirasia.
If you don’t have the energy to hike the entire stretch, you could take a local taxi in around 25 minutes (or less if you break your journey up, hiking part of it). There’s a quick and inexpensive bus route, too, which takes 25 minutes from Oia and Fira, stopping at Imerovigli.
Ammoudi Fish Tavern
There’s a very good reason Ammoudi Fish Tavern is regularly packed out. The seafood here is mouth-watering and well worth the trek down to Ammoudi Bay from the center of Oia.
Get a prized seafront table and start with the arugula and spinach salad, combining dried fig, caramelized hazelnuts, soft and creamy Skotiri cheese, and a herb dressing.
Move onto plates of tempura zucchini flower, crispy eggplant served in a layered “millefeuille” fashion with a feta-cheese mousse. Tzatziki, hummus, taramasalata, and Santorini fava with raisins and shallots are also on the appetizer menu.
Crispy calamari, shrimp doused in Ouzo-orange, and sun-dried grilled octopus also feature, alongside a selection of raw dishes and myriad fish, from lobster to red mullet.
Book ahead if you’re planning to visit during peak times and request a table right by the sea for one of the most memorable Greek meals you’ll likely ever experience.
This outstanding Oia restaurant lies at the foot of the cliffs with outside seating on a partially covered terrace. Take a seat close to the gently lapping waves and savor the views over iced tea, lemonade, or a carafe of house Santorini wine to share.
Dishes range from raw and marinated fish—shrimp, oysters, anchovies, and sea urchins—to salads, pasta, and a variety more fish and shellfish options, including the catch of the day.
Light lunch options include warm pita bread with a selection of dips, smoked eggplant spread, plump scallops in garlic butter, and dolmadakia, stuffed vine leaves.
The sublime Lycabettus puts a modern spin on Greek cuisine. The menu starts with snacks, with the option to have a lighter lunch of tuna brioche, pita with a selection of dips, or umami-packed shrimp bao buns topped with an avocado mousse.
The lunch menu is then divided into appetizers, entrees, and desserts with each option listed by the main ingredient. An appetizer might feature wild mushroom with honey miso sauce, yuzu, truffle, gorgonzola, and pine nut.
On the entree, look to the gnocchi moussaka, featuring a white eggplant ragout with slow-cooked oxtail in a creamy bechamel foam or sea bass with parsnip purée, wild greens, grilled parsnip, and a garlic emulsion. Finish with the Greek sweet delicacy of loukoumades, donuts served coated in honey.
Kyprida, next to the Nautical Museum of Santorini, is a perfect spot for a romantic meal for two or a leisurely lunch with friends.
Fill your table with home-cooked goodness, starting with the fried halloumi cheese rolls with Mastiha liqueur and honey sauce. This dish is utterly divine, setting the tone for what’s to come, including fried potatoes with onions and black olives, and a homemade wine sausage.
Choose from pork marinated in red wine, artichoke vegetable stew—or the beef version for meat lovers—moussaka, salads, pasta, grilled and fried fish, and a Greek staple, the chicken souvlaki with pita, salad, and lashings of tzatziki.
Stick around for sunset and take advantage of Kyprida’s roof terrace for golden hour cocktails or chilled glasses of island wine.
Oia Travel Tips
Oia, pronounced “ee-a”, is easily explored during a short visit. You’ll need to do it all on foot, too, since the majority of Oia’s streets simply don’t accommodate cars.
Wander past cave houses, shop for gifts in the many chic boutiques, admire the famous churches, and continue to the nearest beach, Ammoudi, before enjoying a long and tasty lunch at a local restaurant.
Oia is a buzzy destination, especially during summertime. It’s worth visiting early or late season—May, September, or October—to avoid jostling for the best shot of some of Greece’s famous landmarks.
If you do visit during peak season, from June to August, stop by the most popular attractions early in the day to beat the crowds.
Packing for a trip to Oia, Greece, should include summer staples, such as swimwear, a chic beach cover-up, and a summer dress or a loose shirt and shorts combination to help stay cool. Sunglasses, a sun hat, and comfortable walking shoes are necessities, too.
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