Oia (Greek: Οία, sometimes also spelled Ia) is the northernmost town on Thira, the largest island in the Santorini archipelago, which is part of the Cyclades islands about 200 km south of the Greek mainland. Oia is the town that comes to mind for most people when they hear Santorini and even Greek islands in general: steep volcanic cliffs with picturesque white houses, churches with deep blue roofs, and iconic windmills that appear lost in time. Oia's narrow streets scattered with arts and gift shops draw over 2 million tourists from abroad every year.
The recorded history of Oia dates back to the 13th century, when the Duchy of Naxos was established by the Venetians and feudal rule was instituted on Santorini. Apanomeria, known with the local inhabitants as Agios Nikolaos castle, was one of the 5 local citadels and the ruins of its residential keep is the oldest part of modern Oia. The Ottoman Empire took over control in 1579, and the name Apanomeria found general acceptance until it was changed to present day Oia in the mid 19th century.
At the end of the 19th century, peace brought prosperity. Oia's harbour, Amoudi Bay, developed as an important centre for maritime trade, a position boosted by the declining importance of Venice as a Mediterranean trading hub. It was part of many trading routes, from Alexandria to as far as Russia. By the turn of the 19th century, the fleet consisted of 130 sailing ships and a wharf was set up in Amoudi Bay. Agriculture on Santorini produced wines of excellent quality which were exported to mainland Europe.
The economic boom came to an end with the arrival of steam power, which made sailing ships redundant. Oia lost trade to Piraeus and Laurium, and the resulting exodus led to a decline in population which in turn hurt the agricultural sector. A shift to finishing industry brought relief, but by the early 20th century this also started to decline due to overfishing. The World Wars brought economic depression and further emigration to the Greek mainland.
The earthquake of 9 July 1956 with a magnitude of 7.8 dealt the finishing blow to Oia. The strongest aftershock had a magnitude of 7.2, with an epicentre just off the coast north of Oia. Nearly the entire town was levelled, and population fell to an all time low of only 306 inhabitants in the 1977 census. It remained largely abandoned for 2 decades.
The bold decision was made to rebuild the village from the ground up as a tourist attraction. The surviving churches and castle ruins were restored, and infrastructure was developed. Utilities such as electricity and telecommunications cables were laid underground which helped to create a "picture perfect" village. Modern Oia is nearly entirely an artificial town, comparable to Disneyland: it largely consists of tourist accommodation, restaurants, bars, and shops. Oia attracts huge crowds of tourists looking for the "perfect" photograph, and is immensely popular as a honeymoon destination particularly with wealthy Indian and Chinese couples flocking to Oia to have their wedding pictures taken. Unsurprisingly, Oia's narrow streets are lined with jewellery shops, exclusive boutiques, and overpriced souvenirs made in China can be found at the corner of every street.
- See also: Santorini#Get in
Easily reachable by bus from the central bus station in Fira. The road to Oia is not for the faint hearted! The bus fare is very inexpensive--not more than €3 per person.
Taxi from port in Thira costs around €20 per group; €25 if you don't want driver to take people from other groups into the car. A taxi from the airport will set you back €30-40.
Road between Fira and Oia is meandering -- keep in mind if you choose between taxi and a rented car when you arrive exhausted after a ferry.
The most rewarding way into town in to walk the footpath along the caldera from Fira. It will take awhile as there some stairs to climb (especially in the way back), but the view is worth it.
Motorised vehicles are banned from the town, and the only way to get around is by foot. Even garbage is taken away by donkeys. Donkeys can be rented on the staircase connecting Armeni bay to Oia. However, walking gives the most freedom to look around and enjoy the scenery. During the touristic season, which starts in April and ends in October, the town often becomes so crowded with tourists that congestion occurs in the narrow streets. Don't even try to push a bicycle through during the summer months! Fortunately, Oia is rather small so traversing the town only takes half an hour by foot.
Oia is a very picturesque town. Spend at least half a day exploring the town by meandering up and down paths and staircases. Along the way you'll see interesting architecture and breathtaking views of the caldera.
- 1 Amoudi Bay (Órmos Ammoúdi, Όρμος Αμμούδι). 24/7. The most picturesque bay on Thira, the moon shaped bay is surrounded by barren cliffs and a lovely promenade with restaurants. Fantastic spot to watch the famous sunset, although it tends to get crowded for that reason in the evenings. Free.
- 2 Londsa Castle (Kasteli Agios Nikolaos). 24/7. Remains of a Byzantine fortress, now ruins that are a prominent landmark in the oldest part of town. It offers fantastic sunset views in the evening. The history of the castle dates back to the 15th century, and it survived for almost 600 years. Unfortunately, like many other structures on Santorini, it was largely levelled by the 1956 earthquake. Only the base of a tower and facade remain of what was once an impressive defensive structure built to protect the island from pirate attacks. Free.
- 3 Armeni Bay. 24/7. Harder to reach than Amoudi Bay, and therefore far less crowded. Limited facilities, but great for a swim. Free.
- 4 Katharos Beach. 24/7. Quiet pebble stone beach with the adjacent Katharos Lounge which serves great food. Free.
- 5 Agios Georgios Church. Christian Orthodox church. Free.
- 6 , ☏ , email@example.com. W-M 10:00 - 14:00, 17:00 - 20:00. Archaeology museum in a converted traditional house in the centre town. Its collection features figureheads, seamen's chests, historic maritime equipment, drawings and maps, and models of old and new Thirean ships. There is special attention to the history of the Hellenic Navy.
- 7 Panagia Platsani (Ιερός Ναός Παναγίας του Ακάθιστου Ύμνου). Greek Orthodox church. Free.
- 8 Saint Georgios Oia Holy Orthodox Church (Ιερός Ναός Αγίου Γεωργίου Οίας). Greek Orthodox church. Free.
- 1 Caldera Massages Studio, Oia (at the Oia sunset point next to Kastro Restaurant - please consult Google Maps), ☏ , Info@Caldera-Massages.com. Daily Apr-Oct. Professional massages in the unique cave style treatment rooms. The special Sunset packages include massages in the cave and then viewing from the Terrace to the Oia sunset with a bottle of bubbles. All booking is online.
- 2 Oia - Fira hike. 24/7. By far the most spectacular hike on Thira is the trail from Oia to Fira, with a length of 11 km. It offers some breathtaking views over the caldera, and the other islands of the archipelago. Estimated time: 3 - 4 hours. Map marker indicates the start of the trail in Oia. Free.
- 3 Perfume Bar, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Spa and beauty parlour linked to a bar.
- 1 Mnemossyne Gallery, ☏ , email@example.com. Hand-crafted jewellery gallery and shop.
- 2 Oia Treasures Art Gallery, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00 - noon daily. Art gallery with works of local artists.
- 3 Wave, ☏ , email@example.com. Art gallery, jewellery, gems, and gift shop.
- 4 Atlantis Books, Nomikos Street, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Book shop. Carries a wide selection of travel books, fiction, and non-fiction in different languages.
- 1 Lotza, ☏ . 10:00 - 23:00 daily. Large souvlaki; tzadziki is bit too hot. Potato salad may be without declared beetroot, but rich in mayonnaise. White salad is with tuna.
- 2 Ambrosia Restaurant (Amvrosia) (center of the village on the caldera near the main church), ☏ , Table@Restaurant-Ambrosia.com. Lunch & dinner daily Apr-Oct. A great view and excellent food. Two small intimate terraces for the most romantic, candlelight dinner on the island. Mediterannean dishes served atop the cliffs in Oia overlooking the sea and caldera. Some reviews say the best cuisine in Greece with the view as an extra bonus. Charming interior seating in cave style setting. Reservations are hard to come by with seating times for dinner not so flexible. Ask your hotel reception to book or try via an email to the restaurant. Romantic evening for the island save it for your special night. .
- 3 Niko's (near the bus station), ☏ . Visit for souvlaki. Order the kalamaki with pita.
- 4 Roka (Poka), ☏ . 12:30 - 22:30 daily. One of the best places to eat traditional home-style Greek food. The staff make you feel like long-time friends. You shouldn't miss it if you come for the sunset to Oia.
- 5 1800-Floga Restaurant, Νικ. Νομικού, ☏ . Daily 18:00-23:00. High-flying cuisine: some local-inspired dishes, otherwise international. Great place for romantic dinner. Waiters are well-trained and speak English very well. Amusing thing: once you're done with meals, waiter picturesquely sweeps away grit into a small scoop. You may need to ask twice if you want to take the rest of wine bottle with you (at least if the wine is €29 and the bill for two is €110; you are not offered any plastic bag so you leave with a bottle in hands.
- Ammoudi Bay Tavernas. There are three tavernas (side by side--difficult to distinguish between) in Ammoudi bay serving fresh grilled seafood. This is possibly the best place for enjoying dinner and a sunset in Ia. The food is okay, albeit a little overpriced. Alternately, you can enjoy an even better view of the sunset if you walk past the tavernas and continue on towards the swimming area. Along the path, where you have a clear view of Ammoudi Bay and the direction the sun sets, is an ideal place for snapping great sunset pics. But, if you don't mind paying a premium for a seafood dinner, the tavernas are quite charming.
- Try the famous Souvlaki and Singing competition near the Church (on the right, down the steps, through the door) every Sunday night at 21:00 organised by Stelios. Entry is €10. Songs by famous Greek singers, such as "Sexy Back" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go", are sung all through the night with endless amounts of souvlaki being served up.
- 6 Flora Restaurant (Flora Comfort Cuisine), Oia Caldera cliffs, ☏ , email@example.com.
- 7 [dead link] Apsithia Restaurant (Apsithia Restaurant Oia Santorini), Oia Caldera cliffs, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 8 Laokástē, ☏ , email@example.com. Barbecue and grill restaurant close to the caldera.
- 9 Sphinx Restaurant. Restaurant Sphinx has been accommodated in a restored mansion in Oia since 1991. Its unique view over the Caldera of Santorini becomes more breathtaking during the exquisite sunsets just in front of you. Chef and owner George Psychas creates Mediterranean cuisine which showcases the fresh local produce and Aegean Sea fish. Relaxing environment, extensive wine selection.
- 10 PitoGyros, ☏ . F-Su noon - 23:00. Traditional grill house.
- 11 Piatsa (near the bus terminal), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00 - 23:45 daily. Souvlaki grill house.
- 12 Paradox, ☏ . 13:00 - 22:00 daily. Thai cuisine and bar.
A number of vineyards on Santorini produce great wines. Sample the local wines when possible!
The village has a variety of accommodation options. Cave style houses updated with modern features, cliff side houses that form a small hotel, mansions once owned by sea captains converted to luxury suites - are some of the unique features. Points to consider are if the accommodation faces to the sea, caldera and volcano; available terrace for breakfast or lounging, private terrace or shared; windows - as some of the cave houses may have small viewpoints; the location on the cliff as the stairs can be steep and not suited for everyone; and the regular factors: air conditioning, bathroom arrangement, bed style and comfort, services, etc. The protected village architecture and the cliffs restrict the building of swimming pools so there are very few offered on the caldera side. There's a public pool-bar offering views towards the sunset side of the island. If the accommodation has a terrace with the view to the sea, caldera and volcano then you won't miss the pool as gazing over the sea is the point here.
Western side (sunset view)
- 1 Oia's Sunset, ☏ . Great sunsets and architecture and outdoor pool. €40.
- Aspa Villas, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. It is a complex of traditional cycladic style build studios and private cave houses. €43-140.
- Ecoxenia Studios (1 kilometer away from Oia among the vineyards 100 meters, above the sea-shore), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Close to the two beaches, Paradissos and Coloumbos. The settlement: 8 traditional island dewellings that can accommodate 1-4 persons, built in a 2,000 m² garden in tranquil natural surroundings. From your private balcony you can enjoy the ocean view, Oia’s famous sunset and the beauty of Ios, Sikinos and Folegardros islands in its fading line. €45-110.
- Santorini Resorts, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. Seven Holidays Resorts. €125-380.
- Chelidonia Villas. A group of cliff-side cave houses owned and managed by Triantaphyllos Pitsikalis and his wife Erika, both incredibly hospitable and helpful. Erika usually responds to your inquiries via email, and Triantaphyllos works in the office to answer your questions and give great insight into the culture of the island. Triantaphyllos and Erika have restored a number of cave houses across Western Ia that, together, comprise Chelidonia Villas. The houses have air conditioning and daily maid service, and guests have free internet access. €180/night for a cave house that could have easily slept a family of four or five.
- Fanari Villas, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:30. About a dozen villas/suites styled as traditional cavehouses. One of the choice places for celebrating a wedding, alone or with few friends. All staff is dressed in white. Features restaurant and bar, shared swimming pool with a jacuzzi, sauna and bathroom. Kitchen with full set of dishes, microwave, small electric stove. Prices might make one think it's 5-star luxury, but it's not -- you're paying for a great view and for quiteness. Despite the prices, pool, jacuzzi and lounge chairs have limited availability, and maintenance can be lacking. Season/off-season: two-person villa €310/€260; suite €360/€310. Internet discount 10%; further bargaining doesn't help.
- Delfini Villas. €65 for double with backside view; €95 for double with balcony and seaview (breakfast included).
- Oia Luxury Villas (3 discrete locations), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Built in 2011 and designed with the philosophy of providing extraordinary luxury. The villa is 100 m² and has 2 bedrooms with double bed and a bedroom with 1 single bed. It is a modern, fully equipped villa and it is suitable for up to 5 persons. From your private veranda and the private terrace, you can enjoy the wonderfully Oia sunset and a panoramic view to the sea and to the Aegean islands of Ios, Sikinos and Folegandros. €100-150.
- Alta Mare (near the Orthodox Cathedral), ☏ . A small complex of 10 studios and suites, all with Caldera view. €220-260.
- Atlantida villas (Hotel Atlantida), ☏ . Check-in: 11:00, check-out: 11:30. Suites and apartments €175-220.
- Perivolas Traditional Houses, ☏ . It is famous for its shared pool with its edge visibly continues as a sea. The hotel was heavily advertised in several worldwide travel magazines, which brought the prices to exorbitant level. Some studios or suites feature black-coloured private outdoor pool or even outdoor jacuzzi.
Being a tourist attraction, Oia is a safe destination for travel.
The town's layout makes it ideal for pickpockets, however: during the tourist season, the narrow streets are packed with tourists and body contact is not uncommon, which makes it easy for thieves to lift valuables out of the pockets of unsuspecting travellers. The street layout also makes for an ideal escape route, as pickpockets can easily vanish in the labyrinth of narrow passages and steep steps. It is recommended to leave valuables home or wear them under your shirt in a neck pouch. Do not rely on hip pouches, they are an easy target in crowded areas. Never leave electronics such as cameras unattended.
- See also: Santorini#Stay_healthy
As everywhere else on Santorini, tap water is not safe to drink in Oia, despite its new €813,000 EU-sponsored 1 desalination plant. Bottles of water can be purchased in every mini market, and most hotels will offer complimentary bottles of water to their guests when booking a room.
At the northern tip of Thira, the options are to return southward with Finikia on a walking distance away from Oia. Vourvoulos and modern capital Fira can be reached by bus, which departs at the 1 Oia bus station. Instead of taking the bus, though, consider hiking from Oia to Fira: the trail follows the caldera, and is considered the most spectacular hike on the Santorini archipelago.
Alternatively, take a ferry to one of the other islands of the Santorini archipelago. Therasia is only 20 minutes away from Oia by ferry.