The Best Things to Do in and Around Oia, Santorini

The village of Oia is a popular spot to watch the sunset on Santorini
The village of Oia is a popular spot to watch the sunset on Santorini | © eye35.pix / Alamy Stock Photo
Claire Dodd

The dramatically steep slopes of Santorini, adorned with neat sugar cube houses and blue domed Greek churches, are inarguably photogenic. Discover the must-visit sights in the northwesterly town of Oia.

One of the most famous spots on the Greek island of Santorini is the town of Oia. Overlooking the caldera – an ancient volcanic crater now partially lost under the sea – the town plunges theatrically down to the Aegean Sea. Explore its winding narrow pathways, sunset lookout points, traditional tavernas and famous churches.

1. Watch the sunset from Oia Castle

Architectural Landmark

Find a perch among the ruins, and trace the sun’s arc as it dips below the horizon. The ruins of this Venetian castle – only the watchtower is still intact – provide the perfect vantage point to take in the golden hour. Be warned: if you’re after peaceful serenity, you won’t find it here. To avoid the crowds, you’ll need to seek out a space lower down the hillside, or book a table at one of many restaurants with a similar view.

2. Swim at Ammoudi Bay

Natural Feature

Forget swim-up bars – how about some swim-up seafood? Descend the 300 steps down from Oia to the distinctive, bulbous red cliffs of Ammoudi Bay. Fish tavernas line the waterside, serving the day’s catch including fresh octopus; look for lines of them drying in the sun. Head beyond the harbour, and follow the trail along the rocks to reach a favourite sheltered swim spot. Protected from swells by a small island and surrounded by clear, aqua blue waters, it’s the perfect spot to cool off.

3. Visit Atlantis Books

Bookstore, Shop, Store

Atlantis Books, Santorini
Courtesy of Atlantis Books
For those that believe Kindles are inherently flawed because you can’t bend the pages down to mark your spot, behold, a magical book emporium awaits. Located in Oia, the floor-to-ceiling shelves of Atlantis Books positively groan with the sheer number of books in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese and, of course, Greek. Founded by a bunch of university graduates from Cyprus, England and the US, who drove from England in 2004 to open its doors, the group “found a dog and a cat, an empty building, drank some whiskey and signed a lease.” Today, it’s something of a Santorini institution.

4. Go wine tasting at Domaine Sigalas

Wine Seller, Wine

Fruity, yet bursting with minerality. When you sip a glass of Domaine Sigalas wine, you’re really tasting Santorini itself. Grapes grown by this winery just outside of Oia benefit from a terroir unique to the island. Old vines of native Greek grapes (Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani for white grapes, Mandilaria and Mavrotragano for red grapes) grow from volcanic soils in intense sunshine, cooled by salt-rich sea breezes. Book a tasting on the patio beneath vine-covered pergolas, and beat the crowds to an Oia sunset view.

5. Snap a photo of the blue-domed churches

Natural Feature

Blue Dome Church at Firostefani near Fira on Thira Island Santorini Greece
© ian woolcock / Alamy Stock Photo

Santorini’s three blue domes are some of the island’s most photographed features – that is if you discount influencers draped precariously over the edge of infinity pools. While the church domes stand out on Oia’s skyline, it can be a little tricky to find the best spot to photograph them. From Oia’s main square, walk towards the Bulgari shop sign, follow the path downwards towards a brown door, and then follow the path down from there. Voilà.

6. Hike from Oia to Fira

Architectural Landmark

Pack your hiking boots, stamina and a whole lot of water. Santorini is not exactly known for being flat, as you’ll discover on this 10km (6mi) journey to Fira. The path passes through the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli; climbing high above the caldera, you’ll be rewarded with far-reaching views across the island. However, take the route in the direction from Fira to Oia and you are guaranteed both more downhill sections of the walk, and impressive views of Oia as you descend. Start early in the morning to avoid the heat.

7. Eat tomatokeftedes at Kyprida

Restaurant, Greek, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Fast Food

Bite into the hot, fried goodness of feta, red onion, flour and, of course, tomatoes, seasoned with mint, oregano and parsley. This uniquely Santorinian dish is perhaps best done by Kyprida, a hidden gem that serves up authentic Greek and Mediterranean fare, made using fresh organic ingredients. Book the roof terrace for, again, a less-crowded version of those famous sunset views, accompanied by comforting home-cooked cuisine.

8. Take a boat to Therasia Island

Natural Feature

Aegean sea from Manolas village on Therasia island, Greece
© Lubos Paukeje / Alamy Stock Photo

Choose an adjective. Nay, pick a few. Tranquil, unspoilt, quaint, back-in-time. Each one can be used to describe this small island, often referred to as Santorini’s little – and less discovered – sister. Separated from Santorini by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, and relatively untouched by tourism, Therasia is now home to only a few hundred people. However, it has the same beautiful architecture and natural beauty. Catch the ferry to the main town of Manolas, and stop for a cold glass of wine at one of the waterside tavernas, topped by windmills.

Liked Oia? Check out the other must-visit towns and villages on Santorini. If you’re here for a beach holiday, we’ve compiled the most blissful beaches on the island for you so you know where to lay down your towel and bask in the sun. Not set for accommodation yet? Check out our recommendations of the best luxury hotels and budget stays, depending on what type of holiday you fancy. In terms of food, you’ll have to try at least one of the best restaurants on the island while you’re here, or you’ll regret it.

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