Oia is the Santorini of postcards – a cluster of white houses tumbling down to the caldera. Planning your visit? Delve into this guide, packed with the best things to do in Oia, top restaurants and the tips you need to make the most of your trip. 

Say the word Oia and I’ll bet you conjure images of a stunning village of picture-perfect white houses perched high up above the deep blue waters of its famous caldera (which is the submerged hollow of an erupted volcano). There’s a reason this is one of Greece’s most iconic spots. 

But as beautiful as the view of the volcanic caldera sparkling with cerulean water is, the story of how it got there is terrifying. Oia (and Santorini as a whole) was home to one of the world’s most devastating natural catastrophes when the volcanic rocks sank into the sea, along with over 35,000 people in 1645 BC.

Visit Santorini now, and you wouldn’t suspect such a lovely place ever had such a dark history. I was just in Oia, and while it was pretty crowded (almost uncomfortably so), it was also impossibly beautiful. 

I’ll be honest – I grappled with how I felt about the village, which was equally scenic and very, very touristy. Don’t let that put you off – you can see the best of the famous village more comfortably if you carefully plan your visit – and I’m going to tell you how.

Ready to plan the ultimate trip to Oia? Here’s what you need to know. 

Things to Do in Oia, Santorini  

Take a Photograph of the Blue Domed Church of Santorini

Oia is the Santorini that launched a million postcards: a cluster of whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches clinging onto the hills with expansive views of the caldera. The Blue Domed Church of Santorini is the church you see on said postcards.

So, where do you go to get that million-dollar view? Easy. Just walk down about 5 minutes from the village’s centre toward the Aegean Sea. 

The church is actually two different churches, Saint Anastasi and ​​Saint Spyridon Orthodox. Both were built in the mid-19th century and both have that classic Cycladic style with a bright blue cupola contrasting the snow-white exterior. 

Because sunset photography in Oia is the furthest thing from a secret, you can imagine how crowded it gets. Double that imaginary number you came up with. 

If you want a more relaxing experience, wake up early and watch the sunrise. You’ll get some amazing lighting without trying to shoot over the shoulder of about 500 other visitors.

Top Tip

Be sure to stay on official walkways, as homeowners won’t be thrilled if you try to snap photos from their steps.

Watch the Sunset

Not only is watching the sunset one of the top things to do in Oia, but it’s literally the reason why most people visit in the first place. And while watching the sunset in Santorini might sound like a wonderful affair, the reality is very different. 

I’m not trying to deter you from seeing the sunset in Oia. If you find the right spot, watching the sun dipping down below the blue seas of the Caldera is absolutely spectacular. But you have to know where to go and how to plan it. 

In order to get a good spot in the village, you’ll need to arrive early and chill out in the same spot for at least an hour (but more like an hour and a half). 

Also, just know that the narrow streets are at their busiest, at dusk and it’s not relaxing once it’s all over and you’re crammed into jam packed streets. Not relaxing at all. Now that we cleared that up, I’ll let you in on where to see the sunset in Oia.

A lot of people go to the Castle of Oia. It’s cool but very, very popular. Go early, grab a spot, or walk down a bit further toward Ammoudi for a less-crowded option (but without the same views as you’re at sea level). 

Julianna watching the sunset

Personally, I recommend heading to my favourite spot (marked on this map) – if you head to the corner, you still get great views, but not have to deal with the same crowds as you will at the castle.

Top Tip

Another option (the most comfortable) is to book a spot at Lauda Restaurant (which I talk about in more detail below). It’s pricey, but the views are perfect, and there’s no jostling with people involved. Pelekano Restaurant also has good views and is cheaper.

Explore the Castle of Oia

Oia Castle

Walk towards the edge of the caldera in Oia and you’ll likely see an imposing stone structure teetering on the edge of the cliff walls. This is the Castle of Oia. 

Also known as the Castle of Saint Nikolas, the Venetian fortress has called Oia home since the 15th-century. Originally used to defend the city from pirates and other enemies, parts of the castle actually remain in good condition today.

Look closely, and you’ll notice the volcanic rocks used to build the castle. This isn’t all that surprising since the history of volcanic activity in Oia is long and catastrophic. 

The village of Oia was built around the castle and you’ll still find the white-washed homes perched around and under the fortress today.

Go toward the end of the day, and you’ll notice dozens of tourists competing for a spot on the walls and rooftop for a sunset view. I’m not joking when I say it’s a mob scene at dusk, and I’d honestly avoid it during sunset unless you go during a slow time of year. 

But if you arrive early in the morning while most tourists are sleeping off that last glass of wine, you’ll enjoy the most amazing sunrise views over the ocean and mountains below.

Visit the Windmill of Oia 

The windmill

Another image you need to capture when you’re in Oia is the famous windmill perched high up on the hillside. What can you expect to see? Large wooden blades stretch out into the pristine blue skies, contrasting with the stark white facade and conical rooftop. Magic.

It’s, without a doubt, one of the most symbolic images in Oia and every bit as gorgeous as you can imagine.

Why is it here in the first place? For centuries, the windmills were used by local villagers to grind up grains. In fact, historians believe some of the windmills were installed back in the 14th century. 

Spend a windy afternoon on the island and it makes sense that these structures are dotted all around it.

Top Tip

Walk around the ancient landmark and capture images of the windmills, with 2 of the most famous resting nearly side-by-side. Head northwest from the Castle of Oia until you start seeing the windmills (it should only take a few minutes).

Stroll Around Ammoudi Bay 

I won’t lie to you, getting down the 600 steps to Ammoudi Bay isn’t the easiest, walking back up again? Even tougher, but it’s well worth the trek. 

Once you reach the small bay and harbour, you’re greeted by friendly locals, excellent seafood restaurants, and scenic views of the Aegean Sea. It’s very much a fishing village, and you’ll notice boats anchored with the catch of the day and octopus drying in the sun.

Bring your swimsuit on a warm afternoon. The clear blue water begs you to jump off one of the smaller rocks. 

The restaurants here are fantastic, but a bit crowded. The Ammoudi Fish Tavern is charming and serves very fresh seafood with a fantastic view of the cove. Save room for an ice cream from Cool Cave and stay for the ridiculous sunset views.

Top Tip

It’s quite a pull-back up to Oia from the beach, so be sure to pack enough water and wear a comfy pair of shoes. There are donkeys plying the route, but there is well-documented evidence that they are badly treated and in terrible condition, so please do not use them

Spend Time at the Naval Maritime Museum 

You don’t need to venture far to notice evidence of Santorini’s seafaring past (and present). The island’s sailing history dates all the way back to the Minoans, who settled sometime long before 1600 BC. 

The Naval Maritime Museum displays artefacts from different vessels and takes a deep dive into the importance of sailing in the Cyclades. 

The old mansion features nautical instruments and model ships and a very friendly owner willing to walk you through the importance of each item. It only costs €5 to enter, so it’s a perfect activity to break up your time soaking up the sun. 

Most people visit to see the WWII periscope but pay attention to each and every artefact inside. You can learn a lot about the large ships that sailed the seas from the literature and replica boats inside.


It’s open 7 days a week from 10 am to 6 pm, so stop by whenever you’re strolling around Oia.

Best Places to Eat and Drink in Oia   

Traditionally, wine and tomatoes were the mainstays of Santorini’s economy. So naturally, there’s a lot to love about the local cuisine. 

Lauda Restaurant


Tap into historical Santorini and try one of the oldest restaurants in Oia. 

Built back in 1971, Lauda was Oia’s first restaurant, and it’s still one of the best restaurants in Greece. It’s also one of the fanciest, and set 2 of us back (with drinks) over €400. 

The focus is on exceptional local cuisine, and combined with the stunning views of the Caldera, it was totally worth it.

Lamb at Lauda

Wondering what to order? Start with a bottle of champagne from their extensive menu before popular local dishes like the Giannis Fava start hitting the table. The creamy and indulgent flavours paired well with the bubbly. Next, I had the rack of lamb, which was excellent.

But if you want a real blowout, opt for a 6-course meal and wine pairing for €345 per person. The chef will create a memorable meal with a view that just might be the best in the world.



Food at Pelekanos

You know how I mentioned that one of the best ways to capture the sunset in Oia is to watch it from a bar or restaurant. Pelekanos is a smallish restaurant right in the heart of Oia with world-class views and straight-up amazing food.

Service is friendly and efficient, though it does get hectic at sunset. You’ll definitely need to book ahead to snag a table. Trust me.

The space near the edge of the balcony not only has amazing sunset views, but you can see right down to the white and blue Cycladic houses that help Oia show up on postcards worldwide.

As for the food? There’s a nice mix of cuisine available from the land and sea. You can choose anything from a classic gyros to a grilled octopus (I can highly recommend the latter – it was one of my favourite dishes I had while on the island). 

Oia Vineyart


Terrace at Oia Vineyart

Oia is touristy and you typically pay tourist prices. So, I was pleasantly surprised by just how affordable Oia Vineyart was. 

It’s a well-kept secret with open terraces, live music, and approachable tapas-style plates between €7-€14. I won’t lie; it looked a bit small walking up, but they can accommodate a surprising amount of people in the maze of charming outdoor spaces.

Oia Vineyart

The wine selection was extensive, with lots of Santorinean choices. Service was really friendly and always on hand to give tips on which wine to choose. 

The food was all good, but opting for a local cheese platter is the move. You can taste your way around Cycladic cheeses for just €28. 

You won’t find epic sunset views of the Aegean Sea, but the chill vibe and sunny terrace are a perfect change of pace from the typical rooftop restaurant in Oia.

Armeni Restaurant 


Sometimes (read often), you have to stray a few hundred paces away from the crowds to find a city’s best restaurants. Armeni Restaurant is that spot. 

Located in the idyllic Armeni Bay, this seafood restaurant is actually between the village of Oia and Finikia, down by the water. As you can guess, it serves some of the freshest fish and shellfish in Santorini. 

To get there, you take a boat ride from Ammoudi Bay (which you’ll need to hike down to from Oia). It’s a nice ride, which is especially lovely if you catch the sunset on the ride back in the summer.

The staff is friendly and fun, and the food is delicious. Arrive earlier in the evening for your best chance at grabbing a table and making the boat ride back when the sun is going down.

Order the freshly grilled fish, which you can see before they cook it. You can pair it with grilled feta or a puff pastry with shrimp, both of which look excellent.

Know Before You Go: Practical Tips to Plan Your Oia, Santorini Trip

Views of Oia
  • Plan your trip between May and October. While it’s possible to visit in the winter, most businesses are closed, so you will need to be a bit more creative with what you plan to do and where you plan to eat and drink. On the plus side, you’ll skip the crowds. 
  • The sunrise views aren’t as famous, but they are just as lovely as sunsets in Oia and far less crowded. Plus, if you travel in September or October, they’re not too early either. 
  • Local specialities include fava, tomatokeftedes (tomato fritters) and seafood. Try them all!
  • Be respectful of the town’s residents – don’t take pictures in people’s gardens, or hang around on their front doors. Don’t trespass on private property.
  • Respect signs about no drones / photography where you find them.

Typical Cost of Travelling in Oia 

Oia is an expensive vacation. Between hotels, food, and sightseeing, you can expect to pay around £750 per day during peak season.

How Long to Visit in Oia? 

I recommend spending 2 nights in Oia and 2 in another part of Santorini, like Pyrgos.

Best Time to Visit Oia

Autumn is the best time to visit Oia as there are fewer crowds and the weather’s cooler than in the peak summer. 

Where to Stay in Oia  

Most of the best hotels in Oia are near the famous Blue Domed Church Santorini.

Armenaki Luxury Villa (Luxury ) 

I liked this small all-suite property in a quieter part of Oia. There’s a lovely breakfast served right in your small but charming room, you get a private terrace with a plunge pool and gorgeous Caldera views (though you can’t see the sunset from them). 

Check Rates and Availability 

Oia Mare Villas (Luxury)

Enjoy small but beautiful rooms with private patios, jacuzzis, and spectacular sunset views. The suites are worth the upgrade for the extra space inside and on the balcony.

Check Rates and Availability

How to Get to Oia?

It’s a 20-minute drive from Santorini Airport to Oia and around 35 minutes from the Port of Santorini. Beware of traffic during busier hours as this can increase transport times dramatically. 

Taxis you can flag down are relatively hard to find on the island, you’re better off arranging a private transfer with your accommodation (although there are some Ubers too). 

Suggested Itineraries

Spending time in Oia

Day Trip to Oia

Sunrise at the Castle – Blue Domed Church – Lunch at Oia Vineyart – Windmill of Oia – Ammoudi Bay – Dinner at Lauda Restaurant 

Stroll, photograph, and dine in Oia.

2 Days in Oia

Windmill of Oia – Lunch at Ammoudi Bay – Photo Session at the Blue Domed Church – Sunset Dinner at Lauda Restaurant – Walk to Fira

See all the famous Oia attractions before spending day 2 hiking to Fira for the museums, restaurants and spectacular views.


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