Heading to Santorini and looking for the best things to do in Oia? I’m sharing my complete guide to this idyllic little town — when to go, where to stay, how to find the famous blue domes, and of course all my favorite things to do in Oia!
Ohhhh, Oia. There’s a reason it’s the most photographed village on the island of Santorini. Everyone’s obsessed with it! And I can easily see why.
Close your eyes and picture Greece. It’s most likely Oia you’re thinking of!
Caldera views with sapphire Aegean water. Gleaming white buildings dripping with fuscia bougainvillea. Fresh seafood and flaky spanakopita. Luxurious cave suites with private plunge pools. And of course those iconic blue domes dotting the town.
The entire village is absolutely beautiful, and I’d go back every year if I could!
We first visited Oia (and Santorini in general) on our Greek island honeymoon 10 years ago, and have luckily since been back numerous times! It’s a place I dreamed about visiting for oh so long, and now it’s one of my favorite spots in the entire world.
Yes, it’s definitely gotten way more touristy as the years go on, but I can’t stay away! With all the whitewashed homes and dramatic caldera cliffs, can you blame me?! It’s such a picturesque little village, world-renowned for its magical sunset!
In this massive guide to Oia (for real though – get a pen and paper, it’s over 8,000 words long!), I’m sharing everything you need to know to visit this breathtaking little town. Whatever you do, don’t miss a famous Oia sunset – easily one of my favorite things to do in Oia every time!
Planning a Trip to Oia Logistics
Where is Oia and How to Get There
Oia is in Greece, my friends! The island of Santorini in particular. The town is located on the northwestern edge of Santorini in the Cyclades Islands group (where you’ll find other popular islands like Mykonos, Milos, and Naxos) in the Mediterranean.
All just little blips on the map in the Aegean Sea! Meaning, no, you can’t drive there from Athens! Santorini is an island about 4 hours south (via fast ferry).
How to Get To Santorini
In order to experience all the fun things to do in Oia, you’ll need to get yourself over to Santorini first of course! This little island is about 120 miles southeast from mainland Greece, so no, you can’t just swim on over, haha. Thankfully there’s a few easy options, no matter if you’re coming from Athens on mainland Greece or a nearby island in the chain.
Flying: In order to reach Santorini (and therefore Oia), you can take a short flight from Athens to Thira International Airport (the airport on Santorini). The flight is roughly 40 minutes long, and you can typically find cheap(ish) flights if you book far enough in advance.
If you’re already in western Europe, there’s a bunch of cities that fly directly to Santorini. How amazing would it be to live in Europe and quickly hop on a direct flight to dreamy Santorini whenever you damn well please?! My absolute dream!
Via Ferry: Santorini is well connected to other islands in the Cyclades chain, as well as Athens on the mainland. Some of the most popular ferry connections to Santorini are between Mykonos, Ios, Paros, and Pirarius (Athens).
If you’re planning on taking the ferry (which we typically do whenever we’re island hopping in Greece), just know it’s organized chaos at best! Stay alert and keep track of the boat – no one will be coming to find you!
There are plenty of ferry companies, each with their own schedule, pricing, and other options, but Blue Star and SeaJets are known to be the most popular. That’s typically what we take, and we always opt for a high-speed ferry vs. a slower one, as this saves tons of time and faster boats are known to rock back and forth way less. Always opt for a direct ferry if at all possible (like I said, the ferries are super chaotic – a connection is the last thing you want).
→ We like to use Ferryhopper.com to search and book our ferry tickets in Greece. The site shows all the schedules (direct and those with connections), prices, timing, and more. Those Greek ferry websites can be so confusing and clunky (especially if you don’t know Greek)! Thankfully, Ferry Hopper makes it super easy; it’s what we use each and every time and we’ve never had an issue.
Depending on where you’re coming from, the ferry may make other stops before arriving in Santorini – don’t get off too soon! You’ll need to then wait for the next ferry, which could take some time!
Also, seasickness and nausea happens to the best of us, especially if the waters are rocky. Don’t plan on eating on the ferry or right beforehand – you won’t be happy! But if nausea does kick in, just know you’re definitely not the only one experiencing this.
Psst – Many of the ports are not named what you’d initially think. For example, the port in Athens is not just named “Athens”, but Piraeus, and the Santorini port is Thira. Keep this in mind when booking your ferry tickets – it can get confusing! Ferry Hopper makes this easy.
Cruise: Visiting Santorni on a cruise?! Definitely choose your must-do things to do in Oia beforehand! I highly recommend visiting Oia, as it’s only eight miles from the port and it’s iconic Santorini. How can you visit the island without seeing the beautiful blue domes?! That’d be such a shame!
Cruising the Greek islands is a great way to see a whole bunch of islands, but just remember your time will be limited since you typically only get one day to explore each. You’ll wanna decide in advance which things to do in Oia are absolute musts, and which ones you don’t mind skipping if you run outta time.
Guided Day Trip: Visiting another island and wanna squeeze in a day trip to Santorini and Oia? Depending on which island you’re on, it may be possible! While I 1000% recommend spending way more than a day in Santorini, if that’s all you have time for, go for it!
On this day trip from Crete to Santorini, you’ll travel on a high speed catamaran boat directly to Santorini. Once you get there, there’s a guided bus tour of the island, free time in both Oia and Fira, swimming at a black sand beach in Perissa, and even going on an optional boat ride to the volcanic caldera. Read reviews and book your transfer to Santorini here!
How to Get to Oia
Once you get to Santorni (!!!), you’ll then need to make your way over to Oia. Thankfully, the island is pretty small so getting to Oia is pretty straightforward. Whether you’re basing yourself in Oia or just planning to visit during your 3 days in Santorini or so, check out these options below:
Public Bus from Fira: KTEL buses go to Oia multiple times a day from Fira (where the main bus station is), and the ride couldn’t be easier (or cheaper)! You’ll probably need to wait in line, so I recommend attempting to take the first available bus from Fira to Oia (plus, you wanna beat all the crazy crowds anyways by heading to Oia first thing in the morning).
Plan for the entire journey to take about 45 minutes to an hour, between waiting in line and the bus ride itself.
ATV: We love renting ATVs in Santorini, and have used them on 2 of our 3 trips to get to Oia. That other time we stayed in Oia itself so we just woke up and we were there! Just remember – the sun is strong here and ATVs provide no relief from the sun. So either slather on that sunscreen like no tomorrow (sunburns are never sexy), or just take the air-conditioned bus instead.
If you’re staying on a separate part of the island (say, like Perissa Beach to the south), I recommend renting an ATV one day so you can explore Oia and other areas to the north.
Private transport: If you’re staying in one of the fancy hotels on the caldera in Oia, ask if they have guided transportation services.
When we stayed at Charisma Suites on our last trip (OMG, it was absolute heaven and well worth all our money), a private driver picked us up from the port and drove us directly to our hotel in Oia. That air conditioned Mercedes and bottled ice water was perfect after the long ferry journey.
Car: Since parking can be difficult, I don’t recommend driving a car to Oia. But if for some reason you do decide to go that route, just know you’ll need to park on the outskirts of town and walk in.
Plan to park directly across from the Agios Georgios church, or down near the Post Office. Both are not far from the center. Yes, it’ll be busy, but be patient and you’ll eventually find a spot.
Other important FAQs about Oia
- How to Pronounce Oia: EE-uhh (stress on the first syllable). “Oi” in Greek is pronounced “ee”. Don’t be that silly tourist who totally butchers the name!
- Oia vs Fira: In my opinion, Oia is much more upscale and beautiful than nearby Fira. Fira is the island’s capital with lots of restaurants and shops, but it feels even more touristy than Oia if that’s at all possible, haha. Oia is way more peaceful in the morning, but gets ridiculously crowded at night because everyone wants to see that famous Santorini sunset from Oia Castle!
- Can you drink the water in Oia? Yes… but it might not be the best idea. It’s not to say that the water on the islands will 100% make you sick, but if you have a weaker stomach, bottled water is recommended. Feel free to ask locals for their advice, but I’d rather drink bottled and not ruin my trip over a few dollars. Most upscale hotels provide you water free of charge (although always ask beforehand as some serve crazy fancy bottles that are like 7 euro each…).
- Safety in Oia: Generally, Santorini is a very safe island. But, as always, it’s best to keep your things in sight – use normal precautions to keep yourself and your family/friends safe. Always keep your valuables at your side, don’t leave cameras, phones, or other expensive gear visible, and don’t leave any precious belongings unattended at the beach.
- Don’t flush toilet paper: The sewage system in Oia is very narrow in diameter, and the pipes tend to get clogged quite easily. So where should you dispose of your toilet paper? The garbage bin located next to the toilet! I know it’s hard to remember and you might forget, but try your best! You don’t wanna mess up any of the pipes!
- Are there beaches in Oia? Not really… but there is Ammoudi Bay and Armeni Bay, both which are swimmable. Neither have a sandy area per say, so plan on jumping into the water or hanging on the rocks. You don’t visit Oia for the beaches, but thankfully, there’s other beaches in Santorini if you wanna lay out and relax. Don’t miss Red Beach, the black sands of Perissa/Perivolos and Kamari Beach, and of course White Beach (accessible only by boat).
How to get around Oia
- Walk: The main village of Oia is small enough to walk around! It’s super easy to walk from one side of town to the other. While you’re planning all your things to do in Oia, just remember – the town is built along the rugged caldera, meaning there’s tons of stairs! We definitely got an amazing leg workout every single day which I hated at the moment but my body definitely appreciated later.
- ATV/Car: I honestly don’t recommend an ATV or car to get around Oia. Most spots are pedestrian-only anyways (the tiny alleyways definitely cannot accommodate anything larger than a person), and parking on the outskirts is typically pretty difficult. Once you make it to Oia, there’s really no reason for your own set of wheels.
DO NOT RIDE THE DONKEYS. I repeat, do not ride the donkeys. You’ll see them on your hike down/up from Ammoudi Bay, and constantly get asked if you want a ride. With all the steep steps, you’ll be tempted. Unfortunately, the donkeys are not well cared for and endure horrific abuse. Makes me so, so sad.
If you cannot walk the steps back up from Ammoudi, there’s other ways to get back up. Whatever you do, DO NOT RIDE THE DONKEYS. I cannot stress this enough. You can, however, take pictures (they are pretty cute)!
To bypass the stairs in Ammoudi Bay, you can hire a taxi from the port (if there’s none available, have a restaurant call one for you) to get back up. Expect to pay a pretty penny, like 10euro for a 5 minute ride. Regardless, either walk up the stairs or take a taxi – NEVER a donkey (no matter how much money you’ll potentially save).
Where to Stay in Oia
CAVE SUITES AND INFINITY POOLS AND PRIVATE PLUNGE POOLS OVERLOOKING THE CALDERA. Enough said.
Accommodation in Oia is some of the most unique and luxurious you’ll find. Choosing a hotel whenever we visit Santorini is so, so tough – there’s SO many amazing options. And I wanna stay everywhere!!!
A few things to keep in mind:
- There are no big chain hotels on the island, and that includes Oia. The best spots are small, privately owned boutique hotels. Some only have a handful of rooms! Book early!
- If you’re visiting other places on your Greek honeymoon or throughout Europe, Santorini is the place to splurge on accommodation. Once you see the views, you’ll quickly understand why.
- Note that prices range significantly between hotel accommodations depending on the season. A luxury hotel can cost upwards of $800+ a night during high season (June to August), while the same room may cost a few hundred less during low/off season. Just something to keep in mind while planning out all the things to do in Oia as far as costs are concerned.
- If you’re planning on visiting Santorini during the high season, it’s best to book your accommodation at least 6-10 months in advance. No, I’m not kidding. Hotels book up super fast in this area of the world. SO – if you’re visiting during June, July, August, or September, get on it, fast.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a pool. Visiting from May to September? Get a hotel with a pool— you won’t regret it. You’ll wanna head back for a quick dip once the midday heat sets in and you’re exhausted from all the fun things to do in Oia and beyond. Oh, and splurge on that private pool if you’re on your honeymoon (you deserve it).
- Oia is typically the most expensive place to stay on the island. But that means you’ll be right in town and can escape the crowds by exploring in the early morning, then cooling off in the pool or visiting another village later on.
- There are A LOT of steps in Oia, including most of the hotels along the caldera. Keep this in mind when booking your stay, as you’ll need to walk up and down each time you head back! Our hotel pool was down about 150 steps – while going down was a piece of cake… we had to eventually come back up! Definitely great for the glutes!
Luxury ($500+): Nothing will beat the feeling of sipping some bubbly in a private plunge pool and staring out into the deep blues of the caldera. But of course that luxury comes at a hefty price. It’s not uncommon to see prices of over $1,000/night. Wild!!!
However, if you’re looking for one spot in Greece to totally splurge on, Oia is well worth that splurge and then some! Save on your accommodation in Athens, Mykonos, Milos, and everywhere else you visit.
My recommendations for chic luxury stays in Oia:
- Mystique, a Luxury Collection Hotel: The cliffside boutique hotel of your dreams. This hotel is absolutely magnificent – I’ve always wanted to stay here but it’s always been out of my budget; maybe one day! Mystique has more privacy than most nearby hotels in Oia, with 3 on-site restaurants, and 41 suites and villas built right on Oia’s cliffside with unobstructed sea views. A true romantic retreat!
- Charisma Suites: We stayed at Charisma Suites on our last visit, and I swear, I never wanted to leave. Our days were spent soaking up the Santorini sun and then cooling off in the insane infinity pool overlooking the caldera. Then a nightly champagne sunset party with delicious apps afterwards! The fact that we stayed right next to one of the famous Oia windmills was super cool, and it was only a 5 minute walk to the famous Oia castle. Breakfast was great, too! But that infinity pool – ahh, what dreams are made of (seriously, check it out).
- Katikies Santorini: Stay in a traditional Santorini cave suite here at Katikies! All suites have amazing caldera views and their own private plunge pools – talk about luxury! Plus, if that’s not enough, there’s not one, not two, but THREE stunning infinity pools overlooking the caldera. The architecture is surreal – it’s easily one of the best hotels on the entire island. Pure heaven.
Mid-Range/Budget: Unfortunately, if you’ve got your heart set on staying within Oia itself, you’ll have a hard time finding true budget accommodations. You can find some deals if you visit in the shoulder and off-seasons, but no steals like you would in Athens and on less-popular islands.
When to Visit Oia
Santorini is absolutely spectacular, so you can understand why it’s ridiculously popular. Unfortunately this charming island isn’t a secret (AT ALL!), so your Santorini experience will vary greatly depending on when you visit. A few things to keep in mind:
The weather in Oia doesn’t vary terribly depending on the time of year (this is the Mediterranean afterall!), but there are definitely pros and cons to each season:
BEST TIME TO VISIT – Shoulder Seasons (April-May and September-October): The best times to visit Oia are during the shoulder seasons – April-early June and mid-September-October.
During these months, the weather will be a bit milder (not as scorching hot during the day), and thankfully less crowded than the popular summer months (mid-June to early-September). You’ll be able to fit in all the best things to do in Oia and beyond without crazy crowds but still have decent weather.
Summer (June to August): If you don’t have tons of flexibility and summer’s the only time you can fit a visit to Santorini into your schedule, don’t fret.
All three times I visited Oia, I visited in the summer months (twice in June and once in July). Yes, it was scorching hot, and yes it was ridiculously crowded, but we still had the best time ever. Just make sure to wake up early and explore Oia before the masses head on over. Especially easy if you’re staying in Oia itself!
Winter (November to March): In my opinion, the weather in the winter months is far from ideal (definitely can’t go in for a quick Mediterranean beach dip) and many businesses (tour operators, restaurants, and even some hotels/accommodations) will be closed for the season.
With that being said, this is beginning to change as more tourists are visiting during these months. The plus side? You may find plenty of peaceful days in Oia as it’s way less crowded, plus score some major deals on luxury accommodation.
Time of Day
If you’re visiting Santorini anytime from April to October, you’ll wanna explore Oia in the early morning. Aim to get to town by the latest 9am (8am is even better), and you’ll find a peaceful paradise. This way, you beat the crazy crowds, and escape the mid-afternoon scorching sun.
Visiting June to August? This is a time when I definitely recommend staying in Oia as you can literally wake up and get out before most people’s alarm clocks even go off. I liked to go for an early-morning stroll, watch the sunrise from Oia castle and take my pics at the iconic blue domes, and then come back and have breakfast on our balcony overlooking the caldera.
Other things to keep in mind when deciding when to visit Oia:
Pay attention to the cruise ship schedule: Guys, this is SO important. I cannot stress this enough. Cruises can literally bring in thousands of extra visitors per day, and guess what – EVERYONE has the iconic blue domes of Oia on their Greece bucket list. Meaning, you can bet almost everyone from the cruise will be in Oia. Considering how small the town actually is, this can make for an especially unpleasant experience.
So, check the cruise ship schedule to see how many cruises (and passengers) will be in port that day. If you see a cruise ship will be in town, either aim to explore super, super early before the cruise arrives, or explore other villages and areas that day.
Save Oia for a day when there’ll be no cruises (or the least number). I really wish travel to Santorini via cruise ship was regulated, but that time has not come yet, so… gotta do the best you can to stay away from the crowds!
Oia is the most popular spot on Santorini: If you’re looking for a more peaceful holiday, reconsider visiting Oia in the summer months. Or just come super early (around sunrise), explore for a few hours, and get outta there! Don’t even think about coming back for sunset unless you’re staying in Oia and have a private terrace to watch from.
So, let’s get to it – the most incredible things to do in Oia, Santorini coming right up!
Best Things to do in Oia, Santorini
Watch a famous Santorini sunset
Okay, out of all the things to do in Oia, watching the sunset sure is the most popular. Why?! Sunsets in Santorini are absolutely legendary – there’s a reason why watching the sun go down is one of the best things to do in Oia!
The sky turns all different shades of pinks and oranges and yellows, and as the sun dips below the horizon, the crowds literally cheer and clap (kinda like they did in San Pancho, Mexico – what a trip).
It’s an absolutely breathtaking experience that you just need to see for yourself at least once in your life! Yes, you’ll be sharing the sunset magic with thousands of other people, but it’s always such a fun time. Where to watch the sunset in Oia? Here’s my recommendations:
From Oia Castle: Out of all the places to watch the sunset in Oia, this will be the most crowded option. And when I mean crowded, I mean, shoulder to shoulder. The main draw of the castle? The postcard-perfect view of the whitewashed buildings in Oia Town and the windmills at sunset.
Since our hotel was literally a 3 minute walk to the castle, I relaxed with my husband on our private balcony until I saw the castle start to fill up with people. I made a beeline to the front of the crowd and claimed my spot. 1 ½ hours before sunset! While it was exceptionally, ridiculously busy, it was such a fun vibe with everyone having a good time and chatting. Bring some snacks, a few beers, and plan to hang a while!
Along the caldera walls: The walls along the caldera will be swarming with people, as everyone fights to claim a spot to get the best views. Like Oia Castle, aim to arrive pretty early.
From your private balcony: If you can’t fathom watching the sunset with thousands of your closest friends at the castle or along the caldera walls, opt for your private balcony! This is another reason I recommend booking a hotel with views of the caldera.
On one of our visits we opened a bottle of champagne and stared out into the blue Aegean waters – such a perfect night and oh so romantic! And it was just us two!
Wander the colorful streets
One of my favorite things to do in Oia was to simply wander around the photogenic streets! I swear, every single street is just gorgeous. There’s the blue domed churches amongst the stunning whitewashed houses, tons of pink bougainvillea, and lots of local crafts and pottery to peruse. I could’ve easily filled up an entire memory card!
A few of my favorite spots in town:
- Blue Domed Churches: Admire the blue domes against the striking whitewashed buildings – this is what Oia is known for afterall! There’s plenty of photo spots, but you’ll wanna get there bright and early for not only the best lighting, but to beat the crowds as well. I headed over there around 7am and still had to wait 20 minutes or so to take a photo!
- Kastro House: This place has blown up on Instagram over the past few years, so you’ll most definitely recognize it! And get this — it’s actually a vacation rental so you can stay there yourself! Cave suites with spacious terraces and private hot tubs, anyone?!
- Anything with bougainvillea: The town is basically dripping with bougainvillea, and I was all for it! My biggest dream is to own a house with at least some fuscia bougainvillea, and I’m gonna make that happen! Just watch me!
- Painted doors: Oia is full of ornate doors, and I loved taking photos of them! While you won’t find a rainbow of colors here like the doors of Palm Springs, the doors stick with the color palette of blue and white (which is just so Santorini).
Remember – visit as early as you can for a much more peaceful experience. The narrow streets are typically pretty empty in the early morning. Mid-afternoon to sunset the town gets exceptionally crowded, so it’ll be much more difficult to wander without constantly bumping into someone. Plus, you’ll wanna beat that scorching hot mid-day sun!
Have a romantic meal at Ammoudi Bay
Imagine an idyllic cove with turquoise water, amazing views, and scrumptious seafood restaurants. That’s Ammoudi Bay for you!
BUT, it’s no easy feat to get there. In order to access Ammoudi Bay, you’ll need to hike down a steep hill (in the name of about 250 steps). While going down isn’t too terrible, it’s the going back up part that’s absolutely killer (you can thankfully hire a taxi back up).
Once you’re down – you’re in luck! You’ll find a few restaurants right along the waterfront, all with great reputations serving some of the best seafood in all of Santorini. Yes, they’re all understandably expensive, so just be prepared for this. We opted for a big lunch instead of dinner since lunch menus are typically less expensive (wink wink).
The famed lobster linguini is a huge hit here, but it’s crazily over-priced at 100+ euros, so we unfortunately opted to skip it. Check out Ammoudi Fish Tavern (try their famous sun dried octopus dish) and Sunset Ammoudi (mussels and a greek salad are perfect over here).
Don’t leave without taking a photo of the octopus hanging by the sea – they’re all freshly caught and are actually sunburning in the hot Santorini sun on purpose. To eat later on!
Cliff Jumping at Ammoudi Bay
WAIT! Before you head back up all those steps, check out the cliff divers! And if you’re up for some swimming yourself, there’s a small path around the cliff to a small swimming spot. While there’s no sandy beach here, it’s a great place to cool off in the hot sun.
The area’s pretty rocky, so make sure you’re wearing appropriate shoes, ESPECIALLY if you’re planning to cliff dive. And please, make sure you digest your food first! That wouldn’t be fun…
REMEMBER – opt to either hike back up or take a taxi. Never ride a donkey, no matter what you do.
Visit Atlantis Books
Wandering around the main marble street of Oia you’ll undoubtedly come across Atlantis Books, the only independent bookstore in Santorini. Book lover? Be sure to head on in for tons of literary magic.
There’s literature in tons of languages (English, French, Italian, etc), and of course Greek. The shop focuses on new and used books of modern classic fiction and non-fiction, and has recently begun selling rare antiquarian books and collectors’ first editions. Look all around – there’s poetry written on the walls and even the ceiling! A true work of art!
Check out the stunning terrace in the back, which you can access if the shop is open. This is probably the most beautiful bookstore you’ll ever go to, overlooking the Santorini caldera and bright blue waters!
It seems as if the owners decide when the bookshop is open, as we attempted to go numerous times and it was always closed! Maybe we just got unlucky!
Photograph the Iconic Blue Domes
You can’t come to Santorini and not see and photograph the iconic blue domes – it’s by far one of the most popular things to do in Oia!
But I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Everyone kinda expects to see these famous blue domes everywhere in town, on every street corner and at every hotel. But that’s not the case at all. In reality, there’s only a handful in Oia, despite what all the postcards tell you (they’re all showcasing the famous view).
And the ones that are there are actually fairly hidden, off the main cobblestoned pedestrian path. Meaning, YOU NEED TO FIND THEM! Yes,you’ll need to know how to find them if you don’t accidentally run into them, which many people don’t.
From the main street of Oia, find a small alleyway (probably between some stores and/or restaurants) and walk towards the sea. You’ll reach a smaller street – walk on that, keep going, and you’ll find all the epic Oia blue domed churches.
If you can’t find it, keep wandering. It’s not hard to find if you’re walking along the caldera. If all else fails, you can always put “3 Domes” into Google Maps, but even those directions are kinda tricky.
There’s quite a few popular photo spots in Oia, and you may encounter a line. I get it – everyone loves the blue domes and wants their own photos with it. It’s iconic Santorini after all! As always, enjoy taking your photos, but be mindful of others who are waiting – you definitely did not “find” this perfect photo spot yourself. Just look on IG… Don’t be a photo hog – let others take their photos as well.
This was something that irritated me SO much on our last visit. Some people would shoot in the same spot for over 10 minutes, while there was a long line. If you think that’ll be you, visit in shoulder season or let others take their photos first. Or shoot for a few minutes and then get back on line… sorry, not sorry. Someone had to say it…
Photoshoots with a Professional Photographer
Flying Dress Photoshoot
While researching things to do in Oia, you probably came across women in colorful, glamorous dresses. Yes, that’s something YOU can do as well (and no, you don’t need to pack one of these extravagant dresses in your suitcase)!
Plenty of companies now offer “flying dress photoshoots”, meaning you can rent one of their gowns (in your choice of style and color), and a photographer and their assistant will create these stunning images for you!
Not sure what I’m talking about?! It’s wild… be sure to check out the link below. Make your fairytale come true on Santorini and leave the island with stunning photos! Read reviews and book your flying dress photoshoot here!
If you’d rather skip the crazy gown and wear your own clothes, consider hiring a local photographer and taking photos with your significant other. They know all the best spots and angles as they’re here everyday! Plus, it’s sometimes really windy so tripods don’t always work the best here.
I really wish my husband and I hired a photographer as of course we didn’t have as many cute photos together as I hoped we would from our trip! Next time for us for sure! Read reviews and book a local photographer here.
Explore the Crumbling Oia Castle at Sunrise
Everyone comes to Oia to watch the sunset, but I promise, the sunrise in Oia is also magical (if not more – there’s hardly any crowds)! And the best place to do so?! Oia Castle!!!
My jet lag was so bad during our entire trip, meaning I woke up at 4am almost every morning. Instead of tossing and turning, I used this to my advantage and walked over to the Oia Castle to watch the sunrise one morning. And OMG – watching the dark skies turn all shades of pastel pinks and purples was the best way to wake up.
The castle, built by Venetians back in the 15th century, served as an observation point to fight off the pirates (so many pirate raids here, just like in nearby Milos!). Unfortunately there was a super destructive earthquake in 1956, and only part of Oia Castle remains (most of it collapsed right into the Aegean Sea). It’s now one of the most popular things to do in Oia, especially at sunset!
Expect impressive views of the breathtaking caldera, the vast (and very blue) Aegean Sea, and even nearby volcanic islands (Thirasia and Nea Kameni) on a clear day.
You can of course explore the crumbling Oia Castle anytime of day (or at sunset), but I much prefer sunrise as it’s way quieter and such a peaceful way to start the day. Plus, if you visit during a time when it’s crowded (ahem, at sunset!), you won’t really get to explore at all – it’ll be far too crowded for that!
Cruise along the Caldera
One of the best ways to see Santorini? By cruising along the caldera on a catamaran at sea You’ll get to see the dramatic coastline, as well as all the little towns from afar (plus typically the Red Beach and black sanded beaches).
We love getting out on the water, so we always aim to spend at least one of our days in Greece doing just that! And of course we always have the best time! There’s tons and tons of choices (it’s not only one of the best things to do in Oia but in all of Santorini); here’s a few recommended options:
- Pirate Ship Cruise: This option really has it all. You’ll peer into the crater of an active volcano (I couldn’t believe just how hot it really was!), swim in volcanic hot springs, explore Fira, and even admire the sunset in Oia…. and it’s less than $30! On a boat that feels just like a pirate ship. Can’t go wrong with that! Read reviews and book your spot on the pirate ship here. We did this our first trip to Santorini and it was so much fun!
- Catamaran Cruise with Lunch/Dinner: Rather spend the day on a catamaran? This tour is for you – you’ll stop at Red Beach, swim at Mesa Pigadia beach, see the Akrotiri Lighthouse and the striking white limestone cliffs of White Beach, swim in volcanic hot springs, and even enjoy an authentic Greek lunch or dinner (depending on what time you choose). Read reviews and book your catamaran cruise here!
Like the idea of a boat tour but don’t wanna get wet? Opt for a sunset sail instead! Some tours are private, some serve a delicious Greek dinner, and others serve some bubbly (how romantic). Here’s a few recommended options:
1. Santorini Sunset Cruise: Okay, so this one also includes some swimming (and snorkeling), but if you’re looking to stay dry, simply admire the scenery instead (that’s what we did on our last sunset sail in Santorini). The cruise also visits the unique black, white, and red sand beaches from afar.
Feast on traditional Greek meze and barbeque, then sip local wines and of course have some dessert! And once the day is done, you’ll witness that legendary Santorini sunset from the water. Read reviews and book your Santorini sunset cruise here!
2. Small-Group Romantic Cruise: Drink from the open bar (try some ouzo!), feast on traditional Greek dishes, and experience the marvelous caldera of Santorini. OH, and of course admire the spectacular colors of the world-famous Santorini sunset. You can also dip into the hot springs by Nea Kameni volcano if you wish!
This cruise is more relaxing than the others, so if you need a day to sit back and relax, this might be the best option for you. There’s a reason it’s got almost 300 5-star reviews. Book your romantic dinner sunset cruise here!
Psst – if that one’s sold out, this one comes with raving reviews as well! And the cheese platter looks divine!
Find the Oia Windmills
There are actually about 70 windmills in Santorini, but only a handful in the tiny village of Oia. They’re a prominent landmark in the Oia landscape. Like the windmills in Mykonos, they just add to the charm of the already super picturesque area!
And get this – you can even stay in one of these ultra luxurious windmill villas! Yup, a few windmills have been converted to chic hotel rooms, most notably at Charisma Suites (where we stayed in Oia and quite possibly my favorite hotel in all of Santorini).
While we didn’t get to stay in the windmill, our room was located directly next door, so we had fantastic views of it.
PLEASE, if you are not staying here, do not attempt to trespass. While most people were respectful, there were a handful of people who we saw climbing over fences, opening up private doors, and more. Don’t be one of them!
Instead view them from afar; you’ll see them right from Oia Castle and they are just as gorgeous!
The Church of Panagia Platsani
As you’re wandering around the marble walkway of Oia, you’ll undoubtedly come across the Church of Panagia Platsani in the main square! It’s easily the most famous and impressive church in Oia! Like other buildings in Santorini, it boasts the traditional colors of Cycladic architecture – blue and white!
This Greek orthodox church has spotless white walls, a blue dome, and the beautiful bell tower with six bells – such an iconic image of Santorini, and one of the best things to do in Oia!
If you wanna take pics, come early as it gets exceptionally crowded over here! And that harsh sun makes for some nasty shadows! We had a hard time taking photos despite it being only 10am – the sun was already so high in the sky.
Shop for Local Crafts
Expect to find tons of painted artwork (all more beautiful than the last), hand-painted wooden doors, painted wine barrel pieces, hand painted bowls, colorful plates and platters, small sculptures and ceramics, handblown glassware, prints, and postcards.
Besides the local crafts, you’ll also find plenty of casual linen shirts, colorful shawls (perfect to have on hand when it’s windy on the Greek islands), colorful sundresses and sarongs, bathing suits, table cloths, and evil eye jewelry (my favorite!).
And of course there’s the typical souvenirs in Oia as well – magnets with views of the blue domed churches, blue and white patterned towels, sea-inspired ceramic magnets, olive oil and capers, lots of little trinkets, and oh so much more. I recommend stopping by the shops once the sun sets and the air cools off – it’ll be a much more pleasant experience!
I don’t have names of any shops, but stroll around on the pedestrian pathway and you’ll find tons. We kinda just popped in and out of whatever looked interesting to us!
Sip some Santorini wines on a Wine Tour
If you love a good grape, you need to try some Santorini wine. Not everyone knows this, but there are plenty of wineries and even actual vineyards right here in Santorini (although not as extensive as the vineyards I have back home in Napa Valley).
Most of the vineyards are located in the middle of the island, and if you wanna visit a few (remember, don’t drink and ATV), book yourself on a tour! Most tours visit 3 different wineries, and you’ll get to taste 10-12 different wines, plus check out some smaller villages you may have missed!
Here’s a great half-day tour of 3 wineries (with tastings of course), and a guided wine tasting tour with views of the caldera. Really can’t go wrong with either!
Okay, so these tours aren’t necessarily things to do in Oia itself. BUT you can get picked up from your hotel in Oia, and missing out on these special Santorini wines would be absolutely horrible, so we’re including it on this list of things to do in Oia.
If you don’t wanna sign up for a wine tour or have less time, the closest winery to the village of Oia is called Domaine Sigalas, 10 minutes north of Oia. This Greek vineyard specializes in a particular type of grape (Assyrtiko), and the vines are centuries old! Go for the wine and food pairing – you won’t be disappointed. The wines are so good they’re actually exported world wide!
Relax at your hotel
Sure, you may have come to Oia to see the sites, but nothing is better than spending a bit of time relaxing at your hotel, especially if you’re on your honeymoon. And if you opt for a cave suite and/or a room with a private plunge pool, you’ll wanna take full advantage. I mean, you probably paid a pretty penny for it!
Lay out, sunbathe, relax, sip some bubbly. You’re on vacation. Sip your morning latte frio overlooking the caldera, and soak up the views from breakfast.
Swim in an infinity pool overlooking the caldera
In order to fully maximize this experience, I highly advise you to choose accommodation on the caldera with an infinity pool overlooking the scenic Mediterranean Sea. There really isn’t anything like it in the world, and I practically beg all my friends who visit Santorini to opt for a hotel with an infinity pool overlooking the caldera.
This is always a non-negotiable when we visit (even if we have to cut corners for a bit beforehand because yes, these hotels are typically pretty pricey). After exploring all morning, there’s nothing better than a mid-afternoon swim. Easily one of the best things to do in Oia if you’re visiting in the hot summer months.
If you’re unfortunately not staying at a hotel with a pool, don’t fret! There’s one public pool in Santorini and it’s actually in Oia! It’s called the Lioyerma Pool Bar, and it’s FREE (with minimum purchase of food and drink… yup, they always get you somehow). It’s actually a great spot to watch the sunset, as it’s west facing!
Rent an ATV and explore the island
Yes, I know this is a post about all the amazing things to do in Oia, but… don’t miss out on other spots in Santorini! Oia is wonderful and all (did you see all my pictures?!), but I highly recommend renting an ATV and exploring at your own pace!
Here’s a few spots you’ll wanna check out:
Red Beach: With its red volcanic rocks, red pebbles, and rust-colored sand, it’s an easy guess as to why the beach is simply named “Red Beach”! We typically just look at the panoramic view from above, as the sand isn’t very smooth and there’s too many rocks for an enjoyable swim.
If you do wanna reach the beach down below, you’ll need to take a short 15-minute “hike”. On our first trip to Santorini we opted to walk down to the beach, laid on the rocky (and therefore uncomfortable) sand for about 20 minutes than called it a day – there’s much better beaches to relax on.
Perissa Beach: This is one of Santorini’s black sand beaches, and a good place to pop down for a bit and savor the Greek sun. The black volcanic sand is extremely hot hot hot, so take your sandals with you if you go into the water (or run back miserably like I did…). This stretch of sand is lined with restaurants and bars, and be sure to grab a gyro and a cocktail here!
Small Towns: Santorini’s got plenty of smaller towns, and you’d be silly to miss out on them! Plus, if you’re tired of battling the crowds in Oia, it’s time to leave for a bit. A few smaller villages to check out include Imerovigli, Pyrgos, Firostefani, and Megalochori (which is starting to become insta-famous).
Fira (Thera): Can’t visit Santorini and not visit the capital of the island! You can even see views of Nea Kameni, an active volcanic island to the west. Fira is by far the most touristy place in all of Santorini, so I recommend heading there for an hour or two at most.
Along with all the white washed buildings and dramatic cliff side views, you’ll find eye-catching art galleries, tons of souvenir shops, and plenty and plenty of (overpriced) restaurants.
Profitis Ilias Mountain Peak: Welcome to the highest spot on the island! And Profitis Ilias, translated to Prophet Elijah, is the name of the Monastery on its peak as well (yes, it’s confusing). But once you reach the vantage point, you’ll have a striking viewpoint of the entire island.
If navigating the island via ATV scares your socks off, consider joining a fully guided bus tour to all the hot spots in Santorini. Not only will you visit Santorini’s most popular sites and learn about its history, but you’ll also visit traditional villages, volcanic beaches and witness one of those spectacular Oia sunsets everyone raves about!
If you want to guarantee you see the island and have enough time for the beach (on another day), I highly recommend joining this tour in order to get it all in. Read reviews and book your guided bus tour here!
Nightlife in Oia
While everyone comes to Oia to watch the sunset, once the sun goes down, there’s not really much nightlife in Oia afterwards. Sure, you can browse the shops, but Oia is far from the buzzy nightlife hotspot that other spots are, like the nearby islands of Mykonos and Ios.
There’s a few bars in the village, but honestly, not many. Interested in dancing until the wee hours of the night and don’t wanna leave Oia? Check out MaryKay’s Bar (Hassapiko) – the only true cocktail bar in the entire village. There’s sometimes even DJ’s here (a super rare occurrence in Oia).
If you’re looking for a true nightlife experience, head on over to Fira or Perissa (there’s considerably more bars over there). Makes sense, as most people in Oia aren’t looking to party – but rather experience the romantic appeal of Oia (oo la la) and all its beauty.
Best restaurants in Oia
I was surprised just how good the food was in Oia – being super touristy I kinda expected the food to just be blah. I’ve heard some people complain about the uninventive and bland food, but you just gotta know where to look and what to try.
Greeks love their seafood (especially grilled octopus), so I highly recommend ordering as much as you can while in Santorini. You’ll also wanna try saganaki (fried cheese), ntomatokeftedes (cherry tomato and feta fritters), fava, grilled white eggplant, gyros, and of course, honey baklava.
Psst: In general, the restaurants with the best food don’t have a caldera view. You kinda either get one or the other – amazing food or amazing views, but hardly ever both.
Some restaurants you’ll wanna make a reservation for a day or two in advance. Ask your hotel for help and they can call the restaurants for you (since you probably won’t have international calling on your cell).
- $ Karma: Easily has some of the best dishes in all of Oia. Think fried feta with sesame seeds and honey, marinated pear and walnut salad, minced beef and spiced apple pies, and of course, excellent baklava. You’ll wanna make a reservation here.
- $ PitaGyros Traditional Grill House: Super casual and super cheap (with most gyros only 4 euro). Some of the best gyros you’ll find on the island. What makes gyros so special in Greece? The huge portion of fries on top!
- $ Lolita’s Gelato: Right near the Oia bus stop, so treat yourself before/after heading elsewhere. The spot is super cute and I couldn’t get enough of the branding.
- $ Passaggio: The best coffee in Oia, hands down.
- $$ Ammoudi Fish Tavern: The best spot in Ammoudi Bay, with excellent sea views and even better seafood. You don’t need a reservation for lunch, but consider making one for dinner. There’s fried anchovies and zucchini, seafood risotto, grilled octopus and sea bass, and of course lobster and jumbo prawns.
- $$ Sunset Ammoudi Taverna: Another great option in Ammoudi Bay. Try the lobster pasta and/or sun dried octopus!
- $$ Armeni Restaurant: Choose your fish from the catch of the day! All the seafood dishes are super fresh. You do need to take a boat ride here, which makes it more of an activity than just a meal. We were SO close to coming here but decided to lay by the pool for a few extra hours instead, whoops! Next time!
- $$ Roka: Such a charming location, away from the masses so it stays relatively quiet. Try the lobster spaghetti with truffle foam, cauliflower soup, fried talagani cheese, and coffee crème brulee.
- $$ Fino Cocktail Bar and Restaurant: We loved this cozy spot so much that we came twice during our few days in Santorini! They’re famous for their gnocchi and their extensive cocktail list. You’ll wanna make a reservation in advance.
- $$$ Elinikon Oia Restaurant: If you’re looking for one of the most romantic things to do in Oia, book a table at Elinikon for sunset! You’ll 100% wanna make a reservation here. They serve meze, which are small dishes perfect for sharing with your significant other.
- $$$ Ambrosia: Make reservations far, far in advance. Expect a candlelit meal on white linen tablecloths on a terrace overlooking the Aegean Sea. Try the grilled steak with truffle, pesto baby squid, and duck in wine sauce. And definitely save room for the Greek Kataifi for dessert!
Which of these fun things to do in Oia are you most excited about?! Hope this helps you plan your trip to Santorini! It’s gonna be absolutely epic!