With its traditional clifftop cave-style houses with walls of white and blue accents, Oia is the stuff of romantic dreams.
It is the true pearl of Thira, an enchanted destination that draws hundreds of tourists in the quest for the perfect Greek holiday, and artists who have discovered its unique magic. It is a busy village, and after you spend a few hours walking up and down its stairways, you are sure to fall under its powerful spell. The locals also call this haven on Earth Apano Meria (Pano Meria), and also Anomeria, and the villagers are often called Apanomerites.
The magic Apano Meria is built in the slope of the caldera, and you can admire stupendous sea views from most of its parts. The walks in the village will help you work up an appetite, and it’s well worth it, considering the many taverns that serve delicious local fare and fine wines.
More typically Greek than Athens itself, Oia is a symbol of beauty in its own right. It’s what people usually see when they think of Santorini, the most photographed place in the Cyclades, a remarkable chunk of coastline, with narrow winding paths and stairways, taking you up to the highest vantage point, for the loveliest seascapes imaginable. Long before the tourist invasion, the village was one of the two harbors of ancient Thera, and in the XIX and XX centuries, before the earthquake of 1956, which cut its glory short, this was one of the most affluent parts of Greece. Some of the houses built at the highest peaks of the village still remind of those times. And after the 1956 quake, it didn’t take long for the locals to rebuild the village, bringing it back from the rubble, just like a phoenix reborns from its own ashes. Their efforts resulted into a picture perfect tourist village, the pride of the Cyclades.
You don’t have to be an artist to fall under Oia’s magic spell. But you do have to spend more than a day here to enjoy this place with all it has to offer. Even at its peak season, in high summer, when its streets are cramped by the crowds, Oia is still a balm for the soul. Grab your camera and capture its beauty: a small church here, the landmark windmill there, and bougainvillea everywhere, giving the village that spectacular shine when in bloom. For the best views of the Caldera, head to the pinnacle point of Oia, the ruined castle of the Argyri family, also known as Fort Londsa, which gives you stunning 360° views of the breathtaking scenery. And nothing quite compares to gazing at the sunset from Oia’s Sunset Seranade point. But even our own hotel, the Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa, offers a perfect location for watching the sunset: right next to the famous cliffs of the Sunset Seranade point.
Don’t leave without a souvenir: find your way through the crowds, to discover Oia’s shopping opportunities. There are plenty of tourist traps, sure, but there are also some nice galleries, showcasing outstanding local arts and handicrafts, jewelry, and ethnic goods, although some will insist that you respect their “no photo” policy. You will also find a great bookstore, Atlantis Books, with a good selection of English and other foreign language books. Don’t miss Oia’s Weaving Mill for fine textiles produced locally.
Although small, Oia has a big heart, authentic traditions, and proud history. You can discover its past visiting the local Naval Maritime Museum, which displays models of old and new Thiran ships, rare photographs, and rare documents, in a 19th century mansion, restored and converted for this purpose. There is also a Museum of Musical Instruments in Oia, revealing the village’s musical tradition in the ancient years.