A Complete Guide to Oia Santorini for the Luxury Traveller

Santorini is calling and I must go“. This anonymous quote has the right idea. Santorini is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. Situated in the Aegean Sea, Santorini is the southern most island of Cyclades and a destination that has mesmerised tourists for decades.

It is well-known for its awe-inspiring sunset views over the caldera, a word you’ll see mentioned repeatedly to explain the crater that was made from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Aside from the infamous sunsets, it’s a place where guests can forget the outside world and simply enjoy the beauty of this little Greek island paradise that has become so well-loved. For the ultimate luxury experience in Greece, Oia Santorini should be at the top of every travellers’ list and this travel guide will help plan it all for those first time visitors.

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Oia Santorini

How Many Days in Santorini is Enough?

Of course, every traveller will have their own preferences on how long to remain at a particular holiday destination. If travelling to Santorini to simply see the sights and the sunset, 2 days is enough. It may be worth visiting during the spring or autumn months to avoid the crowds of tourists that swarm the island over the summer.

If the aim of the trip is some much needed rest and relaxation, consider stretching out your Santorini trip to a minimum of 5 days. This will allow a few days to lounge around by the pool, as well as time to explore some of the island. But for the ultimate Santorini break, 2 weeks would be ideal!

Santorini Airport to Oia

Santorini (Thira) National Airport is the only airport on the island. It is also the only major airport in the Cyclades Islands, so whether flying commercial or by private aircraft this will be where travellers land. There are many ways of travelling from the airport to Oia, depending on the need for comfort and ease, and budget.

TransportationTime to OiaCostAdditional Info
Rental Car25 minutesobtain quote here– advisable to collect from airport, even if arriving in Santorini by ferry
– an International Drivers Permit is required
– motorcycles are not advisable due to the bumpy roads
Taxi25 minutesLess than €35– Uber does not operate in Santorini
– limited number of taxis on the island
– it is recommended to book a private airport transfer
– the taxi station phone number is +30 2286022555
Airport Transfers25 minutesobtain quote here– shared or private airport transfers can be booked in advance
– airport transfers can also be booked via your Santorini hotel
Public Transport
(KTEL buses)
25 minutes to Fira,
30 minutes from
Fira to Oia
€1.80 to €2.80 depending
on route and time
– cheapest travel option
– buses may become overcrowded
– the central bus station is located in Fira
– tickets are issued inside the bus, cash-only
– the Santorini Airport public bus service does not run at night

Is Oia The Best Place to Stay in Santorini?

The island of Santorini offers a plethora of stunning hotels in different locations to suit every traveller. Two parts of the island are worth noting: the caldera side on the western coast and the beach side on the south eastern coast. The caldera side offers those infamous sunset and volcano views, but this comes with a price tag. Hotels in towns like Oia, Fira, Imerovigli and Firostefani may offer the best views, but will be much more expensive than hotels on the beach side.

That said, the beach side is ideal for those wanting to swim in the ocean and perhaps for those travelling on a lower budget. Travellers staying on the eastern side of the island will enjoy sea views of the Aegean, however views if evening views of the sunset and cliffs are your priority, the caldera is for you!

Oia and Fira are the two main villages on the caldera side. Oia is the more luxurious; offering mesmerising sunset views, fine dining restaurants and lavish hotels. Once the sun sets it becomes much quieter, with travellers moving on to Fira for lively bars, restaurants and nightlife. Here are some of the best hotels to book in both villages.

Oia Luxury Hotels

  • Santo Maris Oia Suites & Spa: a newly opened adult-only luxury resort for travellers wanting a secluded getaway that’s right next door to the heart of Oia. Be sure to check out the full Dukes Avenue review on Santo Maris Oia for more info and snaps of the hotel’s infinity pool!
  • Aspaki by Art Maisons: located in the centre of the village of Oia and adjacent to one of the most beautiful spots for photography next to the three blue domes.
  • Andronis Boutique Hotel: a luxury hotel with traditional Aegean style and minimalistic design, Andronis rooms each have a private balcony with sea views.
  • Canaves Oia Luxury Suites & Spa: 17th century cave houses have been expertly converted into luxuriously chic hotel rooms that are perfect for romantic getaways. If Canaves Oia Luxury Suites & Spa are fully booked, be sure to check out its sister hotel Canaves Oia Sunday Suites.

Fira Luxury Hotels

Seaview of Oia Santorini

Top Santorini Restaurants

As expected of most places in the Mediterranean, Santorini is home to some incredible restaurants that offer their diners a feast of Greek cuisine, featuring flavours of fresh fish, olive oil, lemon, rosemary and a whole host of other herbs. Whilst in Oia, there are a few exquisite eateries that are worth checking out.

  • Lauda: The village’s first restaurant built in 1971, transformed into a fine-dining eatery at the Adronis Boutique Hotel. Exquisite food with a a Santorini flair, prepared by Michelin-starred chefs.
  • Alios Ilios: A fine-dining restaurant located at the Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa, featuring local ingredients and spectacular sunset views, with a live pianist, saxophonist or harpist.
  • Ammoudi Fish Tavern: A local fish restaurant specialising in delicious fresh fish dishes.
  • Roka: Arguably one of the best restaurants in Santorini for delicious Greek cuisine.
  • Canaves Oia Panorama Balcony Experience: a table for one in a secluded and intimate terrace at the Canaves Oia hotel, perfect for a special occasion.
  • The Athenian House: located in Imerovigli, but worth driving down from Oia for both the food and the views! The Athenian House is typical Greek restaurant serving local dishes using fresh produce, with a great selection of Santorini wine.

Things to Do in Oia, Santorini

Santorini is the kind of place which lends itself to just kicking back and taking it easy – and that is fully encouraged! In fact, unlike most other Dukes Avenue travel guides, this itinerary will include experiences you can’t miss out on, as well as actual places to see.

Take In the Sunset Views

Whatever is seen in pictures does not come close to the awe felt when seeing it in real life. The sunset sky glows red, and it burns its image in travellers’ minds forever.  It’s important to note the time sunset occurs to avoid disappointment. There are plenty of viewpoints of the sun setting over the caldera, however be warned that many other tourists have the same idea. For those wanting to experience the sunset views in privacy, it’s best to book a hotel where it can be enjoyed with a glass of wine on the balcony.

Admittedly, many hotels in Oia do not have true sunset views given its location on the north western tip of the island. On the other hand, Oia hotels will often have views of the sunset setting over the town, but not into the sea. There are a few Oia hotels however, that do offer a view of a true sunset that sets over the sea such as Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa. The sunset views from their poolside restaurant Alios Ilios are sensational, and whilst the restaurant does not offer caldera views, the crowds of tourists are also absent.

The best sunset views can be found in Imerovigli, about a 15 minute drive south of Oia. Imerovigli sits high on a cliff and offers some great views of both the sunset and the caldera, without the mass crowds of tourists that Oia attracts. Whilst in Imerovigli, it is highly recommended to reserve a table at the delicious Greek restaurant, Athenian House. Images in this article were shot just a few metres away from the entrance. Note that the street is unnamed, so you might need to ask your taxi driver to guide you to the restaurant. Can anyone think of a more perfect evening than jaw-dropping sunsets and mouth-watering local food?

The Byzantine Ruins & Oia Castle

For those that are not fazed by being surrounded by tourists, some of the most phenomenal views of the Santorini sunset can be seen from the Byzantine Castle Ruins. These are the ruins of a 17th century medieval castle that offers the epitome of Oia sunset viewing over the Aegean sea and houses within the village.

Visit the Naval Maritime Museum of Thera

The museum that calls a restored 19th century mansion home. Oia owes much of its economic prosperity to its merchant fleet that traded in the Eastern Mediterranean. The maritime museum highlights the maritime history of the island, and proudly displays old maritime equipment, drawings and models of old and new ships, rare photographs and a library showcasing the best of the Hellenic Navy.

A blue dome in Oia Santorini

The Oia Village Centre

It’s worth bearing in mind that the village centre of Oia becomes absolutely packed with tourists in the afternoon, particularly because all of the cruise ships that drop off thousands of passengers on the island. This number can reach 50,000 tourists during peak season! To avoid this, it is recommended to explore Oia’s town centre early in the morning, and explore other areas in Santorini from about noon onwards.  It will make the whole experience less overwhelming.

Browse Atlantis Books

Situated on Nomikos Street is the quaint and quirky Atlantis Books – a bookstore that sells both new and used books across a range of subjects, all while overlooking the Oia Santorini caldera. When strolling down the main street, popping in to this cave of wonders is an absolute must!

Oia Santorini is very much an art lovers paradise. The hues of pink, orange and red in the sky against the blues of the ocean and swimming pools all provide a rich source of inspiration for artists and sculptures, and their work can be seen at a number of local galleries worth exploring. Galleries which come highly recommended include: Oia Treasures Art Gallery, Galanopoulos Art Gallery and Mnemossyne Gallery.

Ekklisia Panagia Platsani

The main square of Oia is easily recognisable thanks to the Ekklisia Panagia Platsani, a Greek Orthodox church with six bells. The bells cast a shadow on those pure white walls and the lamp posts look a little like blue candy cane. Locals often take a seat on the steps nearby, just watching the thousands of visitors admire their hometown in awe.

The Three Blue Domes

The three blue domes are another must-see whilst in Oia, yet not necessarily the easiest to find without knowing where to go. They are definitely worth finding though, as it is the perfect location for some spectacular Santorini photography. Once in the main street in Oia’s town centre, locate the Ekklisia Panagia Platsani above. If facing the church, walk to your left. Once you see the Gold and Silver Market store, walk down that narrow alleyway opposite until you see the sea and blue domes have become such an iconic Santorini shot.

The white rooftops, the blue domes, those mysterious bells and a gorgeous view of the Aegean. Little hot tubs dotted around can also be seen from this viewpoint – they were all of a metre and a half long but that clear blue against the pure white walls with the dark blue Aegean in the background makes everything feel somewhat surreal.

Ammoudi Bay

Ammoudi Bay is definitely somewhere that warrants a visit. If not for the swimming, then at least for the food! From the main town, just ask for directions to the stairs that will take you down to Ammoudi Bay. Simply walk down the stairs until the bay (pretty please don’t use the poor mules in the sweltering heat!).

When ready from your swim, it is highly recommended to try some of the delicious seafood at Ammoudi Tavern whilst in Ammoudi Bay. A reservation is highly recommended! The restaurant is easily recognisable by the octopuses strung out on a piece of string in the sun, drying out before being placed on the grill. It’s the perfect spot for more Santorini photography by the water, or indulging in a seafood extravaganza!

Ammoudi Bay is also the location where many caldera boat tours depart.

A Sunset Caldera Boat Ride

If there is one thing that is absolutely essential whilst holidaying in Santorini, it’s a boat ride around the volcanic islands of Palaia Kammeni and Nea Kammeni. Following several volcano eruptions over hundreds of years, the once sole island of Santorini became five (Santorini, Therasia, an uninhabited island called Aspronisi and the volcanic islands of Palaia Kammeni and Nea Kammeni) and a boat tour will give you the most picturesque views of them. The tour takes place both in the morning and evening, with the evening tour offering the most picturesque views of the infamous Santorini sunset.

There are a whole host of boat tours and a range of prices. Naturally, the higher the price, the more luxurious and convenient. The boat tours depart from different parts of the island so before booking, ensure that it leaves from a bay close to where you are staying. For example, it is definitely cheaper to join a boat tour that departs in Akrotiri, but if staying in Oia, then that entails a 3 hour drive south to make the boat. This could be problematic if taking the morning boat ride.

The cost also reflects how many people will board the boat, and what type of boat will be boarded. The lower the price, the more people on the boat. Boat tours can be booked through Sunset Oia, come with lunch and free flowing wine and beer. Sunset Oia also offers private tours if preferred, for those special occasions. Evening tours come complete with dinner.

These tours will likely include a visit to the hot springs. Note: it is not advisable to wear white bathing suits here as the sulphur compounds will stain them yellow. If only travelling with white swimwear and reluctant to buy another one (especially in the main town of Oia where they are all highly overpriced), then fret not – the hot springs are not as hot as the name ‘hot springs’ suggests, and can be missed! There is ample opportunity to swim at the popular White Beach and Red Beach stops.

Visit a Local Winery

Santorini is well-known for its wines and a stop at a local winery is well-worth booking in advance. There are plenty of wine tours available that will take guests to a number of wineries across the island, offering tours and wine tasting. For those staying in Oia and on a tight schedule, the winery to visit is Domaine Sigalas, just a 30 minutes walk from Oia’s centre.

Domaine Sigalas tours have fantastic reviews, offering award-winning wines that are sold both across the Greek islands, as well as internationally. The price of the tour starts at a reasonable €12 per person and can hold as many as 40 guests, making it the perfect location for a hens or bachelorette party. For those with a little more time, a 6-course seasonal tasting menu is also available.

Something to Keep in Mind

Santorini offers some of the most picturesque photoshoot locations in the world and admittedly, they can be hard to resist. Unfortunately, some tourists are more prepared than others to get that picture perfect shot – no matter the cost. It is not unusual to see people climbing over wire barriers and onto the curved white rooftops, so that they could pose for what would appear to be the perfect Instagram shot. Some of these rooftops had large storeys drop and this could be seriously dangerous. Aside from that, remember that this is likely someone else’s private property, and no photo opportunity warrants trespassing.

If you’ve been to Santorini and have any more suggestions on things to do, hotels or villas to book or places to see that aren’t mentioned here, please drop them below in the comments!


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6 Comments

  1. Elena Isabelle
    13th August 2019 / 11:08 am

    santorini just looks like a fairytale. I must visit asap.
    ❤︎

    • sarahborgbarthet
      Author
      13th August 2019 / 11:20 am

      It felt a little like a fairy tale too! I hope you make it there soon!

      xx

  2. 14th August 2019 / 8:47 am

    Awesome Tips ! Thank you Sarah !

    • sarahborgbarthet
      Author
      14th August 2019 / 4:28 pm

      Most welcome! Glad it was useful!! xx

  3. 15th August 2019 / 10:27 pm

    Oh Santorini is so beautiful. Hard to believe it is even more gorgeous in real life than the photos but it really is!

    • sarahborgbarthet
      Author
      20th August 2019 / 12:47 pm

      I think I’d have to agree with you there! The sunsets were just mind blowing!! xxx

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