(If you rather see the pictures, here they are)
Describing Oia in a blog post is very easy — we went to Oia and stayed there for 2 days :-). Because there isn’t anything else you do in Oia — you get there and enjoy it.
On the other hand, Oia is a place where tourists line up 3 hours before a sunset to see it. Often, tourists duke it out to get the best picture of the sunset. Chinese/Asian? brides (more in another blog) walk around in their wedding dresses to take their dream wedding picture.
Beauty against the contrast of heavy cardio workout in a hot, humid environment is how I remember Oia.
Oia is not for weak knees, you are either climbing up or you are going down and that in the humidity of the island is a killer. What is amazing is that each hotel has a porter that makes this trip multiple times a day with bags on their shoulders or on a dolly.
Gaining the conditioning and strength of a Oia porter is my ideal health goal now. Perhaps time to move to Oia :-).
Sunset in Oia — Byzantine ruins
Oia is at the edge of the island with the Byzantine ruins jutting out at 45 degrees on one side of the island. The Byzantine ruins is the place that you wait up for the sunset.
It is packed at sunset time! Officials close access to this part of the island about an hour before the sunset.
I was told by a national geographic photographer that he reached 3 hours before the sunset and then a fight started right before the sunset and he couldn’t capture the pictures.
My recommendation is to go past the ruins and take the steps to go to the port and stop mid-way to get pictures of the sunset. This is where we got the pictures to the sunset.
Some people take the cruise that starts on the other side of the island to catch the sunset. The cruise brings them near Oia port where they hang around like a bunch young punks and then break up as soon as the sunset is over. I heard that the boat ride is choppy. We unfortunately had a couple of days of greyed out skies and didn’t quite get a great picture. That said, it is surreal to hear whole bunch of tourists clap for the sunset. I couldn’t but help think that most people wouldn’t care two hoots for sunsets whichever city that they come from and here in Oia, we had them clapping for a no-show sunset.
View from Byzantine Ruins — Windmills and Imerovigli
The view from the ruins is gorgeous. You see the famous windmills on one side and the town of Imerovigli on the other. I really loved walking from the ruins to the windmills (a 15 minute low cardio work out :-)).
The walk around in Oia is gorgeous.
We had dinner in a beautiful spot called Thalami and loved the food and the restaurant staff.
Imergovigli town is mid-way between Fira and Oia and pretty non descript but with an easy access to Fira bells and some good food.
Staying in Oia and Imerovgili
We stayed in Oia Mare in Oia which is near the base of the windmills and overlooks the ruins. The hotel has rooms which are like the traditional caves of Oia is fantastic, the people managing the hotels are fantastic, the views are fantastic too.
I will highly highly recommend staying here.
We stayed in Senses Boutique hotel in Imergovigli, which has a fantastic view of the Calderra. Unfortunately for us, my wife got allergies to something in the hotel. The hotel staff changed our rooms and things got better but not that much.
I captured some great sunset pictures on the way to Fira from Imerovigli. The three bells of Fira is the best place to capture the Santorini sunset — better than Oia.
Other parts of the Island — Lighthouse, Red Beach and Perissa Beach
The lighthouse and red beach are an interesting touch point but you wouldn’t miss much if you didn’t head there. The next picture is a stop over point just before the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself is unimpressive.
We stopped at the Vylachada port where you take the cruises. It was a fairly small port and we were quite surprised to see how small it was.
Perissa beach on the other hand had a very nice laid back feel to it.
This is where we truly felt that we had hit the island life :-). We headed to a dive restaurant called Tranquillo and truly felt tranquil — perhaps it was the beer :-).
The drive to the other side of the island has numerous bakeries on the way. At one spot, we saw a group of painters and the funny thing was that all the paint marks on their clothes were Oia white because there are no other colors used.
No colors — a terrible life as a painter!
There are numerous shops with local artists along the drive and we visited a few of them and bought some unique island pottery.
Summary of Santorini trip
Santorini with the towns of Oia, Fira, Imerovigli is a fantastic place to visit and I’d say the hype matches the actual experience.