10 Best Things to Do in Oia – What is Oia Famous For?

Things to do in Oia, Santorini? Below are the ten best ones and many other tips 😉

A trip to Santorini cannot be completed without visiting the most picturesque and famous town on the island, Oia (pronounced Ee-uh).

Located on the northwestern tip of Santorini, Oia is famous for its breathtaking sweeping views, magical sunsets and picture-perfect scenery with whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches, cobblestone alleys and charming traditional Cycladic hotels carved into the rock face of a cliff.

Oia’s first settlements date back to medieval times when St. Nicolas Castle was built to protect the northern part of the island. Nowadays Oia is booming with tourism and it’s one of the dreamiest and most photographed places on earth.

During my second visit to Santorini, I decided to stay in Oia for a few nights and explore this part of the island more. There are several interesting things to do in Oia and I compiled a list of the ten best ones below.

The famous three blue-domed church and houses of the top of the cliff in the village of Oia, Santorini
It looks familiar, doesn’t it?

10 Best Things to Do in Oia Santorini

1 – Soak in the breathtaking views

Because of its geographical location on the northwestern edge of a cliff between 70 and 100m (230 and 330 feet) above sea level, Oia provides magnificent views of the famous volcano, the deep blue sparkling Aegean Sea, and other Santorini villages.

From Oia, you can take in the complete dramatic Santorini landscape, including the whole length of the main island Thira, Ammoudi Bay and Thirassia Island.

Ammoudi Bay, Santorini
The beautiful Ammoudi Bay

And there are plenty of places where you can appreciate the gorgeous vistas in Oia.

From the ruins of the castle to cafes, bars, restaurants, paths and even from your balcony, in case you’re lucky enough to stay at one of the hotels with a caldera view.

Two blue-domed churches, a salmon bell tower, whitewashed houses on the top of a cliff in the village of Oia, Santorini, and in the background the deep blue Agean Sea and a long cliff

2 – Explore the paths, alleys and stairwells of Oia

The scenic town of Oia extends for almost 2 Km (1.2 mi) and has two main squares and a central street that crosses the top of the cliff branching off through narrow passageways.

But Oia’s main pedestrian strip can get very crowded, especially in the summer, with loads of tourists.

If you want to see a much quieter town, find good locations for pictures and places where you can enjoy the views peacefully, you should delve into Oia’s winding streets, alleys and stairwells.

My top recommendation is the southern part of Oia, towards Fira, which is very serene because many tourists don’t go there. It’s indeed stunning and the perfect photo location for a picture with whitewashed houses in the background.

The area around the windmills is also lovely and there are houses painted in different pastel colours and vivid flowers. It only gets busy during the sunset.

Remember to go off the beaten track and explore Oia’s paths, alleys and stairwells.

Pericles Rosa wearing a white hat, sunglasses, marine-blue scarf, white t-shirt and a marine blue short on an alley in Oia, Santorini, with some white-washed houses in the background
I adore this part of Oia!

3- Walk the path between Oia and Fira

Oia is accessible by car, taxi, bus and foot from Fira.

In fact, there is a 10 km path connecting the villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia.

One of the best things to do in Oia is to walk this path, which can take from 2 to 5 hours.

After leaving the town there will be some hills and unpaved parts that can be a bit challenging, especially because of the heat and seasonal mosquitos.

two people with hiking sticks walking the path between Fira and Oia and the village of Oia in the background
Leaving the town of Oia

But once you get to Imerovigli, the path is paved and much more pleasant.

You’ll pass by numerous hotels, restaurants, picturesque houses, churches and shops in Firostefani and Fira.

The path provides impressive caldera vistas, especially from Firostefani to Fira, where you face the caldera constantly.

If you want some adventure and have spare time, you should definitely hike the path from Fira to Oia.

A man wearing a light red t-shirt and beige short walking on a path in the village of Imerovigli, Santorini, with several whitewashed houses and a blue-domed church surrounding him
A man walking the path between Oia and Fira

4 – Watch the Acclaimed Oia Sunset

Oia is famous worldwide for its beauty, glamorous luxury hotels with infinity pools and incredible sunsets.

Of course one of the best things to do in Oia is to take in this glorious sight.

You can see it from the main street, bars, restaurants, viewpoints, Ammoudi Bay and even from your hotel if you’re staying in a hotel with a sunset view.

No matter where you go, this spectacle of nature will not disappoint you.

The most popular place in Oia to watch the acclaimed Santorini sunset is the ruins of the old Venetian castle. But it can get overcrowded and you might need to get there at least one hour in advance.

From Oia castle you can watch the sun curving towards the sea, the sky being painted with layers of yellow and orange and the whitewashed houses gleaming. When it starts getting dark, shades of gold, orange and amber streak across the sky, and the white houses light up like candles sparkling in the twilight. It’s magical!

5 – Take the steps down to Ammoudi Bay

One of the best things to do in Oia is to take the 240+ steps down to Ammoudi Bay.

This tiny idyllic cove at Oia’s foothill is enveloped by impressive red cliffs with crystal-clear turquoise water and boasts taverns serving delicious seafood and Greek specialities.

At Ammoudi Bay you can also find a great spot to watch the sunset.

However, dining and watching the sunset at the picturesque harbour is very popular in Santorini and reservations are highly recommended.

boats on the water and whitewashed houses surrounded by colossal red limestone cliff at Ammoudi Bay, Santorini, Greece
The view from Ammoudi Bay is superb!

If you want to go swimming in that beautiful water or even cliff jumping, just walk south along the bay and follow the narrow treacherous path that leads to a hidden beach between the rocks.

The crystal-clear water is very enticing and you need to swim to get to a cemented platform or a boulder and jump from it. It’s only 4.5 – 6 m (15-20 ft) high, but it feels very good.

Two ladies cliff jumping from a boulder at Ammoudi Bay, Santorini
Would you dare to do that?

From Ammoudi Bay you can also take a caldera tour, one of the top things to do in Santorini.

You’ll have the unique opportunity to walk in the volcano’s crater, learn about Santorini’s geological formation and history, swim in the hot springs and visit Thirrasia, an unspoiled island across from Santorini’s caldera.

  • Book your caldera tour in advance here.

6 – Find the famous & secret Instagrammables Places in Oia

Every summer our Insta-feeds are filled with pictures of people in Santorini.

The island, and especially Oia, with its iconic whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches, is an Instagrammer’s delight and a perfect location for film and commercial photo shoots.

Once you’re in town, you cannot miss the opportunity to boost your Instagram. You won’t need any photo editing after taking pictures here, though sometimes I use tools for extra quality enhancement or removing objects from photos if anything ruins the view.

So, take your hat, sunglasses and camera because I have selected some of the most famous and secret Instagrammable places in Oia to snap that “dreamy” picture.

1 – The blue-domed and salmon tower church: one of the most desired Instagrammable places in Santorini.

Things to do in Oia
Oh yeah, I’m in Santorini baby 🙂

P.S.: There is a small gate to give access to the stairs in front of the church. It remains closed, however, if you’re with a local photographer he/she grants you access.

2 – The famous Santorini postcard

The picture I shared at the very beginning of this post. The place to take this shot can be absurdly overcrowded with people queuing to take the exact postcard photo.

This view is indeed beautiful and it’s one of the most recognizable Santorini photo spots.

From the stairs, you can also take lovely pictures!

Pericles Rosa wearing sunglasses, white polo, marine blue jumper on his shoulders and light blue pants walking in an alley in Oia, Santorini, and a white church with three blue domes behind him
I love this picture!

3 – Oia sunset: the best spot is from the castle where you can get the whitewashed houses and windmills.

Whitewashed houses cascading on the top of a cliff in Oia, Santorini, at sunset
Sunset from Oia castle.

4 – Kastro: Kastro Restaurants (an adorable small garden in front of it) and Kastro Oia Houses (stairs)

5 – South of Oia: great photo location for a picture with whitewashed houses in the background.

Whitewashed houses in Oia, Santorini
This part of Oia is also very beautiful!

These are just some of the most Instagrammable places in Oia, but there are more, such as: the stairs of Katikies Hotel, the two bell towers close to Aspaki Exclusive Suites, etc.

And because some of them aren’t easy to find and/or have restricted access, I created a map with the exact location of each and the directions to get there.

7 – Visit Atlantis Bookshop

Located on the main street of Oia, overlooking the caldera view, Atlantis offers literature in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, and, of course, Greek.

It focuses on new and used books of modern classic fiction and non-fiction but also offers selections of poetry, philosophy, art, and all things Greek interest.

What makes Atlantis worthy of visiting, a part of its exquisitely curated collection is its location.

Atlantis Books occupies the basement of an old captain’s house that was levelled by the 1956 earthquake.

A precipitously steep staircase leads to a two-room cave stuffed with books from floor to ceiling. Above the shop, up a short flight of exterior stairs, is the rooftop terrace with bookshelves, benches and sweeping views of the Aegean Sea.

Atlantis is one of the most distinctive bookshops I’ve been to, and you should not miss it.

Three people among books on the shelves at Atlantis Bookshop, Oia, Santorini
Atlantis is one of Europe’s most enchanting bookshops.

8 – Plunge into the public pool

One of the most glamorous things to do in Oia is to relax in an infinity swimming pool and enjoy the dazzling views of the Aegean Sea.

But if you’re on a budget and your hotel doesn’t have a pool with a view, worry no more because there is a “public” pool with fascinating views you can enjoy.

At Lioyerma Lounge Cafe Pool Bar, you can have breakfast, swim in the pool, have special cocktails, unwind and watch the sunset from a very privileged spot, at the edge of the caldera.

There are free sunbeds, tables and umbrellas and no entrance fee is required.

A minimum of 10 euros spent per person applies, but the prices are reasonable.

Lioyerma Lounge Cafe Pool Bar is a true Santorini hidden gem I stumbled upon during my first visit in 2014.

It’s a great place for a sunset drink and to have fun with friends!

lounge chairs, umbrellas, and a swimming pool at Lioyerma Lounge Cafe Pool Bar, Santorini
It’s nice even after the sunset.

9 – Try the delicious Greek cuisine

When visiting a new destination, besides the desire to see famous tourist attractions and have memorable experiences, there is also the curiosity to taste local and different dishes.

While in Oia, you must not miss the opportunity to taste the Greek cuisine!

If Greek salad, Souvlaki, Gyro, Moussaka and Honey Baklava taste delicious, imagine consuming them overlooking the blue waters of the Aegean Sea.

Some of the best restaurants in Oia are: Ammoudi Fish Taverna (Ammoudi Bay), Lauda Restaurant (at Andronis Boutique Hotel), Ambrosia, Roka, Lotza and Pitogyros. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during the summer.

I love Moussaka, sliced aubergine with minced beef in a creamy bechamel sauce, and every time I’m in Greece I have some.

Don’t forget to put delicious Greek cuisine on your list.

A hand holding a gyro in one of the restaurants in Santorini
A gyro is always a good idea when you’re in a hurry.

10 – Visit Art Galleries

If you don’t want to make your way down to Fira to enjoy its nightlife and are looking for things to do in Oia at night or on a rainy day, my suggestion is to visit some art galleries.

In addition to upscale hotels and boutique shops, Oia has a great number of art galleries.

Ak Oia Art Gallery, Oia Treasures and Opera are just some of the few where you can find intriguing sculptures, beautiful paintings and many other artworks made by local artists.

You can also find handmade designer jewellery, pottery, temporary art exhibitions and events.

The galleries combine sophisticated aesthetics with the beauty of the town and even if you aren’t an art connoisseur you should visit some of them.

They are open until midnight in the summer months and offer worldwide shipping.

A statue at the entrance of Opera Art Gallery in Oia, Santorini, and other several artworks inside the gallery in the background
Opera Art Gallery

These are my top suggestions for what to do in Oia and I bet you will find some more.

Safe travels and enjoy Santorini.


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Planning your Trip and What to Do in Oia

Where is Oia?

Oia is situated 10 km of north of the island capital Fira (see exact location here).

How to get there?

There are only two ways to get to Santorini: by boat or airplane.

∗ There are ferryboats connecting Santorini to other Greek islands. The most common routes from/ to are: Athens, Crete and Mykonos.

From and to Athens: the conventional ferry takes around from 6h to 8h and the high-speed one takes between 4h to 5h. I recommend that you buy your tickets online in advance. You can check the prices and timetable here.

∗ By airplane: there is an international airport in Santorini that receives flights from Athens during the whole year, and international flights during the high season.

The companies that operate from Athens to Santorini airport are: Aegean Air, Ryan Air and Volotea (only high season).

You can book your flights with Skyscanner, that is the website that I use and trust.

You can book your shared arrival transfer from Santorini National Airport to your hotel or cruise port with a discount here; and your Private Departure Transfer: Santorini Hotels to Airport or Ferry Port here from US$ 36,50.

Best time to visit Oia?

The best time to visit Oia (Santorini), is from May to September when the sun is shining, the temperatures are high and chances of rain are minimum.

To avoid crowds, pick the months of May and September, the weather in Santorini is still good at this time of the year. You can even go until the middle of October.

How many days should you stay in Oia?

Although the village of Oia isn’t big, you should spend at least 3 days on the island. So you can visit Imerovigli, Fira and some of the best beaches in Santorini, as well as some historical places to have a complete Santorinian experience.

Where to stay in Oia?

The cheap hotels in Oia that I recommend are: Anemomilos, Heliophos Boutique and Maryloujohn Villas

If you prefer a mid-range one, check: Kastro Oia Houses and Aperanto Suites

If you would like to book a luxury hotel in Oia, my recommendations are: White Pearl Villas, Canaves Oia Suite & Spa, Katikies Hotel, Kirini Santorini, Charisma Suites and Mystique

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Travel Planning Resources For every booking made through my site I donate US$ 1 for a charitable organization.Safe travels ☺

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