24 Hours in Oia, Santorini

24 Hours in Oia, Santorini

This beautiful Greek island has far more to offer than just a stunning sunset…

I wonder if the sun realizes what a fuss we make of its daily movements across the sky? As it rises and sets, leaving streaks and splatters of color in its wake, we take endless photos that never quite capture the true beauty. And nowhere is this fuss and photo-taking more pronounced than the Greek island of Santorini. In particular, the jewel in it’s crown that is Oia.

It’s worth going for the sunrises and sunsets alone, but there’s far more this beautiful island has to offer. Below you’ll find a complete guide to everything this island village has in store for you.

Spend an hour or two in Atlantis Books

On entry into Oia you’ll come face to face with the most adorable little bookshop you’ve ever seen, nestled in the basement of an old captain’s house. I challenge you to find a bookshop more Instagrammable. Atlantis Books is the brainchild of two tourists who came to the island in 2002, drank quite a lot of wine and decided to build a bookshop. (Isn’t that the dream?!) Descend the stairs and this cave of a shop is more cavernous than you expect. Every surface is covered with books. You’ll find contemporary fiction from all over the world, rare and antiquarian finds as well as speciality Greek treats bursting with juicy myths and historical writing. I implore you – don’t take a book on your trip to Santorini. I kicked myself having bought my intricately planned holiday reading stash with me as I desperately wanted an excuse to stock up in Atlantis. Amongst the plethora of glass, ceramics and leather goods shops, it provides a welcome break from the more predictable souvenirs and  the chance to be inspired and discover something new. You’ll have your best creative ideas this trip courtesy of Atlantis Books (and that view of the sea).

Brave the early morning and see the sunrise

I know, I like a lie in on holiday too. And if getting up at the crack of dawn wasn’t an amazing experience, I’d absolutely tell you to just stay in bed. But honestly, an early wake up call is the best way to see Santorini’s amazing sunrise. And if you’re a keen photographer, it’s a rare chance to get an amazing shot minus the crowds of tourists. It’s also beautifully quiet and relaxing. The streets are deserted, save for a devoted, bleary-eyed few. No one is hurrying or shouting. It’s almost meditative. If you don’t fancy taking photos, just sit on a little wall, close your eyes and just be. You’ll feel like a smug over-achiever for the rest of the day, trust me.

Go to Karma for great pies and chat about dogs

We can’t go any further without talking about food. This is Greece, after all. One of my favorite places to eat is the meze hotspot Melitini for the fried cheese, meatballs, cute terrace and wine in tumblers. But if you’re a filo pastry demon, it’s Karma you want. The mini homemade pies filled with an ‘ambrosial combination of minced meat and apple chutney’ are just divine. And top marks for the use of the word ‘ambrosial’ in the menu. Worth a visit for the vocabulary alone. Combine the pies with a waiting staff who know every stray dog in Santorini by name and history, and you’ve got the perfect evening. I enquired about a large brown dog I’d become fond of who was never not splayed out on its side in the shade opposite Atlantis Books. Apparently her name is Sasha. Pass on my regards if you see her!

Relax at a boutique winery

Domaine Sigalas is a gorgeous little day trip from Oia, and is not only one of the best renowned wineries in Santorini, but in the whole of Greece. It’s a short drive but it feels like you’re miles away from the bustle of the town. Sit in a peaceful vineyard under vine-laden pergolas and be plied with a delicious selection of wines, olives and charcuterie. If you’re feeling sprightly (and can tear yourself away from the cured meat platter for long enough) you can even take a tour of the vineyard. And don’t forget to do a little shopping from the selection of nationally-acclaimed wine labels before you leave – we picked up a couple of bottles to take home for special occasions.

Watch the world (or the Instagrammers) go by

OK, so this isn’t strictly a must do that will make you a more cultured person, but it’s an essential as far as I’m concerned. Pick one of the small bars on the main strip with excellent observational opportunities and get down to people watch. Tourists come to Oia dressed in the most extravagant gowns in order to have their photo taken by their Instagram boyfriends and honestly, it’s incredibly entertaining to watch. They gaze out over the sea in blue and white maxi dresses with gold Grecian sandals and whimsical straw hats. The sartorial game is high. Couples also come dressed in wedding attire and there are specially roped-off spots for them to have professional photos taken. It is FASCINATING to watch. Particularly with a cocktail or iced latte in hand.

Stay in a cave house

Both times we’ve been to Santorini we’ve stayed in Oia. Yes, it’s super busy at peak times but there’s something so magical about winding down the packed lanes to your little white washed cave house, disappearing behind your gate and instantly feeling as if you’re miles from civilisation. Even if you just do a night or two in Oia, it is such an experience. With thick white walls, tiny quaint windows and interesting twists, turns and curves, staying in a cave house is like being a really chic hermit. You can find great cave houses on airbnb with amazing views of the sea. You can even get a little private plunge pool or hot tub if you’re feeling fancy. 

Go to the hilltop village of Pyrgos

After a day spent perusing the shops and jostling tourists in Oia, you’ll be needing your personal space back. So take a trip to the hilltop village of Pyrgos. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip. Lounging cats sun themselves lazily on street corners whilst the chords from a Grecian lute drift down cool white passageways. It feels delightfully quiet up in the hills and if taking a few candid shots wandering down cute alleyways and laughing in front of  coloured doors is your thing, this is definitely the place to do it. There are some adorable little cafes and bars tucked away on the winding roads as well as some gorgeous churches. Plus the restaurant Selene is here which is one of the most highly rated in Greece. Dine on the breezy balcony and enjoy the views…

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