Perhaps the most recognizable images of Greece are those of honeymooners watching the sunset in Santorini, off the vertiginous slopes in Oia.
It is by now established as a romantic ritual to take in the majesty of the sky’s cheeks turn from golden to crimson and mauve as the fireball dips into the cobalt depths of the Aegean, while sipping on spritzes that line Oia’s clifftop rim. Oia, on the northernmost tip of Santorini, has consistently been voted as one of the most instagrammable destinations, making Santorini a coveted choice for wedding proposals, weddings and increasingly as a destination to renew marriage vows.
It is easy to understand Oia’s appeal. Its cascade of blue-domed churches, its craggy hillside speckled with white-washed homes snaking around cobble-stoned terraces and bougainvillea-lush alleys allude to a Grecian myth. Add to that Oia’s unique narrative – of a place whose beauty should have been marred forever following such a violent volcanic eruption – only in Oia’s case, it has added to its mystique and allure.
Its cave houses hewn into the volcanic rock were the simple homes of sailors. The more impressive multi-storeyed Captain’s houses were a sign of affluence and belonged to wealthy ship-owners. Little wonder then that most of the churches on Oia are dedicated to St. Nicolas and St. Marina, the patron saints of sailors.
Wear sensible shoes to negotiate the 235 steps that lead you to the picturesque Ammoudi harbour that lies at Oia’s feet. Colourful fishing boats, seafood tavernas and bars fringe its waterfront. If you’re into diving, the narrow road from the harbour winds to a diving spot, favoured by pros and amateurs alike. It is hard to believe that it was from this small port that ships were loaded with Santorinian wines and pumice for export to the Middle East. Armeni, the smaller port is a charming little harbour that can be reached either with a boat ride from Ammoudi or by walking down the vertiginous steps – all 291 of them – from Oia. If you’d like to escape the throngs at Oia, Armeni offers a quiet refuge and a delightful meal at the harbour’s lone tavern.
As the concierge at Santorini Secrets will advise you, it’s best to make the most of your Santorini stay and head to Oia in the morning when the island is still waking up to enjoy the panoramic vistas to yourself. As an island that has played muse to dreamers, poets and artists, Santorini, and especially Oia, lives up to its reputation as one of the most sought-after destinations for a romantic getaway.