Oia – pronounced EE-yah, the O is silent – is one of the most recognizable destinations in the world and a place that always features on the first-time itineraries of the Aegean island-hopping.
The blue-domed white churches are Oia’s calling card, regularly appearing in travel publications and social media adverts. My lasting image of Oia, though, does not include a single blue dome. Instead, it is this tangle of white, beige, yellowish and even reddish-colored caskets of buildings taking up every habitable inch of the side of the mountain.
The church at the top of the perspective is one of the very few that do not sport a blue dome. Our apartment was located right next to it, and the windmill in the top center should already be familiar to you from our sunset viewing.
Here is what that windmill looks like in the early morning.
A roughly opposite perspective to the opening shot takes in a few of the famous blue caps.
Santorini is an unusually-shaped body of land which is technically the remaining rim of the volcano that last erupted over 3,500 years ago. Oia is located on the northern side of the caldera, at its westernmost point. This following perspective, originally meant to highlight the Byzantine castle ruins at the edge of the village, is more interesting for the glimpse of the caldera in the background.
And here is one of the world-famous blue-domed churches up close.
There are nearly 400 churches on an island with the permanent population of just over eighteen thousand people. The vast majority of them are white with blue caps. Google Maps nowadays mark a photographic point of “the famous church in Oia”, but the truth is that at least half a dozen churches on the central slopes of the village can pass for its most photographed sight.
A non-trivial proportion of these churches are private, accessible only to the members (or guests) of a single family. Building your own private church has long been a show of wealth throughout the Greek Isles and on the mainland.
Among the publicly-accessible churches in Oia, the yellow-façade Saint-George is the prime location for weddings, especially popular with well-heeled visitors from the Orient.
As it happened, we walked up to the church on one of our days in Oia and were turned out on the account of a wedding in progress.
The main pedestrian street in Oia at its most congested stretch is rather commercial, as behooves a tourist magnet. Jewelry shops, art galleries, and clothing brands predominate, and of course souvenir shops.
A long staircase leads from the top of the village down to Ammoudi Bay, which is reputedly both beautiful in its own right and a location for one or two superb restaurants. A mule-riding service is on hand to help tourists climb back to Oia.
We neither made the trip on mules or on foot.
It may not be obvious from the way I take and present my photos, but Oia is awfully overcrowded in season. The best time to enjoy its scenery is in the early morning, when you will only be sharing its paths and stairways with a couple of dozen of similarly dedicated photographers and, in cases of the wedding album works in progress, their clients.
Here is an assortment of early-morning perspectives of Oia.
A few other fragments.
And, of course, what romantic destination can nowadays exist without collecting love locks at one place or another!? In Oia, though, a ribbon may suffice.
Unquestionably a kind of a picturesque destination that is nearly impossible to omit from a must-see list, Oia.