Oia pronounced as Eeyah is the prettiest and the most sophisticated village in the island of Santorini. Situated on an impressive cliff about 150 metres above sea-level, it offers a spectacular view of the sea and a glimpse of the caldera.
It was an affluent mariner’s town which was part of the trade route between Russia and Alexandria during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The economy of the town declined when concentration of shipping was transferred to Piraeus in Athens. It was also heavily damaged in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake which hit the island in 1956.
It continued its decline due to emigration. In 1977, it only had 306 inhabitants. Now how were they able to flourish from an almost non-existent town to the famous tourist destination that it is now? I really have no idea but I’m so thankful that it is what it is now.
Houses in Oia are built in succession one above the other directly into niches. Most of the buildings on the islands were made of volcanic stone mainly because they didn’t have enough wood available to build houses. The color of these stones absorbed the heat which means it becomes an instant oven inside the house during summer. In this case, they have painted the outside walls of their buildings white to reflect the harsh sunlight – to make it a little more heat resistant.
The blue-colored roofs came from a blue tinted cleaning agent called “loulaki” which was used for washing clothes and a very cheap alternative to buying real paints. It’s very economical specially since they whitewash their houses every 3 years and it would be great to not have an all-white colored house as it’s quite hurtful to the eyes.
It wasn’t during the military governance in Greece in 1967 that the white and blue combination became mandatory for all the buildings since it signifies a unified government and full support of people towards their political agenda. In the late 70’s, the government realized its aesthetic value and ability to pull in tourists. The colors are no longer political at this point, it now became for tourism purposes.
I’m glad they decided to do it because it is such a beauty to behold. While Oia can also be packed specially during sunset, it’s definitely less crowded than the capital of the island – Fira. The main street has a lot of shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes and even one of the most amazing bookstores in the world – the Atlantis Books. The use of space in this bookstore is quite amazing.
One of the things every travel guide tells you to do while in Santorini is to see the sunset from Oia. I personally haven’t done that even if I’ve been to Santorini twice mainly because it’s ridiculous. During sunset, almost every single person in Santorini goes to the end of the village to see the magnificence of this sunset that they speak of.
I’m not very good with crowds so if you’re like me, the best thing to do in Oia during sunset is to go to the other side of the village because it would be empty, peaceful and so so pretty! How to go to the other side? Walk along the main street of Oia with the sea on your right and you can just take any alleyways on your right whenever you feel like it.
Walking is the best way to explore Oia, you don’t really have a choice since it’s a pedestrian village but what I meant by walking is you really have to explore every turn, every alley and every corner of the village. There is always something pretty waiting for you at each turn. Also, make sure your camera battery is fully charged. It’s seriously my favorite place in the whole wide world.
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This post is part of The Weekly Postcard link-up.