Oh Santorini, where to begin?
For starters, if you’re wondering if you should visit the tourist ridden city of Oia in Santorini, you absolutely should.
This is the one bucket list place I’ve visited that actually lived up to all of the hype! It is absolutely breath taking and not just on the gram, but in real life, I promise you!
When I visited the island of Santorini it was just post touring London, Venice, Florence & Cinque Terre so I truly wanted a relaxing vacation, as I was tuckered out from all of the travel. This is why my fiance & I chose to stay in one spot and soak it all in. As such, we only stayed in Oia, so this is an Oia specific re-cap of Santorini.
Where to Stay
So we actually did not have an all around amazing experience with our hotel, but I feel compelled to share some tips with regard to accommodation because we definitely learned a few things after the fact.
For starters, book your hotel as early as you can! Because Oia is such a touristy destination the spring & summer months book up quickly. Not only that, but the prices also increase exponentially as you near your travel dates. We visited in June and I initially looked at hotel prices in March. By the time I booked our stay in May, prices had already doubled. Meaning we could have saved a ton or, if we had booked early enough, found ourselves in a villa with a private pool for the same price. Hindsight, am I right?
Next up, read the fine print when booking! We stayed at Caldera Premium Villas as the photos looked gorgeous, and upon arrival, the hotel itself WAS beautiful.
However, we paid more than we would have elsewhere because I really wanted to splurge in order to stay in a cave room.
We booked a cave suite, but when we arrived at the hotel we were not put in a cave room. When I booked online, I selected a cave suite & the listing had photos to show such a suite, but they argued that the images were pictures of rooms ‘in general’, and that not all suites were cave rooms. They then went on to explain that they simply didn’t have any cave suites available.
It’s still hard to say whether our situation was a one off, or if they do mislead guests to pay a premium under the pretense they are staying in a Cave Suite, which obviously have a real cool factor in Santorini. The website still currently shows all rooms are “Cave Suites” so book with caution, and maybe try to contact and confirm the details prior to booking.
With that being said, Oia is quite small so as long as you book a hotel at the top of the town, off the main drag, you’ll be very central to everything. If you choose a hotel further away from the top of Oia, be prepared to hike a hot and dusty road up to the main strip!
Where To Eat | Vegan
I actually found it relatively easy to eat vegan while in Oia!
We even found one vegetarian/vegan specific restaurant off the main drag, called Katharos Lounge, which I’d highly recommend. The views were stunning and it’s situated just up hill from a fairly secluded beach, so you could totally pack your swimsuit & hop in the water post lunch!
We ate a handful of dishes, which were all delicious but the most memorable of all was their vegan baked feta. It was salty, savoury & so so good. I’d seriously go back for it in a heartbeat, and I’m saying this is a must hit spot for any veggie eater!
I also ate pita while in Oia, from a cute little takeout window called Pito Gyros. While they didn’t have any falafel, they did have two delicious veggie wraps, the Vegetarian (you’ll want to ask for no tzatziki) and a Greek Salad wrap (that you’ll need to request without feta).
Eat the casual fare while you stroll, take back to your hotel, or eat at their tables under a shade covered awning.
We went to Candouni on our last night in Oia, and I’m honestly sad we didn’t find it sooner. Nestled off a tiny pathway just off the main strip, this place had live music and quite a few vegan options to choose from, including a vegan tartar. I went for their vegan Souttsoukakia, meatless lentil patties with tomato sauce, and I also enjoyed some traditionally vegan made appetizers. I was not disappointed! And everyone else I was with enjoyed omnivorous traditional greek food without sacrifice. It was a win, win!
My fiance and I actually liked this restaurant so much, we made a point to eat here twice. On our first lunch visit to Kyprida, I had houmous & pita and their Kyprida salad. When we returned for dinner later in the week, we also managed to snag a spot with a view of sunset. I tried their Gemista, which I had hoped to find during our stay as it is a traditionally vegan made greek dish of rice stuffed vegetables, and I loved it. It was super simple and flavourful.
What To Do
First things first, you’re going to want to take in all the views, but the sunset in particular. Oia is known for some of the best sunsets across the globe and they are gorgeous, pastel hued and dreamy. There’s a spot in the middle of the main strip right at the top of the village (outside a church) that proves a great vantage point, but you’ll want to get there early and also be prepared to be surrounded by every tourist staying in Oia as well as those vacationing elsewhere on the island who’ve made the trip just for this, it is packed at sunset. Since I do not do great in large crowds, we decided to book our dinners at restaurants which offered views. However, none of the ones we ate at (with the exception of Kyprida which has a limited number of seats that will offer it) had great vegan options. I found myself with humus, olives, wine and on one night a very dry rice dish. So sadly, I can’t quite help you here!
Oia’s shopping is basically a mix of high end designer priced clothes and jewelry, plenty of which are locally made and beautiful, and overpriced tourist shops that all have the same things, which most likely came from china. I am not a huge ‘shopper’ in general, but I did purchase a panama hat and a sterling silver necklace while I was there. I should also share that they did have some gorgeous vegan Neoprene bags, handmade by a local designer, in a couple of their boutiques, but I wasn’t feeling the $500 price tag. It’s either high high, or low low, and now you know.
While we actually did not venture to any of the coloured sand beaches on the island, such as Perissa Black Sand Beach, White Sand Beach or Red Sand Beach, I feel they are worth mentioning as we found a work around to see one or two. As an aside, I also think it’s worth sharing that we were told a handful of times that Red Sand beach is a dangerous one to visit due to the sliding rocks on the cliff side above, so visit this beach with caution!
While we didn’t visit said beaches, we did find a great way to see a number of things in a limited time frame, five hours to be exact, by booking a small boat cruise. We booked with Santorini Yachting Club, and were not disappointed.
We were picked up at Ammoudi Bay, just below the cliffs of Oia, and the tour even included shuttle service from the centre of Oia, and then back at the end of the tour. We visited their natural hot springs, and the tour also included showing us Indian Rock, Venetian Light House, Mesa Pigadia, Vlychada, as well as White and Red Sand Beaches. So we did get to see these gorgeous beaches in full, with our view from the water. The tour also included lunch and they did a wonderful job accommodating me with extra potatoes, vegetables and a special made salad. They have a number of options at various price points, and I would highly recommend their tours, this day was a highlight of our trip.
Oia Travel Tips
Pack Appropriate Footwear
Be sure to pack flats! There are SO many steps! And the stone is slippery, especially in the hot sun. Seriously, the number of people we saw slip was scary. Save yourself from breaking anything and pack some grippy, flat shoes!
A word about the toilets
Not that there is any way to prepare… Simply know that you can’t flush toilet paper or anything else down their toilets, as their sewage system can’t handle it. Don’t worry, you’ll find garbage bins in every restroom. And yes, I know, it’s still not ideal. It is, what is is friends. I will say that our hotel was diligent about emptying our bin daily.
Insta Worthy Shots
If you’re staying in Oia, you’ll be able to find the blue domes by gazing out across the island and simply walking until you get to them. But worst case, follow the people. You’ll likely have to wait in line to get pictures without others, but when we went everyone was patient. Be gracious, and you’ll get your shot. Also doors! There are SO many gorgeous doors (some that stand entirely alone) and they make for the perfect gram worthy backdrop. No need to search high and low, you’ll find them everywhere, trust me.
Onto important things, there are lots of stray cats here and it is a little sad. With that being said, it does seem the consensus of the locals is that they are ‘their cats’ and everyone makes an effort to leave out water and food and care for them, even though they are free.
We definitely fed a few strays, as they do meow for scraps, though they will also hunt for their own food, we witnessed one cat viciously tear off a lizards head. I had mixed feelings as to whether I should or shouldn’t feed them, or just sneak one home with me to North America. But if in doubt, most kitties will also graciously accept some kitty scratches and love. And if you know more about this than I do, please share in the comments!
Lastly, please don’t ride the donkeys! Most often people ride the donkeys up the steep steps from the cruises, and it was SO sad to watch from our hotel everyday. Not only is the laborious task exhausting for the poor animals (in often 30+ degree weather) but as I mentioned how slippery and steep the steps were for us humans, this is dangerous both for the donkeys and the people riding them. If we stop supporting animal tourism, animals like these donkeys will no longer be forced to work tirelessly (and dangerously) climbing the steep, slippery steps of Oia against their will.
There you have it! I hope you found this little re-cap helpful, and am so excited for those of you who are planning trips to the gorgeous city of Oia. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask away in the comments.