We’ve had a short break from the Santorini dreaming but I had to return to it to share one of the most magical experiences of all. I don’t think there are many people out there – bloggers especially – who don’t have seeing the Santorini sunset on their bucket list. It had been firmly on my must-see list for several years and showed no signs of budging in the face of longer-haul trips. There’s something rather magical about those pictures of the windmills high on the hill surrounded by a sea of white buildings reflecting the pink glow of a fiery Greek sunset on the Caldera that just gets your heart racing. It’s one of, if not the, most romantic location in the world and I genuinely believe that everyone should experience the magic, and the romance of Oia at least once in their lives. Those who have say they are already desperate to return, which just shows you the power this beautiful place has in capturing your heart.Now I’ll be honest and saw a tiny part of me was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype – I’m not usually a big fan of overly-touristy places and crowds – I much prefer to experience places like this with space to breathe. Now I will admit there are a lot of people in Santorini and usually you can avoid the crowds but Oia is different, especially in the evening. But at the same time, these crowds don’t spoil the beauty of the sunset, they don’t ruin the perfect romantic moment or the stunning photos you can capture. There’s actually a kind of magic of hearing everyone gasp and exclaim in hushed tones as the sun dips lower on the horizon, or as donkeys jingle their way down the mountain-side towards the ocean. That feeling that so many people there are witnessing this spectacle for the very first time, and that you’ll never have this “first time” again. It’s special and it does take your breath away, I’m sure it still does no matter how many times you visit.I visited Oia on two occasions both during the day and at night, I was actually staying on the other side of the island at Perissa which I would recommend a lot more than staying in Oia. My advice is – if you’re there for just a few days, stay in Oia as it has all you want to squeeze into your visit, but for any longer like my two-week holiday, head elsewhere. Oia doesn’t really have a proper beach so you are limited to the swimming pools and it is very touristy, it is great for a luxury stay but if you prefer self-catering like us, you’re better off elsewhere. Oia is beautiful both in the sunlight and sunset, and I would really recommend visiting at both times of day to really appreciate it. I was actually lucky and also went on a boat day trip that ended with a late afternoon cruise around the Caldera so I also got to see Oia from the ocean which is also a great experience.Oia by day is an intense experience at high season, the sunlight reflects brightly off the white buildings and it does get hot so I would recommend aiming for morning or late afternoon for a visit and avoiding the heat of the day. Although as you’ll notice from my pics it’s very windy there which helps keep you cool! Make sure you walk all the way up to the village from where the buses stop, just follow the crowds up until you reach the village, then enjoy wandering the little alleyways and exploring the tiny shops. If you turn right as you enter the village and continue all the way along, it will take you to what is left of the tower structure. This is the spot where you will get THE Santorini pictures of the windmill on the hill surrounded by white buildings – THIS is where you want to try and get a spot to watch the sunset but you have to arrive EARLY to stand a hope. Our bus was late so we didn’t make it this far but has a much less crowded and spectacular view from lower down. It’s worth bringing along a picnic and some wine for the wait and securing your spot early. In the day-time you’ll get some amazing views across the Caldera that will also get you snap happy!Walking back through the village, double back on yourself along the alleyways until you stumble across Aphrodite Books – a cute and tiny little bookstore I found that is worth a look.Then continue along the strip where you’ll find more glimpses of stunning views and quirky little stores including one filled with old-fashioned puppets that amazed me. Further along you’ll find no end of restaurants overlooking the ocean – perfect for drinks in the afternoon, dinner after sunset or even a relaxed breakfast. We had no problem getting a table for drinks in the afternoon, nor for dinner just after sunset with three of us. It may be worth booking ahead if you have your heart set on a table or restaurant but if you’re flexible you should be okay. Don’t be too intimidated by the price of these ocean-view restaurants – they were a tad more expensive than in Perissa but nowhere near as expensive as we expected so worth it for a treat. Whether you’re there during the day or at night, make sure you stop along the way to capture some of the most Instagram-worthy pics you’ll ever take – those gorgeous white buildings and dreamy ocean views ain’t gonna snap themselves!Just one thing – for those arriving in Oia by boat or passing through the village – I ask that you do one thing and promise me not to ride the donkeys. The treatment I saw there of these poor creatures forces to work in the midday sun when sick and weak was terrible. I couldn’t bear the sight of them bowed under the weight of tourists as they carried them up endless steps and steep cliffs to the village in the burning heat. And for what? Because we’re too lazy to use our legs? For some stupid tourist trap that is probably overpriced anyway. Use your common sense and realise the pain and suffering these creatures go through, don’t support the trade and it will eventually die out much like elephant tourism in Thailand. You have the power to make a change by not going with the crowd, so do it, trust me it works. I stopped no end of people from riding elephants in Thailand just from explaining why – it doesn’t take much to wake people up to reality.
Have you been to Oia – can you recommend any hotels/restaurants? What was your favourite part? Did the sunset live up to the hype?