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Oia, Greece

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Title: Oia, Greece  
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Subject: Santorini, Therasia, Imerovigli, Pyrgos Kallistis, Akrotiri (Santorini)
Collection: Populated Places in Thira (Regional Unit), Santorini
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Oia, Greece

Pano Meria

Santorini Oia
Santorini Oia
Official seal of OiaPano Meria
OiaPano Meria is located in Greece
OiaPano Meria
Pano Meria
Country Greece
Administrative region South Aegean
Regional unit Thira
Municipality Santorini
 • Municipal unit 19.4 km2 (7.5 sq mi)
Population (2001)[1]
 • Municipal unit 3,376
 • Municipal unit density 170/km2 (450/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Vehicle registration EM

Oia or Ia (Greek: Οία, pronounced ) is a small town and former community in the South Aegean on the islands of Thira (Santorini) and Therasia, in the Cyclades, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it has been part of the municipality of Santorini, of which it is a municipal unit.[2][3] It covers the whole island of Therasia and the northwesternmost part of Santorini, which it shares with the municipal unit of Santorini. The main street is named Nikolaou Nomikou. The population was 3376 inhabitants at the 2001 census, and the land area is 19.449 km2[2][4]

Oia was previously known as Apano Meria (Απάνω Μεριά or Επάνω Μεριά, "upper side"), a name which still occurs locally as Pano Meria,[5] and the inhabitants are still called Apanomerites (Απανωμερίτες). The Ancient Greek Oia was one of the two harbours of ancient Thera and was located in the southeast of the island, where Kamari is now.

Oia reached the peak of prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its economic prosperity was based on its merchant fleet, which plied trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially from Alexandria to Russia. The two-story captains' houses built on the highest part of the village are a reminder of the village's former affluence. Part of the town was destroyed by the 1956 earthquake.[6]


  • Name 1
  • History 2
  • Geography 3
    • Climate 3.1
  • Government 4
  • Architecture 5
  • Cityscape 6
    • Captain’s houses 6.1
    • Naval Maritime Museum 6.2
  • In books and films 7
  • References 8


Oia is pronounced "EE-ah" and not "OY-ah"[7]) and also spelled "Ia" with alternate name as "Pano Meria".[5][7]



The settlement of Oia had been mentioned in various travel reports before the beginning of Venetian rule, when Marco Sanudo founded the Duchy of Naxos in 1207 and feudal rule was instituted on Santorini.[8] Under the da Corogna family, Agios Nikolaos Kastell (Καστέλι του Αγίου Νικολάου), also called Apanomeria (Απανωμερία), was one of five local citadels. Its residential keep, Goulas, is now in the oldest part of the town, on its southwestern edge.[9]

In 1537, Hayreddin Barbarossa conquered the Aegean islands and placed them under Sultan Selim II.[10] However, Santorini remained under the Crispo family until 1566, passing then to Joseph Nasi and after his death in 1579 to the Ottoman Empire.

From the 16th to the 19th century, the settlement was designated Apanomeria on maps. In the mid-17th century, Jean de Thévenot uses the name Castelli San Nicolas. The name was changed to Oia in the second half of the 19th century.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the town was a mariners town that flourished as a result of seaborne trade throughout the Mediterranean, particularly as part of the trade route between Russia and Alexandria. In 1890 Oia had approximately 2,500 residents and approximately 130 sailing ships. There was a wharf in the bay of Armeni. Excellent wine was produced in quantity in the hinterland and exported to France amongst other places. However, the arrival of steam and the concentration of shipping at Piraeus caused the town's seagoing trade to collapse, and agriculture also diminished as increasing emigration took place, especially to Piraeus and Laurium. The economy of the town declined in the early 20th century on account of wars, economic depression and over extraction of fish resources.

The 7.8 [11] The earthquake was followed by renewed emigration, and in 1977 Oia had only 306 inhabitants. After the earthquake, the village redeveloped into an attractive tourist town of the Cyclades, and is known as a "picture perfect" town which gets crowded with people during the summer season.[5][7] Subsequent to the earthquakes, the town has been redeveloped, though its economic prosperity is not to same degree as it population recorded now is only 6% of what it was in 1900.[12]


Oia church with cupola painted blue and white washed walls

Oia is scenic village in the north west edge of the Santorini island within the Cyclades.[13] It extends for almost 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) along the northern edge of the caldera that forms the island of Santorini, at a height of between 70 and 100 metres (230 and 330 ft) above sea level. Immediately to the east is Phinikia (Φοινικιά; Finikia), and about 500 metres (550 yd) to the north is Tholos (Θόλος). The small fishing village of Ormos Armeni (Όρμος Αρμένης) lies below Oia to the south and is reached via steps. There is a ferry connection to Therasia from the harbour village of Ormos Ammoudi (Όρμος Αμμουδιού; also spelled Amoudi)[13] to the west. There are 300 steps down to the port from Oia. The small island of Agios Nikolaos lies to the southwest.[14]

It is built on the steep slope of the caldera and the houses and restaurants are built into niches carved into the caldebra on the seaward side. There are narrow passageways and a central square.[5] The sun light hours in this village are much longer than in the Fira town. Its paths are very narrow and hence gets congested during the tourist season.[5][7] The idyllic surroundings of the town have a complex of white washed blue domed churches and charming, traditional Cycladic houses and cave houses that are carved into the rock face on top of the cliff. It is set in a location which provides excellent views of the sunset over the caldera.[7][12] To the southwest, the Bay of Armeni, reachable from the town on foot or by mule, was once an important boat-building centre. Small repairs are now done on a single wharf. Excursion boats for trips around the island and ferries to Therasia leave from here. The harbour of Ammoudi on the western side of the town is reached by steep stairs north of Fort Londsa; there are a few tavernas and a pebble beach.[5][7]

The village is located on top of a hill, at about 150 metres (490 ft) elevation, and known as the "Eagles nest" from where Palia and Nea Kameni volcanoes are seen and also the island of Thirassia. It is situated to the north of the island and Fira is at distance of 11 kilometres (6.8 mi).[14] The main street in the town, in the central square, is the main trekking path which is cobbled, called the "Nikalaou Namikaou", which goes up the hill winding round the caldebra. The island is reached from Fira which is the transport terminus of the island.[5][12] Caldera boat cruise options are available from either Oia or Fira.[15]


In Oia Greece the climate is generally temperate and mild. Winter is the wet season and summers are hot and dry. The absolute Maximum temperature on record is 40 °C (104 °F) in June and the absolute minimum in December is 0 °C (32 °F). Wind speeds varies between 56 kilometres per hour (35 miles per hour) in August and 98 km/h (61 mph) in October and February.[16]
Climate data for Oia, Greece
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 14
Average low °C (°F) 9
Source: [17]


Excepting from 1840 to 1851, Oia was an independent community, Dimos Oias (Δήμος Οίας) from 1 October 1834 (ΦΕΚ 4/1835). Under the Kapodistrias plan of 1997, it was combined with Therasia to form the rural community of Oia, Kinotita Ias (Κοινότητα Οίας). Under the 2010 Kallikratis plan for administrative reform which took effect on 1 January 2011, this was folded into the newly created municipality of Santorini, Dimos Thiras (Δήμος Θήρας), as the district of Oia (Δημοτική Κοινότητα Οιας).[2]


A typical white and blue painted house of Oia

Oia typifies the white-painted houses of the Cyclades, in many cases built directly into niches which are cave houses used by crew of the ships, on the lip of the volcanic crater, between which are narrow alleys and blue-roofed churches with cupolas. The wealthy ship captains of the late 19th century built neo-classical mansions. These houses are seen built in succession one above the other.[12]

In 1976 the town was included in the programme for preservation and development of traditional settlements of the Aris Konstantinidis. Over 15 years, the programme sought to preserve, restore and find new uses for selected houses and architectural ensembles representative of traditional Greek architecture. Many of the yposkafa spitia (υπόσκαφα σπίτια), simple seamen's houses on the edge of the caldera, became guest-houses, hotels and restaurants.

For their work in Oia, the Greek National Tourism Organisation received the Europa Nostra Prize in 1979 and the Prize of the Architecture Biennale in Sofia in 1986.[18]

Oia Community is working with geologists at the University of Athens and the University of Thessaloniki to map the geology of the area and evaluate ground stability, and the President of the Community has restricted construction to minimise risk from future earthquakes.[19]

A church in Oia

The town is noted for its white and blue domed houses. The houses are painted in white lime water so that the rainwater which falls over it runs down and can be collected. The other reason for painting the houses white is for aesthetic purposes. The other explanation given is that during the Ottoman rule of Greece, which lasted for over 400 years, Greeks were not allowed to fly their white flag. In defiance, in Oia they painted their entire housing complex in white with domes giving the village an effective white perspective and elegance. Impressive houses in the town are those "cliff houses" built in the niches carved into the caldebra slopes with provision of air-filled pumice which provides insulation benefits to the building, keeping it warm in winter and cool in summer.[5]


The windmill, one of the most recognizable buildings in the town

At the pinnacle point of Oia is the ruined castle which was the seat of the Argyri family under the Venetians and serves as a lookout point with a complete 360-degree view. It is also called Fort Londsa.[6] One of the most recognisable buildings in the town is an old windmill, which often appears on postcards. There are many kiosks offering a range of ethnic goods, handicrafts, jewellery and souvenirs,[12] and several small art galleries, including Art Gallery Oia and The Art Gallery.[6] The town also has numerous restored churches, including Panagia church; some were built in memory of sailors.[12]

Sun set view from Oia

Other infrastructure and cultural facilities available in the town are a cultural centre, a bank, ATMS cash services, an Internet Café, a bus station, a post office, a health clinic and pharmacy, apart from the cafes, bars, restaurants and taverns on the coastal path. The Weaving Mill near the Maritime Museum has many looms and produce fine textiles which are on sale. Also traded in the town are agricultural products like honey, wine, capers and fava beans.[12] One of the most popular attractions in the town is sunset viewing. It is a special event every evening in Oia from the Sunset Seranade point. At this time the town is crowded with people to watch the spectacle, when the white houses and the caldera catch all the colours of the setting sun for a few seconds.[5]

Two storey Renaissance inspired sea captain's house located atop the Oia caldera with wonderful views to the sea, caldera and volcano

Captain’s houses

The grand sea captain's houses from the 1800s stand out in Oia due to their location and architecture. Two prime examples are located nearby one another. Directly on the caldera with a panoramic view position only a sea captain could select, is the two storey Venetian Renaissance inspired 1864 Mansion. Originally built by the Sigouras Sarris family in 1864, it was converted in 2002 to a private luxury hotel "1864 The Sea Captain's House & Spa". The original features were maintained and guests all feel like the captain of the house. A second example is located on the main village pathway and was renovated in 1986 by the architect Loannis Zaggelidis into the restaurant "Oia 1800". The architecture of all the Oia sea captain's mansions is distinctive with high vaulted ceilings, exteriors of hand carved volcanic stone mixed with marble, imported wood planked floors, flat terraced rooftops in place of the arched roofs of the cave homes and are always situated in the best locations.

Naval Maritime Museum

Another 19th-century mansion in Oia, a block away from the cliff-top, has been restored and converted into the municipal museum of the maritime history of Thira. It displays rare figureheads, ancient nautical charts with English labels, seamen's chests, old maritime equipment such as mastheads, drawings and patterns, models of old and new Thiran ships and historic photographs and has a library containing many letters and documents.[5][7]

In books and films

Louise Candlish's 2007 novel Since I Don't Have You is set in Oia and London.[20]

Oia was the centre of the story in the 1982 film Summer Lovers.[21] "Michael" and "Cathy", two characters in the film, lived a villa in Oia. This villa was bought by a couple in 1987 and has been converted into a gift shop named "Summer Lovers".[22] In 2004, Oia was used for the location of a few scenes in the movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and again for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.[23] Oia was also featured in the opening sequences of the film Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, starring Angelina Jolie. The jet ski chase scenes were shot in and around Ammoudi, the old fishing port below Oia.[24][25] The film was nominated for a "Teen Choice Award" in 2009.[26]

View of the coast of Thera with Oia above former fishing village of Ammoudi
 Panoramic view from Oia's cliffs, overlooking the island of Santorini, Thira, Volcano (Palia & Nea Kameni) and beyond.


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