Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I missed the bus to Oia in the confusing Fira "bus station"—a parking lot with buses facing all directions and backing over waiting passengers—because the bus labelled "Oia" wasn't going to Oia at all. Bugger it, I thought, I'm going to rent a quad bike. Tourists zip all over the island on them and they looked like so much fun I was already tempted. And they're cheap: my excellent little hotel in Fira (San Giorgio Villas) connected me with a rental for €20 a day. It was a blast. I wound my way around the weaving, narrow road out to Oia at a top speed of 60kmh, which felt positively breakneck to me.

Fira, with its tall and narrow white-rendered stone lanes and view of the caldera, is spectacular. But Oia (pronounced "ee-ah") is breathtaking. Those photos you see of Santorini with the little blue-roofed churches in the cluster of brilliant white houses? They're all taken at Oia. Fira with its noisy clubs is party town for the kids. Oia is where the adults go.

I spotted a sign reading "Perivolas traditional houses" as I buzzed into town. That sounded like a good start. I turned off the road, parked the quad, and wandered along a stone footpath in the vividly hot Mediterranean sun. It snaked atop a tumble of whitewashed stone villas down the cliff with doors and windows of bright red or blue, past topless women and their bronzed men lounging under palms by luxury swimming pools, all overlooking the immense, sea-filled crater of the volcano far below. Oia is the kind of place that, when you see it, you abandon everything else. She is the siren of Santorini. I was so incredibly tempted to tear up my ticket to Athens for the following day and stay.

The tight clutches of cafes, restaurants and hotels barnacled onto the western point are kept supplied by men with fully-laden dollies of alcohol, soft drinks and produce. These men labour up and down meandering seams of stone paths that twist down the sea-facing cliffs, zippered together with broad steps, and every day trains of burdened donkeys tote the refuse all back out again.

Oia has a tenth of Fira's bustle. Here it was at the start of the high season in mid-July and it was completely chilled, except in the evening when the tourists arrived from Fira by the busload to see the famed sunset on the water. My advice to anyone visiting Santorini is to see Fira, but then get to Oia and stay there.

I did.

1 comment:

Shoes said...

Luving it Fish. Glad your having a great time and keeping the rest of us desk bound mob dreaming of a better place. STELLA STELLA