Scenes from Santorini

Often touted as the most picturesque village on the Greek island of Santorini, Oia looks like a terraced wedding cake perched upon the island’s craggy northwestern edges.

With its stunning views of the caldera and surrounding islands, blue and white church domes, and lack of power lines to clutter its panoramas, Oia is a shutterbug’s paradise. Red, white and black volcanic rock decorate curvy footpaths, and there are other delightful elements: whitewashed windmills, fuchsia bougainvillea blooms trailing on buildings, and the occasional mural or quirky shop decoration to inject a bit of whimsy.

Oia was most prosperous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thanks to its merchant fleet, which engaged in trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly from Alexandria to Russia.

The 1956 earthquake destroyed part of the village causing many residents to leave. In the 1980s, Oia witnessed a rebirth of sorts, with many villagers returning, and sensitive restoration taking place.

Prominent sites include Oia’s Fort Londsa, which is a ruined castle that plays host to the throngs of visitors that come to see the village’s legendary sunset. You can also still see Oia’s two-story captains’ mansions which were constructed on the highest part of the village in the 19th century.

Detail of the Panagia Akathistos Church in Oia’s center.
Detail of the Panagia Akathistos Church in Oia’s center.
Oia in miniature.
A mosaic in the square in front of the Panagia Akathistos Church.
A mosaic in the square in front of the Panagia Akathistos Church.


Detail of Oia's historic windmill.
Detail of Oia’s historic windmill.
The island's trademark blue & white abound.
The island’s trademark blue & white abound.
Me and Shawn.


A quirky mural pays homage to Santorini’s hard-working donkeys.
A mural pays homage to Santorini’s hard-working donkeys.
Footpath from the old fishing village of Amoudi Bay below to Oia.
Footpath from the old fishing village of Amoudi Bay below to Oia.

Oia Santorini 3


The beautiful, geologically-fascinating edges of the island, created as a result of the volcanic eruption. Here you can see the village of Imerovigli, which sits across the caldera from Oia.
The beautiful, geologically-fascinating edges of the island, created as a result of the volcanic eruption. Here you can see the village of Imerovigli, which sits across the caldera from Oia.
A tourist boat ferries visitors from the still-active volcano to Oia.
A tourist boat ferries visitors from the still-active volcano to Oia.

Local products for sale: olives, capers, and Santorini Fava.
Local products for sale: olives, capers, and Santorini Fava.
The Panagia Akathistos Church, shortly before sunset.
The Panagia Akathistos Church, shortly before sunset.

Stopping at a popular spot for one of many ubiquitous Oia shots.
Stopping at a popular spot for one of many ubiquitous Oia shots.
Imerovigli (left) and Skaros Rock as seen from an Oia café. It's fascinating to think that Skaros was once home to a fortress and small community.
Imerovigli (left) and Skaros Rock as seen from an Oia café. It’s fascinating to think that Skaros was once home to a fortress and small community.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

46 thoughts on “Scenes from Santorini

  1. There’s something about these shades of blue that make me catch my breath. So beautiful! The pictures dn’t even seem real. It’s hard to believe there’s a place on earth that is this picture-perfect. I love those blues…

    1. Juliann, I agree that there’s something so refreshing about the blend of blue and white that seems ubiquitous to Santorini. I think I almost appreciate the island’s beauty even more now that we are away than I did the 10 days we were there. Perhaps that’s because we’re having a grey day in Germany today. :)

  2. Did you find it too commercial, Tricia? This is a complaint I hear a lot these days, and too busy with cruise ships too. The beauty doesn’t look dulled any since I was there, but how could it be in the situation that it has. :)

    1. Jo, we did find Santorini to be quite commercial, but that said, I think that its unique landscapes, history and cuisine make it a worthwhile destination – at least once! :) I can only imagine how nice it was to explore the island back before the days of mass tourism, as you did. :)

      We tried to stay ‘under the radar’ throughout our time there by renting an apartment in a more off-the-beaten-village and mostly cooking treats ourselves in our own little kitchen. That said, we did more popular tourist activities too (volcano excursion, Akrotiri museum, wine tour and cooking class). We tried to avoid Fira whenever a cruise ship or two was in port. Thank goodness we were lucky enough to travel in Santorini in May, as I can only imagine how hectic it is now!

      When it comes time to return to Greece, I’m eager to explore some of the quieter islands. So glad I have experts here to consult as to which ones are especially enjoyable and more laid-back!

  3. Tricia, your beautiful images transformed me back to the times when I visited Santorini. Way back in the years when I used to travel just with a backpack and would do Island hopping in Greece, with a sleeping bag on the ground of a little boat, because my budget was low; listening to sounds of the boat parting the waves, inhaling the salty air , watching the sun going down over the meditareanian see and just being excited what’s awaiting me next entering a new harbor on an island. Ja those were great times. Thank you for sharing. Cornelia

    1. Cornelia, those sound like such idyllic voyages! Do you recall which islands you visited? You mentioned that those were back in the days when your “budget was low.” I read something recently that people often reflect upon such times as the best moments or years of their lives. Perhaps it’s because those circumstances push us to think more creatively?

    1. Thank you very much, Lynne. Having now been to Santorini, I can see why the Greek Tourism Board publicizes images from Santorini seemingly most frequently! I was surprised to see vintage pictures of Santorini which lacked the blue domes. It seems it might be a bit newer of a phenomenon to make them such a brilliant blue? We enjoyed discovering that some of the blue domes are even illuminated with blue lights by night. :)

    1. Thanks for dropping by to say that you appreciated the virtual voyage, Darlene! It was whimsical touches like that Rent a Cat sign which made Santorini fun, despite many of its villages being rather commercialized. I also liked the store names that incorporated aspects of Santorini’s geological history and legends (Atlantis Books, Lava Café, Pumice Gift Shop, etc.).

      1. I did last summer. I was expecting it to be over-the-top touristy and it wasn’t at all. It was absolutely gorgeous and full of little surprises everywhere.

  4. Tricia, Your artist’s eye truly captured the beauty and mystery of Oia. And i love how you discovered the small details – particularly the “rent-a-cat” sign. :) ~Terri

  5. Beautiful beautiful pictures, Tricia! I love how you captured the details and the landscape of Oia to give better perspective on how Oia really looks like. How was the overall condition in the country? Because I’m thinking of going to Greece quite soon maybe. Thanks!

    1. Bama, it’s a pleasure to connect, and thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I’ve only been to Greece twice – first solely to Athens in 2003, and most recently to Athens, Meteora and Santorini. The people we spoke with did mention the recession and the impact it’s had on many citizens. Understandably, the mood can be more somber, as a result.

      That said, we enjoyed our time in Greece immensely. If you think you might be visiting the Meteora monasteries or Santorini, I’m happy to share pointers about where we stayed, and the activities we enjoyed. We relied solely on buses (and the ferry) to get us from place to place, and the system was pretty easy to navigate. In fact, we travelled throughout the Balkans for several months, then ended our trip in Greece.

      Where are you thinking about visiting?

      If you’re looking for more inspiration, here is my Greece index:

      1. Thanks a lot Tricia! A group of friends and I are considering Greece as one of the options that we’re going to visit in January. I’ve heard that some hotels in Santorini are closed in winter. Do you think that’s true? Or do you have any other recommendations of places to go in Greece in winter?

        I’m really glad we can connect and thank you for the information! Very much appreciated.

      2. Bama, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the Santorini hotels and restaurants are closed then, based on what some locals said. Have you checked an online hotel booking search site to see if rooms seem to be available?

        The only other places I’ve gone to in Greece are Athens and Meteora. I know that Meteora can get snow, based on winter pictures I’ve seen of the majestic monasteries, but I don’t know how often it snows each season. If you like hiking and the outdoors (or even rock-climbing), Meteora is really a special destination.

        We found that we really enjoyed off-season travel throughout the Balkans this past winter/spring. Rates for hotels/apartments were lower, and we felt as though we had small towns to ourselves. We spent the bulk of our time in Croatia, then worked our way down through Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and finally Greece.

      3. I haven’t checked any online hotel booking site yet. But your information on those places would definitely help a lot in making up our mind.

        Actually I also have plans to explore the Balkans, but I put that for another bigger and longer trip in the future.

        Thanks again for your generous information Tricia!

      4. Travel simultaneously teaches how small and large the world is, doesn’t it? :)

        If you think of more questions about traveling in the region, I’d be happy to try and help, Bama. Enjoy the weekend!

      5. So true! And the more I travel, the more I discover new places, and the bigger the world becomes.

        Very much appreciated Tricia! Enjoy your weekend too! :)

  6. Fantastic photos, the white is so brilliant! I need to look into a tour of some Greek islands sometime soon, it looks like a beautiful part of the world. It’s a shame you mention it’s become more commercial over the years, but I guess that is inevitable for places as stunning as Santorini. It just takes time for people to find them. Thanks for sharing and visiting my blog!

    1. Ben, you’re absolutely right that Santorini’s popular for a reason. It does make me wonder what other gems there are out among the Greek islands? :) Wishing you a wonderful weekend, and thanks for dropping by.

    1. Rightfully so, Tina. If I could give one pointer to someone considering going to Santorini, it would be to try to get there during a quieter season. In mid-May, it was just starting to get a bit busy, but I’ve read that the summer months are extremely overcrowded. Thanks, as always, for your nice comment, and have a wonderful weekend.

      1. Hello Tricia, nice week-end also to you! I’m not so lucky, i’ll be working this w.e. … but i’ll make truffles and Christmas Cupcakes on 24th, Christmas Eve … I’ll be very busy! I’ll publish on my blog next! Hugs – Cris

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