Oia, Santorini – an Instagrammer’s paradise

Today is our last full day in Santorini. Throughout this trip I’ve found it very hard to relax and take everything in. I think it’s because I’ve grown so accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle of London, that I’ve forgotten how to pause, breathe and just relax.

Santorini is not at all what I expected. The same way Paris wasn’t. The travel brochures and my favorite igers have romanticized the destination, and that’s what I thought it would be like when we got off the ferry. The whole island does not look like Oia, the village on the cliff with all the beautiful blue domed churches. Oia is just one of the villages of the island; there’s so much more to Santorini than just that, like exploring Fira and the different colour beaches; I particularly liked the black beach of Kamari. But you came here to read about Oia, so let’s start with that.

The drive out to Oia was not far from where we stayed, about 15 minutes with a bus on a steep mountainous road. If you’re reading from Cape Town, think Ou Kaapse Weg but a longer, more winding road. You can see the coast the entire time which makes the drive even more relaxing. There are other ways to get to Oia; you could take a private taxi, a donkey or the bus. But I consider riding a donkey up a mountain, animal abuse and the taxi fare is beyond ridiculous because we’re tourists, so we took the bus which was €1.80 for a single journey.

Once we got to Oia there was so much to see, I got an immediate sensory overload. But I had a one track mind to get to the blue-domed churches… and so did everyone else. We knew we would be there the entire day, so we decided to just choose a direction and start exploring. We passed so many interesting doorways and little alleyways while we were walking. And when the alleyway ended and I looked up, there it was: the most epic view of Oia, just like I’ve seen it in the postcards. I snapped away, and fought other tourists for a good spot.

Now, the public walkways won’t allow you to get those artsy portraits with the blue domes. Trust me, we spent a good few hours walking down every alleyway following the alignment of the blue domes and each alleyway ends at a footpath that says “STOP” to keep the filthy tourists out. Please note, the below points are not actual travel tips, but merely a candid documentation of my recent experience in the beautiful island.

Spot number 1 – my featured image
As you approach Oia, the second biggest blue domed church at the top of a peach building.. take the second path left after the peach church. If you pass the souvenir shop you’re on the right track.
When you get to the end of the alley, there’ll be a gate that says private property. What I did was set up my Gorilla pod ready to frame the shot and as soon as the wave of tourists passed and I was alone for 2 minutes, I opened the gate and ran down the stairs while my camera was capturing every frame. I then ran back up, to grab my camera before I got shouted at by hotel staff. Yes, I trespassed but every proper Instagrammer goes to those lengths to get the shot.

Right, spot number 2..
So when you’re done with the first shot, walk towards your right in the same alleyway.. you’ll see a massive church bell. While there are many blue domes, there aren’t many of these beautiful church bells. If you’re used to climbing mountains like we do in Cape Town, this will be an easy feat. Jump over the wall and you’ll be standing on the roof of the church right next to the bell. The view is magnificent and will get you that perfect, dreamy Instagram shot. But you have to wait for the crowd (shown below) passes, so that you don’t create chaos.

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Spot number 3,
A cute little balcony overlooking the caldera. This spot is just a few steps to your right of the bell, and is also… private property. The wall is short enough to jump over and if you sit on the balcony and act like you belong, no one will bother you. Snap away.

There are other spots like these as well, but if I list them all we’d be here all day. I think the key takeaway would be, if you want to get close to the domes you need to do a bit of climbing and sneaking through private pathways of hotels. If you’re agile, no one gets hurt and you get the shot. But if you get caught, you might get thrown in Greek jail so don’t say you weren’t warned.

Health warning: it is HOT in Santorini.
I’m from Cape Town, South Africa where temps reach 34 in summer, I grew up in the harsh African sunshine with naturally brown skin that’s never needed sunblock in all of the first 30 summers of my life. I’d only ever go 2 shades darker in summer, no sunburn. But 2 days in Greece and I have a heat rash all over my body and face. Take lots of water with you to Oia; or buy from the Proton supermarket at the bus station because the restaurants along the coastline will overcharge you. Even though I’ve been living in London for nearly 3 years, the South African in me will always try and buy at the supermarkets in general because it’s obvz cheaper; for example a can of coke is €3.50 at a restaurant compared to €0.81c at the supermarket next to the restaurant.

My last piece of advice would be to try and avoid the busy tourist season (June – August) You’d have a much more enjoyable time on the island from mid-September onwards as it won’t be so hot. And the hotel staff probably wouldn’t mind you climbing on their rooftops for a quick photo because you’ll be alone and you won’t have dozens of tourists following you trying to do the same thing.

I hope this helps you. Happy traveling and stay out of trouble.

*Disclaimer: Rooftopping and trespassing on private property should be done at your own risk. I will not be held responsible if shit goes wrong while you tried to get on someone’s roof. Please respect all island property and be nice to the locals.

With love from (my iPhone in) Santorini