One of the most popular things to do in Santorini is watching the sunset in Oia. Known the world over for its spectacular views, Oia sunsets are a must on any trip to Santorini – at least your first time on the island. Unfortunately, if you don’t plan it right, seeing the sunset in Oia can be rather disappointing…
First, hundreds of people flock to the northern part of the island every evening and especially on weekends to watch the sun melt into the Aegean waters. The crowds can be quite annoying with people spilling into walkways, sitting on walls, and packing into restaurants and cafes to find that perfect view.
Second, if you don’t know the best places to go, you can end up spending way too much money on a mediocre meal with poor service just to have a place to sit for the world famous sunset. Forget it!
Here are my tips for finding the best spot to watch the sunset in Oia:
1. Plan one specific afternoon/evening to visit Oia and watch the sunset.
I like this approach because you can enjoy all Oia has to offer in one day instead of making multiple trips just to see the sunset. Of course, if you are staying in Oia this is not really an issue. Personally, I much prefer my favorite hotel in Perivolos for spending most of my time on the southern end of the island. But that’s just me – I love the beach!
2. Try to arrive in Oia around 4:00 in the afternoon or so.
No sense in spending the entire day looking into the same old tourist shops. I would suggest that you rent a car to drive to Oia. Scooters and ATVs are too slow and probably too dangerous if you’re an unexperienced rider. Ok, so driving a quad or 4×4 is definitely more fun than a car BUT be prepared for local drivers and busses to pass you aggressively. Pull over if a line of cars starts to form behind you.
3. Pick a small cafe to have a late-afternoon snack and maybe a coffee.
I like to do this as a way to avoid overpaying for dinner at one of the “sunset view” restaurants. Bleh. Those places are often crowded with misinformed tourists and rude wait staff. You’re basically paying for the view. Then again, if you want to do something special — maybe it’s your honeymoon or you just won the lottery — then there are quite a number of high-quality restaurants that offer great views AND great food.
4. Walk to the end of Oia around 6:00 or 7:00 in the evening.
The sun will set sometime between 6:30pm and 8:00pm depending on the time of year you visit (even earlier if you visit Santorini in winter).
5. Find a comfortable spot to sit near the windmill area.
There is a lovely bar/cafe very near the windmill (see photo). This is a great spot because few people walk down this far. Again, unless you want to spend loads of cash, avoid dining in Oia just for the sunset. If you really do want to splurge, go for it. But stick to the very high-end restaurants to avoid the mediocre places like the plague.
6. Watch the sunset.
Yes, it’s pretty easy to do this part. And then… wait for the applause. It always makes me laugh when people start clapping for the sunset. Touching, but funny.
After the sunset, I would suggest sticking around at the windmill for a drink or snack. Most people will start fleeing immediately after it’s over, so this is a great way to avoid the leaving traffic.
Most importantly, relax and enjoy it. It is quite spectacular to watch the sunset in Oia.