Oia, Santorini Evening Sunset Walk - 4K - with Captions!
Welcome to Oia on the island of Santorini where a glorious sunset over the sea awaits at the far end of town. The official name of the island is actually Thira, not Santorini. The island’s name was changed from Santorini to Thira in 1821 in homage to the first settlement on the island, the Ancient Greek city of Thera. The ancient Greek city was named after its first ruler, Theras. Oia is a new name too, adopted in 1930 and pronounced “eea”. It used to be called Apano Meria, a name still in use by the older native residents. Like most Greek islands, Thera (Santorini) is named after its biggest town, Fira, which is an alternative pronunciation. It is also named after the ancient Greek city.
Fira can be seen here across the bay. The ruins of the ancient Greek Thera are in the south east beyond the hill. The Santorini island group is actually a large caldera. A caldera is formed when a volcano erupts and then collapses. Most are huge and filled in by lakes over time
Santorini last erupted in 1950 but it’s been active for millennia. Roman writers Pliny the Elder and Cassius Dio both mention the formation of new volcanic islands 200 years apart. There are two small volcanic islands at the center of the caldera, Nea ("New") Kameni and Palea ("Old") Kameni. The island on the right is Palaia Kameni, which Pliny tells us emerged on the 8th of July 19AD. The 148 acre island is home to a herd of goats, a hot spring, a small church and one man, a 60 year old ex-sailor named Sostis. Sostis spends his days feeding his chicken, fishing, cooking and going to Saint Nicolas Church. The larger island, Nea Kameni is 3.4 km² (1.3 miles²) and was formed in the 1500’s. It’s the active part of the volcano and tourists can visit the sulphur vents.
Palaia and Nea Kameni translate to Old and New Burnt Island. The other islands making up the caldera rim are Therasia and Aspronisi. In 1620 BC, Santorini experience a Super-colossal volcanic eruption, known as the Minoan eruption, which historians have given a rating of 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). Mt. St. Helens (1980) and Mt. Vesuvius (79) both have a rating of 5 on the VEI. The VEI scale is logarithmic, like the Richter scale, meaning an increase of 1 on the index indicates an eruption that is 10 times more powerful than the last. An eruption with a magnitude of 8, such as the Yellowstone Eruption, is estimated to occur once every 50,000 years.
Santorini has around 15,500 residents. Each year more than 2 million tourists visit the island. Until 1960, there was no electricity on the island, only donkeys and fishermen. This small town of Oia stretches on for about 1.25 miles (2km) at a height of around 500 ft above the water. The village is also known as “the eagle’s nest” because it sits so high up above the sea. Up ahead, in the central plaza, is the island’s most impressive church, the Greek Orthodox Church of Panagia Platsani.
The original church was located inside the walls of the Venetian Castle of Oia. The church collapsed after an 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 1956. It was rebuilt here in the square where the ground is more stable .
Panagia is a common church name in Greece and refers to the Virgin Mary. Here it’s named for a painting of her miraculously found at sea. Local legend says it was revealed to a sailor by a floating lit candle and could only be fished out by the island’s priest . The painting was kept in the church but moved by itself to the castle walls each night indicating a new church should be built there.
The name of the church “Platsani” comes from the sound of waves hitting the icon floating in the sea (“plats – plats”). There are over 200 churches on the island the most photographed are the blue domed churches here in Oia. Here you can see two of the most famous blue domes in Oia, the Church of the Resurrection and Church of Saint Spyridon. The domes are blue to represent the sea and the sky. The patriotic white and blue color scheme was mandatory across Greece under the 1967-74 dictatorship. Saint Spyridion is the patron saint of potters. He explained the trinity by comparing it to a pot: one object made from of three separate things- fire, water, and clay.
On the right of this square is a small museum of musical instruments spanning from 2,800BC to the early 20th century. Opposite to the music store is the Atlantis bookshop. It was the massive volcanic eruption in 1620 BC that buried the original Greek city on the island known as Akrotiri. The settlement has been suggested as a possible inspiration for Plato's story of Atlantis. When Santorini erupted in 1600BC Akrotiri was buried under pumice and huge Tsunamis struck around the Mediterranean. Some thought frescos excavated at Akrotiri in the 1960’s resembled Plato’s description of the lost city and this made the theory popular.
This is the Church of St. Nikoloas, the Turkish saint who became the Dutch Sinterklaas and then modern Santa/Father Christmas. A sunset, as promised! This outcrop and its 15th century Venetian castle is the most popular spot in Oia to watch the sunset...while looking at your phone. :) Ahead are the foundations of a watchtower. The rest of the castle collapsed during the 1956 earthquake that prompted a mass exodus of the island and rebuilding of the church. Many single story hillside homes survived as they are long narrow cave houses known locally as Hyposkapha. The two story flat roofed Kapetanospita or ‘captains houses’ were lived in by more wealthy business owners and many of these were badly damaged. With few jobs available, the population of Oia fell to 306 by 1977 which greatly reduced the sunset crowds. Tourism exploded following the 1982 film, ‘Summer Lovers.'
Oia is a beautiful place, and tourists are welcome, but laws capped daily cruise passengers at 8,000 in 2019 and petitions to ban them completely are ongoing. The locals prefer to have visitors arrive by ferry instead of massive cruise ships. The Santorini islands are part of the windy Cyclade islands that surround Delos. There are 70 windmills on Thira but most are now holiday rentals. The cotton blades of the windmills are normally tied to the spokes as ornamentation or removed. A working mill can be visited on nearby Mykonos.
Below us are luxury villas and off the coast here is a shipwreck 1-20m (3-65ft) down you can visit with diving guides. The more famous shipwreck here is the cruise liner MS Sea Diamond which sunk in April 2007. It’s near Nea Kameni island in the caldera. Ongoing disagreements over who should remove the wreckage means it’s been leaking fuel, battery electrolytes, and heavy metals into the sea since it sunk.