For ages Oia was called Epano Meria (Upper Side), since it is built in the northern side of the island. It is an impressive settlement known all over the world for the magnificent sunset from its Goulas. In recent years the buildings have become hotels, restaurants, cafes, stores.
The settlement is very popular and therefore from dawn till dusk it is filled with visitors. Nights in Oia remain peaceful though, and walking in the centre marble laid road, loitering the impressive and exquisitly lit buildings is a real pleasure.
During the sunset, tens of people full of awe from the greatness they face, sit on roofs and balconies silently admiring one of the most rare spectacles on earth.
Carved-in buildings and captains' houses
Characteristics of the settlement are its carved-in buildings and the so called captains' houses ("kapetanospita") having unusual neoclassic elements. As writer Kadio Kolimva from Oia notes: "...carved-in buildings of Oia with stubborness from the downslope are trying to find a space to exist. Houses without foundations spread out in the light, illuminated early, with nothing to disturb their concatenation of lines and colors. Always at the front, a very small courtyard with a tiny "alitana", a flower-bed with fragrant jasmines, honeysuckles, verbenas and lavenders".
In 1993, Oia was characterized as a traditional settlement by presidential decree, and the entire island of Santorini as an area of "exceptional natural beauty".
- Oia suffered from the 1956 earthquake. During 1970 through the GNTO pilot program "Development and Utilization of Traditional Settlements", Oia got its first sewage system, the weaving mill, and the original edifice of the Maritime museum. Churches, windmills and other buildings were restored. The GNTO project won awards at the 1979 Europa Nostra and the 1986 Sofia Biennale of Architecture, inspiring private initiatives for the restoration of buildings that are now used as hotels, restaurants, shops, cafés etc.
- Oia is now a model community with modern infrastructures. There are no aerial power and phone cables, as all cable networks are underground. There is also a seawater desalination plant, and units for the biological cleaning of waste water.