Fira or Oia – Where to Stay

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Updated: April 15, 2020

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Fira vs Oia – Summary

  • Fira is the isalnd’s capital and the livelier village of the two with much more nightlife and shopping.
  • Oia is the more luxurious village with romantic restaurants and high-end shopping.
  • Both Oia and Fira have some great places to eat (and some average ones), but I would give a slight edge to Oia for the quality of restaurants. Oia has more fine dining restaurants, while Fira has more casual restaurants.
  • Both Oia and Fira have great views of the caldera – very different perspectives, but I couldn’t say one was better than the other.
  • Both Oia and Fira have good sunset views (though the best are in Imerovigli). In Fira most hotels on the caldera have a pretty direct view of the sunset over the caldera. In Oia, most hotels don’t have a direct view of the sunset, and you need to leave your hotel and take a short walk to see the sun set into the water. Hotels in Oia with sunset views do not face the caldera.
  • Santorini walking tours, boat tours, and wine tours begin from both Oia and Fira (most tours include hotel pickup) so it doesn’t matter where you’re staying.
  • Easier to explore the island from: Fira is more central and makes getting to the southern parts of the island easier and faster. This matters more if you’re getting around by bus as Fira is the hub for all bus routes on the island which means passengers taking a bus from Oia to the beaches will need to change buses in Fira (a bit of a hassle). If you rent a car then there’s not as big of a difference.
  • Renting a car: Slightly easier in Fira, since there is a direct bus from the port or airport to the Fira but station, and then it’s just a short walk to most car rental lots. If you pick up the car at the airport (recommended), then it doesn’t matter which town you stay in.
  • Closer to the airport and ferry port: Fira is about 10 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes from the ferry port, and there is direct bus service. Oia is about 30 minutes from both the airport and ferry port by car. If traveling by bus, you’ll have to transfer in Fira, making the whole journey closer to an hour.
  • Closer to the beaches: Fira is about 15 minutes closer than Oia to the beach towns. As I say, this isn’t a big deal if you have a rental car, but makes a bigger difference if you’re getting around by bus.
  • ATMs are easy to find in both Fira and Oia. Both towns have grocery markets but Fira has an actual grocery store. If you need to do laundry Fira is better.

Fira vs Oia – A Comparison

View of Fira from a ship.

Fira is up at the top, the Old Port (only used for cruise ships, not ferries) is at the bottom. To get up to Fira from the Old Port, there’s a choice of cable car, walking, or riding the donkeys.

View of Oia from Ammoudi Bay

Looking up at Oia from Ammoudi Bay. Ammoudi Bay is known for its fresh seafood restaurants and as a popular port for caldera sailing trips. It’s a short walk down to Ammoudi and a lot of steps back up. (The restaurant will call you a cab, if you’re not up for the hike.)

View of Oia from Perivolas resort in Santorini.

View of Oia village, looking northwest from Perivolas Hotel.

View of Fira from Volkan on the Rocks in Firostefani

View of Fira from looking south from Firostefani. The large, white-domed building is the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, Fira’s most recognizable landmark.

A view of Skaros Rock in Imerovigli

This is Skaros Rock in Imerovigli, which divides (to me, at least) the north and south points of the caldera. I point it out because you can see Skaros from Oia and Fira, and it appears in many pictures on this page. It offers a good landmark to get your bearings.

View of Fira from Imerovigli.

View of Fira, looking south from Skaros Rock.

View of Oia from Imerovigli.

View of Oia, looking north from Skaros Rock.

View of cliffs from Fira.

Looking north towards Skaros Rock from Kavalari Hotel in Fira. Oia village is in the background behind Skaros.

A view towards Fira from Oia.

View from a church in Oia looking south towards Skaros Rock with Fira on the right and Imerovigli on the left.

The main pedestrian pathway in Oia

The main, marble footpath in Oia – flat, wide, and stroller-friendly – runs pretty much the entire length of the village (with one main interruption just past Canaves hotel).

The cobblestone main street along the caldera in Fira

In contrast, the cobblestone main path in Fira is not as stroller-friendly.

It's easy to get (happily) lost in the paths and stairwells of Santorini.

Whether in Oia or Fira, it’s easy to get (happily) lost in the paths and stairwells of Santorini.

One of the highlights of a trip to Santorini is walking the footpath between Oia and Fira. It doesn't matter whether you walk Oia to Fira, or Fira to Oia.

One of the highlights of a trip to Santorini is walking the footpath between Oia and Fira. It doesn’t matter whether you walk from Oia to Fira or from Fira to Oia.

Another sign for the footpath along the caldera. This is in Firostefani (the village closest to Fira).

Another sign for the footpath along the caldera. This is in Firostefani (the village closest to Fira).

The hike from Fira to Oia.

From Fira to Imerovigli you’re largely walking on town sidewalks. North of Imerovigli on the way to Oia, the stone path gives way to a dirt hiking trail.

View from Imerovigli towards Oia.

Imerovigli is about half-way between Fira and Oia and has the best views of any town along the caldera (because of its higher elevation).

Best beach in Santorini.

Perissa is the best sandy beach in Santorini. It’s definitely easier and closer to get here from Fira than Oia.

Best swimming spot near Fira.

Kamari is a pebble beach and is the most family-friendly swimming spot close to Fira. Oia is 20 minutes farther from Kamari than Fira.

Watching outdoor movies in Santorini.

I love going to the open air cinema in Kamari, near the beach. It’s quite a bit easier to do this from Fira than Oia.

Ammoudi Bay is the best swimming spot near Oia.

Oia is farther from the beaches of Santorini, but still has great swimming at Ammoudi Bay below. There’s no beach here – just jump from the rocks. Ammoudi is best known for its fantastic seafood restaurants, the best on the island.

Nightlife in Fira.

Fira has far more nightlife, bars, and clubs than Oia.

Koo Club and Enigma are the big dance clubs in Fira. Oia has a few bars and places to drink but no clubs.

Koo Club and Enigma are the big dance clubs in Fira. Oia has only one stand-alone bar (most restaurants have full bars, though) but no clubs.

Marykay's is the only true bar in Oia. It's tiny but gets good and lively after midnight.

Marykay’s Bar (aka Hassapiko) is the only real bar in Oia. It’s tiny but gets good and lively after midnight.

Sunset view from the castle ruins in Oia

Oia is the most popular town on the island to watch the sunset from. Here is the sunset view as seen from the Byzantine castle ruins, Oia’s most popular sunset viewpoint.

Sunset view in Fira from Tropical Bar with Tango and Franco in view.

Though Fira is busier than Oia throughout the day, it is quieter than Oia during the sunset. This is the view from Tropical Bar with Franco’s and Tango Bars in view.

A shopping street in Fira, Santorini

There’s plenty of shopping in both Fira and Oia, but Fira has more shops and more variety in the winding streets inland from the caldera.

Luxury shopping in Oia along the main pedestrian path

Though Oia has less shopping overall, the shops here tend to be more high-end. Most luxury shops are lined up along Oia’s wide, marble, pedestrian path.

Fira is the hub for buses getting around the island. If you're in Oia and want to go anywhere on the island (besides Imerovigli and Firostefani) then you have to switch buses in Fira.

Fira is the hub for buses getting around the island. If you’re in Oia and want to go anywhere on the island (besides Imerovigli and Firostefani) then you have to switch buses in Fira.

Donkey rides in Fira.

Donkeys are everywhere in Santorini, though riding them is not recommended, as they are often overburdened. Here are some donkeys making their way through Fira.

A donkey carries luggage in Oia.

Another donkey carries luggage through Oia’s busy lanes.

Fira in Pictures

View from Fira.

The view from Fira looking north towards Skaros Rock and Oia.

View of the Old Port and volcano from Fira

View from Fira facing west over the caldera toward the old port and volcano.

Post-sunset view from Fira facing southwest.

View from Fira facing southwest toward the volcano and the Akrotiri peninsula. Photo taken minutes after sunset. The tiny light at the tip of the peninsula is the Akrotiri lighthouse.

The main walking street in Fira along the caldera.

Fira has two main streets streets. One (seen here) runs along the caldera’s edge, passing by the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, higher end hotels with views, and sunset-view restaurants and bars.

Frescos inside the cathedral in Fira

A peek inside the cathedral, covered in gold and frescos.

Main street in Fira.

The other main street is inland from the caldera lined with fun, lively collection of budget hotels, affordable shops, and great cheap food.

The taxi station in Fira

The taxi and bus stations in Fira are to the east of this inland street. The taxi station is closest to the main road with the bus station right behind it, seen here in the back left.

The Fira bus station is the main transportation hub of Santorini

The bus station in Fira is the main hub for the whole island. Every bus route in Santorini begins and ends here.

A narrow lane in Fira with bars, restaurants, and shops

Between Fira’s two main streets, there is a tangle of narrow lanes brimming with shops, bars, and restaurants. 

The Old Port in Fira is used by cruise ships.

Just below Fira village is the Old Port, used primarily by cruise ships tendering passengers ashore for day trips.

The stairs from the Old Port up to Fira.

The port connects to the village by the Karavolades Stairs, which zigzag along the side of the caldera for 1 km. Many people walk down…

Cable car in Fira.

…then take the cable car back up to Fira.

Donkeys in Fira.

Riding a donkey up or down is also an option, but this practice is highly controversial now, as the animals are not treated well.

Caldera view from Fira.

Lots of cafes, restaurants, and hotels look out onto the caldera in Fira.

Best restaurant with a view in Fira.

The best restaurant with a view in Fira: Naoussa.

Ouzeri is my favorite restaurant in Fira. Both Fira and Oia have lots of great places to eat

Ouzeri is my favorite restaurant in Fira.

Best cheap food in Santorini.

If you’re looking to save money on food nothing beats a gyro. Lucky’s in the heart of Fira has the best gyros and souvlaki on Santorini.

Tropical Bar (along with Franco's) is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Fira.

Tropical Bar (along with Franco’s and PK Cocktail Bar) is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Fira.

View of volcano from Fira.

Fira is busier than Oia but there are still plenty of quiet spots in Fira.

Oia in Pictures

The Four Bells of Oia, Santorini

View from Oia’s Four Bells at the western tip of the village, facing west toward Thirassia Island.

View from Oia facing west.

View from the caldera’s edge close to the center of Oia, facing south over Armeni Port, also toward Thirassia Island.

View of Oia village facing west.

View from the eastern end of Oia, facing west toward the village with Armeni Port below and Thirassia on the left.

View of the eastern end of Oia

View from Mystique Hotel in Oia, facing east toward the end of the village.

View of the Oia windmills at sunset

Oia is the most romantic and exclusive village in Santorini, and is best-loved for its spectacular sunset views. This shot of the windmills was taken from the Byzantine castle ruins, perched over Ammoudi Bay.

The Byzantine castle ruins in Oia, Santorini

The castle ruins on the rim of the caldera are the main spot to watch the sunset in Oia. Get there early for the best views, bring a bottle of wine, and have fun.

The castle ruins at sunset

Just don’t expect to have it all to yourself.

Restaurants at Ammoudi Bay

Visiting Ammoudi Bay is the other major highlight of staying in Oia. The restaurants here are all amazing, serving the freshest fish in Santorini. This is also the closest swimming spot to Oia village.

Ammoudi Bay with sailboats at sunset.

Ammoudi Bay is usually then end point of the sunset sailing cruises in the caldera.

Oia is better than Fira for kids and strollers.

Both Fira and Oia have lots of steps but the main walkway in Oia is flat and much better for getting around with a stroller.

The Church of Panagia Platsani

The footpath passes by several luxury hotels, high-end shops, great restaurants, and the picturesque, blue-domed Church of Panagia Platsani.

A path along the Oia caldera

A maze of narrow paths with more boutique shops, hotels, and cafes branches out from the main path down the side of the caldera.

A lane in central Oia

Even more shops and some of Oia’s best restaurants are found along the winding lanes in the main village.

Candouni restaurant in the heart of Oia

The best restaurant in Oia is charming Candouni, serving local dishes and paired with live music most evenings.

View of Elinikon restaurant in Oia

The best restaurant with a sunset view in Oia is Elinikon.

PitoGyros has the best gyros in Oia

The best gyros in Oia are at PitoGyros. They’re not as legendary as Lucky’s in Fira, but they’re still fantastic.

Marykay's bar in Oia, Santorini

Marykay’s/Hassapiko, in the building on the left, is the only stand-alone bar in Oia.

Shopping in Oia: Bookstore.

Atlantis Books in Oia is a fabulous little bookstore in Oia, consistently recognized as one of the world’s best bookstores. Don’t miss it.

Pool for swimming open to the public.

Lioyerma pool in Oia. Nice size and good views. It’s the only “public” pool in Santorini and nice if your hotel doesn’t have a pool. No fee, you just have to buy something to eat or drink. Strangely, it never gets all that busy.

The Oia bus station

The main driving road on the backside of the village is where you’ll find Oia’s bus station, with routes bound for Imerovigli, Firostefani, and Fira. You’ll need to change buses in Fira to reach any other villages, the ferry port, or the airport.

Bus stop near Oia.

For those staying at the eastern end of Oia, it may be faster to walk to the smaller bus stop at the edge of nearby Finikia village, seen here. All buses between Fira and Oia stop here.

Domaine Sigalas winery near Finikia, Santorini

Just north of Finikia is the fantastic Domaine Sigalas winery, available for tasting flights, tapas, and tours. This is one of the best wineries on Santorini and sits about a 30-minute walk of a 5-minute drive from the heart of Oia village.

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24 Questions and Comments

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  1. Where To Stay in Fira

    Hi Dave
    I’m hoping to book a holiday in September for my young at heart Mum who is 88 but can walk short distances. I’ve been to Fira and Kamari when I was on a cruise last year and I liked the true Greek feel of Fira. The Aressana and El Greco hotels look like they will accommodate Mum and I. Are there many steps at the hotel and in the vicinity? Is there a bus stop at the El Greco? The other option is a modern resort hotel in Perissa although I’m leaning towards a hotel where we can have a walk and enjoy the caldera view and sunset. Other hotel recommendations are appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      The Aressana is a great choice. Right in the heart of Fira and almost no stairs to access. It doesn’t have a caldera view but that’s just steps from the front door. The El Greco is nice but is far outside of Fira. There is a bus stop nearby however.

  2. Santorini Place To Stay for Large Family Group

    We are a family of 11, looking for a nice 4 or 5 star with great views in Fira. Wondering what area of Fira has the best views/hotels.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      I’d get two neighboring villas at Aria Villas.

  3. Type of Luggage to Bring to Santorini

    Should I bring a suitcase or backpack to Santorini (due to the amount of stairs)?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Most hotels along the caldera will meet you with porters and carry your luggage to the hotel so backpack or suitcase isn’t that important. And in any case, it’s the weight (and how much you pack) that will matter, not the type of luggage.

  4. Imerovigli vs Oia

    Hi Dave, I am looking at staying in Santorini for 3 nights in July for our Honeymoon. We will be coming from Mykonos so looking for a relaxing end to our trip. Looking at either Oia Suites Deluxe Suite or The Vasilicos King Cat Suite. I can’t decide between Imerovigli and Oia! Any help or opinion would be much appreciated!!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      To my tastes, Imerovigli is much more suitable for a honeymoon stay.

  5. Good Fira Hotel for Single Female

    I am female in my 40s who will be traveling to Santorini for 3 days in June. I think Fira will be the best place for me to stay since I don’t plan to rent a car. Can you recommend a nice hotel in the $150 per day US range that is safe and in an easy location for walking around? A caldera view would be a plus. Also do you think it will be safe for me to walk the trail from Fira to Oia alone?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Kavalari is a good Fira hotel with wonderful views and moderate prices (just under $150 in June). Very central and no reason to think it wouldn’t be safe. Walking the Fira-Oia path should be fine.

  6. Where To Stay in Santorini / Day Trips from Santorini and Mykonos

    I don’t even know what to say. I like to think I AM the most informed person on travel and do my research but your blog has put me to SHAME. Awesome, just awesome. Ive been reading and reading though tons of questions and answers- my turn!

    I am in the EARLY stages of planning a trip to Athens/Greek Islands in late Mid/September for 2 couples in our Mid 30’s.Around 10 days. The goal is a bit of everything. Beach, nightlife, views, great food, ease of getting around, walking distance would be great for nighttime from bars/resturaunts/shopping. A really COOL place to stay would be great. Like the caves/private pool accommodations, something different, but with the caldera view? I would rather spend more money on a nice hotel in Santorini then in Mykonos. I’m still torn what area to stay in Santorini, i want it all. A little romance, great caldera view hotel, great food, night life, ease of getting around to a few towns. Based on the distance and what I have read, I think Oia would be a nice day adventure but it’s too far out. So I am torn between Imerovigli and Fira I guess.

    As far as Mykonos goes, still a great central location, walking distances as night. Near a great beach or ease of getting to and from the beach. Room with a nice view, but again, doesnt need to be as nice as Santorini.

    Id like to ATV/4Wheel, go hiking, go to the beach, explore the islands and get lost. If we have 3 full days on mykonos, I’d like to hop to 1 other island, which would you recommend for a day trip? beachy and adventure suggestion? same for Santorini, the best islands to hop to, I’d say 1 island recommendation for same, beachy/adventure.

    Fly from the US to Mykonos (overnight flight). 4 nights, 3 full days
    Take the ferry from Mykonos to Santorini. 4 nights, nearly 4 full days
    Take the ferry from Santorini to Athens. 2 nights, 1 full day (none of us are huge into history but feel we need to see the basics and are going to flat out see what we can in 1 FULL day) this MIGHT turn into 2 nights, but TBD.

    Thanks so much, I look forward to your reply.
    Kelly Hammick

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Imerovigli and Fira are about as different as you can get. Go with Imerovigli for romance, good restaurants, the best views. Go with Fira for shopping, nightlife, busy streets. The best (easiest) day trip from Santorini is Ios. The best (easiest) day trip from Mykonos is Paros.

  7. Remezzo, Alta Mare, or Andronis

    Dave
    My wife and I are planning to travel to Santorini and stay there Thursday, June 22 to Sunday, June 25. Having decided on taking this trip just a week ago due to a family wedding in Sifnos, we are a little behind in getting reservations and are trying to decide between a few places that are available to us right now with tentative reservations. If you have knowledge of these hotels, what would you recommend between staying at the Remezzo Villas in Imerovigli, or staying in Oia at either the Alta Mare by Andronis or Andronis Boutique Hotel. We are interested in the location and the caldera views from the hotel, and staying at a nicely kept up hotel with a pool that has some privacy from the passing crowds. If you have an opinion on these or other suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for your time and expertise in advance.
    James Fahey

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      All are wonderful hotels with amazing views (though only Remezzo will have sunset views). The big difference is location. Remezzo is on the quiet end of the already quiet Imerovigli. Alta Mare and Andronis are on the main Oia walkway and get lots of walk by traffic (but the rooms themselves have plenty of privacy). Imerovigli has fewer restaurants (but all very high quality). Oia has more shopping and one small (but fun) bar.

  8. Where To Stay on Santorini, Greece?

    Hi Dave,
    We are a family from Sweden going to Santorini June 30th and we will stay for 3 nights with 3 kids/teens. We will travel from Crete with the ferry (perhaps from Chania which is where we will be the previous 4 days or from Heraklion depending on which ferry is running). Do you know where the ferries land in Santorini? Is it more convenient to go to Fira from there or is Oia also not too far away? I am thinking Oia is my first choice and I found two hotels with moderate pricing: Fava Eco Residences and En Plou Boutique Suites. Which one of these two would you suggest (or other alternative)?
    Hope you have a chance to give me some of your valuable advice!
    Many thanks for a great website!
    Kind regards,
    Sofia Selberg

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Fira is about 20 minutes driving time from the ferry port. Oia is about 40 minutes. If you bus the difference is a little more as you need to switch buses in Fira (for Oia). Neither Fava Eco Residences or En Plou Suites are in Oia but Fava has a much more convenient location (in the town of Finikia) than En Plou. It’s right on a main bus line and the walk into Oia is mainly along the caldera foot path (you will need to find it) and is much more relaxing/enjoyable.

  9. Oia Mare Villas or Tholos Resort

    Hi Dave,

    Hope you are doing great. I hope you will answer my email. We are coming to Santorini 7/15-7/18 and then off to Mykonos. What would you recommend between Oia Mare Villas or Tholos Resort. It is my husband, my son(16) and myself. As far as the hotel, we would like a nice place we can come back from a long day, have a cocktail/wine and hang for the beautiful view. Thank you Dave. Always grateful!
    Linda, Dan and Jack

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Both are nice places but Tholos has a far better caldera view. There’s a little more “to do” in Oia than Imerovigli but Fira is a wonderful 20 minute walk from Tholos.

  10. Keti Hotel in Fira

    How is Keti Hotel for 2 nights? Will it be good for caldera view before moving to Oia for 2 nights in a hotel without any view but just to enjoy the village? Is Ferry from Santorini to Mykonos safe?
    Wafa Khan

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Keti hotel is great. One of my favorite moderately-priced hotels in Fira. Wonderful views. Cons: very simple breakfast and lots of steps up to Fira’s shops, bars, and restaurants.

  11. Where To Stay Over Easter

    Hi Dave! Will be in Santorini 11th – 16th of April and trying to decide which village to stay in. Would really try Oia this time (been to Santorini twice before, stayed in Imerovigli both times), but according to some folks on tripadvisor it might be “dead” there bc of the off-season. While others say it should be fine on the Easter weekend. Do you have any information on whether restaurants and shops will be open during the week days as well? Or will we be better off staying in Fira? (We prefer Oia to Fira, but dont want to end up being the only ones there with no food-options etc.)
    Any advice will be much appreciated!

    Thanks in advance, Celina

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Fira will have the most activity and the most restaurants open but Oia will have plenty as well. Imerovigli will have the least open but there will still be something (and Fira, of course, is a walkable distance away).

  12. Fira, Oia, or Imerovigli for Older Couple with Limited Mobility

    We are a couple in our early 70s trying to decide between Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli. We can walk short distances but more than 1 or 2 flights of stairs is a problem. Would you recommend Oia, Fira, or Imerovigli for us? We’d like a caldera view, what hotels would you suggest?

    Thank you,
    Bo and Stacey

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Imerovigli is great but most places have lots of steps and there’s no central area to wander around for a short flat walk – so let’s cross that off the list. Both Oia and Fira have plenty of up and down but that can be avoided if you’re strategic in where you stay and where you walk to. Generally, I would say Oia has more of a flat area to walk around but fewer hotels that have easy access. In Oia, a central hotel that has not-too-many steps and great views is Aspaki. In Fira the best hotels for you would be Cosmopolitan Suites, Atlantis, and Aria Suites.

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