Feeling energetic? Then you might enjoy doing the Fira to Oia hike in Santorini!
The hike from Fira to Oia is one of the best things to do in Santorini. There, I said it.
It’s budget-friendly (free!) and is a welcome escape from the crowds of the towns and villages. Oh, and it boasts some of the most spectacular views anywhere on the island.
It’s not for the fainthearted though. OK, so it might not be on the level of climbing a munro in Scotland, however, it will take a decent chunk of time out of your day. If you’re only in Santorini for a couple of days you might think it’s too much time to spend just putting one foot in front of the other, especially when there’s so much to see and do.
However, it is a walk that is studded with beautiful scenery at every turn. The whitewashed villages you walk through. The steep drop of the caldera into the shimmering sea below. The beautiful chapels standing alone in the wilderness that you’ll discover en-route.
There’s lots to love about this walk between these two Santorini towns!
How long Is the hike from Fira to Oia?
The walk between Fira and Oia is 6.5 miles, which is 10.5km.
How long does it take to do the Fira to Oia hike?
It depends. I’ve read online that some people have done it in two hours. We left our hotel just outside Fira at 11am and completed the walk in Oia at around 2.30pm.
We probably could’ve done it quicker. But the thing with this walk is that there are so many great things to see. You’ll want to stop and take pictures every couple of minutes. Plus, you are on holiday. No need to rush!
How difficult is the walk between Fira and Oia?
I’d say that you do need a reasonable level of fitness to do this hike.
There are some tricky moments where there are some steep slopes to climb or the ground is rocky and unsteady underfoot. I also read some reviews on TripAdvisor where people said that they gave up and caught the bus for the final leg of the hike – the path joins the road at one point – and I can understand why when the trail just keeps going.
I’d say the most difficult part is just keeping on going when you’ve already been walking for ages. It’s a long time walking but the sense of achievement is real.
Which direction should you do the hike?
The short answer is: it depends. We were staying just outside Fira so it made sense to leave from there and get the bus back. The same goes if you’re staying in Oia.
I’ve read some accounts that say the Fira to Oia hike is better as there are less uphill parts. But there are inclines on this direction too so, honestly, it’s six or half a dozen really.
My favourite part?
My favourite bit of the walk was beyond Firostefani where you walk right along the edge of the caldera. It feels like you’re walking on the edge of the world, a knife-edge between land and sea, where the cliffs have surrendered themselves to the water below.
It was completely empty here and when we perched on some rocks by the side of the road for a pitstop it felt like there was no one else in the world but us. You don’t get many opportunities to shake off the crowds in Santorini so I enjoyed soaking up the stillness and the calm.
Fira and Oia – locations + landmarks to look out for
There are lots of landmarks to look out for between Fira and Oia. Here are my picks…
I remember when I first started researching going to Santorini and Imerovigli was one of the stand-out places to me. It’s ridiculously beautiful. It occupies the highest spot on the caldera at 300 metres above sea level and it’s known as “the balcony to the Aegean”.
It’s pretty small, with around 470 permanent inhabitants, but it has everything that you’d want from a Santorini village. Whitewashed houses. Amazing views. Cave hotels carved into the rock that you can’t help but peer into as you walk past. What’s not to like, really?
Imerovigli is located directly above the famous Skaros Rock, which you can walk down to from the village – but possibly not on the hike between Fira and Oia. More on that below!
Once you get to Imerovigli you’ll notice a giant rock protruding into the caldera. This is known as Skaros Rock. The barren landscape and sheer rock face are a bit of a change of pace to the prettiness of Santorini, but I loved the drama. There was actually a couple getting their wedding photos taken on Skaros Rock when we were there.
If you decide to explore the rock then keep going until the end of the path. There’s a chapel known as the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti on the far side, as the rock shelves down to the water. Somehow, we missed this, and only clocked it on a boat ride later on!
My top tip is to skip Skaros Rock on the hike between Fira and Oia. There are a lot of steps to climb on the way back up to the path. I would come back and do it another day, not when you know you have another 7km or so ahead of you. But that’s just me.
Up until this point you’ll probably have only seen the caldera in the context of one of the villages or towns. All dazzling white with teeny tiny apartments stacked on top of one another, turquoise plunge pools, and lots of spaces ringed fenced off as ‘private’.
When you step outside of Fira and Firostefani you finally get to see it, no frills. It might not be as charming as it is with all the cutesy white buildings but the rugged, untamed beauty of it is really something. It’s here that the space really opens up and you get spectacular views.
If it feels a little claustrophobic in the towns and villages at times then, here, it’s wide open and isolated. Yes, there are a few luxury hotels on the right. But if you look towards the caldera it’s just you, the barren landscape, a few dry patches of grass, and the sea.
I’m not often impressed by views but this really had the wow factor.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary Holy Chapel
This chapel is perched on the southern slope of the inactive volcano known as Mavro Vouno and its formal name is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Holy Chapel. But if you’re doing the hiking trail then you’ll know what I mean if I say the church at the top of the hill.
It’s located on the last bit of the walk before you finally make your way down to Oia and back into civilisation. The chapel is a tiny little building painted in a peachy, terracotta shade and along with a lovely bell tower. It’s the perfect spot to pause and admire the views.
The church wasn’t open when we were there but, honestly, the surroundings make up for it. Lots of people say it’s the perfect spot to catch the sunset and I can see why. Even in the middle of the day it was pretty spectacular. In short, it’s well worth the walk.
Three Blue Domes of Oia
We finally arrived in Oia just after 2pm and got our first glimpse of the famous white-washed buildings. We also got to see the famous blue domes of Oia peeping out of the skyline for the first time, albeit not from the most famous viewing points.
I say ‘blue domes’ because from our viewing spot we could only see two rather than the famous three blue domes of Oia. We came back another time to do a full day in Oia, including the three domes. Trust me, I wouldn’t have had the energy after a 10km walk. Not with the long queue to stand in with lots of tourists getting short with each other!
Anyway, we were pretty tired by the time we got there. We wandered into the centre of Oia and found a wall to perch on in the main street to eat our sandwiches. After a quick wander we decided the town would be best enjoyed with a fresh head another day. We headed to the bus station and luckily a bus to Fira pulled up five minutes later.
My tips for the Fira to Oia hike
Don’t for one-minute attempt to do this walk in unsuitable shoes. Leave the flip flops and sandals at home. There are some tricky spots where there are loose stones underfoot and we walked past one guy who was really struggling to keep his balance – not fun.
Bring sun protection
You’ll be exposed to the elements for a good few hours during the hike, with no shade. On a cloudy day in October, that was OK. However, it could be pretty full-on in July. Make sure you pack sun protection, such as sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, and a cover up.
Pack for the season
If you’re visiting Santorini in the shoulder season you might have different weather conditions to contend with – the wind and the cold! For me, the essentials I needed were a cosy hoodie to keep myself warm and a hair bobble to keep my hair off my face.
There are shops and cafes along the way. However, you will go for long stretches where there won’t be anything where you can buy water for a while. We did pass by a small shop as we got closer to Oia but I would play it safe and pack your own water.
Pack some tissues
I’m probably oversharing here. But unless you stop in at a café on the way, which if you’re civilised you will do, then you’re probably going to need a bathroom break along the way. Luckily there were some spots where it was quiet and secluded.
That was my guide to the walk between Fira and Oia – happy hiking!
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