If you are looking to do something unique on your trip, adventure along the amazing cliffside hike in Santorini from Fira to Oia. Whether you are there for days or just eight hours, this hike will get you off the beaten path to witness the rugged yet pristine beauty of Santorini. The hike provides dramatic views of the volcanic caldera and the Aegean Sea. It winds through four of the most idyllic towns of the island including Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia.
The 10 km (6.2 mile) hike will take about 3-5 hours depending on your speed and how many stops you make to take pictures. We took a lot of pictures so it took us about 4 hours. It is a wonderful way to see part of the island. We only crossed paths with a few people so we felt like we had the island all to ourselves at certain points. There are volcanic views, cobalt blue water, red rocks, chic hotels, and simple churches.
We arrived via cruise ship and were tendered to the island. There are a few options once you arrive on the island: a boat ride to Oia, cable car or donkey ride to the top, or a steep walk via donkey lane to the town of Fira.
Our preference was the cable cars, but only if the line was not long. We read during busy season it can be a ridiculous lengthy process, which we were prepared to hike up the 600 or so steps if it was. Since we woke up early, we lucked out and the line was short. We took the reasonable 5 euro per person (one way) ride to the top. It was perfect.
We do NOT recommend taking the donkeys for a few reasons: it’s super stinky, some don’t like each other and will attack when given a chance (a cousin of ours came home with a huge bruise on her leg), and some seemed tired and not willing to walk which did not go over well with the owners.
After we hiked to Oia we took the local bus back to Fira. It was extremely easy, but very crowded. You do not have to buy tickets beforehand, just get on the bus and someone will come around and collect the fee.
We started the hike at Archeologiko Mousio Thiras in Fira. Neither the cruise ship or visitor center on the island had detailed maps so it took some trial and error to find it. Make sure you download or print a good map (Google Maps will work) before getting to Santorini.
In the beginning of the hike in the quiet village of Firostefani, we walked through narrow pathways passing traditional homes, hotels, villas and restaurants. The balconies and infinity pools had sweeping views of the famous caldera to the north and the stunning town of Fira to the south. I would love to stay in one of these places at some point in the future. I’m sure they aren’t cheap, but I cannot imagine waking up or swimming every day with that view!
The village of Imerovigli, also known as the balcony to the Aegean, is situated at the highest point on the caldera. It provides clear central views of the volcanic crater. In the past villagers would climb to this point to see the pirate ships approaching. Another sight from Imerovigli is the island of Thirasia and the enormous rock called Skaros. If you are feeling adventurous and want to add to your hike you can walk out to it for some astounding views.
The stretch between Imerovigli and Oia is probably the most challenging part of the hike because it is the longest section, has some roadside walking and steep climbs and descents on crumbling rock. It may be challenging, but it’s also the most rewarding. The area opens up as you step out of the quaint village to breathtaking panoramic views.
Reaching the outskirts of Oia is a satisfying feeling. As you crest a hilltop near a small church, you are rewarded with an amazing view of the final mile into Oia. The city looks beautiful from this distance and you can see for miles around. After the climb to get to this point, it’s a relief to see that it’s an easy downhill walk for the final stretch. This is good as you’ll want to have plenty of energy to explore Oia after you finally get there!
Built on the crest of the caldera overlooking volcanic rock and azure waters, the town of Oia (pronounced ee-uh) is commanding. The town is predominantly white sprinkled with salmon pink, sky blue, pale yellow and deep fuchsia. As you wander the village, it is obvious why artists and poets have been inspired throughout the years.
Santorini Hiking Tips
- Most of the trail is exposed and the sun is relentless. Wear sunscreen and/or a hat.
- Bring plenty of water, there are not many shops in the middle of the hike.
- Get out early in the day because of the heat, sun exposure and for better pictures with the sun at your back.
- Download a detailed map before you go, especially if you are on a cruise and have a time limit.
Hiking Fira to Oia (or the other way around) is a must-do if you are a nature lover, hiker or for someone who likes to experience things out of the ordinary. The drastic views and spectacular landscape made it a joy to walk.
Have you ever hiked on any other Greek Islands? If so, which one?
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