Are you planning your Santorini holiday and don’t know if you should stay in Fira or Oia? I’ve got you covered. After spending one week on the island, and having visited everything there is, I can help you make the best decision.
Of course, there are plenty of other places where you could stay in Santorini, but nothing comes close to these two villages when it comes to views and accommodation options.
Santorini is a breathtakingly beautiful and romantic island in the Mediterranean Sea that offers an unforgettable experience for travelers.
With its stunning caldera, picturesque villages, and spectacular views of the Aegean Sea, Santorini is one of the most popular destinations in Greece. From relaxing on pristine beaches to exploring ancient ruins, there’s something for everyone here.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an exciting adventure, Santorini has something special waiting for you.
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Things to do in Fira
Fira, the capital of Santorini, is a stunningly beautiful town that offers plenty of activities and attractions for visitors.
Located on the edge of a caldera with panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and nearby islands, Fira has something to offer everyone.
Whether you’re looking for an educational experience or just want to relax in one of its many cafes and restaurants, there are plenty of things to do in Fira.
From ancient ruins to trendy shopping spots, discover some of the best things to do in this charming Greek city.
Take a cable car ride from the port to the city for breathtaking views over the caldera, explore archaeological sites such as Akrotiri or stroll around picturesque cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches.
Here are the top 10 things to do in Thira
1. Visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera
The Museum of Prehistoric Thera is one of the most important archaeological museums in Greece.
The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the 17th century BC.
The museum also has a section devoted to the history and culture of Santorini from the Bronze Age to Roman times.
2. Take a cable car ride from the port to the city
3. Watch the sunset from Skaros Rock
Skaros Rock is one of the most iconic landmarks in Santorini.
Located in the village of Imerovigli, it offers stunning views over the Caldera and Aegean Sea.
It can be easily accessed from Fira by a cable car ride or on foot via a steep path. The sunset from Skaros Rock is an unforgettable experience as you can see all of Santorini’s beautiful colors come to life while watching the sun slowly dip below the horizon.
From here, you get panoramic views of both Oia and Fira villages as well as miles of the deep blue sea stretching out before you.
4. Wander through Fira’s Town Hall Square
5. Explore the Archaeological Site of Akrotiri
The Archaeological Site of Akrotiri is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.
It is believed to have been an ancient Minoan settlement that was destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption in the 17th century BC.
Today, it is home to some of the best-preserved ruins from this period and offers a fascinating glimpse into life during this time.
Visitors can explore the ruins, which include houses with frescoes, courtyards, and even baths. They can also visit various other buildings such as workshops, shrines, and tombs.
6. Have dinner at one of the many restaurants with a caldera view
We ate at the lovely Volcano Blue Restaurant. It has been a choice based on the reviews the restaurant had on TripAdvisor and I have to admit the experience was wonderful and everything from the service to the food, to the view, was just perfect.
7. Go shopping at Emporio Village Market
The Emporio Village Market is a vibrant and colorful shopping experience located at the foot of Profitis Ilias Mountain.
It is one of the oldest traditional markets in the area and offers a unique shopping experience.
Here, visitors can find everything from local spices, handmade jewelry, and pottery to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The market is also home to several cafes and restaurants where visitors can enjoy traditional Greek cuisine.
With its lively atmosphere and wide selection of goods, the Emporio Village Market is a great place to explore and find unique souvenirs for your trip
8. Relax on the beach
Fira is closer to the main beaches of Santorini than Oia is. If you are traveling by public transportation that is useful. However, if you choose to rent a car and drive around the island, there is no difference.
9. Enjoy local cuisine in Fira Main Plaza
10. Discover Santorini’s Wine Country
That can be done from both cities, with wine tours starting from either one of them.
How to get to Fira
The airport in Santorini is located in the eastern part of the island, toward its center. That places Fira only 5 kilometers away from the airport, and a short 10-minute drive.
Rent a car online ahead of time – Discover Cars is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. Rent your car here!
Where to stay in Thira
Have a whole house to yourself in Santorini! Perfect for couples, you’ll have a balcony with stunning sea views, bathtubs with views, and hammam, a hot tub, and a sauna.
The location is perfect! And their beautiful blue doors caught my attention at first. But that’s not the only great thing about this place!
A more affordable option in Fira. People staying here loved its luxury feel, the fact that it is new, and the perfect location.
The downside of staying in Fira
As Oia, Fira can get busy, and staying here can get to you. However, even though the city is the island’s capital, it is a bit less crowded than Oia.
Also, something nobody ever talks about is the smell of donkey poop you’ll feel in most places close to the road leading from the bay in Fira. I guess that shouldn’t be a problem because you don’t feel it everywhere, especially in really nice hotels, but it’s something worth knowing.
Things to do in Oia
Oia is a must-visit for anyone looking for an unforgettable holiday experience.
This beautiful village has plenty to offer visitors, from stunning views of the caldera and sea to charming restaurants, shops, and galleries.
With its whitewashed buildings cascading down the volcanic cliffs and breathtaking sunsets that light up the entire area, Oia is truly a magical place!
Whether you’re looking to relax on a beach or explore some of Greece’s most iconic sights, there are countless things to do in this idyllic destination.
From visiting ancient ruins like Akrotiri or taking part in one of the numerous boat tours around the island, there are endless ways to make your time here memorable. So if you’re ever lucky enough to visit Oia, don’t miss out on all it has to offer!
Here are the top things to do in Oia
1. Visit the Oia Castle – during the day or for sunset
The Oia Castle, also known as Kastro, is an impressive fortress situated in the picturesque village of Oia on the island of Santorini in Greece.
Visitors to the castle can enjoy breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and nearby island Thirassia, as well as explore the castle’s rich history and culture. With its ancient ruins, vibrant colors, and breathtaking views, visitors can easily lose themselves in the beauty of Oia Castle.
For visitors looking for a unique experience, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy during your visit.
You can take a guided tour of the castle, explore its ruins and learn about its history, or simply wander around the grounds and soak in the stunning views.
2. Watch the sunset from a viewpoint
3. Explore Amoudi Bay
Visitors to Amoudi Bay can enjoy swimming in its crystal clear waters or take a boat tour around the bay and observe its picturesque beauty from all angles. The area also has many restaurants with delicious traditional Greek cuisine to sample, making it perfect for those looking for an unforgettable dining experience.
4. Admire and photograph blue-domed churches
Anastasi Church and Agios Spyridon Church are some of the most photographed churches in the world, mainly because of their photogenic blue domes. They are set in Oia’s city center and are only 10 meters apart.
5. Hike to Fira for panoramic views of Santorini
Hiking from Oia to Fira is one of the most popular activities for visitors to Santorini. The hike takes you along a path with breathtaking views of the caldera and its white-washed villages, as well as stunning vistas of the Mediterranean Sea.
Along the way, you will pass through vineyards and olive groves before finally reaching Fira, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the island’s beautiful scenery.
This 5 km hike takes about 2 hours if done leisurely, so it’s perfect for those who want to take their time taking in all that Santorini has to offer.
6. Attend a Greek cooking class
Learn how to cook some of Santorini’s signature dishes cooked with local wines. Because of Greek food’s popularity, this is a particularly popular activity, loved by tourists. See more about the tour here!
7. Enjoy live music at Kastro Bar & Restaurant
8. Take a boat tour around the caldera islands
9. Shop in Oia’s Boutiques and Art Galleries
10. Enjoy a cocktail at sunset – just make sure to book a table in advance
How to get to Oia
A bit further away from the airport than Fira, Oia is roughly 17 kilometers away from the island’s airport, and a 22-minute drive (depending on the traffic).
As with Fira, buses and cars cannot enter the city, and you will need to walk to get to your hotel. Depending on the hotel’s location, you might also need to climb stairs. That’s why it is very important to bring comfortable shoes and luggage that you can carry easily.
Where to stay in Oia
Home to some of the most beautiful hotels and apartments with infinity swimming pools, in Oia you can also choose to stay in a cave hotel. Here are a few of my favorite accommodation options in Oia.
Mind-blowingly amazing, this hotel is one of the most beautiful in the world, but it also comes with a certain price tag. A stay in one of the 21 honeymoon suites of this white cave hotel, with a private pool offering panoramic views over the caldera, is what dreams are made of.
Since we’re still dreaming, let’s dream about this exceptional 5* hotel and its 22 private houses in restored 300-year-old caves. Their restaurant is housed in a restored wine cellar and serves only the hotel guests.
The option with the best views of Oia, each room has a balcony and air conditioning. By choosing to stay here you will be only 2 kilometers away from Ammoudi Bay and 15 minutes walking distance to the nearest bus stop.
You honestly cannot get a better price for this kind of location and services, that’s why you need to make sure you catch it available!
The downside of staying in Oia
As you could imagine, a popular place like that is packed with tourists. Not only the ones that choose Oia as the best place to stay in Santorini, but this is where all the cruise ships will stop and bring tourists. On top of that, neighboring islands offer day trips to Santorini, and Oia is the final destination as well.
Another thing to consider is that Oia is the most expensive village in Santorini. You pretty much cannot find any budget option here. When it comes to accommodation, but also food.
Finally, since cars don’t drive inside Oia, you must think about the hotel’s location and your luggage size. I’ve seen many people who struggled with their huge luggage on the cobblestone narrow streets, climbing up and down.
Verdict: Fira or Oia?
After having been to both villages on the beautiful island, I would choose to stay in Fira. Oia is stunningly beautiful, but it gets to crowded at every time of the day that you won’t really get any privacy.
Moreover, the two villages are close to one another and you can hike or take the bus. On top of that, Fira has plenty of great hotel options, sometimes at more affordable prices.
Both villages are set on the western part of the island, thus allowing you to have the perfect caldera views. If you plan to rent a car and pick it up from the airport, driving to Fira will be closer. Also, if you want to go on ferry trips, the ferry port is only 15 minutes away from Fira, with Oia being 30 minutes away.
Of course, Oia is so popular for good reason, and if you don’t mind the crowds, you should definitely choose to stay there!
Read also: 10 mistakes to avoid on Santorini island
Which part of Santorini is the most beautiful?
The most beautiful part of Santorini is arguably the caldera, with its stunning views and breathtaking sunsets.
The clifftop towns of Fira, Imerovigli, and Oia offer mesmerizing panoramas of the volcano and deep blue sea below. The waterfront villages on the west side of the island have sun-soaked beaches and awe-inspiring scenery that are not to be missed!
Is Santorini prettier than Mykonos?
That’s a matter of opinion! Both Santorini and Mykonos are beautiful islands known for their stunning landscapes, crystal-clear waters, and whitewashed buildings.
Santorini is perhaps more well-known for its majestic views of the caldera, breathtaking sunsets over the Aegean Sea, and archaeological sites like Akrotiri; while Mykonos offers lively nightlife spots with plenty of bars and clubs to explore.
Ultimately, both places offer unique experiences that you can’t help but love – so it depends on your personal preference.
Where to stay in Santorini for honeymoon?
Either one of the villages on the western part of Santorini island will offer stunning views, luxurious hotels, and plenty of restaurant options. However, Oia is the most popular destination for honeymooners coming to Santorini.
Where to stay in Santorini with the family?
For a family trip to Santorini, I recommend checking out one of the island’s many charming seaside villas. Most have multiple bedrooms, seating and dining areas, full kitchens or kitchenettes, private pools, and patios with ocean views for an unforgettable experience. Other great options include family-friendly resorts and beachfront hotels with plenty of amenities to make your stay enjoyable.