My Husband and I had our destination wedding in Italy during October 2017. For our honeymoon, we took advantage of our close proximity to a place I have always wanted to visit: Santorini.
After planning a wedding (and a reception back home in Texas) and spending a week with 20 friends and family, we decided we would make no plans for our honeymoon beyond where we’d stay. The only thing on my to do list for our stay in Santorini was to hike from Fira to Oia. I got the idea from other posts advertised on Pinterest.
Since most of the posts I had seen were short and not very detailed, I wanted to provide a more comprehensive guide for those wanting to make the trek across the crescent island. Hopefully I answer any questions you may have about the hike and inspire you to add it to your travel bucket list!
All photos are my own.
(1) Starting in Fira
You won’t find any signs for hiking trails until you’re outside Fira. I recommend starting near the Cable Car to the Old Port. To find the Cable Car, look for the Catholic Church. You can see the Church from most points in Fira and is a short distance away. There are signs in the town of Fira, along the shopping streets, pointing tourists towards the Cable Car. If you walk towards the Church or follow these signs you’ll be heading in the right direction. Once you reach the Cable Car, walk towards the ocean and stay along the caldera edge. You’ll eventually reach the trail for the hike. This path will be packed with tourists, but they’re there for a reason. These streets have the best view! (If you’re using Google Maps, Nomikou M is the name of the street in Fira you’ll want to start on).
(2) Tips for Hiking Santorini
If you plan on hiking from Fira to Oia, here are some things you should know.
- Oia is pronounced “ee-yaa”. Don’t be the tourist who says “Oy-yah” because you’ll be wrong.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Whether you start in Fira or Oia, if you plan on hiking the entire stretch, you’ll want to wear shoes made for hiking. The trail is paved in many places, but there is a stretch that is dirt roads or rocky. You don’t need hiking boots, but I recommend something similar to tennis shoes. I saw several people wearing flip flops or sandals and they were struggling when the paths were no longer paved. It’s also a long hike, so your feet will thank you if you wear something with support.
- Dress for the Weather. We visited Santorini in October, which can be the rainy season. Luckily it was sunny and beautiful all week. It was warm during the day and chilly at night. So when we got dressed for our hike, I wore a tank top and hiking pants. There were no clouds and the sun beat down on us at one point in the hike. It was hot. If you plan on hiking in the summer, dress for the heat! I don’t recommend wearing a dress/skirt (unless you have something on underneath and won’t need to worry about holding your skirt down) because along one stretch of the hike it was extremely windy!
- It takes about 4 hours. The hike is roughly 11 km long and can take you between 3 and 4 hours depending on the route you chose, your athleticism, how many photo ops you take, and if you stop for lunch. If it’s summer, I highly suggest you bring water! We started our hike around 11 am, so we had to stop for lunch, which was a nice break before the real hiking began.
- Don’t Walk on Roofs. There are several photos all over instagram, pinterest, etc., where people are posing on the tops of buildings. You’re not actually supposed to stand on the roofs. You will see signs on a lot of buildings as you hike between towns telling people not to step on the roof.
- Take the Bus Back. Even if you leave early in the morning, hiking to and from Fira will take you almost the entire day and you won’t have nearly enough time to enjoy Oia (or vice versa). The Fira Bus Station is located behind the museum of Prehistoric Thira. The Oia Bus Station is located next to a tourist information office. Bus fare is cheap, about €2 one-way.
(3) First Stop: Imerovigli
The town outside of Fira is Imerovigli. If you don’t want to stay in Fira (which can be lively during the summer months) or in Oia (which is the more expensive place to stay), Imerovigli is a great option. It’s a short walk from Fira, beautiful, and smaller than Fira. If you’re hiking from Fira, this is the best place to stop for lunch or a snack. There are several restaurants and bars along the caldera for you to choose from and is less crowded that Fira. Also, after you leave Imerovigli, your options for food are slim –unless you stop at a resort, which we ended up doing, and spend a fortune on lunch.
There’s plenty to see in Imerovigli, so plan on spending some time here.
As you enter the town, you’ll walk in front of Anastasi Church, after passing several luxury hotels and villas. If you want a photo of the domes of the church, there are stairs several feet before you reach the church that lead to the street directly above the church. You’ll want to head back down the stairs when you’ve finished to continue walking along the hiking path and to reach the next church.
Agios Georgios Church
This small church is located on the edge of the caldera with views over Skaros, a rocky bluff that protrudes into the ocean. You’ll need to veer off the path to reach the church. The front of the church faces the ocean and offers a great overlook spot and photo opportunity. You can either walk back to the road and continue on to Oia or look for the hiking trail and hike out to Skaros.
Skaros & Ekklisia Theoskepasti hiking trail
Skaros is where a castle/fortress was located for over 600 years until is was destroyed in the 19th century after an earthquake hit the island. Its location was the principal location for Christians in the area to congregate and was the capitol of Santorini. After the quake, Fira, which has access to a port, became the capitol. The trail to Skaros is nearby the Agios Church.
Imerovigli is a great spot for taking pictures of Fira from afar.
(4) Where the Real Hiking Begins
Between the town of Imerovigli and Finikia is where the hiking begins. Up until this point you’re walking on paved streets through cities. As you leave Imerovigli the stone-paved path vanishes into rough roads until you reach the stretch of resorts. It was hard to tell if these resorts were in the process of being built or were vacant as the summer season was officially over by the time we arrived (October 14th).
We weren’t hungry until we reached this point in the hike, and after seeing how much further had to go (including an uphill hike, pictured above), we decided we needed to stop for lunch. The closest restaurant we found was a 5 Star restaurant and resort, Ovac. The food was great, but expensive. I ate appetizers for my meal and drank water.
(5) Ekklisia Profitis Ilias & the Fork in the Road
About 20 minutes down the road from where we stopped for Lunch is the church, Ekklisia Profitis Ilias (not to be confused with the Monastery on the other side of the island, Profitis Ilias). On the way to the church you’ll walk along a paved road, pass a small church on a hill. Be sure to look to your right and behind you for views of the other side of the island!
Once you reach the church, you have two trails to chose from. The trail on the left of the church is the one we took. It starts after the church and follows the caldera edge, with views of Oia in the distance. The trail on the right starts before hikers reach the church and may have been easier (another couple took that and stayed ahead of us on the trail) takes hikers on the opposite side of a hill. These hikers have views of the other side of the island, which is flat and less developed. If you’re afraid of heights, I suggest taking the trail on the right.
At this point in the hike, the path became rocky and the winds started to pick up! For a short distance you’ll walk along the main road, so watch for cars and ATV’s. Before the large hill there is a little Snack Shop that sells food and drinks…we didn’t check it out. It also looked like they rented donkeys for the next stretch of the hike.
(6) Church of Panagia
Beyond the Snack Shop, stay left along the coast line to continue following the hiking path. This part of the trail is natural: all dirt and rock. You’ll be glad you wore more stable shoes than flip flops or sandals at this point. I was also glad it was cool enough for me to wear pants because it was so windy my pant legs were covered with dirt.
At the top of the hill is a small church (which may or may not be open at the time you visit–it was closed when we arrived). It is a great photo opportunity. If you are staying in Oia, I suggest hiking to the little church on the hill for the view if you don’t plan on doing the hike all the way to Fira. In October there were several hikers at the church taking photos. There’s not a lot of room for standing or sitting around by the church, so be prepared for crowds if you’re visiting during the summer months.
As you make your way down from the church you’ll eventually come to steps. Do not follow the steps all the way. You’ll want to veer left at the next church to stay along the coast. We followed the steps all the way to the road and discovered that was wrong. We had to walk along the main road. If there was a space to walk along the road, it wasn’t very wide and we had to avoid buses a lot. Not exactly the safest route to Oia.
(7) Arriving in Oia
The first building you’ll see in Oia, letting you know you’ve reached the town is the Saint George Church (you’ll need to walk up steps from the road to be on the same level as the building). The main street that weaves through town starts at the edge of the Church. The main shopping street makes one feel like they’re walking in a resort. We felt a little out of place strolling down marble streets in our hiking clothes.
Scenic Spot for Iconic Photo Op
If you follow the main shopping street, Nik. Nomikou, until it becomes narrower and splits off into small alleyways, you’ll find your way towards the best scenic spot in Oia. The first road on the left will lead you there, but if you take the second street on the left you’ll find another photo op. There is a small alley leading down to the Ekklisia Isodia Theotokou church. Once you’re past the blue-domed church you’ll be able to see the ocean and have a better idea of where you’re headed.
We followed the crowds of tourists to the scenic spot, where the ruins of an old castle are located. The street to the scenic spot becomes very narrow and rough, but if you follow the crowd you’ll manage to stay on course. Note: there are signs banning the use of drones (please follow the rules).
Standing room is limited and sitting room is even less available. There are only a few areas where you can take photos from where the view is not obstructed so you may need to be patient as others take their turns taking photos of and with the beautiful backdrop (or you may need to be pushy to get your photo). We arrived nearly 2 hours before sunset (in the off season) and it wasn’t too crowded, but I imagine closer to sunset this area is packed.
What to do After Visiting the Scenic Spot
- Hike down to the Port – Instead of walking back up the stairs you take to reach the Scenic Spot, go down to the left. These steps lead straight to the port where there are several eateries.
- Explore the Streets – We chose to avoid the crowded main streets on our way to the bus terminal. We discovered these streets are similar in appearance to those in Fira and had little to no people on them. The street we took was dotted with a lot of cool looking restaurants with outdoor patios. Look for Oia Gefsis, Karma, Sphinx Wine, Candouni and Oia Vineyart, as all of these restaurants are located on the same street.
- Eat Gelato at Lolita’s – Stop by Lolita’s Gelato on the way to the bus terminal for a quick dessert. It’s located off of the street discussed above.
Have you made the trek from Fira to Oia? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!