Where to stay in Santorini – Oia or Fira.
When people are thinking about Santorini, they imagine themselves walking through the white washed villages and narrow pathways on the edge of caldera. Santorini is all about those amazing views, so the most common question is- where to stay in Santorini. This time I’ll talk about two little towns on the Caldera side, Oia and Fira.
Both of these towns are located on the edge of the caldera, with a view of the volcano. Fira is the island’s capital and has more nightlife and shopping. Oia is mostly accommodations, with more upscale restaurants; there are less shopping opportunities and almost no nightlife.
Watching sunsets in Santorini
Both Oia and Fira have narrow streets and amazing caldera views. You can watch the sunset from any of the little towns on the west side of the island. But in Oia, if you want to see the sun setting in the sea, you will, most likely, have to do a little walk to the most famous viewpoint at Oia’s Old Castle. From there you can enjoy the view of the Ammoudi bay with the sun setting behind the windmills. That’s the spot where most of the visitors go to see the sunset, so it gets very busy. On the other hand, Fira has sunset views from almost any point in the town, so, most likely, your hotel will be facing west and you will be able to enjoy the amazing Santorini sunset from your pool or balcony.
Fira is a more practical choice, from there you can get transportation to any other Santorini area and because Fira is in the middle of the island, it is much faster to get anywhere you want. Also the bus central is located there, all buses depart and come back to Fira.
If you rent a car, then there’s not as big of a difference, except in Oia it could be difficult to find a parking spot. You can rent a car beforehand and pick it up at your arrival location, would it be the ferry port or the airport. Otherwise Fira has more places to rent a car.
Fira town is located closer to the ferry port, airport and to the beach towns like Kamari and Perissa.
Things to do in Oia vs Things to do in Fira
If you are more of a “go with the flow” person, in Fira it’s easier to get last minute bookings for different tours and activities on the island. The town has more tourist offices than Oia. Sunset tours, boat tours, walking tours, wine tours and jet ski tour to the volcano, you name it, all begin from both Oia and Fira, many of those include hotel pickup, so you can just book online :)
Santorini Caldera and Village Views
Oia is known for its classical views of the blue churches. And waking up early and doing the walk through all the postcard spots in Oia can be one of the most romantic things to do on the island. It is magical when the town is still quiet and you can hear birds singing. :) Oia is quite long, therefore there is a large variety of viewpoints.
Fira town has a bit more colorful tone, great for a carefree evening walk.
Oia and Fira ports – Ammoudi Bay vs Santorini Old Harbor
Both of these towns are located high on the cliff side, so they do not have an easy access to the beach. Near Oia there is Katharos beach and one of the most popular fish tavern locations – Ammoudi bay. Both towns offer the possibility to get down to water level where you will find their small ports:
- In Oia, you can go to Ammoudi Bay walking down the picturesque path or by car via a road (almost no parking available, so a taxi is a good choice)
- In Fira, you can go down to the Old Port by taking the 587 steps path by foot or via the cable car
Oia or Fira – where to stay on Santorini? Short answer:
- If you have more than 3 days to spare here on the island I would split my stay, start with Oia and end in Fira, so it would be easier to get to my next destination. Fira is more central to explore the island – it’s 10min drive from the airport, while Oia is around 30min away.
- For views – both offer great views of the caldera, but Oia has more of that white washed postcard view everyone is coming here to see.
- Shopping and nightlife – Fira
- None of them are close to the beach (driving is required)
- ATMs are easy to find in both Fira and Oia, choose any ATM with a local bank name like Ethniki or Pireus.
- If you need simple grocery shopping, in Oia you’ll find mini markets, while in Fira there’s a supermarket.