Doing The Oia to Fira Hike in Santorini

The Oia to Fira Hike is an absolute must-do when visiting Santorini. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual sightseer, the walk very much takes you along the scenic route, curving along the caldera rim, through charming villages like Imerovigli and Firostefani and boasting breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea and volcanic landscape, along the way.

It’s honestly beautiful, and if you’d told me earlier this year that I’d be getting up before sunrise and hiking 10 kilometres (90% of which was uphill), in the scorching heat I wouldn’t have believed you. Not even for a minute. And yet, it turns out that when you’re on holiday in an incredibly beautiful location, and you’re a total sucker for a good view, you’ll do anything… Including the Oia to Fira Hike.

There are two ways to do the hike. You can walk from Fira to Oia, ending the hike by walking down to Ammoudi Bay for a nice swim and seafood dinner. Or you can walk from Oia to Fira, which is the route I chose because that’s where my hotel was so it made the most sense.

There are guided tours that you can book for the Oia to Fira hike, where you will learn all about the history of the volcanic island and the local villages. But unless you’re super into history or travelling on your own/want to go in a group, it’s not a must as the route is pretty easy to navigate.

I did the Oia to Fira hike on my last day in Santorini, and whilst a hike before a flight isn’t something I’d usually do willingly, the incredible Santo Pure (review here) had offered the use of their travel room later that day, which meant that post-hike I’d be able to shower and freshen up before my flight back to London. So with hygiene taken care of, it was time to hike!

Now, to set the scene, there were two things wrong with this hike. The first is that I am not an early morning person, yet because of the heat I had decided that an early morning start would be best. The second is that I had eaten something previously that had very much disagreed with me. So this hike would be a game of risk. Spoiler alert: everything was fine. But going into this I want you to know and appreciate just how dedicated I was to doing this walk.

The hike from Oia to Fira is 10km in total and there’s an official starting route you can get dropped off at to start your walk. But my hotel wasn’t far, so bright and early that morning, I began the hike. Walking past the Castle of Agios Nikolaos and along the main walking street, which was almost empty—a surreal experience considering how crowded it had been upon previous visits. From there, I kept walking straight, past the Church of Panagia Akathistos Hymn, past the restaurants and along the road until I joined the official walking route, which is (very conveniently) right next to a convenience store called Perivolas Market. I don’t recommend using Google Maps for the walk as it’ll take you along the road, and if you do that you’re going to miss the best views. Instead, follow the route along the footpath. The signs are infrequent, but to be honest, it’s hard to get lost, so just keep walking straight(ish) and you’ll be just fine! After stocking up on water, it was time to get moving—and if you’re thinking of doing the same, my advice is to take a bag and slightly more water than you think you’ll need. Mainly because whilst there’s a mini snack shop along the route (in between the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Holy Chapel and the Church of Prophet Elias), there’s a chance it’ll be closed (like it was for me) and with the heat, elevation and early morning start, you will get thirstier than you think!

The walk initially takes you past the hotels and guest houses, gaining elevation as you do and changing terrain between flat cobblestones and dirt paths. Because of the shape of the volcanic island, you make quick progress visually – and it’s beautiful to look back at the blue domes and whitewashed buildings dotted along the caldera.

I continued walking uphill for about 30 minutes before coming to the base of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Holy Chapel. Even from the bottom of the hill, it looked adorable – and the walk to get to it was so much fun. Calf-burning, but fun. It gives that childhood vibe where you have to be careful where you step because the rocks (and roots from nearby plants) are so haphazard and it becomes a fun little game not to trip whilst picking those perfect stones. Or maybe I am just an adult child. Who knows. Either way, once you get to the top, you’ll see that with a single nave and a peach-coloured front wall, the chapel itself is quite simple, but it’s this simplicity which creates the charm, especially when combined with the panoramic views.

The next part of the hike is a downhill (slightly gravelly), walk. It’s essentially a dirt track, so you’ll want to wear shoes that are not only comfortable but that you don’t mind discolouring (or that are suitable for the wash). I read a few blogs before going on the hike (a gal likes to know what to expect) and many of them labelled this section of the walk as boring—and I honestly don’t know why. It was beautiful. Twisting around the cliff edge, watching the mist roll over the top, and then opening up gorgeous views of the curvature of the island. How could it ever be a bore to look at such a view?

This section of the walk leads to some donkeys and a snack shop which may or may not be open. On the day I did the Oia to Fira hike, the shop was closed. Not ideal as by this point I had very much consumed all of my water. But it wasn’t much further to Imerovigli so don’t panic if you happen to find yourself in the same situation.

The next part of the walk requires walking on the road for a short stretch until you reach the San Antonio hotel. It then requires walking up a very steep dirt path of a section. Which, I assumed was the only way to the next part of the Oia to Fira hike but later realised it forks and there’s a more chill route around the side (on the left). So pick your preference. What I will say, however, is that if you go up the steep bit, you’re treated to some pretty epic views. So whilst your calves won’t thank you in that moment, your future self will.

Plus, kids can do it—and if that doesn’t motivate you, well then you are a better person than me.

This section carried on uphill until I reached the Church of Profitis Ilias, also referred to as the Prophet Elijah Church, near Imerovigli. Built in 1750, it’s a beautiful whitewashed church with a distinctive blue dome and a triple bell tower. It’s a great spot to stop and take a minute because the church is surrounded by a small courtyard and pine trees, offering a peaceful and cooling atmosphere to take it all in.

The walk continues along a road, passing makeshift fruit and beverage stands from locals, before walking past a stretch of 5-star hotels, such as Nobu, West-East Suites, SantAnna and Cavo Tagoo—which is approximately the halfway point on the Oia to Fira hike.

After this, it’s a slow incline along a cobblestone path until you reach a set of stairs that will take you into Imerovigli. At this point, you can either keep going straight (to the left) to go into the town, or you can venture to the right, which will take you towards Skaros Rock. This adds about an hour to your hike time and is up to you whether you choose to do it. I was hungry, so decided not to, instead choosing to venture into Imerovigli, following the trail along the walking path until my nose told me breakfast was nearby. There are plenty of places to choose from for food in this area. ‘Avocado’ was my first choice, but it didn’t open for another 20 minutes and I was hungry, so instead I went into Dear Elie

We ordered the breakfast for two, which included freshly baked mini pancakes, homemade marmalade, butter, honey, crispy bacon and sausages, scrambled eggs, tomatoes and feta cheese—and came out served like afternoon tea. Which was both funny and ingenious. We sat chatting away whilst taking a much-needed break from the sun, enjoying simple tasty food and the friendly staff who ran the place. Then reapplied suncream and continued on the walk, heading into Firostefani.

Firostefani is essentially an extension of Fira so you may not even realise you’re walking through a separate village at first. But considering that Imerovigli has the highest elevation, at 350m, it’s an easy walk from here as you’re essentially walking downhill the rest of the way. 

This part of the Oia to Fira hike is different, but still pretty. Swapping sole sea views, into those dotted up with some snippets of Santorini. The people, the businesses, and the past as between Imerovigli and the walk you’ll take into the capital of Santorini, Fira, you’ll go past the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord, the Three Bells of Fira, the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and then into Fira.

To get to Fira, you essentially just need to keep walking in a (semi) straight line, keeping the water in your view. Once you get into Fira, there’s more to explore and you can get a cable car down to the old harbour, or browse around. But I’m not going to lie. I hated it. With increased tourism from cruise ships, Fira gets incredibly busy—way more so than Oia, and it was so cramped that I almost finished the hike early to disappear from the crowds. It was giving “Santorini meets Student Night—and I hated it. But whilst I wanted to run away for refuge, I couldn’t quit. I had to finish the Oia to Fira hike—so we kept walking to make it to the official finish point, weaving through the crowds and meandering through the alleyways until the end.

Then, with the Oia to Fira hike complete, it was time to stroll through Fira Theotokopoulos Main Square to get a watermelon juice—and I swear I’ve never been so happy. Sweet. Juicy. Refreshing. It was perfect—and exactly what I needed after spending the whole morning walking.

The Oia to Fira hike is supposed to take four hours (3-5 hours) but if, like me, you like to dilly dally and take photos along the way, stop for a little snacky snack and just generally enjoy the vibe, it will take you closer to 5. But honestly, even as your calves burn and you sweat under the heat of the Grecian sun, it’s all so worth it. The hike is classified as easy, but it’s worth noting that it’s not accessible, so if you have mobility issues, problems with balance or weak joints I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you can do it, make sure you do. The whole Oia to Fira hike is so incredibly enjoyable, that I’d go as far as saying it’s the best thing to do in Santorini.

Tips for the Oia to Fira hike:

  • Wear suncream and take it with you to reapply.
  • Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes. I’ve been known to hike a waterfall or three in Havaianas—but I wouldn’t have been able to do this hike without comfy closed-toe shoes.
  • Make sure you pack sunglasses and a hat because overhead heat is the worst.
  • Take a little more water than you think you’ll need, just in case the shops are closed.
  • Charge your phone/camera! It’s so beautiful, you’ll want to take photos to remember it.
over and out,
Amy Morgan