The toughest decision one has to make when visiting Santorini, is to stay at Fira or Oia. These are impossible choices – so I booked 2 nights in Fira and 3 nights in Oia. As I discovered, they are very different villages with completely different vibes and surroundings, but both have their charms.
There was just enough time to relax with three lovely nights in Oia. But two nights wasn’t enough in lively Fira. Both towns are gorgeous in different ways. If budget is an issue and you want to party, shop and connect with others, then Fira will fit the bill. But if you want a laid back quiet peacefulness, then Oia is ideal. Both are beautiful with amazing views. If you have time on your hands, you can walk along the clifftop from Fira to Oia and vice versa in a day.
If I had to choose only one place to stay again, I would choose………… hmmm, it is tough, not so fast, let me ponder that as I write this post.
Fira took me by surprise. The walks along the cliffside provided insanely stunning views and had an electric feel. There were loads of little nooks and crannies to explore, and interesting shops and eateries in town. Fira is exciting, dramatic, and intriguing. Two nights in Fira was not quite enough – I wanted more, more, more!
The place is busy and jumping with a buzz about it. If you are single and want to engage with others, Fira is it. Shopaholic? Fira is your town. If you’re a couple who want to get out and about in a lively town? Fira loves you. If you want cheaper shopping, cheaper restaurants but still quality Greek food, Fira will do it for you. Oh, did I forget to mention the views from town and along the trails and cliffside cafe’s in Fira are mind blowing – something you will never forget.
In two nights, you can spend time in cliff-side cafes, drinking and admiring the astonishing views, wander the narrow pathways for hours exploring little shops and more views and just generally getting a feel for the place and admiring the architecture. Conclusion, two nights is not enough, make it 3 or more. I yearn to go back to Fira and spend three or more nights.
Accommodation in Fira
The great thing about Fira is that is has a wide range of accommodation types to suit all budgets from super cheap to the ‘sky’s the limit’.
I pre-arranged a staff member from Dream Island Hotel in Fira to kindly came and picked us up from the airport – they do stuff like that. I choose Dream Island Hotel in Fira because it was reasonably priced, only a short walk to town, and looked as though it had a lovely swimming pool – it did! The room wasn’t huge, but it was immaculate, with that Greek Island feel, cute, fresh and comfortable. The pool area is gorgeous – I noticed they have since changed the tiling color though. There were sea views from the pool area which was nice too.
Sexy Oia is tailor made for romantic trysts, strolls and relaxing in beautiful surroundings. If you are thinking of a honeymoon, Oia is it baby! Oh la la! With gorgeous villas nestled into the clifftops complete with insanely incredible views, lavish balconies with pools, immaculate serene streets, upmarket restaurants and the famous Santorini sunset, Oia is a lovers dream. It is gorgeous and feels spacious with wider paths and shops set further away from each other. It has upmarket shops and restaurants and accommodation, all of which will appeal to those who like the fine things in life.
If you are a romantic couple, or single and want quiet time, and peaceful strolls, you might just adore Oia. It has a slightly more mature crowd and loads of couples. I felt very safe day and night wandering around.
You can witness the famous Oia sunset from various points on the island. Locals recommended the best way to experience an Oia sunset was from Kastro Restaurant. We booked 2 days in advance, asking for the best sunset viewing table. It was even better than promised. To be able to sit there for hours, watching yachts silhouetted against the striking orange sunset with a first class view is bliss. Oh, and all this while being outdoors but under cover with a subtle breeze enhancing our senses and being fed delicious Greek food is one of the great pleasures in life. Aaaah, I sigh as I think of it. It would be the perfect memorable night for a proposal or wedding anniversary.
Watching the Oia sunset from Kastro while dining on scrumptious morsels of food including mouth watering Greek meatballs, peppers and tzakiki was my ideal evening.
Sailing around Santorini island on a yacht was my dream day. We booked the yacht for the full day trip with lunch. I mean, if you are going to lash out, might as well go all the way right? When travelling, sometimes you just have to splurge, and sometimes these splurges can form some of the best most unforgettable moments of a trip. This was one of them.
The yacht departed from Ammoudi harbour and was not busy at all. We sailed to the hot springs, where we were allowed enough time to jump off and swim in the warm spring waters. Be aware that you do have to swim from the yacht to the springs. We sailed to White Beach, Red Beach and a black sand beach – Perissa Beach. We threw anchor a short swim from shore. The water was like a beautiful blue jewel, and I couldn’t resist jumping in for a quick swim around the yacht before lunch – heavenly.
Oia has stunning views too, especially if you choose accommodation overlooking the volcano – wow! Personally, if you are going to stay in Oia, it is time to lash out and book accommodation on the cliff edge and take advantage of the scenery.
Accommodation in Oia
Again, as pre-arranged by email, we stayed at Nostos Apartments. My Greek friend who has visited Santorini countless times insisted that I must stay somewhere with a caldera view, that it was not optional. Obviously a great caldera/volcano view will cost more than a standard sea view. Since visiting Santorini had been a dream of mine for a long time, I figured it would be money well spent – and it was.
What attracted me to Nostos, is that it was traditional cave style with spectacular views and a pool for a price tag that was reasonable and fantastic value. Upon arrival, it exceeded expectations for the view and interior. Our apartment was a spacious beautiful white pristine cave with jaw dropping views from the balcony that caused my partner to announce ‘ I feel like a rockstar!’
The balcony is even bigger than it looks – there are sun loungers on the far left hidden from view. Just be aware that there are a lot of stairs, but this helped walk off a bit of those scrumptious Greek meals.
Things to do in Santorini
- Spend a full day on a yacht sailing around the island visiting different colored pebble beaches and swimming in the hot springs
- Watching the famous Oia sunset while sipping on wine and eating Greek delights – I love Kastro, or try a sunset cruise
- Just wander the streets admiring the architecture
- Eat, shop, swim and laze on your balcony gazing happily at the billion dollar view
- Visit Byzantine castle ruins
- Visit villages like Embrorio and Pyrgos
- Drive to all the different beaches and take a dip, including Red Beach, White Beach, Perissa and Kamari.
- Take a private tour of the island or rent a car and drive around it stopping anywhere you want
The verdict is both. But, if I had to choose and only had 2-3 nights on a budget and wanted a bit more action and a happening vibe, I would stay at Fira, no question. If I had a bit more money to throw around and was going with a partner for a romantic lazy time, I would stay at Oia. Both are equally scenic in slightly different ways. You cannot lose.
If you have 6 nights or more, then I suggest spending 3 nights in Fira and 3 nights in Oia – that is absolutely ideal and would always be my first preference. If you have less, choose one and do a day trip to the other. Fira is closer to the airport if you have limited time. It is also busier, buzzier, has loads of little shops and is more touristy which can be a plus for many. Oia is quieter and peaceful and more upmarket. The bottom line is that Santorini is an absolute dream come true. Fira and Oia are both magical places with cycladic architecture, stunning views and great Greek food, so stop stressing and just book – it is a win-win situation.
- Choose accommodation with a caldera/volcano view
- Choose accommodation that is a short walk to town
- Not all places have pools, so if you want one, seek it out
- You are booking a trip to Santorini, so relax and enjoy the ride for goodness sake! Oia or Fira – who cares! Because at the end of the day, it is all still Santorini. Honestly, if my comments throughout this post don’t help you decide, then choose by accommodation or simply toss a coin – I would actually do that knowing what I know now.
Let me know your own thoughts on Santorini and Fira versus Oia. Comment in the box below.