The 6 mile hike from Fira to Oia (or the reverse from Oia down to Fira) is described as a “must” for anyone visiting Santorini. It is one of the best ways to see the island, traveling through many of the different villages, but it is not for everyone since it is truly a “hike.” Starting out in Fira it can feel like a nice walk along the coast through the gorgeous town, but it quickly turns into a bit more rugged terrain, and eventually a full fledged trek up the mountain. It’s by no means an expert-level hike, and certainly doable for even inexperienced hikers, but it could easily be deceiving for anyone out of shape in 90 degree summer heat.
As someone who only enjoys an occasional vacation hike, and isn’t in my most athletic form now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I still found the 6 mile hike to be an amazing experience and though tiring, found it be the perfect length and course along the coast.
What to wear and bring
Although we saw plenty of people on the trail wearing flip flops and other questionable attire (including a woman in heels), you will want to dress like you’re hiking. Think comfortable sneakers and workout clothes that you can sweat in.
You’ll absolutely need a bottle of water, and there are plenty of places in Fira to buy some. But once you get farther up on the trail the options are slimmer.
Sun block in summer is also a must, and in the peak heat bringing extra to reapply is also necessary. And of course a camera (or at least iPhone) is essential since you’ll have some of the best views of the island. Other than that, pack light so you aren’t weighed down on the 6 mile trek.
Start early in the day, as the longer you wait the hotter it will be. We started around 9:30, as soon as we were done breakfast and could get a ride to the starting point, and there were already plenty of people ahead of us. The trail doesn’t get very crowded even during peak season, so you won’t need to worry about crowds.
The hike can take anywhere from 2 hours (for the most experienced hikers without stops) to 4 hours (for slower walkers, with stops). For us it took about 3 hours with only very brief stops to take pictures and reapply sunscreen. Our timing worked out great to end in Oia in time for lunch.
I found the best guide for the hike by far to be from Santorini Dave. Read his full post if you have time but it is definitely worth saving his map to your phone to reference as you go along, even if you don’t have cell phone service. We found his descriptions to be spot-on and didn’t get lost once.
Starting in Fira
We started our hike in central Fira by getting a taxi from our hotel in Megalochori. From the main square we walked uphill and west a block until we found the path that runs along the coast. It took us a few minutes to confirm it was the trail, as it feels just like a picturesque sidewalk, winding along the hotels and restaurants along the coast. But eventually it does turn into a true trail north of town.
There is plenty to see along this trail as you pass some beautiful hotels and restaurants, and sea views. We even passed a professional photoshoot atop one of the buildings.
We opted to not take the detour to Skoros Rock as it can add a bit of time, but the views from this stop are incredible.
Exiting Fira is where it starts to feel a bit more like a hiking trail and less like a sidewalk. Here the path is still wide and we passed several other hikers/walkers. This trek is pretty consistent up to Imerovigli, the next main town on the trail.
At one part of the path, where the island narrows, we were able to see the other side of the island and got some great views we would have otherwise never seen.
The further north up the island we went, it seemed to get a bit more rugged. The most difficult part from a “walking” perspective is the “fork in the path” that Santorini Dave references at Ekklisia Profitis Ilias.
Here the trail gets narrow and rocky, and although not particularly steep it did alert my fear of heights for a few minutes. But this part of the trail is short, and then rejoins the wider road fairly quickly.
After passing the snack shop, the elevation seemed to climb a bit and the path seems a bit more like a nature walk up the hills, with Oia in plain sight getting closer and closer. In July summer heat, this is when I was starting to feel the burn and was grateful I had plenty of water. There isn’t a ton of shade this way, but we were able to stop often for water breaks and to admire the view.
Slowly you’ll begin to pass some hotels tucked into the hills and then it seems, almost out of nowhere, you’re in Oia, passing cliffside pools and sunbathers.
Once in Oia, we stopped for a well earned lunch at Pitygryos, a popular gyro spot which was worth the 20 minutes wait (it was lunch time during peak season).
We then traveled on through the town and briefly attempted to walk down to Ammoudi Bay, only to find the staircase/path down to the water covered in donkey poo and full of tired tourists who seemed to regret the walk down when they remembered they had to walk back up. We quickly turned around (we were going to see Ammoudi via catamaran the next day) and headed to the famous Castle of Oia to get our obligatory windmill shot.
Oia to Fira
When we were ready to head back down to our hotel in Megalochori (south of Fira) we had originally intended to call our hotel’s shuttle service. But we stumbled across a line of people waiting for the bus to Fira, and hopped on for just a few Euros. We were one of the last on which ended up being standing room only, but it was a fairly quick ride back down to Fira and beat having to wait around for a pickup. If you are staying in Oia and plan to start the hike there, this would be the ideal transportation to head down to Fira and start the hike from there. Or simply do the reverse and pickup the bus in Fira at the main bus lot in the center of town when your hike is complete.
Tldr; Hiking from Fira to Oia
- The hike is doable for even inexperienced hikers, but come prepared with the right shoes and plenty of water.
- Parts of the trail are similar to sidewalks, while other parts can get a bit steeper and narrow.
- Start early in the day to try to beat the heat.
- When you finish your hike there is a bus between Oia and Fira that can get you back to your starting point.