This last May, we took a trip to Greece with Katarina’s wonderful mother. We spent a week gawking over the Pantheon, exploring Crete, sipping wine in Santorini, and eating as many gyros as we could. But, through all of that, one activity definitely stood out. Using the (occasionally dubious) advice of Trip Advisor, we decided to hike from the capital city of Fira (or Thira) to Oia on Santorini. The hike is about 10km and takes you along the crescent rim of the island, what is left of a (still active) volcano crater. If you’re up for the challenge, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views and a great sense of accomplishment. Seriously, if you can, do it!
When to go: In the Summer, early morning is your best bet to beat the heat. In May, we opted for a 3pm start in order to arrive in Oia in time for sunset. That was a really wonderful way to end the day.
Who should go: This is a long hike, with lots of hills. Pro tip – don’t promise your mother-in-law that this is the last hill. Lying is never a good idea. That being said, the three of us are used to different levels of activity. As long as you pace yourselves, it’s doable if you’re not in great shape. (Honestly, pacing yourself is wonderful, you can really soak in the views that way.) Some of the Trip Advisor reviews suggested you could bring strollers and small children. Since the path is rocky and sometimes slippery, we really don’t recommend that. Similarly, it isn’t suitable for wheelchair users.
What you’ll need:
- Reasonable footwear. Hiking shoes are not necessary, but avoid flip flops or sandals. The trail is steep at times and there is a lot of gravel. Plus, you cover a lot of ground and your feet will thank you later.
- Suitable clothing. I winced every time we passed girls in string bikini tops. Get the support you need to feel comfortable.
- Sunscreen. Colin avoided being lobster-colored only with the regular application of sunscreen. Grab sunglasses and a hat, while you’re at it.
- Lots of water. 2 liters per person is a good measure. There is almost no shade on this hike. Unless you go at dawn or dusk (after dark is not recommended), you will get very hot and thirsty. You can stock up in Fira or at a couple stands early in the hike.
- A fully charged camera. It’s so beautiful, you won’t be able to resist taking photos.
- Plenty of time. The hike can take anywhere from 2-5 hours depending on how fast you go and how many stops you take. We took it easy with frequent stops for pictures and water and finished in about 4 hours. We loved the slow pace – lots of time to tell stories and enjoy the scenery. It’s like nothing else!
- Reservations for dinner if you want to eat and catch the sunset like we did. Watching the sunset in Oia is hugely popular, and the small town fills up with tourists vying for a spot at least an hour before it starts. Ask for a sunset view when you call. We were able to make our reservation the morning of, but it wasn’t high season.
- Cash for a taxi. You will not want to walk back to Fira when you are finished. Trust us.
- We took the local bus to Fira from Kamari. It was cheap, but we did have to wait a while for the bus.
- Fira itself is fairly sprawling with lots of narrow streets to get lost in. Fight your way through the crowds to the northwest corner of town, right on the lip of the ridge. The cruisers going up and down the cable car are a good thing to watch out for – you’re on the right track if you get near them.
- A plain concrete footpath marks the start of the trail. Follow the signs pointing to Oia.
During the hike:
- Take frequent stops to enjoy the wonderful views and the colorful doorways, gates, and windows of the homes and hotels around you.
- Try not to focus on how far away Oia looks.
- Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen and drink your water!
- Katarina’s mom, a classics major, kept us entertained with Greek myths. This hike is a great time to chat, share stories, and reflect on your trip so far. Also, talking can be distracting from the endless stream of hills.
- Enjoy some wonderfully quiet and peaceful moments to yourself, away from usual Santorini crowds.
- Watch out for a small section of the path that runs along the road. A donkey vendor marks the fork back from the road.
- Note the traditional Greek orthodox churches you will find nestled on top of the peaks.
- Keep in mind that Imerovigli, the town just north of Fira, is the highest point on the island. So, it’s (mostly) all downhill from there.
- If your mother-in-law asks how much further the hike is, the answer is 20 minutes.
When you arrive in Oia:
- Rejoice in your achievement!
- Check out the view of Fira and ponder how far you’ve come.
- Soak in the white buildings and blue domes. This is the iconic Greek isle town.
- Take a well deserved break. Kick back and enjoy some food and drink. Rest your feet. The restaurant we picked had Pina Coladas, and the thought of those definitely kept us going up and down just “one more hill”.
- Peruse the shopping along the main drag. We got some beautiful art (our typical souvenir), that now hangs above our bed and reminds us of a wonderful day.
- Enjoy the sunset, if you’re there at the right time.
Once you’re done with this hike, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment and peace. Relax in knowing you got some of the most unique views on the island and enjoy those mixed drinks and that sunset. Where else can you walk along the lip of a volcanic caldera and take in picturesque white cities perched on steep basalt cliffs above the Aegean? It’s truly an unforgettable experience.
If you take this hike, let us know! We’d love to see pictures and might even feature them on our Adventuring Pandas Instagram!
Until next time, adventure on!