If you’re planning a Santorini itinerary, it can be hard to decide whether you should stay in the town of Oia or Fira when visiting the island.
When you think of the Greek Islands, the picture that comes to mind is white buildings, blue-domed churches, and endless vistas of deep turquoise seas. This vision is exactly that of Santorini – it features heavily in marketing for Greek tourism adverts, and rightly so. It’s arguably the prettiest place in Greece if not all of Europe!
When you look at a map of Santorini, and its five islands, it becomes obvious that nearly all accommodation is on the main island of Thira. The big question for most first-timers is what is the difference between Fira and Oia and which town should you stay in while visiting Santorini?
While Oia might be the best choice for couples and those wanting to stay in cave hotels, Fira is more affordable, better suited for families and has better links to the rest of the island.
However, there is a lot more to unpack when deciding which one of these towns to stay in during your trip to Santorini.
If you’ve looked on Instagram to answer the question of Oia vs Fira, then chances are you have seen images of cave houses built on terraces overlooking the volcanic caldera. This, and the incredible sunset is exactly what the small but busy village of Oia is famous for.
The pretty village of Oia sits at the northern tip of the island. It has little to no roads, except the ones at the very entrance to the village – and so you won’t need your own transport when staying in Oia itself.
In fact, the only thing you will need to make your way safely around Oia is good footwear. Of course, bring your best shoes for all of the Insta shots with incredible backdrops, but note that the village paths are a mix of marble slabs that are slippery when wet, and cobblestone streets.
Santorini is well linked by public buses in the busy summer months but be aware that from Oia you will have to get a bus to the central station in Fira before going anywhere else in the island.
I’ll be honest, Santorini is expensive, and Oia is where it’s at its most expensive. During the summer months, expect to pay a premium for rooms, which average around €500 per night.
This price tag means you’ll probably be sleeping in an iconic cave house, have sea views, and maybe even a hot tub or infinity pool!
The village is also more expensive than Fira for food and drink, as nearly every restaurant has sea views. Expect to pay at least €4 for a freddo cappuccino, €6 for a beer, and around €30 for a main course at an eatery with caldera views.
Of course, you can opt for fine dining, and from there you can expect to pay well over €100 for a tasting menu, plus around another €100 to pair wines.
There are definitely bargains to be found in some of the back alleys, where you can find charming courtyards and gardens away from the hustle and bustle.
Even street food staples like gyros will cost over €5, double the average price in Greece. Of course, this will make for a cheaper meal, but cost is definitely something to consider when deciding to stay in Fira or Oia.
Things To Do In Oia
Oia isn’t a popular destination because of all the activities – it’s exactly the opposite. This is a place to lay back, soak in the rays, gaze out over the views and feel pretty damned pampered. Floating on a lilo in your private infinity pool is certainly a memorable activity.
As you stroll down Oia’s main street there are plenty of unique boutiques, art shops, and Atlantis Books – voted one of the best bookshops in the world.
If shopping isn’t for you, don’t worry, there are other things to do. Eat your way to heaven through the village’s many five-star restaurants, get to grips with Greek coffees and sample many of Santorini’s iconic wines. Nearby Domaine Sigalas has combined maths with the island’s unique viniculture to produce award-winning wines.
Whilst there isn’t a beach at Oia, you can walk down the 300 steps to Amoudi Bay, where you will find seafood tavernas serving fish plucked fresh from the sea. Head around the rocky walkway from the small harbour, find a spot to leave your towel and swim out to the chapel of Agios Nikolaos.
Oia is full of spots to relax, share romantic candle-lit dinners and gaze at iconic sunsets – making it the perfect destination for a quieter honeymoon. This isn’t to say Fira isn’t romantic, it certainly is – but Oia is next level. This is something worth keeping in mind when deciding between Oia and Fira.
Where to Stay in Oia
Pension The Flower – This inn is an excellent place for budget to mid-range travellers looking for a hotel in Oia. Well located in the centre of the village, they have a range of lovely rooms available – all with air conditioning – and there is even an outdoor swimming pool on site. Click here to see their availability
Aloia Villas – For those looking for a villa in Oia, then this hotel is one of the best places to stay in Santorini. They have a range of beautiful villas available, an excellent location for exploring the island and plenty of wonderful amenities to ensure you have a fantastic stay. Click here to see their availability
Santolia Art Suites – This aparthotel in Oia is perfect for those after a suite or apartment during their time in Santorini. There are a number of different suites available and all include either a hot tub and a pool (and sometimes both!). There is also breakfast available daily. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Oia hotels!
Fira is the capital of the main island of Santorini, Thira, and travellers often confuse the two! But there is no mistaking that it’s a great place to base yourself on your trip to Santorini, with great links (perfect if you’re going on a day trip), interesting things to do and some wonderful eateries, any trip to Fira will be sure to fire up your soul.
The town of Fira shares many similarities with Oia – it is best explored on foot, it has epic views of the caldera and is delightful to explore.
Most of the town is pedestrianised and is based along the caldera. The town runs uphill to the Catholic church, cable car station and beyond to the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli.
As with Oia, good footwear is recommended for exploring, and patience is required in the busy summer months when the streets are jam-packed.
The main road runs through Fira, and the bus station is located here. This is the main station that will take you all over the island – the tickets cost only a few euros and the bus runs from early in the morning until late.
The ferry port is also located closer to Fira compared to Oia. You can view ferry schedules here.
As with Oia, you don’t need your own transport, but if you did rent a car (you can browse Rentalcars.com for options) to explore further afield, parking is better in Fira vs Oia.
As mentioned earlier, Santorini is expensive, but Fira is more affordable than Oia. Let me explain why: Oia is mainly closed in the winter months – only one or two tavernas and coffee shops are open, so most of the trade is geared towards tourists.
This means people only have a short period to make enough money to sustain them year-round. Fira is much busier, and has many more locals living there year-round, and because of this, there are more facilities, driving prices down.
Although Fira is based along the caldera, it is not limited to it in the same way Oia is, and Fira has many streets that go further back, away from the view. With this in mind, there are more hotels, though not as pretty as the cave hotels, again, creating competition and making it cheaper.
Restaurants are more affordable in Fira, though you will pay more for the sea view. Street food options are plentiful – here, a gyros pita is around €3.50, markedly cheaper than Oia.
You will also find more down-to-earth options for drinks, and pubs like Tropical Bar have a friendly service, and beers at much more reasonable prices than Oia.
Things To Do In Fira
Fira, like Oia, is a wonderful place to shop, eat, relax and take in that view! If you want an evening with a twist, you should visit the Greek Wedding Show, filled with singing, dancing, wine and mezes.
In town, you will find several beautiful churches that are worth exploring, alongside interesting attractions like the archaeological museum, and Megaro Gizi, a local museum set in a 17th century mansion.
Fira is a great place to base yourself – it is centrally located, has bus links and easy options for renting a vehicle if you want to head further afield. Exploring the likes of the black sand beaches, the island’s beautiful small villages like Pyrgos or Megalochori, or the stunning bronze age archaeological site of Akrotiri will be much easier from Fira.
In general, because Fira has a bit more going on than sleepy Oia, it’s a better place to stay if you’d like to enjoy a bit of nightlife, as well.
If you’re feeling active, you can hike from Fira to Oia (the hills are on your side heading in this direction), with great views along the caldera. Start early to avoid the heat, and wear good shoes! Budget three hours to hike to Oia, with plenty of stops for photos.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can take a boat tour to the volcanoes. You will hike up the active volcano of Nea Kameni with a local guide, and swim in the muddy thermal springs of the inactive Palea Kameni, all the while taking in the beauty of the islands from a local boat.
Where to Stay in Fira
Dream Island Hotel – This 3-star hotel is an excellent choice for mid-range travellers who have chosen Fira as their base in Santorini. They have a number of lovely rooms to choose from, a beautiful swimming pool on site and a great location to explore around the island. Click here to see their availability
Lemon Suites Santorini – Those after a bit of luxury or a romantic getaway in Santorini will love this plush hotel in Fira. They have a number of different rooms and suites to choose from, plenty of fantastic amenities for guests to enjoy and a location perfect for exploring all this part of the island has to offer. Click here to see their availability
Modernity Suites – This luxury aparthotel in Fira is perfect for those who want the convenience of their own space in Santorini with all of the amenities that a plush hotel offers. They have an excellent location and plenty of suites to choose from – all boasting views of the iconic Caldera. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Fira hotels!
Oia or Fira: Where to Stay on Santorini
So, you’ve read about the differences between Fira and Oia – which is for you? Both are great areas to stay, each with amazing views and excellent places to eat.
Fira is a great spot for groups and families due to the range of activities available, the affordability of food and accommodation and its transport links.
Whereas Oia is a wonderful spot to stay if you’re after something really special – the cave houses are incredible hotels that are completely unique.
Either way, a trip to Santorini is always a good idea, so wherever you stay, you’ll have amazing memories that will last a lifetime!
Whether you choose to stay in Fira or Oia, you’re sure to have an incredible time on this iconic Cycladic island!
Are you trying to decide between Oia and Fira? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!