When traveling to Santorini, people dream of those stunning white villages on the edge of the caldera. You don't want to miss on those amazing views, I understand. So the most frequent question is. Oia or Fira - Where should I stay? Below is my detailed comparison guide to help you decide.
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Oia or Fira - where to stay on Santorini? short answer
If you don't want to read the whole article with explanations and photos, below are my short answers depending on what you are looking for:
- My overall choice - Despite the practicality of Fira to explore the island, I prefer the charm of Oia
- For views - both offer great views of the caldeira, but I have a preference for Oia
- For photography - I think Oia offers more interesting angles and scenery for photography
- For people who want to explore by bus - Fira is where all the buses depart and return, hence, way more practical
- For shopping and nightlife - Fira
- To join organized tours and activities - Both are included in pick up routes
- Distances - Fira is more central to explore the island - Fira is 10min drive from the airport while Oia is around 30min away
- None of them are close to the beaches (driving is required)
- If you have more than 3 nights, I recommend splitting your time with several accommodations
There is a large choice of accommodations in both villages -
- See the best rated accommodations in Oia
- See the best rated accommodations in Fira
- See my accommodation suggestions for both at the end of the article
Note: Fira can also be written Thera or Thira.
If you are not sure if you want to stay in one of those villages, check out my article about the best areas to stay in Santorini.
Locations & practicality - Oia vs Fira
Let's start by talking distances and how easy it is to explore the island from both of them.
Distances in Santorini
Below is an introduction map of Santorini to help you get oriented.
As you can see, Fira is a little bit more central : it is closer to beaches, to the airport and to the ferry port. It really is the central hub of the island
Distances from Fira
Distances from Oia
- Oia to airport = 30min drive
- Oia to ferry port = 30min
- Oia to Kamari Beach = 30min
- Oia to Perissa Beach = 50min
- Oia to Red Beach = 45min
Yes, Oia is further away but we are not talking major impact on your trip. The island is not big...
The other point to note is that Oia has a one way circulation, and sometimes you have to make a big loop to reach your destination inside the village.
Check out my article about Driving in Santorini.
Getting around Santorini from Fira vs Oia
If you are planning on exploring by bus everyday, Fira is definitively the only option for you. All buses depart and come back to Fira.
This way you don't have to plan an extra leg of your journey both ways, especially, as the bus from Fira to Oia is often full.
If you are driving around by car, none of those villages are really ideal. They both have a lot of traffic, narrow streets and one way circulation to deal with.
If you are planning on exploring Santorini by car, below is my guide to help you easily plan your trip:
- 6 easy-to-plan Maps
- 40 scenic locations and photo stops to consider for your itinerary
- Planning tips to make the most of your time
- GPS coordinates for peace of mind
- 90+ photos to help you select where to go
Best views - Fira or Oia?
As you can see in the pictures below, both villages are right on the edge of the caldera:
Views of the caldera from Oia
The advantage of Oia is that it is made of several villages and it is quite long. Therefore there is a large variety of viewpoints to choose from, many churches and many angles.
It even has 2 bays where houses stretch down the cliffs and where you can walk to the bottom for different perspectives: Ammoudi Bay and Armeni Bay.
In my eyes, I really think Oia looks prettier in terms of overall scenery and offers the best views.
Views of the caldera from Fira
Fira is a more condensed village, with more yellow buildings.
The views towards the caldera are as good as in Oia, but the views with the buildings are more limited and less charming (in my opinion)
Exploring the towns - Fira vs Oia - most photogenic?
The main reason why people visit Santorini, is for those fascinating white houses right on the cliffs of the caldera. Both villages are typical with mostly white houses but also buildings with other colors.
However, in my opinion, Oia has many more interesting photo angles and buildings worth photographing. And, if staying there, I strongly recommend exploring it at sunrise. It offers a very different experience!
Examples of photo locations in Oia
Oia has windmills, more blue dome churches, the 2 bays with buildings down the cliff, doors leading to the sea... Check out my article about the best things to do in Oia.
Examples of photo locations in Fira
While Fira is more difficult to photograph and has less interesting angles with nice buildings.
Watching sunsets in Santorini
In terms of sunset, the whole West coast of Santorini offers great experiences.
The most famous viewpoint is the castle in Oia, as you enjoy the whole Ammoudi bay with the sun setting behind the buildings. However, Oia is overly crowded at sunset and it is not enjoyable.
- if you want to see the sun setting behind buildings, then Oia is perfect
- if you want to see the sun setting on the water, the angle of Fira will be better most of the year
Activities - Things to do in Oia vs Things to do in Fira
Let's start by clearing one thing up. All organized day trips include pick up in both Fira and Oia : the wine tours, the boat tours (see my favorite ones), the walking tours, the sunset tours...
Therefore there is no better place to stay in that regard. They all offer easy access to the best things to do in Santorini.
Local ports - Amoudi Bay vs Santorini Old Harbour
Both villages offer the possibility to get down to water level where you will find their small ports:
- In Oia, you can go to Amoudi Bay via the stairs or via a road (but not many parking spaces at the bottom)
- In Fira, you can go down to the old port via the stairs or via the cable car
- The Amoudi bay fishing port is more charming in my opinion
Activities in town
Except for admiring the views and getting lost in the maze of narrow alleys, what more is there to do in both villages?
- Great restaurants in both
- Oia is mostly accommodations, there are less shopping opportunities than in Fira
- Fira has several museums including about folklore and archeology
- Oia has the small Maritime museum
Where to stay - Fira & Oia accommodations
- Both villages have a very wide choice of accommodations with hotels, cave houses, rentals...
- However Oia has many more high end small accommodations (cave houses) for unique experiences.
- Overall, prices are cheaper in Fira
Now that you have seen both villages and what they offer, I hope you have made your choice. Below are some accommodation suggestions for both if you are ready to book.
Best places to stay in Oia
- Apartment - I stayed at Ianthe Apartments & Villa (and entirely paid for it). They were really welcoming, the location was practical and the accommodation had a common roof terrace - good quality for price - Check out photos and availability
- Luxury Cave Villa - Cleo's Dream Villa with an amazing views without being disturbed by tourist - Check out photos and availability
- Hotel - The Museo Grand Hotel offers a common terrace with views, a swimming pool and a beautiful decor - Check out photos and availability
- Luxury cave - for something quite unique, check out the Lava Caves and its cave jacuzzi - Check out photos and availability
- Cheaper - the apartments Anemomilos are a great alternative. There are not right on the edge but they offer great facilities - Check out photos and availability
- Or see the best rated accommodations in Oia
Best places to stay in Fira
- Apartments - Kamares Apartments offer great views with jacuzzi for a great mid range option - Check out photos and availability
- Luxury Villa - if you are dreaming of being in an infinity pool with amazing views, White Ark is an option - Check out photos and availability
- Hotel - Children are welcome at the small Keti Hotel down on the cliffs of Fira, offering amazing views! - Check out photos and availability
- Hotel Adults only - Callia Retreat suites offers great facilities only a short walk away from the vibrant center of Fira - Check out photos and availability
- Cheaper - the apartments in Olive Tree Suites are an interesting option in regards to price vs quality (but are not on the edge of the caldera) - Check out photos and availability
- Or see the best rated accommodations in Fira
Where to stay in Santorini ? Other options
However Oia and Fira are not the only 2 options of places to stay in Santorini. You also have:
- Imerovigli for another village with great views - Check out the best rated accommodations
- Akrotiri for a quieter stay on the caldera - Check out the best rated accommodations
- Emporio for cheaper options in a beautiful inland village - Check out the best rated accommodations
- Perissa or Kamari, if you want to stay by the beach - see my article comparing both
Want to see more of Santorini?
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