Best Way to See Santorini – Fira to Oia Hike

Santorini is beautiful. No.. Santorini is GORGEOUS!!!

Viraj decided to show me the island of Santorini in a slightly offbeat way – with a trek! Since we had reached Fira post midnight, we slept in and woke up leisurely. By the time we got out of the room, it was lunch time already! While we travel, waking up late is a strict no-no for us, but this trip was about relaxing and taking time off our hectic schedules back home.

The agenda for the day – trek to Oia to be there in time for the famous sunset.

The distance – over 10kms.

Now, I am a runner (at least I like to call myself one) and walking ten kilometers would be a cakewalk as compared to running it. I didn’t consider it to be much of a challenge. Viraj made sure that I wore good shoes and was well fed before we set off (I always need to be fed well.. just ask Viraj.. and my folks).

Fira is the capital and towards the top of half of the island. The geography of the island is such that if you are towards the cliff, you can see the entire island, no matter where you are. Just as we started, we could see the route of the trek leading up to Oia at a distance. At the first glance, it seems so daunting, the journey you are to embark.  The hills and the cliffs, they tell you that you are in for a ride; but they also tell you that you will be rewarded at every step of the journey. The entire route is along the cliff and the view promised to be astounding. I had no doubt in my mind, that this is going to be a fun day. Viraj and I have never really trekked on any of our trips, so was the first for us.

Our route – Fira – Mesa Gialos – Firostefani – Imerovigli -Finikia – Oia Image Source : Google

Here we Go! 

Post a very late and super yum lunch at a traditional Greek restaurant hidden away in the narrow streets of Fira, we were ready to go. (FYI, if you go to Fira, you MUST go to this restaurant, it is called Nicholas Taverna. It is so cute and traditional in the center of the very ‘touristy’ lanes of Fira. It makes you feel so happy and relaxed. We were recommended to go to this place by a local, so we knew it had to be good. I had the best Moussaka I’ve ever eaten in my life at the Taverna and there is no way it couldn’t be featured in this post. My mouth waters just thinking about it! *Drooool!!*)

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Wine, Beer, Moussaka and Souvlaki.. Perhaps not the best pre hike food, but how can this not be your first proper meal in Greece?!?
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Maneuvering the streets of Fira to get to the hike path

The trek path was on a parallel lane to the Taverna, along the cliff. The beautiful view welcomes you from the get go. Juggling through the throngs of people and navigating through the narrow streets, we often took a path we were not supposed to, but the beauty that is Santorini, never left our side. Walking through the streets is so much fun and quite like an adventure. You never know what is round the corner. Climbing up and down, fortunately we didn’t go round and round.. (failed attempt to rhyme :P), just straight on ahead, completely mesmerized by the whites and blues of the buildings and the gorgeous blue water on our side. The only thing I didn’t like so much was the hot sun. I never ever thought that I would go to Europe and say.. Oh My God! It’s so HOT!! There’s a first time for everything I guess.

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Here we go!

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 The walk is lined with beautiful chapels, hotels and houses, and some strange things you see on the roof of some houses. Every few meters reveals a new photo opportunity. I am going to bore you with the pictures because every picture is so beautiful.

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Strange things you see on the roofs of buildings

The Quest for the Famous Chapel

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Along the way, we kept looking for the famous chapel that is the signature image of Santorini. The buildings started thinning out and we realized that we had missed it somewhere. As we walked ahead, I had to stop for a sip of water. It was a really hot day to trek. Looking around I saw the little township we had left behind, and among the little white buildings was a very familiar blue dome. I immediately called out to Viraj and asked him if that was the chapel? He froze! Oh my God! It was! We had crossed it over a kilometer back. We turned around and headed back to the chapel.

As we were getting close to the chapel, we had to head into the center of the township. I remember being a little nervous about getting lost again! We had already walked back about a kilometer. Fortunately, we had directions! On the walls was a picture of the dome and arrows pointing out the directions. I was so impressed! It got us right to the chapel, and a huge number of people taking the exact same pictures. Yes, we too, are included.

We kept wondering how had we missed the chapel and soon enough we realized the mistake we had made. At Firostephani, the path splits. One of the paths climbs up while the other goes down. Lazy as we are, we took the lower the path and saw the chapel from below.

Lesson learnt for the day – Taking the easy way out will add almost two kilometers to your already very long trek.

More Walking… 

Here’s where the pictures do all the talking.

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Umm.. Where are we?? Where do we go now??

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Within an hour and a half from when we set off, we reached a town. I still do not know which little town it was, when the marked path disappeared, rather, we missed the marked path. We took a little street and realized that we were very close to the main road. Hmm… this sure didn’t look right. We saw a few people heading our way and for some reason believed that they were doing the trek too. I do not know why we thought that. They were much older and the women were wearing heels! Whatever happened to our keen analytical eye??!!??

So we asked them politely, ‘Excuse me, could you tell me which way do we take to go to Oia?’

Very prompt came the reply, ‘That way.’

‘Is this the hike route?

*Confused look by the tourists*

‘We’ve been hiking. Sort of lost our way.’

“Hiking!!!! You will take three days to get to Oia!!’

*Now our turn to exchange confused looks*

‘Umm, no.. there is a path. It will take a few hours, but we’re looking to walk it.’

‘Sure! If we were your age, I’m sure we could too. Good luck!’

And off they went laughing at us. As they walked off, we heard them say, ‘There’re young guys! They can do it!’

With a fresh resolve we headed to look for the trek route, and surprisingly, we found it it no time, and we continued on our path.

Up and Down.. We go On and On… Hill Number 1!

After all the townships, the path started narrowing down. We were already over two hours into the trek. The people who were walking with us, were no longer there. It was at this point that I realized that this was an actual, proper trek! Walking along the streets definitely had not given that impression. Fortunately the climb to the first hill was gradual, until we got close to the top. That is where I started huffing and puffing and realized that I may be able to run, but trekking and climbing is a whole different ball game.

What is so interesting about Santorini is that the island is really narrow towards the top half. As you keep climbing higher, you have the ocean on both sides. One side is the cliff while the othehr side is the flat land. You really begin to see and understand the formation of this volcanic group of islands.

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Beginning of the climb, the ocean is on one side.. showing off the steep cliff and the mouth of the crater..
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.. and very soon the ocean is on the other side and the land is flat!
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The chapel that welcomed us on the top of the hill

Getting to the top of this hill was not the real challenge for me, it was coming down. Santorini, being a volcanic island, has volcanic rock and gravel. Duh! If there is one thing I know about myself, it is that I am extremely accident prone. My body’s center of gravity is a little off, and loose gravel on the way down, definitely not my best friend. I was going very very slowly and I could feel Viraj getting impatient. What made it worse was that there was a couple in front of us who were hiking in flip flops and going way faster than me! Better be safe than sorry, I say. It is better to go slow than have a wounded Pooja to take care of.

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The not-so-fun descent and the next challenge up ahead

The Second Hill… The Chapel with THE View

The descent from the first hill had us join the main road for a bit. Soon enough, we were back on the trail and going up the second hill. This was a slightly harder climb. I’m sure it would be a cakewalk for the people who climb even a little bit, but for me, a non climber, it was not all that easy. It really baffled me why I was finding it tough to climb! At that point all the breathing techniques that I follow while running came back to me. I sure did become good source of entertainment for Viraj at that time. Fortunately, it wasn’t a craazzyy climb and not before long, we were at the top of that hill. Phew!

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We caught our breath and looked around.

Sometimes when you are amidst nature, or something absolutely beautiful, the realization hits you of where you are and how truly lucky you are to be alive and at that place and at that time, that is the feeling I got when I saw the entire group of islands at my feet. All those months of dreaming and hoping have culminated to this very moment. ‘Breathtaking’, ‘Stunning’ any adjective you use is an understatement. You have to experience it.

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Found interesting things out there. I read on some blog that this is an ancient worshiping site. Umm.. ?!?

Oia.. Not too Far Now.. 

With a little break, and Oia finally not so far away, we started again. I could hear my calves thanking me!

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Back on the trail with Oia at the distance
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Interesting land formations

Chopper in the Sky

While walking along Viraj saw a helicopter in the distance. Like two mesmerized children, we followed it  and were discussing how beautiful the view from up there would be. The chopper kept getting closer and closer. We suddenly realized that the helicopter was about to land right in front of us! There was a little clearing and that’s all the helicopter needed.

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Viraj and I are fauji kids. We are used to large helicopters and this one seemed so tiny! There were two people waiting for the chopper. They got in, took a selfie, and off they went to see the island from a whole different perspective.

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Someday… Viraj and I will do that as well… with the selfie!

Oia.. You really are so pretty!

When you walk into the streets of Oia, you KNOW that you’re in Oia. The white sugar cube buildings and the streets, it is pretty as a picture. There is a reason why Oia is so popular. I just couldn’t get enough of how pretty it is! Hopefully if I ever get to go back Oia, I would love to stay in one of the private villas with the infinity pool. Sigh! Someday! I bet I could afford it if I can afford the chopper ride!

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Find the Spot! Find the Spot!

We had been advised by the lady at our hotel that we should not go to any of the bars or cafes on the cliff to watch the sunset at Oia as they would be too expensive. There is a spot at the tip of the island where everyone goes to to watch the sunset. With that in mind, we started looking out for that ‘sunset point’. We knew that we HAD to be close because the number of people waiting on the narrow steps of the narrow streets was getting larger and larger by the minute.  We had no idea which way to go though. The spot finally revealed itself to us way below where we were. We decided to get ourselves a beer and some food and head out in that direction.

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The ‘Sunset Point’at Oia

The winding streets of Oia are really cute, unless you are in a hurry. Actually, in retrospect, they’re much better than the winding and terribly confusing streets of Mykonos city center. That is where we ACTUALLY got lost. (You can check that post out here)

We finally made it to the spot and it looked like the entire island had descended down there to watch the sunset. What I understand is that it’s not just the tourists that go there to watch the sunset, but the locals as well. Add the great clear weather to the mix and you have the entire cliff of Oia, jammed with people, waiting for that one spectacular view.

(FYI, I came across this post about  Oia vs Fira sunset. It’s really funny.. and true. You can read that here)

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People getting ready for the spectacle
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The famous Oia sunset

The final word – The sunset it Oia really is THAT beautiful.

You Know You’re Lucky When You Witness…

A Sunset Proposal.. A scene out of the movies. Viraj and I were concentrating on the beautiful sunset and the change in colours in the sky when we heard people clapping and whistling. I turned around and saw that there was a man who was down on his knees asking his lady love to marry him. The romantic in me loved it! Getting proposed to in Santorini during the sunset.. such a pretty picture! However, the hundreds of strangers around you witnessing such an intimate moment.. not such a pretty picture. (Just my opinion.. what if she says no! :O)

Wherever the two are, I hope they have a wonderful married life.

Sunset on one side and the moon rise on the other.. Post the proposal craziness everyone there went back to watching the sun sink deeper into the horizon. Slowly, as the sun disappeared, the sky started turning into a beautiful hue of pink and orange. Soon enough, the onlookers and the shutterbugs started thinning out. Viraj and I, too, got up from the top of the roof of the ruin on which we were perched. When we turned around, the most breathtaking sight welcomed us – the moon was rising behind us. It was not just any moon that night, it was a full moon night. I had never seen anything like that before – sunset on one side and a moon rise on the other. I wish my phone had enough of a panorama capacity to capture the moment. We stayed for a bit, Viraj taking his set of pictures.

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As the sky got darker and the moon brighter, the lights on the cliff face started coming on. As we walked back to the streets of Oia, we kept seeing the reflection of the full moon in the water and I now why Santorini is considered one of the most romantic islands in the world. The reflection of the full moon also reminded me of the full moon that Lena saw from her window in Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2. Trust me, the moon in the movie was no exaggeration! It really is that beautiful. With that, we were ready to head back to Fira… not walking! We took a bus from the Oia bus station.

It is unbelievable how beautiful the island is. The postcards and pictures don’t do justice to how pretty the island is how how stunning the views from the island are. If you can, the trek is the best way to see the island (unless you can afford that chopper ride). Walking through the streets of white and blue textures, it is a surreal experience. I had to keep pinching myself.. I am in Santorini. I REALLY am in Santorini!

One thing I learnt while in Santorini though, was that no matter where you go, whether it be a trek or the beach, make sure you wear good shoes. You will be trekking no matter what. Lol!

So hubby dear? Can we go again? 😉

Linking the post to The Weekly Postcard, #WeekendWanderlustThe Sunday Traveler and Monday Escapes hosted by some amazing travel bloggers!

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28 Comment

  1. Ooh thanks for wetting my appetite for another region of Greece I have not yet seen. We have been to Athens and Mykonos, and although Santori has always been high on our ‘must visit’ list your lovely photos have just moved it further up the scale. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. I suggest you don’t waste anytime to get there! It is STUNNING!!! I’m surely going back someday 😀

  2. had no idea there is a hiking trail that connected Fira and Oia. Not surprised though that you lost it at some point…here in Greece we are notorious about not having proper signs where they are needed!! Glad you liked Santorini! It’s a unique island, isn’t it?

    1. Santorini was stunning! I was a bit nervous because usually when a place is really popular you have great expectations from it and it is disappointing if it doesn’t deliver. Boy! Santorini delivered.. And how!
      If you go back to the island.. Do the trek. It offers the most unique views of the island.
      What you said about the signs.. Haha! So true.. Got lost in the streets of Santorini, mykonos AND Athens! Haha!!

  3. Wonderful pics. I love those distinctive white buildings. I have been once and am going again in a couple months. Your post has me extra excited now. Thanks!
    JR

    1. Thank you so much!! Hope you have a lovely time in Santorini! 🙂

  4. Wow! Your photos are stunning. I would do this hike too. I do not think 10 km are that bad. With all the stop along the hike (for pictures or just for contemplating the views), I think this is very doable.

    1. You can start from Ferostefani or Imerovigli. It will make the hike a little shorter and that’s where the actual fin begins. But you surely must do it. It’s heaps of fun!

  5. I read a book set is Oia a while ago and have always thought about visiting, your photos just make it all the more real. I can’t believe the crowds of people waiting to see the sunset, it must really be incredible to see it firsthand. #MondayEscapes

    1. It was such a surreal experience. Absolutely stunning! Which book was it. I’d love to read it and revisit Oia! 😀

  6. Ahh I have been dying to go to Santorini! I haven’t been to Greece yet but am in the process of planning a cruise to Greece with my mom for next year!! 🙂 #MondayEscapes

    1. We saw so many cruise ships docked at Santorini! I really want to go on a cruise sometime. Our trip included Kos, Mykonos and Athens as well.. Mykonos was sooo much fun! Lol! Plan a trip with your friends to that island sometime as well.. lolz!

  7. I saw Santorini on a TV show a year ago and thought just wow, I am determined to go there in the next few years. Looks absolutely stunning!!

    1. It is prettier in person! You must visit soon 🙂

  8. Beautiful photos! I’d love to see Greece and your post is really a good guide to Santorini. Thanks for joining The Weekly Postcard this week.

    1. Thank you so much! 🙂

  9. Saw the sunset at Oia over twenty years ago – can’t wait to take my kids back to show them Santorini. It really is an amazing place. How long did the whole trek take? Not sure if my lot would be able to sustain an entire day, but I love the idea of exploring off the beaten path! Cheers from Denmark.

    1. Hi!! The entire trek might be a little much for the kids.. perhaps you can do a shorter version of it, and take breaks along the way. It took us over 4hrs from Fira, but was totally worth it.
      Hope you get to show your kids the wonderful island soon!
      Cheers! 🙂

  10. Ooooo, loved this post! We were in Santorini last month, but didn’t do the trek between Fira and Oia. I will say, if you return to Santorini, definitely stay in Oia even if it’s not in a traditional house with pool! We stayed at a cozy hotel a stone’s throw from the main church square, and it was perfect. I can’t wait to return one day.

    1. Where you stayed sounds just lovely! I’ll definitely be staying in the pool houses next time.. *wishful thinking* 🙂

  11. Gorgeous is right! I don’t understand what a “fauji” kid is…help!

    1. ‘Fauji’ is a Hindi word for ‘A person in the military’. My father and my father and law were both in the Indian Defense, and we are their ‘fauji’ kids :). Just a term we Indians use a lot.

  12. Amazing shots!! I hope to see this place with my own eyes sometime soon! 😀
    10km sounds like a lot, but worth it!!

    #MondayEscapes

    1. Thanks 🙂 10k here is totally worth it! When you do go, don’t miss out on the trek 🙂

  13. Beautiful photos! Santorini is the place in Greece I would like to see the most, I hope I can get there soon! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you get to visit it soon too 🙂

  14. Oh, how lovely it is reading your post as it brings back such wonderful memories for me. We were in Santorini four years ago and it is truly gorgeous! I love your photos. Watching the sunset in Oia for me was a highlight! Thanks so much for linking up with #MondayEscapes

    1. Thanks so much. I will happily go back to Santorini any day. That island has so much to offer!
      I can’t wait for the next link up. Already decided what I’m going to write about. Just hope I get it done in time 🙂
      Cheers!

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