Oia or Fira? Best place to stay in Santorini

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Written By: Pavlos

While researching where to stay in Santorini, you will definitely come to this dilemma between these two towns: Oia or Fira? Keep reading to find out more.

oia or fira
Fira and Oia are the 2 most famous towns of Santorini and each one has its own charm, pros and cons.

There is no doubt that Fira and Oia are the two busiest and probably most famous towns of Santorini island in Greece.

But where is the best place to stay when it comes to hotels, restaurants, things to do and even transportation options?

My short answer is: it really depends on what you are looking for from your trip to Santorini, but here is a complete comparison between these 2 towns to help you out.

READ ALSO: 
Where to Stay in Santorini
Best Hotels in Oia
Best Hotels in Fira
Best Hotels in Perissa

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fira or oia
Oia is one of the most picturesque places on earth, but you shouldn’t forget that it gets too crowded every evening around sunset time (around 7-8 pm)

FACTS ABOUT FIRA (on Google Maps)

  • Fira is the capital of Santorini and the largest town of the island with more than 3000 permanent residents (the whole island has about 20K permanent residents)

  • Fira is sitting on a cliff overlooking the Santorini volcano and the caldera (volcanic sea lagoon)

  • Fira is where all the Santorini buses depart from and terminate as this is where the main bus terminal is. if you want to go from A to B in Santorini , you have to go through Fira (if you take the bus). That applies to taxis as well.

  • Fira has the best shopping in Santorini. The best souvenir shops (and not only…) are there.

  • Fira has excellent views to the volcano and the caldera (the sea lagoon in the volcano)

  • Fira has more restaurants than Oia, but Οia probably has more romantic ones and more quiet ones.

  • Fira is not close to a beach but it’s only 15-20 mins drive from the black beach of Perissa or Kamari.

  • Santorini General Hospital is in Fira.

  • Fira in general has more ATMs to withdraw money than any other place in Santorini (though nowadays almost all places accept credit cards Visa and Mastercards; American Express is very rarely accepted in Greece)

oia view
Oia has unlimited opportunities for photos as it’s one of the most romantic and picturesque places on earth

OIA OR FIRA – COMPARISON

For HoneymoonOia (but also check Imerovigli)
For Solo TravellersFira (easier to meet other travellers and have fun)
For SeniorsFira (less steps and more amenities in general)
For BeachesNone of these has a beach but in Fira you’d have faster and easier access to the black beach of Perissa and Kamari
For FamiliesFira is more active and closer to the beaches for kids with more amenities in general and also closer to the main hospital (in case there is an emergency). Also, teenagers will be happier in Fira in general but also check Perissa and Kamari
For NightlifeDefinitely Fira (check my nightlife guide of Santorini)
For the Winter or low season (any month between November – April)Fira (the only place on the island with most of he businesses open even in the winter
For famous sunset views (and volcano/caldera views)Oia (Fira has equally beautiful views but Oia is better in my opinion as it is sitting at the far edge of the island)
For Wineries and wine toursBoth but Fira will be more convenient as it’s the main transportation hub of the island. Fira is closer in general to the best wineries in Santorini but you can book a wine tour even if you live in Oia as they will pick you up from wherever.
For Santorini without a carDefinitely Fira. Your life will be so much easier if you live close to the main bus terminal of Santorini
For a family with a babyFira but I also recommend staying closer to a beach if you have a baby or a toddler

oia santorini castle
You won’t be alone watching the sunset in Oia unfortunately…If you want privacy you should better check Imerovigli

FACTS ABOUT OIA (on Google Maps)

  • Oia is considered one of the most picturesque and romantic places on earth. That’s a fact. If you are a couple looking for a romantic place to stay on Santorini the Oia or Imerovifgli are the best places for a honeymoon.
  • There are no nightclubs or bars in Oia. Just a few quiet restaurants and (mainly) hotels.
  • Oia is a very expensive place, so be prepared to pay a lot for accommodation and food. You are paying for the location and the views but…not necessarily the service you will get. That is not true for every place but please accept the fact that this is not a value for money place and enjoy being there.
  • There are no all-inclusive hotels as you may have seen in Crete island, Rhodes island or Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean or the USA. This is a small island in Europe. Everything is on a smaller scale. Most hotels are basically small private villas carved on the rock (these are also called cave hotels)
  • Oia is not a good place for seniors or the elderly as there might be lots of steps to reach your room. if that’s not an issue for you then feel free to book an Oia hotel.
  • Oia is not ideal for kids and families as there are not that many activities around. you will be better of in Fira or (definitely) Perissa or Kamari as being close to the beach with amenities is essential for kids.
  • If you are renting a car, then parking in Oia is a nightmare as you may have to park 15-20 mins walking distance from your hotel (if you find a space in the public parking lot. I warned you…
  • Between 6 pm and 9 pm every evening you will have thousands of people flocking the streets of Oia to see the sunset. This is considered one of the best things to do in Santorini for many reasons but if you live in Oia it can become annoying. People may literally sit on your doorstep or balcony or terrace. The rooms/hotels that have quiet views to the famous sunset are not that many and usually cost 4 figures per night (in the high season May-October)
  • Oia is very close to the famous Ammoudi bay with the fish restaurants
atlantis bookstore santorini
The famous Atlantis bookstore is in Oia (please buy a book to support it instead of just visiting as it’s a matter of time till this gem becomes another hotel…)
respect oia santorini sign
This is a sign that you will see very often on the streets and alleys of Oia and I think it is very self-explanatory. Locals are super friendly but you have to respect their privacy and their houses and terraces while trying to get a glimpse of the sunset.
oia hotel pool
A typical hotel in Oia with its own terraces and private swimming pools. These are not usually accessible by the public and are all private.

CONCLUSION

So, I hope you are not still wondering which place is better in Santorini: Oia or Fira. Each one is an entirely different location with its own pros and cons. Fira is better if you are looking for better prices, nightlife, accessibility and shopping but Oia on the other hand, is the little gem that will take your breath away with its unparalleled sunset and volcano views, its cute white-washed alleys and the incredible hotels. None of these two towns is close to a Santorini beach and I still don’t think they are ideal for families with kids or babies or elderly with their steps and narrow streets. So, Fira or Oia? It’s ultimately your take, to be honest.

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