Come on, get off that sun lounger, off the boat and out of the pool and do something even more incredible! You need to work off all that wine somehow and I have the most beautiful weight loss program in the world for you – it’s a walk. The caldera hike from Fira to Oia is not just a good walk or a scenic walk or an interesting walk but a jaw-dropping “Oh Wow!” kind of experience that I promise you will be the thing you remember most and longest about your trip to Santorini.
Where Is the Caldera Hike from Fira to Oia?
The caldera hike from Fira to Oia follows the cliff edge on the western side of the island and through the caldera-edge villages. It takes in all of the scenic beauty of the island, the Mediterranean, as well as the iconic architecture of Santorini. But Santorini is much more than the ocean and the architecture – it is also a beautiful environment where wildflowers cascade down the hills, trees cling to the edges of the island and churches anoint every high point and deserted outcrop. This walk takes in all these best aspects of the island.
What To Do and See on the Caldera Hike from Fira to Oia
The walk can be taken from Fira or from Oia (or any point in between). The least difficult route, in terms of the least amount of uphill hiking, is to begin in Fira. I am inherently lazy and this way had the most downhill walking and the least uphill walking! Some people jog this route, but they are better human beings than me!
The hike is 6.5 miles long (10.46 km) and takes you along the cliff-edge walking paths of all four of the main cliff-top villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia. The hike can be as short as two hours, although we took three and stopped for a picnic along the way. It is not a difficult hike, with some of the path through the villages being paved, cobblestones, wide steps and there are two sections when you are on a road.
The hike is signposted but so long as you stick to the cliff-edge as you walk through the villages, you won’t get lost. Just remember, if in doubt, walk as close to the sea as possible! Occasionally construction work means a short detour takes you back from the cliff a street or two, but you are never far from the cliff-top path.
There is an optional add-on to the hike out to Skaros Rock. You will be rewarded with outstanding views but it will add at least an hour to your itinerary.
The hike has three stages:
Stage 1: Fira and Firostefani
The hike conventionally begins at Hotel Atlantis in Fira at the southerly end of the cliff-top walkway. It heads north towards the gift shops, Skaros Rock and Oia. Following the cliff-edge path along the caldera you will leave Fira and continue north towards the next village, Firostefani. When you pass the church in the picture below, you know you are leaving Fira.
A short steep hike and you will be close to Firostefani where you can see signposts that reassure you that you are on the right path! You’ll go past (or can enter) Anastasi Church. You can also take the turnoff to Skaros Rock if you wish to add this beautiful section to your hike.
If you are spending a week on Santorini, you might consider making a separate trip to Skaros Rock.
Stage 2: Imerovigli and the cliff edge path
Walking through Imerovigli is a truly interesting part of the hike not just because of the views out to the caldera of the volcano, but also the architecture of these exclusive homes and hotels on the landward side of the path.
The picture above shows the eastern side of the island, an equally superb view. The picture below shows the caldera-side view towards Oia.
The next section is my favourite. The road leaves Imerovigli and its beautiful small resorts behind and slowly climbs towards the church of Ekklisia Profitis Ilias. Wildflowers in a dozen colours sweep down the cliffs towards the boats far below. We stopped amongst these wildflowers for a picnic.
At the church of Ekklisia Profitis Ilias you have a choice: the more beautiful but more difficult path along the caldera, or the easier route on the eastern side of the church. If you are unsteady on your feet or are with children then I suggest you take the easier route. There are only three places on the hike when you need to walk carefully, and this is one of those times. The views, the beauty and the wildflowers will astound you.
Descending the steep slope to the Hotel Cavo Tagoo puts you onto the road for a few minutes before you begin the climb up towards the final peak before Oia. The view is of course wonderful and I hope that knowing this is the last uphill section of your hike makes it possible for you to slow down and take in the truly magnificent scenery.
Stage 3: The Push to Oia
Oh the relief at cresting the final hill and resting at the tiny church overlooking the descending path to Oia! It’s windy up here! Key locks hang in the church on the peak and Thirassia can clearly be seen out to sea to the west but after more than 5 miles, I was ready to stop hiking!
Knowing there was a well-deserved drink waiting for me on a beautiful Oia terrace bar somehow soothed my aching calves and I bounded down the path towards the island’s most exquisite village.
The path of rough cut steps becomes a concrete path of wide steps beside the first homes as you enter Oia. You shortly arrive at the market. The hike ends here, or alternatively, if you have not been to Oia before, you can continue to take the path along the caldera, through the shop-lined streets, past the cable car and down the 300 steps to Ammoudi bay. This would make your hike a good 7 miles or more.
Of course, ending up in Oia is possibly one of the most magical spots you can imagine a hike ending and I had a second lunch of swordfish and beer to regain my strength for the bus ride back to Fira!
Who is the Caldera Hike from Fira to Oia Suitable For?
Adolescents will likely find this hike a lot easier than adults, but it is not appropriate to bring strollers or push chairs.
It is unfortunately not a hike that can be undertaken if you have significant mobility issues. Not all of the hike goes through the cliff-edge villages. There are sections of gravel path that have a reasonable gradient and where the dirt scree can become loose and you can slide around a little on a particular downhill section.
The hike can be completed by people who are not reasonably fit – just take your time and enjoy the incredible views! And think how wonderful you are going to feel when you watch the sunset over a drink that evening!
There is a section of the hike that puts you on to the road between Fira and Oia at the Cavo Tagoo Hotel. This comes after Imerovigli and just after the steepest downhill section of the hike where the gravel is a little loose. If you’ve had enough at this stage – well, you are standing at a bus stop, so just wait a while and catch a bus in to Oia!
Logistics and Essentials
The walk is most wonderful in the shoulder seasons and can become very hot and crowded during peak season. Of course, the same logic holds true for all of Santorini’s attractions!
The cruise boat passengers are also something to avoid if possible and so concluding your walk by about 10.30 in the morning is optimal in summer.
This is a great walk to do if you are arriving in Santorini by cruise ship because you can come ashore at either Fira or Oia and then return to the ship from the other village. You must budget 5 hours to do this though, especially if you plan to take the cable car at Oia.
Choose a day without wind if at all possible. A hat will blow off most days! I used sunscreen and sunglasses but I have olive skin. If you are fair, find a way to make sure your hat can stay on your head.
I wore running shoes rather than hiking boots. On the sections of loose gravel on the hillsides I wished I was wearing hiking boots! You can get by without them if you are planning a short trip and this is the most hiking that you will do.
You MUST take your camera!
Sunscreen – horrendously expensive in Santorini – pack some with you for this trip.
Most definitely take a snack and water. A picnic is perfect!
Its important to note that there are NO toilets regularly open on this walk. There are two small cafes (if they are open) where you can buy water or a snack but no toilets. I am opposed to water bottles as a general rule – the world has too much plastic. However, reusable water bottles made from recycled plastics save us from creating new plastics and from having more plastic floating in the oceans around Santorini. Such water bottles, if they are not too small, are very light-weight and are difficult to break, are important to pack when hiking and in hot climates.
How to Get to and From the Caldera Hike from Fira to Oia
If you are staying in Fira, happy days, just head up to the cliff edge and start walking in the direction of Oia! If you are not staying in Fira, then bus and taxi are the most feasible options.
Taxis between the two can often cost as much as €30.
The bus system is not always on time but it is easy to navigate and cheap. You can download current Santorini bus timetable here.
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Guided Walking Tour
If you don’t feel comfortable setting out for this hike alone, there is a service that offers the hike with a tour guide, a picnic for lunch, and return transfers to your accommodation. You can check prices, reviews and availability here.
Further Links and Information
Choosing where to stay in Santorini can be hard. See my comprehensive breakdown of the villages of the island, the pros and cons of staying in each location and the best hotels for different budgets in each village here.
More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page.
For three things to know before you book your trip to Santorini, see my blog post here
For the must see Ancient Akrotiri Minoan city, see my blog post here.
And for another must-do activity while on this wonderful island, see my Sailing around Santorini blog post here.
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