The Santorini crater walk from Fira to Oia provides jaw dropping views and a great opportunity to marvel at whitewashed villas clinging to the hillside. This easily accessible trail weaves along cobbled lanes and modest tracks to arrive at the sunset haven of Oia. Despite being relatively accessible this walk definitely leaves the tourist hoards behind and is surprisingly peaceful. The condition of the trail varies however it is achievable in 3hrs for most people with moderate fitness. It is possible to catch a bus from Oia to Fira after watching sunset over the caldera.
Situation and history
The trail is located along half of the western side of the main Santorini island. Whilst the area once relied on fishing and farming the arid countryside; most of the sights today are of tastefully appointed tourist hotels and the natural wonder of the volcanic crater. The trail once linked the donkey trail at Fira to the sleepy village of Oia but now the sealed road slightly further inland is the main thoroughfare for locals and tourists alike.
Fira to Imerovigli 2km (45min)
Start near the top of the chairlift at Fira. If in doubt then simply follow the trail of donkey droppings. Head north through Fira staying at a relatively constant elevation and always keep the ocean on your left. Numerous routes weave through the village and there are numerous dead ends so expect to get lost and enjoy meandering through the streets. Fira eventually peters out after about 1km walk.
Almost immediately after leaving Fira behind you will start entering the village of Imerovigli which is centred around an impressive ridgeline jutting out into the sea. At this point you will be approximately 2km from the start and have dramatic views out towards your final destination of Oia across the bay.
Imerovigli to the lone Church 5km (1.5hrs)
Leaving Imerovigli the traces of tourism thin out along the crater rim. The trail here becomes more rocky but is still easy to traverse. After about 3km the trail drops relatively steeply onto a road. After about 400m of walking along the roadside the trail advances back up the hill to the left. Another 1.5km along the most remote section of the trail you arrive at a small and isolated church. The yard in front of the church is an excellent spot to take a break and eat a sandwich if you bought one.
The lone church to Oia 3km (45min)
About 1km beyond the lone church you will arrive at the first traces of Oia. There is a major pedestrian route through Oia making navigation relatively easy. Don’t forget to pause and admire the well photographed churches through the town. At the headland you can see the windmills that first made Oia famous. Enjoy the sunset and marvel at the crowds who came to see them.
Planning your trip
The hike takes about 3hrs from either Fira or Oia. The trail may take longer than you think so set off with plenty of time before sunset. In summer it is oppressively hot and dry so bring plenty of water.
Starting elevation: 300m
Finish elevation: 300m
Total descent: 0m
Trail distance: 9km
The trail has some ups and downs but is generally flat. The trail itself varies from cobbles in towns to rough gravels in the countryside.
Sun protection is recommended. Sneakers or trail shoes would suffice.
Access to and from the hike
Access is straightforward by bus or taxi.
Navigation and facilities
There is no signage on the trail but the path is relatively easy to navigate. There are a handful of shops in the main towns but very little in between so carry supplies with you.
The trail does follow some steep edges at times but generally this is a safe trail.
Flora and fauna
There is very limited flora and fauna along the trail due to the arid climate and volcanic rock soils.
We used Lonely Planet to plan our travels around the Mediterranean. The current version can be found here.
We set off from Fira and promptly got lost. It took a few attempts to find our way out of the town through the warren of cobbled lanes. We dawdled our way taking photos and admiring the view. At Imerovigli we grabbed some extra water from a shop and marvelled at the view across to Oia. Pressing onward it was pleasant to finally leave the maze of streets behind and stride out at a quicker pace. The sun was already low so we didn’t dawdle.
We paused at the lone church to admire the view and give our feet a break. Lacking the forethought to bring a snack we contented ourselves with some water. The sun was almost on the horizon as we reached Oia and we marvelled at the crowds that had gathered at the point to catch the sunset. Whilst the sunset was undoubtedly beautiful we couldn’t help but think the views from Fira of sunset across the caldera are equally awesome.
After sunset we followed the mobs back through the cobbled streets to the bus. The bus was easy to find given the hordes of tourists. A quick and windy ride carried us back to Fira in about 15 minutes.
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