Fira is the capital and the first point of entry to the island of Santorini, if you arrive there by sea. You might think that's the town where you will see the most famous, postcard views of the island - especially the blue domes that look so wonderful against the sunset or the whitewashed houses tightly squeezed with the beautiful windmills overlooking them. This is what we had thought. However, Fira is not where you'll find those spectacular views - it's a port town and has a bit more local feel to it. It's Oia that boasts the most spectacular views in Santorini. Here, in this post, I want to show you the photos from Fira and in the next one - Oia, so you can sense the difference and plan your trip according to what you'd like to see.
Arriving in Santorini by ferry
If you arrive on a ferry from Athens or from any other islands around, you'll enjoy spectacular views on the way while entering the Santorini caldera - yes, Santorini island is just a part of what it used to be a huge volcanic crater - now it's almost all submerged underwater. You can check the ferry schedule here on the official website http://www.ferries.gr/greek-islands-ferry/ferry_santorini.htm
Note that if you wish to travel from Athens, you have to scroll down the list to the letter P - and choose the Pireus Port. The prices can vary, the earlier you book, the better deal you'll get. The cheapest I've seen were about 20 EUR/22 USD one way. Also, it tends to be cheaper out of season.
Upon arriving at Fira port you have a few options of getting into the town - you can take a taxi (which is not too expensive), a cable car (5 EUR/5,50 USD one way per person) or you can walk all the way up the winding, steep roads which offer amazing views. Alternatively, you can also do a donkey ride. We, however, chose to walk as it's quite sad to use those poor animals this way.
What to see in Fira
Accommodation in Fira tends to be cheaper than in Oia which is so extremely overcrowded that you can't even squeeze your finger in between the crowds. Although, for us, the first impressions of Fira and Santorini were a bit disappointing (we hadn't known the most beautiful part was in Oia), I would recommend you book your accommodation there instead of Oia - Santorini is tiny and it's extremely easy to travel around. We, basically in one evening, visited both: Fira and Oia.
Fira is quite small, and there's not much to do there. Wikitravel, on the main page about Santorini states that Fira has all that Oia has to offer but it's way more overcrowded. In reality, I found the exact opposite - Oia is way more attractive with the views, houses, windmills and winding streets. Fira, in turn, was a lot less crammed.
Fira, is basically the gateway to Oia and other places around, like the volcanic island of Nea Kameni but you can enjoy a nice, 45-min long walk from Fira to the village of Imerovigli where you can admire a beautiful view of the cliffs and whitewashed buildings. The path is very easy and mainly flat, but it offers a great panorama, nevertheless, still we heard young people on the way complaining that they'd never walked so much and were almost dying. It came to me as a shock - seems that nowadays some of the tourists would rather have escalators installed in ancient villages to facilitate their visit.
If you enjoy a fresh-air walk with exceptional scenery, I'm sure you won't complain ;) From Imerovigli, we took the bus onto the main, most famous place in Santorini - Oia (known from the postcards) and admired the sunset there. I'll describe the experience soon in a separate article.
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