Hiking is the best way to experience Santorini.
Not only does it offer panoramic caldera views which will be missed in the vehicle road trail, it also passes through the beautiful villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, Finikia and Oia which are worth exploring separately on feet.
The actual walking time is around 3 hours, but with so many breathtaking stop points, the total time needed can easily reach 5-6 hours. If you’re planning to visit Skaros Rock (recommended), you’ll need to add another 2-3 hours into your itinerary.
Here’s our complete photographic guide to Santorini’s classic hiking trail.
From Fira to Firostefani
Actual walking time: 20 minutes
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Start your morning with a breakfast by the caldera—gonna need ’em energy for the rest of the day! Plus, it’s one of those classic Santorini experiences that you just have to check off your bucket list.
To fully admire Fira from all angles, try to start your trail from the Southern tip of the city center. Nearby to the main tourist bus stop, you’ll find the white-washed churches of Ypapanti Cathedral and Agios Minas.
As you head North through the city, don’t forget to look back once in a while. Seeing all those colorful houses perched on the cliff is quite a sight!
Walks past the cable car station and you’ll see the triad of Catholic Church, Domenican Convent and Megaron Gyzi Museum—which are all open for public visit so you may want to spend some time here.
From Firostefani to Imerovigli
Actual walking time: 20 minutes
Estimated time needed: 1 hours
Right at the border between Fira and Firostefani, There’s a long stretch of white balcony offering marvelous, unobstructed views of the Aegean Sea. This is absolutely one of my favorite photo stops in Santorini.
The famous Three Bells of Fira (Agios Theodori) are common in wedding photo shoots, but they are not as easy to locate in real life. When you see a tavern called Mama Thira, walk up the stairs through a parking lot and there you’ll see it!
Where Fira is colorful and full of activities, the quaint town of Firostefani is spectacular in its all-white glory. It’s one of Santorini’s most underrated villages and I think it’s second only to Oia in beauty.
Beautiful swimming pools make this a retreat haven.
After passing through the small convent of Agios Nikolaos (pictured below, not open to public), continue your way until you reach the higher-situated village right at the opposite of the famous Skaros Rock. You’ve reached Imerovigli!
From Imerovigli to Skaros Rock and return
Actual walking time: 40 minutes
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Skaros Rock is not part of the main hiking route from Fira to Oia, and the trail consists of hundreds of stairs which requires extra stamina, hence you can skip it if you prefer to conserve your energy.
However, seeing that it’s located very nearby to Imerovigli and it’s easily one of the most unique attractions in Santorini, I personally think you cannot leave Santorini without visiting it!
Starting from the white church of Agios Georgios (above), walk a few meters further as you descend into the small chapel of Agios Ioannis. From there, you’ll see the stairs leading you along red and black rocks which create a beautiful contrast with the blue Aegean Sea.
There are plenty of bushes, colorful flowers and rocks which is untypical of touristy Santorini. Seeing the Skaros up and close is a very different experience as you sit there alone to appreciate the scale. On your way up you will pass through buildings and cave houses from the past. You can climb up for a scenic viewpoint of the entire island.
There’s also another path leading further down to Panagia Theoskepasti. We didn’t descend this path as it’s another set of hundred stairs plus there are plenty of blue-domed churches in Santorini. But if you do go down, I suppose you can have a church selfie all to yourself without all the disgusting crowd.
As you return to Imerovigli, don’t forget to look up and admire the gorgeous view of the village from a different perspective.
From Imerovigli to Oia
Actual walking time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Imerovigli is the last major village before you hit the wilderness, so you may want to have your lunch and replenish your water supply before continuing.
At the far end of Imerovigli, you’ll pass by a stretch of photogenic, luxury hotels.
Straight from the luxury hotel cluster, you’ll come across what seems like a dead end. But if you continue from the white stone structure at the corner of below photo, you’ll find a dirt road which will lead you all the way to Oia.
From here onward, the hiking difficulty will increase and the sun will likely be at its hottest in the afternoon. Some of you may want to consider taking a bus directly to Oia. But if you do continue, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most amazing views of Santorini’s wilderness.
You’ll walk through the path upwards until you reach Agios Markos, the white building at the top of the hill in below picture. Not long after that, you’ll arrive at the blue-and-white chapel of Profitis Ilias just behind the hill.
Santorini was a site of a major volcanic explosion. And as such, the soil is rich in colors and minerals. From here, it’s harder to identify landmarks. Make sure to always pay attention to the signs pointing towards Oia/Ia so that you do not get lost.
Once you get to the asphalt road, follow the path to the left until you reach a path with hiking sign “Ia 60”. The path becomes a staircase and eventually a stretch of gray ash.
It may look like you’re deviating away from the main vehicle road, but no worries, it’s the right path. If you walk through the vehicle road, it’ll take you much longer to reach Oia (with a monotonous view). Here, you have a jaw-dropping scenery of the caldera with Skaros Rock in the distance.
As you climb further up the grey ash hill to the peak of Santorini, you’ll pass through two white chapels (Psilos Stavros Church and Ekklisia Profitis Ilias) before you descend down with a view of Finikia and vineyards down there.
From here onward, always keep to your left. Eventually, you’ll begin to see a big village near the size of Fira getting nearer and nearer.
Welcome to Oia!
Estimated time needed: As long as you wish… but you’ll need at least 3 hours.
Agios Georgios! That’s probably gonna be the first word you utter as soon as you reach Oia and greeted by this yellow-and-blue church (what an apt name).
Where to find THE blue-domed church in Santorini, Greece
There are dozens of blue-domed churches in Oia, but if you’re looking for THAT SHOT, I’ve done the dirty research for you.
The exact name of the churches are Agios Spyridonas and Anastaseos, which you can find by walking along the Nikolau Nomikou Street until you reach an alley where many jewelries are sold. Walk down the stairs beside Minerali jewelry store and there you have it.
Try explore other alleys around it though, and you’ll discover new vantage points for these iconic blue-domed churches.
From there, you’ll also notice these beautiful bells which are shining in beautiful orange pastel just before the sunset.
Where to find THE Oia sunset viewpoint
Follow the Nikolau Nomikou Street toward the huge stairs descending down to Ammoudi Bay. You DO NOT descend. Instead, you’ll notice a ruin called Agios Nikolaos Castle. It’s impossible to miss with tourists waiting there as early as 2 hours before sunset!
Go there early, secure a strategic spot and take the money shot!
Should you start the hike from Fira or Oia?
The trail can be attempted from either direction, but I recommend starting from Fira, which helps you to warm up as the difficulty level gradually increases (the trail from Imerovigli towards Oia is especially steep).
There are plenty to explore in the first three villages, so it’s not a very good idea to exhaust yourself early. Most importantly, you get to end the hike with the famous Oia sunset—the one you always see in postcards.
I’ve heard that the views are not as outstanding if you start from Oia—not sure how true this is, but if you do decide to take the reversed route, I suppose just remember to look back a lot!
Final tips before you start hiking from Fira to Oia
– Summer, which is the best time to visit Santorini if you’re looking for beautiful blue sky, can be quite hot. As such, make sure you wear breathable clothes and apply a lot of sun screen.
– You’ll need plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated, but don’t overload your backpack with too much water that it bogs you down. Instead, make stops at several villages to refill your water.
– Wear good hiking shoes. Some of the trails passing through volcanic ashes can be quite slippery.
– When navigating the hiking path, whenever unsure and there’s nobody around to ask, the rule of thumb is simple: Always keep to your left and make sure the sea is on your left side. You’ll eventually reach Oia. The only exception where the sea is on your right is when you first descend down from a lava red ash into the asphalt road on the Imerovigli-Oia trail.
– FREEBIES: MAPS! I have soft copies of Fira and Oia maps, in which I have personally marked all key attractions. To receive a copy, simply like Scarlet Scribbles’ Facebook page and leave a comment at the bottom of this page. Indicate your Facebook name so that I can identify you and fill in the confidential email column so that I can send you the maps. Do let me know specifically that you want the maps! =)
What are your favorite parts of the Santorini hiking trail?