We are 4 adults with no travel issues regarding steps, walking, etc...Is their a difference in staying at Oia vs. Fira when we visit Santorini?
Fira is well-known for the intense nightlife and the shopping. Its central location makes it convenient for using the bus system to explore the rest of the island. Oia is without question the most beautiful village on Santorini. There are plenty of shops, galleries and restaurants, but the nightlife is limited to a few mellow bars and cafes. Both villages get very busy during High Season but Fira is the busiest by far since it's where all the cruise ship passengers come ashore. Oia gets busy once many of those same passengers arrive on their guided bus tours. It can be annoying, but if you are staying in a hotel below the main shopping area you will most likely not be bothered by the crowds.
We (husband and I) preferred Oia. You can take a bus from Oia to Fira and back. We hiked mainly along the coast to Fira (partly on the roadway as the cliff edge was too dangerous) and then took the bus back to Oia. Oia is where you have the spectacular sunset. In Fira, the shop owners are aggressive but they are laid back in Oia.
I consider Oia one of the most beautiful places in the world. Whenever I see a photo or painting of Santorini, especially if it is a view of Oia, I simply melt with delight. We were there just as a shore excursion off a Silversea cruise, but at the time, I commented to my husband that I could literally spend a week there just enjoying the view of and from Oia.
But, different people like different things. I liked the calm beauty of Oia.
Margaret, I feel the exact same way!
As usual, I pipe up with a THIRD option. I have visited Santorini probably 7-8 times, often bringing along newcomers, for whom Santorini is a must-see. Stayed in Fira a couple of times for bargain rooms, but tooo busy, and way back from the rim. We Always spend time in Oia, but I dislike the bus crowds and cruise throngs that cram the lanes mid-day... so we go there early. Also my lodging budget doesn't usually stretch to those rimside views. But the 3rd option is Firostephani, which somehow is not on the maps, but is actually the north fringe of Fira ... an easy walk of 15 minutes to the Fira attractions and nightlife, but still v. quiet by night AND day -- because it does not attract the package tours. Firostephani Hotels with caldera views are much less than Oia, many with pools. Just another area to explore. This online map gives an idea of where it's located. http://www.santorini-hotels.info/santorini-island-santorini-map/santorini-firostefani-map.htm
Returned from Santorini 5 days ago and would agree with the others - Oia is smaller and quieter but every evening the town swells with people - not necessarily a bad thing.
Fira has more options because it is larger, and central to the entire island. If staying in Fira, you can easily get to Oia via rented quad runner (great transportation option), frequent buses and of course a taxi.
We stayed in Fira and took the amazing 7 mile hike from Fira to Oia and planned it in time to catch the sunset - it was the highlight of Santorini for us ! It was a challenging hike but well worth it and you will not see anything like it ever. Cliff side most of the time, you will see the entire coast and really feel part of the island. Not to mention a huge reward at the end with a firey spectacular sunset !
(On this hike, we didnt really work out the ride home and around 9pm, after a wonderful meal at Sunsets and much Ouzo and wine, we staggered to the bus station and made our way home - could not have been easier or safer)
There is another option or place to consider going to - Perissa Beach area - lots of lodging and picturesque beachs but not the views of the couldra but black pebble beach, restaurants and nightlife - dont miss these beaches. Rent a quad and follow the signs to the beach!