We are planning on a 3 night stay in Santorini in late spring. Can't decide between Oia or Fira? Any information would be appreciated. Thanks.
Neither. BOTH attract the huge cruise throngs between about 9:45 AM - 4;30 PM... lanes are jampacked. I always suggest an overlooked gem in "goldilocks" location -- FIROSTEPHANI. It has lovely rimside caldera view hotels (many with pools), it's on the North Fringe of Fira town... so that you can eaisly walk in 20 mins or so to the shops, museum, restaurents etc... but is NOT visited by tour mobs... their busses just sail on by. And on the inland side of the caldera-view hotels, you can walk to a local bus stop and get the earliest possible bus to OIA, and enjoy a couple of hours wandering its lanes & taking pix. THen when the Crazy Cruise Crowds flood in, you jump on a bus & leave. Use booking.com Firostephani and click on "Map View" to see exact location of hotels. It's early yet to see hotel availabilities & prices for "late Spring" (BTW, it helps to be more exact, to get best advice). If you don't see enough choices at your dates, put in a "dummy date" like October 15 for more hotels & roughly similar rates.
We stayed in Oia for 3 nights, a Friday to a Monday, in May of this year and loved it. Oia has a beautiful promenade and wonderful views of the caldera. In the evening we had dinner reservations at Oia Gefsis, a restaurant with sunset views, so we could enjoy it without the crowds. It was fun to walk along the side streets in the morning and see the blue domed churches and Oia Castle. Oia is a great place for photography because there are no overhead wires blocking the view. When it got hot and crowded in the afternoon we enjoyed the pool and hot tub at our hotel.
One morning we took the bus from Oia towards Fira and asked the driver to drop us off in Imerovigli and then did the cliff walk from Imerovigli to Firostefani and Fira going downhill. The views are spectacular. Fira is a transportation hub and was very busy with cruise ship passengers while we were there.
Another day we took the bus from Oia to the ruins at Akrotiri which were fascinating.
Oia was even prettier than the postcards!
I agree wholeheartedly with Janet. We certainly enjoyed our 3 days In Firostephani and even though this was years ago and I hadn’t even heard of the Rick Steves forum, we sort of fell into this lovely location. I recommend you do as Janet suggests and beat the crowds to Oia by taking an early bus. It’s a beautiful destination but you can’t really see the views or go in and out of the cute places without hordes of people being exactly where you would like to be. Early arrival equals a much more enjoyable experience. Fira has a couple of small but very enjoyable museums and was within walking distance of our hotel. We had a darling little room with a patio and lounges from which to enjoy gorgeous sunsets and the caldera views with a glass of wine.
Agree with Janet. Choose something along the caldera rim that is NOT Oia or Fira unless you enjoy tourist crowds by day and night.
Firostefani or Imerovigli would be better choices, IMO.
By "late spring" do you mean sometime in May? That's a great time to visit since the crowds are not so intense then. Oia is the most beautiful village and there are lots of hotels there that aren't in the center of the village where most visitors congregate. Of course your budget will determine what hotels will be available to you. If you think you'd prefer to stay in Oia let me know what that budget will be and I'll try to help you find the one that fits your budget as well as any specific requirements you might have, so let me know what they are as well.
I've been to Santorini in May, and I found the crowds in Oia intense enough.
I spent 3 nights as the first part of my 3 week Greece trip a few months ago.
Day 1: Flew into Santorini from Amsterdam, arrived around 10 AM. Transfer to my hotel in Firostefani (100% agree with Janet). Lunch overlooking the caldera, did the hike from Firostefani to Oia in time for the sunset, bus back from Oia to Fira, walked around Fira at night and walked back to Firostefani.
Day 2: Boat tour w/transfer, picked up at the St. Gerasimos bus stop near my hotel, taken down to the port. Boat tour of the volcanic island, hot springs, Thirassia, transfer back to Firostefani. Did sunset in Firostefani, only 95% as stunning as Oia but not overwhelmed by the crowd.
Day 3: Took bus to Perissa Beach, also hiked to the church up in the hill nearby. If I kept hiking up, would have reached Ancient Thera.
Basically, your goal as Janet said is to NOT be in Fira or Oia between 10 AM - 5 PM if you wish to avoid the bulk of the cruise crowd. So you've got Firostefani, Perissa Beach, or places I didn't make it to on this trip like Kamari Beach, the ruins at Akrotiri, the Red Beach or Black Beach, towns like Pyrgos or Emporio, etc. You aren't going to totally avoid crowds in Santorini, though.
Other islands are even better for avoiding the most touristic scenes: I visited Folegandros, Milos, and Sifnos on my trip. I know Janet is a big fan of Naxos and I hope to go there in the future.
Ah but I also love the 3 other islands mentioned ... for varying lenths of time. Folegandros can be enjoyed in 3 days because it's mostly about the divinely beautiful high town of Chora ... Milos has amazing # of great beaches (22?) but lame bus network, so car-rental is needed fo long stay; but in 3-days one could see the ruins/catacomb, explore port town, and enjoy a round-island sail. Now Sifnos, aaah, that could occupy a visitor for many days if u like hikes; great bus network so one can stay in hill village, bus to fine beaches.
Does anyone have hotel suggestions in either Firoestafani or Imerovigli. Definitely would like to have water views.
NancyM, I am not going to waste effort in guessing, with almost no information. To be able to help you -- OR helensn -- to find appropriate hotel choices, we'd need to know at least Roughly the dates you plan to visit, and how many nights you want, and also the budget range per night you're comfortable with. Other factors that matter: are you a couple, or 2 friends, or a family? Do you want to visit without a car? (Imervogli isn't as convenient). How about going up/down steps. If you want best advice, share key details.
We will be spending 3 nights in Santorini, from June 3rd to June 6th. We are a middle aged couple. We enjoy exploring towns and villages, going to the beach, love authentic local cuisine and the occasional museum visit.
I am still not sure where to stay in Santorini. We are not in the greatest physical shape, so having to climb mountains of stairs would be a problem. Some stairs would be okay. We love to walk.
We are looking for accommodations around 175 euro a night. We could go higher if we have to. We would like to find a charming family run inn. It has to be clean and comfortable with a private bath. And close to public transit so we can visit other nearby towns and the ruins at Akrotiri.
We would like to avoid crowds of cruisers-we have heard how busy the towns get when the ships are in.
Still wondering where we should stay-Oia, Imervigli or Firostefani?
It's too early to book for June,2020, but when they open up their booking for next year the Anemomilos Hotel in Oia has rooms in your price range. This is a sea-view family hotel with a good on-site restaurant, situated away from the crowds. You will be within easy walking distance to the bus and to all that Oia has to offer. Another excellent sea view hotel in Oia with an on-site restaurant is Laokasti Villas. I see on the booking.com website that you can book this one now instead of waiting for next year. I think that's why the price is so good if you book now.
Lee says that Anemomilos has Sea-view rooms at your budget, and it does have a pool. But you should be aware that "sea view" means view toward the east.... over area of land toward the rising sun.... Not the "famous" caldera view. If you want the caldera view in early June, you'd have a better chance of getting it at your price in Firostephani, which has a whole row of rimside caldera-view hotels at much more reasonable rates than Oia (where you have to compete against "Bridezillas" in June!). Have you done any research on your own yet?
Id suggest not depending solely on internet browsing but also look at some guidebooks, which will be more candid than some websites are, about relative costs & crowds in various locations of various island. Guides may also fill you in on the modern plumbing standards of recent decades -- because almost nowhere is without a private bath in the 21st century, except a student hostel. I suggest that you check out threads about Firostephani on Santorini to know where it is (northern fringe of Fira Town). You can check out some possibilities using booking.com Firostephani (because many places won't be listing their spring availabilities yet, you can put in a "dummy date" Like October 20, and see more availability. Click "Map view" and it will show exactly where hotels are, close to the rim (good), or on Eastern side of main N-S road (bad...sharp downhill, not views). Then u can go to hotels own websites to look at photos. Some caldera view hotels that don't require steep steps down the face of he cliff, just go straight in from a street or lane: Sunset Hotel, Hotel Mylos, Gaby Apartments, Villa Remvi... for more €€ (I don't know June prices) Hotel Illias has pool & view, as does Agnadema Apartments.
The first advantage of Firostephani is that it's in the "sweet spot" -- close to Fira town, yet unknown to cruise crowds or package-tour throngs. They don't even know it's there; their busses whiz right by, so you can sit serenely at tiny Taverna Aktaion, your elbow leaning on the rimside wall, with nary a crowd of cruisers or rowdy teens around.
The advantage of Firostephani is that you can walk in about 15-20 minutes to the heart of Fira Town with its shops, museum, cathedral, restaurants etc. There's a "hidden" & level flagstoned lane that parallels the island's main N-S road... you have a quiet walk between private residences and then Opa! you're in Fira town! If you want to take the public bus to OIA, it's not quite as convenient beginning this year... you leave on inland side of the rimside hotels, cross the main road, and walk downhill about 100 yards to the 2nd N-S. road where there's a bus stop heading N. Coming back from Fira, your southbound bus takes the main N-S road so it's right behind the rim hotels. And this is MUCH easier than going in to the bus "yard" in Fira town, & less hectic. You can pay right on the bus; just be sure to have lots of change.
If you are interested in beaches, I hope that you will be including other islands on your list, because as you may have heard by now, Santorini beaches are not so much (mainly black grit and in June very HOT). If the 2020 June weather is like 2019, you may either want a pool in Santorini, or to move on after 3 nights, or both.
I will add that even though both the Anemomilos Hotel and Laokasti Villas have a sea view eastward and not into the caldera, both hotels are just across the street from the famous caldera view and far removed from all the sunset watchers that clog the north end of Oia.
Definitely would like to have water views.
The point on Santorini is not to have water views only but to have caldera views. So I am sorry, Lee, no offence meant, but I have a hard time understanding why you are so set on promoting places that do not have that.
The only advantage of non-caldera view hotels is that they tend to have larger pools than the caldera view ones, due to the limited space along the caldera. But then, anyone traveling mainly for the pool should probably pick a different island anyway.
Do you want to visit without a car? (Imervogli isn't as convenient).
Good point - which makes it all the more inaccessible to crowds. ;-) You are right of course that it takes more walking and getting up and down stairs.
BTW, if you really want to know if your hotel location has a great sunset view, you can check the exact location on the app Photographer's Ephemeris (free to use as a web app) and enter your date of travel to see what exact direction the sun will be setting at.