Well, that is a grandiose statement I am making…the best 1-day itinerary in Santorini. For Armando and I, it truly felt like the best day so hence, the title. But perhaps…maybe, just maybe, it is?
By default, we automatically exercise when we are on holidays. Armando and I love to explore, whether we are wandering through crazy city streets or humid rain forests, we walk a lot when we travel. Of course, let me clarify…we do not do extreme exercise. Armando would but he stays in my comfort zone with me, pushing me a little every now and then (No Armando, I will still not do the Grouse Grind with you!). We often try to fit some sort of fun hike into all of our travels and for this trip, we decided to start our day with the Fira-Oia Hike (note that Fira is also called Thera or Thira).
We started this hike in Imerovigli because that was where we were staying. What that meant was that we missed the first 1/2 hour of the hike which is primarily uphill. Darn. If you heard sarcasm in that last word, you would be correct.
The entire Fira-Oia hike is said to take about 3-5 hours, depending on how fast you walk or how often you stop. Total length of the hike is 10.5km (6.5 miles). I am not a good uphill walker but this hike was totally doable. We completed it in 2.5 hours with a fair amount of stops for picture taking; the views are just so breathtaking that you can’t help but stop and soak up the vistas. Probably my favourite hike, to date. Here are my tips to best enjoy this hike:
1. Go early – We planned on leaving by 7am but did not get our butts in gear until 7:25am. We left this early, not because we are early morning people but because I did not want to pass out from sun stroke; it gets HOT in Greece in August and there was going to be little to no shade on this hike. And I soon learned a bonus of getting up this early – this time of day was the most soul-filling, zen time one could find in Santorini.
As we started the hike, the sky was still in the midst of waking up with the hazy water coloured strokes of blue that painted the sky before the sun fully popped up to brighten the hues. It was quiet. We felt like we had the island to ourselves. With every step, we could hear the gravel crunch beneath our shoes. It was near the only sound we could hear until a voice yelled “good morning” to us; it was a gentleman at one of the hotels, standing in a robe, curiously wondering where we were heading and unable to completely understand our energy for such an early time. The pathway cut through hotels and homes, so workers could be seen cleaning and prepping before their guests wake. It was such a peaceful time of day and we were nearly the only ones walking the trail during the 2.5 hour trek. Yes, you really can have a Santorini experience with no crowds!
2. Be mindful of your route – you can get lost but not really lost as it is pretty easy to determine the direction you need to be going. Most of the hike from Imerovigli to Oia is on a walking trail but there is a small portion where you will need to walk on the road. Stay on the trails closest to the caldera when possible. Do not rely on the Google Map walking route as it will direct you to a less scenic route along the roads. But, do use it to help keep you on track. There are also a couple of signs along the way to help point you in the right direction.
3. Take water – There are no stops to grab water. Well, there appeared to be one stop (about 50 min. into our walk; about the halfway point if starting from Fira) but it was closed when we walked by. We did see it open with a lineup of people at 9:30am on another day, but that means that the path can actually get busy which takes me back to Tip 1 – go early to avoid the crowds.
4. Wear shoes with grip – there are some parts of the trail that have very loose gravel so flip flops won’t cut it, unless you possibly want to sprain an ankle and have your significant other divorce you on the spot to avoid having to carry you the rest of the way. Oh, and make sure to pack a swimsuit and towel for later in your daypack.
5. Bonus tip – go early! I cannot stress this enough. Santorini early mornings are magical.
(For video footage of the hike, check out my Greece highlights on IG @wcprairiegirltravels.)
After the hike, we were starving and in search of breakfast. We stumbled upon this gem: Skiza. A must try is their typical Greek breakfast that included graviera cheese from Crete, olives from Pyrgos and flower honey from Pertouli. It was so good! I don’t know if I was just so hungry that a stale piece of toast would have tasted heavenly but based on the crowd, we lucked out on this random find. Try to get one of their tables with a view if you can.
If you are using Google Maps to find directions to Skiza, it may take you on a longer route through the main roads so here is the walking route we took when we arrived into Oia:
Oia Shopping and Crowds
So you want to avoid the crowds. But, even for a brief moment, I believe one should experience the crowds so you can actually speak from experience of what the crowds are like in Oia. And late morning/early afternoon is the perfect time to experience it with all the additional tourists having arrived from the cruise ships for the day. I challenge you to obtain an Instagram-worthy photo with nobody else in the picture and without annoying someone passing by as you block their path with your selfie-stick. Once you give up on that challenge, wander through the streets, get reprieve from the sun in the air-conditioned stores and pick up some actual non-tacky souvenirs that can be found in Oia. Here are a couple stores I recommend:
1. Poniros Jewellery – unique, Greek-inspired designs. If you are wanting to splurge or have a lovely conversation with the designer’s uncle who works there.
3. Atlantis Books – new and used books including selling rare antiquarian books and collectors’ first editions.
Swimming at Amoudi Bay
On a summer day in Oia with the additional heat from the crowd, you will likely be glistening with sweat in no time at all, as we were. Find the trail steps that take you down to Amoudi Bay.
Once there, take a left as you walk through an outdoor restaurant patio and follow the trail around the cove. Although we saw people in flip flops, it is recommended that you wear shoes with grip as there are a couple of places where the gravel can be slippery and you will need to walk across some rocks.
About a 5-minute walk later and you arrive at a rustic water spot where, yes, there will be other people but most are bathing on the rocks and watching the cliff divers. It is not a beach. It is rocky and somewhat uncomfortable. But, you feel like you found a secret spot that the thousands of people above you in Oia have no idea exists. We felt somewhat safe enough to leave our belongings hanging on a rock where we could easily monitor it as we swam in the crystal clear water. It was beyond refreshing as we spent the entire time in the water until we were ready for a late lunch.
Lunch at Ammoudi Fish Tavern
Amoudi Bay is said to be the place for seafood in Santorini. There are a small handful of restaurants there and based on earlier research, we selected Ammoudi Fish Tavern as our lunch spot (yes, there is an extra “m” in the name). When you walk down the stairs into the Bay, this restaurant is on the right, not to the left where you walked to the swimming hole.
You must try the octopus at Ammoudi Fish Tavern! I do not love octopus but I actually loved this dish. Sun-dried and then sliced and grilled, the tender texture and mild taste actually pleased my palate. Armando, who has had his share of octopus, claimed that this dish was the best octopus he has tasted. So, just go and try the octopus. While you are at it, order a couple of Santorini specialties such as the Fava Santorini and the Santorini tomato balls.
Hike Number Two and Ice Cream
What goes down, must come up. Unfortunately, experiencing Amoudi Bay meant that there was a 300-step hike up the volcanic cliff to get back to Oia. I read that you can get a taxi to pick you up but “why pay for a taxi when you can just walk up?” – says my husband.
After our morning hike and our afternoon swim, the walk up seemed impossible in my mind. Heck, when I was walking down earlier that day, dread lingered in the back of my mind of having to walk back up. After all, the steps were so large you had to take 2-3 steps for every step. So this 300 step walk was actually a 600+ trek. Armando suggested that I hire one of the donkeys to take me up. The embarrassing thought of needing an ass to carry my ass up the volcanic cliff was enough motivation to conjure up some mental strength to make the trek. All you fitness buffs can roll your eyes at my drama but the day was hot and I had reached my exercise limitations and was ready to relax with a glass of wine. If you have not figured out already, I have a love-hate relationship with hiking.
I survived the hike back up, stopping for breaks in the few spots of shade I could find, avoiding the donkey poop that scattered the steps and motivating my inner self with an ice cream reward if I made it. It only took me about 15 minutes to reach the top and made me realize that my internal drama I had moments before was a bit unnecessary. I blame it on the heat.
As we made our way to the bus stop location to catch a bus back to Imerovigli, I informed Armando that we had to find an ice cream shop or my inner self would feel betrayed.
We found Lolita’s Gelato, the perfect ice cream spot that was close to the bus stop and on a less crowded street. Although there were people there, it was quiet; everyone just enjoying their gelato and the fact that they had found a place away from the Oia craziness that lingered a couple blocks away.
Bus Ride Adventures
There can be a bit of a wait for buses in Santorini. As you wait in line at the bus stop in Oia, the taxi drivers will approach you with offers to drive you to your destination; going that option is quicker but more expensive. We had nowhere to be so we opted to wait for the bus.
For the bus ride, sit at the very front, right behind the driver. The narrow, curvy roads with tourists on 4x4s and motorbikes nearly getting run off the road was a bit of an adrenaline rush and convinced me that our decision to not rent 4x4s on our trip with the correct decision.
A Santorini Sunset
A day in Santorini would not be complete without sitting and watching the sunset and then the long, lingering change of orange hues in the sky before the dark sky completely sets in. Grab a bottle of Greek wine, stop at the local corner store and pick up some snacks. Then, peacefully sit and reminisce of the memorable day you created as you pinch yourself of how lucky you are. The best day in Santorini? It definitely was for us.