Thira, or Fira as most people and the locals call it, is the capital of Santorini and its cultural and commercial center. It is perched on edge of the caldera cliff, at a height of 260 meters above sea level, offering spectacular views to the volcano. The town’s history started during the second half of the 18th century, when the Venetians abandoned Skaros in Imerovigli and slowly moved to Thira. When the island came under the Turkish rule, the locals didn’t have to be afraid for pirate invasions anymore. Subsequently, Thira became the capital of the island. Nowadays the town has a mere 2,000 permanent residents. The architecture is typical Cycladic style: charming white houses with blue doors and windows, separated from each other by small paved streets.
There are so many things to do when in Thira. If you’re into walking, you should know that the whole Fira caldera part is connected by a path at the cliff edge, offering spectacular views of the volcano in every point of the walk. If you want to do something different, then you can take the famous donkey ride or the cable car ride to Fira port, the old port of Thira (not accessible by car). For history lovers, the Archaeological Museum hosts many exhibits from the ancient settlement of Akrotiri, while the Megaro Gyzi Museum has a great collection of Fira photographs before the catastrophic earthquake of 1956. A bunch of blue-domed churches, chapels and monasteries sum up the highlights of the town.
But besides the above, I urge you to take numerous walks to the small alleys of Thira. Get lost in its tiny streets; listen to the loud shop owners trying to sell their souvenirs; take a deep breath and enjoy the glorious sunset. Do these and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with Fira, as I did.
Where to stay
In Santorini’s capital you can find literally everything. Thira has almost 200 hotels, and an equal amount of studios, self-catering apartments and luxurious villas. You just need to book well in advance – and have in mind that the prices especially during June, July and August can be as high as Fira’s altitude. Nevertheless, whoever seeks, finds, so if you prefer to stay in the lively capital you’ll definitely spot a lodging to your liking (and budget). When it comes to hotels, you must take into consideration that the most impressive ones are in general located in the outskirts of the town due to space restrictions downtown. Nevertheless, there are still a handful of splendid hotels and private villas right in the middle of the town, with pool, full amenities and mesmerizing views of the Caldera, but of course these come with the relative price tag.
If you want to be downtown, you need to be prepared to do some “climbing” on the small paved alleyways of the town, as Thira is developed right on the cliff side. Nevertheless, if you don’t want hordes of tourists to be (literally) over your rooftop throughout the day (and night) admiring the caldera view, I’d recommend you to look for something in the outskirts of the town. The further away from the city center you are, the calmer your vacation will be – both in terms of crowds as well as noise levels.
Where to eat in Thira
Dining in Thira can be quite challenging. Sure, you can find whatever you wish, in any price combination, from low to very high prices. But there are definitely quite a few tourist traps, offering medium quality food on a stiff price tag. These usually cater for the big cruise ships, with the tourists disembarking, eating a souvlaki and never return back. But as I mentioned previously, who seeks, finds. Just try to avoid the very central restaurants and fast-food eateries, with the fancy food images on their shop windows. Yes, you can try souvlaki, actually you can find good souvlaki in Fira. You just need to research a bit.
I’d say that the recommended place in Thira for good souvlaki is the “Lucky Souvlaki”. If you’re around the central square and do not know which cheap eatery to choose – go there without hesitation. “Nikolas Taverna” is a place where many locals dine in Fira. Although it’s situated in one of the busiest lanes of the town, it is well hidden. Go there for traditional Greek food with great value for money. “Theoni’s kitchen” is another recommended tavern. What you lose in terms of view, you get back times two in terms of yumminess! If you’re looking to dine with some Caldera view, “Archipelagos” is a good option. Another small, family owned restaurant with great flavors is “Salt and Pepper” – make sure to have a reservation before going.
If you plan your holidays according to where the nightlife is, then look no further. The party is HERE. You can say that all nightlife of Santorini is gathered in the small alleys of Thira. Well, ok, this is not exactly accurate, but you get the point. And do not let those telling that “Santorini is a romantic destination with no nightlife” fool you. That’s how you can prove them wrong:
For night / dance clubs, you should definitely visit “Koo Club” and do some spins in its dance floor. “Town Club”, although smaller, is where all the youngsters go to practice their dance moves. “Enigma” is in Santorinian scene since 1979. This cannot be by accident. For great views go to “Tango Bar”. The music is loud, the drinks are chilled and everybody is wearing their best smiles there! In “MoMix Santorini” you will learn some molecular mixologies – you’ll love it whether you’re a chemist or not!
The “PK Cocktail Bar” could easily be the winner of a bar challenge in terms of view – easily one of the best in town! And the cocktails are equally nice. For the true jazz lovers, “Kira Thira” is the place to be. It is the oldest bar in town (since 1976) and it plays some of the best music. Small in size, big in character. Just go there and you won’t regret it.