Fira (or Thira) is located almost in the center of Santorini, equidistant from the northern and southern extremities of the island. Our most important city is located about two hundred meters high on the steep cliffs of the west coast, with an amazing view of the volcano and the sea.

The city of Thira is the capital of Santorini and at the same time the largest and most populated city on the entire island. About 1,500 people out of the 14,000 inhabitants of the island live here permanently. In fact, the population of Fira is one tenth of that of the entire island of Santorini.

Fira is the city from the postcard. You’ll see when you get there!

Santorinika Travel Agency, from personal experience of living on the island

Fira takes its modern name from the ancient name of the island of Thira (Θηρα in Greek). Throughout the history of Santorini, Thira has undergone many different periods of rise and decline. Resettlements, natural disasters, devastating earthquakes, the most recent of which caused serious damage in 1956.

The white houses of Fira in Santorini's steep cliffs
The white houses of Fira in Santorini’s steep cliffs

Nevertheless, the town was rebuilt and now also bears the title of Santorini’s tourist capital and one of the island’s most beautiful towns with a ‘postcard’ view. Check it!

Postcards with images of Santorini
Postcards with images of Santorini

Thira: a bit of history and how it all began

Around 1500 B.C. (between 1646 and 1500 to be exact) there was a tremendous eruption of the volcano Santorini, which reached a score of 7 out of a possible 8 on the scale of eruptions. The eruption was so powerful and destructive that it significantly affected the shape of the island. The crater of the volcano collapsed and went under water, and in its place a huge crater (caldera) was formed, which was instantly filled with sea water. All that remained was a small island – a stone crescent with a gentle coastline to the east and a high cliff to the west.

In the 16th century, under Venetian domination, the city of Fira was founded on the western part. It became the official capital of the island later during the Turkish occupation in the 18th century, taking over this role from Pyrgos town (Πυργος in Greek).

The city was built in its unique style over a two-hundred-meter cliff overlooking the caldera. The modern capital of Santorini, Thira, surprises anyone and everyone who ventures to our dormant volcano. Snow-white houses with red and blue doors and shutters, an endless variety of churches with blue domes, the intricacies of small winding streets, the constant descents and ascents…

Streets, stairs, windows and doors of Thira, Santorini, Greece
Streets, stairs, windows and doors of Thira, Santorini, Greece

You get the impression that the city is literally hanging on a cliff, and the houses are chaotically arranged on top of each other! In fact, that’s how it really is 🙂

White streets of Thira town, Santorini
White streets of Thira town, Santorini

The western part of Fira, facing the sea, is, of course, the tourist area, while the administrative and residential quarters are to the east, inland. The narrow streets, the world-famous white and blue houses and churches, the many hotels, boutiques, art galleries, stores and restaurants have gathered on the front lines overlooking the sea. This is where the main street passes, where life bustles day and night. But imagine, this is also Fira, with black paved and, by our local standards, even quite wide streets:

The Streets of Thira, Santorini, Greece
The Streets of Thira, Santorini, Greece

What to see in Thira: best sights in Santorini’s capital

Thira’s attractions are varied, but as far as the seaside component of the holiday is concerned, the city is left out. There’s plenty of sea (view! 🙂 ) in our capital, but all without beaches – the scenery is suitable only for leisurely contemplation! So back to the first line – a promenade along the seashore with a beautiful view of the volcano’s caldera.

The seashore and caldera of Santorini volcano

Fira cannot boast its own beach, so beach lovers will have to find some other place to swim in the south or east of the island. But Fira has an old port from where many ships sail daily to the volcano and to cruise around the caldera. A little over 600 steps or a funicular and you’re there! Are you ready?

Steps to the old port of Thira, Santorini, Greece
Steps to the old port of Thira, Santorini, Greece

Fira is perfect for hikers or for a contemplative (with a cup of coffee from a cafe or tavern) holiday. Start your exploration of the city with the beautiful promenade over the cliff leading north to the neighboring village of Imerovigli (Ημεροβιγλι in Greek). It is a narrow path with steps and a variety of souvenir stores on one side and stunning views of the caldera, the sea, the vertical cliffs and the crater of the volcano on the other:

View of the volcano caldera and cruise ships from the top, Thira town, Santorini, Greece
View of the volcano caldera and cruise ships from the top, Thira town, Santorini, Greece

If you want to go on one of the many boat trips (to the volcano of Nea Kameni, to the beaches of the island…), go down to the sea and the old port of Santorini:

Souvenir stores in the streets of Fira, Santorini, Greece
Souvenir stores in the streets of Fira, Santorini, Greece

The seaport can be reached by descending a wide stone staircase or by taking a cable car with several funiculars (such a trip takes just a couple of minutes, if you are lucky enough not to get in a long line). Be careful! The cable car here is not big at all and is very limited in the number of seats. When the next cruise ship arrives at the port with hundreds and thousands of travelers, there is a huge line below!

Cableway
Cableway to the old port of Thera, Santorini, Greece

For this reason, you can’t count on it alone, especially if you’re going up to the city from the port. But you are welcome to admire the views!

The Funicular in Fira, Santorini, Greece
The Funicular in Fira, Santorini, Greece

By the way, both for the descent and the ascent back you can also arrange with a specially trained donkey… or its owner – it is, of course, not so much a comfortable transport, but one of the attractions of Fira and tourist entertainment:

Signpost to the "donkey station": you can go down from Fira to the old port of Santorini on donkeys
Signpost to the “donkey station”: you can go down from Fira to the old port of Santorini on donkeys

However, even here we may have noticeable queues – in the season there are so many people who want to ride on a donkey! Just look at this:

Donkey taxi service: on the right you can see a large line of people wanting a ride to the old port of Fira, Santorini, Greece
Donkey taxi service: on the right you can see a large line of people wanting a ride to the old port of Fira, Santorini, Greece

As for hiking on this road I hasten to dissuade you 🙂 In the heat of +30 degrees among dozens of donkeys it becomes more of a hardship than a pleasant walk. If you’re very interested in the details – write to me in any social network, and I’ll tell you the details, but it’s better to just believe me – you should not walk here. Take a cable car (better) or a donkey (for your liking) and that’s it.

Donkey taxi, Thira, Santorini, Greece
Donkey taxi, Thira, Santorini, Greece

If walking or riding a donkey up a mountain is not your choice, just allow extra time for a possible wait at the cable car. So, back to town!

Walking around Fira in the daytime

It may not be a large city, it may have been destroyed by earthquakes, but the attractions of Fira are varied and numerous. Many temples have been restored or rebuilt, and the ancient times can be seen in the exhibits that have been discovered during excavations and are now preserved in museums on the island.

So… Let’s take our traditional selfie at the caldera and go for a walk around town:

Behind my back is the caldera of the volcano Santorini and the island of Nea Kameni - Sergey Kolyer (Santorinika Travel Agency)
“Behind my back is the caldera of the volcano Santorini and the island of Nea Kameni” – Sergey Kolyer (Santorinika Travel Agency)

The island of Santorini is called “the island of churches” for a reason. It’s hard to imagine, but more than three hundred churches and temples have been built on our small island! What’s more, new churches are also being built these days, and even in 2024 there are churches that are still unfinished.

There is at least one church for every 40 Santorini residents

On the main street of Fira are two cathedrals, the Orthodox Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral. The orthodox cathedral of Ipapantis (Υπαπαντης, Ypapantis, Ipapantis) was built in 1968-1970 on the site of the Church of Our Lady of Belonia, destroyed in the relatively recent 1956 earthquake. In the photo below you can see them both: the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Fira in the close-up, and the Catholic Cathedral of Santorini one, visible on the left, almost on the horizon. We’ll get to that one later.

The Orthodox Metropolitan Church of Santorini, Greece
The Orthodox Metropolitan Church of Santorini, Greece

This church can be seen from a great distance and from many parts of Santorini. The snow-white cathedral is stunningly beautiful. On a clear sunny day, against a blue sky… I have no words for how beautiful it is – just look at my photos:

The Orthodox Metropolitan Church Ypapantis, Santorini, Greece
The Orthodox Metropolitan Church Ypapantis, Santorini, Greece

In the square next to the cathedral, the Fira promenade begins. Stop for a while before going inside and take a look at the cathedral’s exterior – it’s quite an unusual structure from an architectural point of view!

Dome of the Ypapantis Cathedral, Santorini, Greece
Dome of the Ypapantis Cathedral, Santorini, Greece

All along the promenade there is a magnificent view of the volcano caldera on one side and many stores and boutiques on the other. Fira is an expensive city, so in addition to the souvenir shops, there are many jewelry and watch stores with Greek and international brands:

Jewelry stores in Fira, Santorini, Greece
Jewelry stores in Fira, Santorini, Greece

The price range is enormous, from a few euros for souvenir trinkets to tens of thousands of euros for branded jewelry:

World brands in jewelry boutiques in Santorini, Greece
World brands in jewelry boutiques in Santorini, Greece

Shopping in Santorini is a separate topic, and I’ll tell you about it too, but for now we’ll continue along the promenade to the north. Ahead of us is the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a very beautiful and recognizable place on the island. It is located in the Catholic quarter of Fira and distinguishes for its vibrant colors: peach and lilac blue exterior and its size make it stand out from afar!

The cathedral was built in 1823, a baroque structure of blue-gray and peach-cream, and it was also damaged in the last earthquake, but was rebuilt in 1970-1975 in its original form absolutely unchanged. There’s also a wonderful clock tower – look at this beauty:

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Santorini, Greece
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Santorini, Greece

The interior of the church is beautifully decorated with large religious portraits, but on the whole the interior decoration is rather modest. Worship services are held there every day, and you can easily get to one of them.

Walking through the streets of Fira and taking one turn after another, one can unexpectedly reach small, picturesque churches. Yes, yes, the same ones that are on the covers of books, postcards and many photographs. The most interesting of these are the Cathedral Church of Candlemas of the Lord, built in 1968-1970, the Church of St. John and the 17th century Church of Agios Minas, whose dome is tacitly one of the symbols of the Santorini island:

Church of Agios Minas (also known as Katofirianos), Santorini, Greece
Church of Agios Minas (also known as Katofirianos), Santorini, Greece

Built around 1537-1650, the church is dedicated to St. Minas and St. Alexis, the Man of God.
It has an impressive white dome, a bell tower with 3 bells and a small terrace with a beautiful view of Santorini’s volcano caldera. Its courtyard faces the boundless blue of the Aegean Sea, and the sanctuary of the church is placed in the heart of a volcanic cliff.

After you’ve walked around Fira and enjoyed the beauty and then want to satisfy your intellectual hunger or just hide from the hot sun, you can visit the museums of Fira – the Archaeological and Prehistoric Museums.

The Archaeological Museum has a fine collection of ancient finds, including marble and copper, a variety of jewelry and ceramics, while the Prehistoric Museum displays artifacts from the island’s ancient times, such as a fresco dating back to the 17th century BC!

Opening hours and ticket prices for the museums of Fira:

  • Prehistoric Museum – all days except Tuesday from 10:00 to 16:00, ticket costs 3 euros;
  • Archaeological Museum of Fira – all days except Monday from 9:00 to 16:00, ticket costs 3 euros.

For 8 euros you can buy a single ticket to two museums and to the archaeological site of Fira.

Also at your disposal is Palazzo Megaro Gyzi, a beautiful venetian-style building built in the 17th century. The museum is known for its drawings, some of which date back to the 16th century. There is also an old photography pavilion, where rare photographs of Thira, taken before and after the 1956 eruption, give an insight into the history of Santorini’s capital.

Nowadays, the Megaro Gyzi Museum is used more as a cultural palace. Seasonal and permanent art and photographic exhibitions, theatre shows, festivals, workshops are held here, and in the evenings there are philharmonic concerts.

If you visit Fira in late August or early September, you can witness the phantasmagoric action – “Volcano Days”. This is a large festival with concerts of symphonic music, which is accompanied by a festival of fireworks, simulating a volcanic eruption.

Evening Fira: a pleasant walk before sunset and under the stars

Of course, there are nightclubs, late-night bars and restaurants. Of course, you can walk the streets of the town at any time – it’s beautiful and perfectly safe. But Fira’s main evening attraction is undoubtedly sunset contemplation.

Before the sun disappears into the depths of the sea, the city, completely white during the day, seems to be transformed. Many lanterns light up, the lights come on, and Fira is immersed in the last rays of the setting sun:

Sunset in Fira, Santorini, Greece
Sunset in Fira, Santorini, Greece

If your hotel does not have a view of the sunset, it is not a problem at all: you can watch the sunset in Santorini right from the promenade of Fira. Of course, it depends on the season and therefore on the spot on the horizon where the sun touches the waterline and on the weather of the particular evening, but often many sunsets are unrealistically beautiful and one wants to watch them over and over again. In fact, many tourists come to our island to enjoy the evening view and sunset in Fira. It’s as if time stands still and takes your breath away – it’s so beautiful here!

Sunset in Thira, Santorini, Greece
Sunset in Thira, Santorini, Greece

If there are big sailboats and cruise ships in the caldera after sunset, sometimes you can catch an even more beautiful picture: hundreds of lights on the ships turn on, and it’s… just gorgeous! Here’s a picture of one of these moments – as they say, “instead of a thousand words.”

After sunset in Thira, Santorini, Greece
After sunset in Thira, Santorini, Greece

By the way, this week’s approximate sunset time in Santorini is 20:28.

Where is Thira town located: the very center of the Santorini island

The answer is in the headline: our island is shaped like a crescent, so if you imagine a crescent, Thira would be at the center of its interior.

The capital is located right on the edge of the caldera, and from here all the roads of the island start. The city of Fira on a map of Santorini:

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GPS coordinates of Fira: 36.41726, 25.43304

How to get to Fira

Fira is located in the center of the island and is almost equidistant from the north and south. The location of the city is very convenient, from here you can quickly get to any point.

If you are arriving at Santorini seaport, airport or one of the coastal villages by boat, you can use one of the following ways to get to Thira besides renting a car (read more about car rental in Santorini).

Getting to Fira by public bus

Because of its location, Fira has become a kind of transport center for the entire island. The main bus station, where all the bus routes converge, is located in town.

If you choose to travel by public transport, a bus from the port, the airport and many villages will take you here. The ticket costs from 1.8 to 2.5 euros depending on the length of the route (read more about buses in Santorini).

Getting to Fira by tour bus

If you arrived on the island by ship to the new seaport of Athinios, you can buy a sightseeing tour in Santorini and one of the places you will visit is Fira. This option is convenient because, firstly, you will be guaranteed a seat on the bus, which cannot be said about the shuttle bus, and secondly, a qualified guide will be with you the whole way. He will also tell you about the island and take you to the most famous sights. A pleasant and useful experience!

Getting to Fira by taxi or private transfer

Depending on the number of people and luggage you can get a taxi or book a private transfer by car or minibus. Transfer and taxi services are quite good on our island, although during the season there may not be enough cars for everyone (read more about taxi and private transfer). Please keep this in mind and arrange your transfers well in advance. If you need assistance, we will be happy to arrange any transfer for you.


Sergey Kolyer

I am co-founder of the Santorinika Travel Agency, a personal guide and the author of the island travel guide. I share the beauty of Greece all year round and help organise great vacations on land, sea and air.