People often say that the Greek Island of Santorini offers up some of the best sunsets in the world.
And, as someone who can never see enough pretty sunsets, I was looking forward to visiting Santorini for this reason alone.
Watching the sun dip into the Aegean is most popular from the cliff-top village of Oia — the one with all those windmills and blue-domed churches that you see on postcards. But I was curious as to whether this really was the best spot to watch the sun set on Santorini, or if it was simply the one everybody knew about and therefore flocked to.
And so I give you: my Santorini Sunset Smackdown, in which I will compare watching the sun set in Oia and Fira.
Santorini sunset: Oia vs. Fira
Fira is the largest town on Santorini, and is also the first introduction many travelers get to this Greek island. Santorini's ferry and cruise ports are located in Fira — along with many hotels and restaurants. Fira isn't known for its sunsets, and yet you can still catch some pretty great ones from this end of the island.
The village of Oia is located on the northwestern end of Santorini. The village is THE place to go if you're looking to snap photos of traditional Greek buildings — especially those blue-domed churches.
Built up on top of Santorini's rust-red cliffs, Oia offers up a perfect vantage point from which to watch the sun set beyond Ammoudi Bay.
Since many people choose to stay in Fira on Santorini, getting to a sunset spot there is quite easy — you can simply use your feet to get to the best vantage point in town. You'll have to head to the top of the donkey trail (through the narrow and twisty streets) and then simply find a spot along the low wall. If you happen to be staying elsewhere on Santorini, taking a bus is your best bet to get to Fira.
To get to Oia‘s best viewpoints, a bus or rental car is required (and then a bit of walking). The ride/drive will take roughly half an hour from Fira, and you'll have to time it right to make it for sunset.
Smackdown winner: Fira, for the convenience
Tally: Fira — 1 Oia — 0
The sunset crowds
Oia gets quite crowded leading up to the predicted sunset time, and you most likely will have to jockey for position in order to score one of the prime spots. The good news is that as long as you can see the water, you'll still get a fantastic show. I watched the sunset from the Oia donkey trail and thought it was lovely (if perhaps a bit smelly).
Conversely, the crowds in Fira are only a fraction of the size of those you'll find on the other end of the island. I saw a lovely sunset in Fira and only had to compete with perhaps 2 dozen people for my view. This is surprising considering that you basically have the same view out over the ocean in Fira as in Oia.
Smackdown winner: Fira, because you don't have to compete so much
Tally: Fira — 2 Oia — 0
The Santorini sunset views
Speaking of the views…
As hinted at above, you really can't go wrong in Oia. Whether you are on the donkey trail, at a terrace restaurant, or standing up by the windmill, you will get a stunning view. Take note of how the sunset here makes the cliffs (and even the buildings) look like they are on fire.
In Fira, you won't spot any windmills or blue-domed churches — but you can still look out over the stair-stepped buildings of the town and the volcanic caldera.
Smackdown winner: Oia, because you just can't beat those views
Tally: Fira — 2 Oia — 1
The Santorini sunset winner
I suppose, based on the numbers, that Fira would actually win in the Sunset Smackdown. You still get great sunset views in this town, but without the huge crowds that gather each evening in Oia.
But, to be honest, I would still suggest braving those crowds to witness an Oia sunset.
Watching a sunset in Oia is such an iconic, bucket-list-type experience that I wouldn't counsel anyone to skip it just because of the crowds. There's a reason that these sunsets are world-famous, after all — they truly are breathtaking.
So tell me — where would YOU rather catch a sunset on Santorini?
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*Note: I visited Santorini as part of a complimentary Greek Islands tour from Intrepid Travel through my partnership with them. All opinions, though, as always are entirely my own.