The pastel-washed buildings of Firá, the capital of Santorini, tumbling down the sides of a steep volcanic crater provide one of the most enduring images of this lovely island, especially when first approached from the sea. Once on shore, the views from the village of the Aegean and Mediterranean coastline, Therasia Island and Nea Kameni are second to none.
Many of Firá’s original 18th-century buildings were destroyed by an earthquake in 1956 but the village has been rebuilt in the traditional style and has lost none of its historic charm. The houses and shops are painted in soft pastel colours of pink, white and blue which glow brightly in the midday sunshine and take on warmer hues at dusk. One of the most striking buildings on the skyline is the cathedral, a rare local example of Catholic architecture.
Firá is a popular stop-off point for cruise ships and is often very busy at the height of the tourist season when Plateia Theotokopoulou, the main square, buzzes with life. It’s a perfect spot to make friends with the locals, for whom the square has been a favourite meeting place for centuries, or browse for souvenirs and local crafts in the narrow streets around the square.
The Museum of Prehistoric Thera is a good place to learn more about the island’s rich history and heritage, while the Historical and Cultural Archaeological Museum of Santorini contains the findings of various local archaeological digs. If you prefer to spend your day in the fresh air, there are plenty of wonderful walks within a short distance of Firá. Take a stroll to Agiou Mina for beautiful views back to the village, or hop on a donkey to navigate the steep, twisting path to the Old Port at the bottom of the cliffs – there’s also a cable car for non-donkey lovers!
Firá is around 10 minutes’ drive from Santorini Airport and is served by bus or taxi. It’s a good idea to ask the price of the taxi journey before you book, but it should be reasonably inexpensive.