72hrs in Santorini's Centre - Fira
Santorini island is no stranger to visitors from all over the world, and although it is renowned for the breathtaking sunsets of the area of Oia, there is a more humble side to this global extravagant attraction. You can avoid the unnecessary crowds and queues in Oia by staying in the centre, Fira, at the beautiful Kalisti Hotel & Suites, where you feel the true pulse of Santorini. Let us take you on 72hr less-known journey around Santorini’s centre, and get to see Fira from the eyes of a local.
Fira is situated directly at the top of the amazing Caldera cliff, approximately 260 meters above sea level. It is Santorini’s hub essentially, as it has a lot to offer in itself, in addition to being your base for onward travel to the island’s other locations and beaches.
The Caldera is something you must experience for yourself as you can read a dozen descriptions, you can see photographs (that each becomes a thousand of words), you can ask people who have seen it themselves, and the feedback would be the same: the imposing natural beauty of the cliff cannot be described adequately in words, photographs rarely do it justice, and the people who have been there still dream about it. Whether morning, afternoon, evening or midnight, the Caldera is the ideal setting to enjoy your coffee or fresh juice, a cold beer with lunch, some fine wine with dinner or a delicious cocktail, offering immaculate views into the submerged volcano opposite, thus providing hours of leisure and moments of gazing into absolute serenity. Ypapantis is the main Caldera street in Fira, as it is essentially the panoramic promenade.
Filled with cafes, restaurants, clubs, bars, shops and stores, Fira is where it’s all happening in Santorini. You can have your pick regarding food as Fira offers a plethora of cuisine options, yet you don’t want to miss trying some fresh Mediterranean fish whilst taking in a splendid volcano view. If you wander around Fira by foot, you will no doubt get to the main square, Plateia Theotokatopoulou that is considered something of a meeting point, as it is where most streets lead. All of Fira nightlife concludes here, as the party people reconvene around the food venues particularly, for a apres-alcohol, stomaching soothing snack.
Apart from losing yourself in the immense hidden beauty of Fira, there are numerous things to explore and discover amidst the narrow streets; Museum of Prehistoric Thira - Thira is the archaic name for Santorini, and so it is fitting for the museum of prehistoric artefacts. Located very centrally in Fira, on Ypapantis street, it includes some amazing finds from excavations from the area Akrotiri, during the late Neolithic period. Collections of ceramics, pottery, statues, frescoes, tools, weaponry, among others, plus three very interesting displays of a clay oven, a bathtub, and also a mysterious fresco featuring blue monkeys which is particularly strange as there is no evidence of monkeys ever existing on the island. If this is not enough of ancient Thira, then you can also visit the Archaeological Museum of Thira, covering exhibits from the Proto Cycladic and into the Classical period. It features some interesting pottery, animal statues and amphorae.
Discover the cycladic approach to churches, as Fira are filled with them. Somewhere in between folklore and tradition, the Cycladic ecclesiastic architectural style greatly contributes to the island’s atypical beauty. The raf blue colour that adorns their domes you will find enhances the reflections of light. It ties in with the natural colour palette together of the sky blue and deep blue of the sea, against a backdrop of whitewashed buildings and the dark volcanic landscape. There are around 250 churches dispersed around Fira that invite you to take a closer look, as no two churches are the same. You can visit the two cathedrals, located on either side of Fira, that have both been renovated after being damaged by an earthquake in 1956.
The beautiful Catholic Cathedral has a salmon peach exterior, as opposed to the others that are strikingly white, has a massive ornate tower, dedicated to St. John Baptist. The Orthodox Cathedral is less ostentatious, but equally grand; it stands out from all over the island. It is plain white, decorated with many arches around its perimeter and decorated with a detailed religious mosaic externally.
Need a break from anciency or religious sentiment? The state-of-the-art gallery, MATI Art Gallery is a world of art bizarre in the heart of Fira. It houses some collections such as sculptures, vanity cuttings, digital prints and jewels inspired by the island’s personality that has been shaped by history and nature.
Santorini’s propensity to art can be verified by a simple stroll around the narrow cobble streets of Fira, or kalderimia as the locals call them. As the buildings of Fira are built downwards on the Caldera, you should expect to see some visual pieces of random art, on roofs of houses, such as a rowing boat or huge clay decanters that give the bland rooftops a touch of aesthetic. Take your time to explore the streets and discover small crevices amidst the white-washed structured that give you a unique insight into the remarkable panorama from differing and particular perspectives.