The Best Place to Stay in Santorini: How to Choose the Right Village on the Island
Choosing the best place to stay in Santorini is the important first step in booking your dream holiday – but it isn’t easy. With so many magical options available, from villas nestled in historic wineries to ultra-luxe beachside resorts and even windmills, it can be difficult to make a decision. I hope this guide will help you to find the best location in Santorini – and maybe your dream hotel, too.
Santorini is a tiny island, only around 48 square miles (77 square kilometers), but 1.5 million people visited in 2019. The island has several small regions and villages and each has its own vibe, best views and restaurants, and its own price point. This means that the best area to stay in Santorini depends a lot on your own personal preferences, needs, and your proposed itinerary.
In this guide, I break down each of the main 9 towns and villages of the island and explain the type of traveler it most appeals to, what kind of accommodation is there and why travelers choose to stay there. At the end of each section, you can check out the prices, reviews, and availability of some of the best places to stay in Santorini.
You’ll also find a section on the top hotels in Santorini including Santorini honeymoon hotels, and the best luxury hotels in Santorini.
Before we get into the pros and cons of each village, here are a few major decision points from the outset. Asking yourself these will help you choose where to stay in Santorini:
Do you want to stay in a luxury cave hotel? If so, make sure you also read my comprehensive guide to the best luxury cave hotels in Santorini.
Do you have any mobility issues? Santorini is a maze of interconnecting steep steps as villages cling to the cliff-edge and hotels are made from the caves in the cliff-side. If you have mobility issues you can still stay on the caldera edge and have spectacular views of the sunset, just stay in Fira or outside Fira on the southern side. The sunsets here are every bit as incredible as in Oia.
Is this your first time to Santorini? If so, I recommend you stay in one of the four caldera villages and have a room with the best Santorini view of the sunset. These rooms fill up about 6-12 months in advance (and even faster for the very best hotels in Santorini) so be quick! Below are recommendations with no-fee cancellations until a couple of weeks out so that you can get in early.
Is it important that you have a swimming pool? Santorini is very hot in peak season and you don’t want to be walking around in the middle of the day. It’s better to be sailing or swimming or having a siesta during these hours.
Do you want a one-minute walk to restaurants, bars, cafes, and shopping? In this case, you are most likely looking at Oia and Fira.
Your budget. Even a street back from the cliff-edge in the Caldera villages will save you a lot of money on the many Santorini cheap hotels. You just need to decide if a view out to the volcano is necessary. It is possible to find on Santorini cheap accommodation with great water views from many of the villages.
This Santorini Greece map shows the nine villages discussed below:
The Four Caldera Cliff-Edge Towns and Villages
Oia is one of the world’s most beautiful villages – and that’s a big call! The most upscale and sophisticated village on Santorini. The sunsets are wonderful here and there are many great restaurants and bars where you can eat, drink and watch the sunset. The shopping is more boutique here than in Fira, with higher-end jewelry, clothing, shoes, and design stores.
The hotels are often cave hotels and many have tiny swimming pools for each room. There are a lot of steps involved in getting to some of these hotels, so it is not a place to stay for the mobility impaired. Picture yourself and your partner sitting on your sun terrace, perhaps around a small table beside your pool, watching the sunset. Perhaps you then wander up to the restaurants and bars above for a meal and return for a swim together in your private pool. That’s Oia and its magic for romance and couples.
Below Oia is Ammoudi Bay where you can swim and dive.
Oia is the most sophisticated and romantic village on the island.
Oia has Santorini’s best shops and restaurants
Oia gets very crowded, especially when the cruise ships are docked below
Oia’s accommodation is expensive and books up quickly
First time visitors to Santorini
Travelers wanting magical sunset views
Travelers wanting high standards of accommodation
Travelers wanting to be a short walk from the best shops, restaurants and bars
Travelers wanting to be able to swim at the breathtakingly beautiful Ammoudi Bay
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Best Places to Stay in Oia
Katikies Hotel – A dazzling 5-star luxury hotel that overlooks the spectacular ocean.
Oia Santos Maria Luxury Suites and Spa – A gorgeous luxury hotel inside a traditional white stone interior, with an outdoor pool, spa, and garden to enjoy.
Blu Blanco Oia Cave House – A lovely 3.5-star boutique hotel with a pool and facilities to self-cater.
Imerovigli is a charming village that’s especially renowned for its magical sunsets. If you stay here, you’ll probably be rubbing shoulders with photographers – they can’t get enough of the gorgeous views from Imerovigli of the Santorini caldera. It has earned itself the reputation as ‘the balcony to the Aegean’ thanks to its magical outlook.
If you can draw yourself away from the stunning vistas, the village itself is a quaint and picturesque location to explore. There are numerous churches and chapels, as well as a thirteenth-century castle that’s been abandoned since the 1800s.
Perhaps surprisingly given its beauty, Imerovigli is relatively quiet. There are fewer restaurants and limited nightlife in Imerovigli, meaning it is popular with those seeking a relaxing place to stay in Santorini. That said, Fira is just a brisk walk (or short taxi ride) away from Imerovigli.
Imerovigli enjoys absolutely magical sunsets, sunrises and views of the caldera
Imerovigli offers a little more peace, quiet and relaxation yet is still close to bustling Fira
There is limited nightlife, shopping and dining in Imerovigli itself
If you are on a budget, Imerovigli may not be the best place to stay in Santorini
Travelers wanting magical sunset views
Travelers wanting a little bit of peace and quiet, as well as the convenience of being close to Fira
Photographers wanting to get that perfect shot of the sunset over the caldera
Best Places to Stay in Imerovigli
San Antonio – Small Luxury Hotels of the World – A gorgeous luxury hotel with amazing views, impeccable service, and good amenities
Iliovasilema Hotel & Suites – A stunning 5-star property boasting beautiful views and an enticing pool
Above Blue Suites – This 4-star hotel with a pool allows you to take in the views at a more affordable price point.
Lying just north of Fira, Firostefani similarly offers brilliant nightlife, shopping, and dining, making it a popular choice for where to stay in Santorini. Again, Firostefani offers beautiful views out over the volcano, and there are few things better than sipping a cocktail and watching the sunset over the Aegean here.
It’s not just bars and boutiques, however, Firostefani is within proximity to many cultural attractions including the Agios Nikolas Monastery, while brightly-colored buildings give the area a whimsical vibe.
Overall, Firostefani is a little quieter than its neighbor Fira – however, no one would describe it as sleepy. If you’re looking for a little bit of everything; beautiful views, bustling atmosphere, and traditional charm nearby, then Firostefani is a great choice.
Beautiful views of the sunset
Plenty of things to do during the day and night, without being quite as crowded as nearby Fira
Firostefani is generally cheaper than its neighbor Fira (especially its back streets), yet it’s easy to walk between the two
Firostefani means the ‘Crown of Fira’, denoting its high point on the island. Unfortunately, this can mean a lot of stairs, which may present difficulties for travelers with mobility considerations
Couples wanting great views and privacy
Groups on more of a budget, but wanting to stay close to the action in Fira
Best Places to Stay in Firostefani
Cosmopolitan Suites – Small Luxury Hotels of the World – One of the exclusive small luxury hotels of the world, with an amazing pool, views, and rooftop terrace
Blue Dolphins Apartments – Modern elegance in a traditional building, with amazing views and a sparkling pool
Ellinon Thea Boutique Hotel – A comfortable and charming 4-star hotel with free parking and sea views
Fira is the capital of the island and the largest town or village. It has a beautiful cliff-edge walk and many shops, restaurants, and bars. It caters to a younger and livelier crowd than the other villages on the island. I like the number and variety of shops, restaurants, tour operators and supermarkets.
If you like well-priced accommodation for a caldera view hotel and if you like the idea of larger accommodation hotels with bigger rooms, Fira is a great option. Imagine bringing your family or coming with a group of friends to Fira and the hotels just to the south of Fira – great views, a big swimming pool, lots of options for eating and drinking, and at a great price for one of the world’s best sunset views.
Nightclubs, bars, restaurants and a variety of accommodation including the cheaper end for the caldera villages
Great sunset views
Supermarkets for making your own picnics
Larger properties with good sized rooms and swimming pools
Cheaper options than Oia
Many tour operators and rental agencies for hiring cars and other forms of island transportation and booking trips to and from the island
Noisier and a little down at heel away from the caldera-edge compared to the other cliff-top villages
Travelers wanting a great price for the magical caldera views and still not needing a car to get around
Great sunset views
Best Places to Stay in Fira
Whoops! It looks like you forgot to specify your html tag. Lilium Villas Santorini – A 5-star luxury hotel at an astonishingly good price, with a beautiful pool and amazing views. I love the staff and the breakfasts.
Astro Palace Hotel & Suites – A beautiful luxury hotel with a pool, jacuzzi, and Turkish steam bath. Family-friendly.
Loizos Stylish Residences – A 3-star, self-catering property with a pool in a great location
The Central Villages of Santorini
The central villages place you high up on the island where there can be 360-degree views of the ocean with all the island spread out below you.
On this tiny island, you are never far from anywhere and there are villages with good accommodation among Santorini’s residents. Villages where passageways between the houses are traditionally only as wide as a donkey and Greek families go about their daily lives on this wonderful island.
If you are wondering what to do in Santorini besides swimming, sailing, and sunsets, spending some time wandering these villages will undoubtedly become another memorable part of your trip to Santorini.
Messaria (or Mesariá) is a charming village lying about four kilometers southeast of Fira. One of the major highlights of this area is its proximity to Santorini’s best wineries – there are two located within Messaria itself.
Compared to Fira and Oia, Mesaria is a breath of fresh air being quite quaint and peaceful. While it’s one of the quieter places in Santorini to stay, it still enjoys a good selection of amenities including tavernas, supermarkets, and a couple of bars. The village itself is also very picturesque, with lots of typical buildings and a friendly, local atmosphere.
While Messaria is on the quiet side and inland, it is within easy reach of the lively beach areas. Fira is just a short taxi ride away, although you may be tempted just to enjoy the tranquillity (and wine) of Messaria itself.
Close by to several excellent wineries
Charming local atmosphere, especially in the evenings when the traffic slows down
While the village is peaceful, there is still everything you need in terms of supermarkets, tavernas and more
This can be an affordable option, yet still within easy reach of the coast.
Messaria is located on one of the main thoroughfares so it’s easy to get to other places on the island if you have a car
Although it is possible to walk to the beach, it is a long way so you will probably need to organize transportation there if you don’t have a vehicle
Messaria is located on a major road, so it can get quite busy and loud during the day in peak season
Travelers who enjoy experiencing a taste of local life as they holiday
Wine lovers looking to visit local wineries
Travelers on a budget, but who have their own transport so don’t need to be within walking distance of the main attractions
Best Places to Stay in Messaria
Dantelo Luxury Private Residences – Amazing 3-bedroom villas, each with a private pool and elegant furnishings
Kallos Imar Hotel – A lovely hotel located in traditional style buildings with a sparkling pool
Villa LuxL – A charming and comfortable hotel housed in an old winery
Villages don’t come much more charming than Megalochori. It is one of the oldest villages on the island, first recorded back in the seventeenth century. If undeniable historic charm is what you’re after, then this is surely one of the best places to stay on the island.
Due to Megalochori’s age, the village seems better equipped for defending itself from marauding pirates than welcoming visitors. Take a walk around and you’ll find evidence of its swash-buckling past, such as little hideaways and tall fences. Don’t worry, however – locals are proud of their gorgeous village and visitors are welcomed with open arms.
Megalochori is also within close proximity to several wineries, and there is no shortage of places to enjoy a local drop. Should you want to visit somewhere a little more bustling, you’ll find Fira just nine kilometers away.
One of the most charming and historic villages on Santorini
It can still be quite lively, especially at night during summer – so you certainly won’t be bored
You’ll get a bit more of a taste of authentic Greek life staying here
Megalochiri is too far to walk from Fira. So, if you’re planning to spend time in Fira, you’ll need to work out transport.
Groups traveling together and looking for a little more space
Travelers with access to their own vehicle, so it’s easy to get around from Megalochiri
Best Places to Stay in Megalochori
Thermes Luxury Villas and Spa – An incredible luxury hotel with facilities including pool, spa, and onsite restaurant.
Alti Santorini Suites – This beautiful 3.5-star hotel offers amazing views, friendly staff, and a scrumptious breakfast to start your day
Aegagros Caldera Houses – Charming self-contained traditional villas, which offer excellent value for money
The Eastern Villages of Santorini
The dizzying heights of the Santorini cliffs give way on the eastern side of the island to flat plains and beaches made from black volcanic sand. The beaches are lined with deck chairs, umbrellas, restaurants, cafes, and tavernas.
If you’re looking for where to stay in Santorini with family, charming Kamari should be on your shortlist. This friendly seaside village is an ever-popular place to stay in Santorini, thanks to its laidback and welcoming atmosphere.
Thanks to its popularity, it boasts many amenities, especially along the main promenade. You’ll certainly be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining options, with many catering for picky young eaters as well.
The jewel in the crown of Kamari is the stunning coastline. Kamari Beach is a unique combination of pebbles and black sand, with calm water and imposing mountains in the background. It’s the kind of place where you can pull up a deck chair and let the world pass you by – creating some amazing family memories in the meantime.
Very safe, family-friendly atmosphere where children and family groups will feel welcome
Close proximity to the beach, which has a good selection of fun activities such as snorkeling
Lots of modern amenities such as well-known chain supermarkets and restaurants
The beach has black sand and pebbles, which isn’t your typical postcard image of a white sandy beach
Families, especially those with young children
Travelers seeking a relaxing, laidback beach break
Best Places to Stay in Kamari
La Mer Deluxe Hotel & Spa – A luxurious hotel with a world-famous spa, as well as other facilities including a pool and jacuzzi
Cavo Bianco – Another of the island’s charming and family-friendly hotels with facilities that include a pool and library
Hotel 28 – A stylish hotel with a dazzling pool and bar, set inside traditional buildings
Perissa is one of the most historic places to stay in Santorini, having been built on what is believed to be the ancient city of Elefsina. So, if you’re a history lover wondering where is the best place to stay on Santorini – this is definitely a contender. Several attractions including museums and the ruins of the town of Thera will give you a deeper dive into the area’s past but it is also such a pleasure to stroll through its backstreets and alleyways.
Perissa is certainly not a place that’s stuck in the past, however. It is popular with visitors to Santorini and boasts many amenities including some excellent restaurants, bars, and shops. Another highlight is the Church of the Holy Cross, which is the largest on the island.
Of course, you cannot mention Perissa without talking about the beauty of its main beach. While it’s not your typical powder-white beach, Perissa beach is striking and dramatic, with black lava sand. The water is calm, however, and lifeguards are on duty – making this one of the best beaches in Santorini for swimming and other watersports.
A lot of interesting attractions to visit, including the museums and church
A beautiful beach which is ideal for swimming and watersports such as diving and stand-up paddle-boarding
A great selection of restaurants and shops, and fairly lively nightlife as well
There is a range of price points for accommodation in Perissa, meaning that it is a good option for visitors on a budget. You’ll find a selection of cheap places to stay in Santorini in the Perissa area.
Perissa is a bit further out from Fira, so it’s best to stay here if you’re planning to spend most of your time in the area
Travelers on a budget
Best Places to Stay in Perissa
Anastasia Princess Luxury Hotel & Suites – This luxurious hotel offers facilities including a private beach, sparkling pool, and rooftop terrace
Marillia Village – A beautiful 4-star self-catering property with a lovely pool
Atlantis Beach Villa – A comfortable and stylish 3-star hotel that is family-friendly with a great pool
The Southern Villages of Santorini
The Southern villages are some of the best places to stay on Santorini because of their individual vibes – charming and historic, fun nightlife, exclusive resort hotels, and the laid back fishing village ambiance of Akrotiri. The multi-colored sands of their beaches have given these small villages global exposure.
If you are amongst the well-heeled crowd who descend on Santorini to have a great time, then Perivolos beach is a fabulous base. It’s home to some of the island’s premier nightlife – the kind of clubs where nights become mornings, and then mornings become lazy days on the beach resting a sore head.
Perivolos is relatively small, meaning it’s easy to hop between its excellent beach bars, restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. All roads, however, eventually lead to the beach – a large swathe of sand with many beach umbrellas and sun lounges to enjoy. Mountains in the background add to the drama of this beachside town.
While Perivolos is a well-known nightlife hotspot, there is more to it than that. Ancient Hellenistic ruins are nearby, while there’s a popular hike up Mesa Vouno to take in the exceptional view over the Aegean.
Bustling nightlife with an amazing calendar of international DJs in the summertime
A great selection of restaurants serving up everything from traditional Greek cuisine to home favorites
A good selection of accommodation means that there is something for all budgets
Right on the beachfront
Mainly aimed at a younger crowd, it may not be the best place on Santorini if you are traveling with kids as the party does tend to go on quite late
Travelers looking to enjoy Perivolos’ great nightlife
Best Places to Stay in Perivolos
Black Rose Beach Suites – This four-star hotel offers access to a private beach as well as a dazzling pool
Santo Miramare Beach Resort – A beautiful 4-star resort with facilities including a sauna, rooftop terrace, pool, and on-site restaurant
Hotel Sea View – A charming and comfortable hotel with a great view and pool, located close to the beach
Few people know that Pyrgos was once the capital of Santorini or that there are several wonderful luxury accommodation options in this village. Pyrgos, however, has not forgotten – it retains a kind of elegant charm about it. Think those typical whitewashed buildings contrasted against a brilliant blue sky, and the hodgepodge of little, winding alleyways with traditional tavernas tucked away.
Pyrgos is, after all, the island’s best-preserved Medieval village, and in many ways, it is a true time capsule. It’s somewhat astonishing that despite its immense beauty, it is one of the quieter areas to stay in Santorini – although I wouldn’t expect to be lonely while staying there.
Life in Pyrgos is mainly centered around the main square, which is a great place to enjoy a coffee or perhaps ouzo if you are feeling brave. You could easily spend many hours just enjoying the beauty of Pyrgos, however, Fira is just five kilometers away if you’re craving a little more hustle and bustle.
Considered by many to be the most charming of all of the traditional villages on Santorini
Gets beautiful sunset views thanks to its high elevation
Offers you the chance to live like a local, while still being within easy reach of busier towns like Fira
By Santorini standards, it is some distance from the coast so the beach is not within walking distance
The village is sleepy, especially in the evenings – so not ideal for those looking to enjoy Santorini’s nightlife
Travelers wanting luxury accommodation in a village setting away from the bustle of the caldera-edge villages
Travelers looking to experience authentic Greek culture
Best Places to Stay in Pyrgos
Carpe Diem Santorini – Small Luxury Hotels of the World – Amazing, glamorous accommodation with incredible views, tennis court, a jacuzzi, and an infinity pool
Skyfall Suites (adults only) – Another glamorous option with an amazing infinity pool and excellent on-site restaurant
Voreina Gallery Suites– A family-friendly option in Pyrgos, this 5-star hotel is modern and stylish with babysitting on site
Akrotiri is not a usual recommendation for where to stay in Santorini, Greece – however, that is all part of the charm. If you dream of being tucked away in an authentic little pocket of Santorini, then it may be just perfect for you.
This picturesque village has a fascinating history. Its most famous landmark is the Minoan ruins of Ancient Akrotiri, a settlement more than 3600 years old. It is right beside the Red Beach and there a handful of fishing tavernas selling simple meals here. It is the furthest you can get from Oia in terms of distance and vibe!
While Akrotiri does attracts many visitors to Ancient Akrotiri, far fewer choose to stay there (even though it is one of the must-see places to visit in Santorini). So, if you are looking for peace and quiet as well as the chance to experience authentic Greek fishing village life – this may just be ideal.
A charming village where you can get a feel for what life is like on the Greek Islands, away from the tourist crowds
There are a couple of small beaches in Akrotiri. They are suitable for swimming, or you can just sit back and sip a glass of wine while overlooking them.
There are numerous historic sites within very easy reach of Akrotiri.
There is limited dining, shopping and eating in Akrotiri
It is a fairly long drive to Fira or Oia from Akrotiri (at least by Santorini standards!)
Travelers looking for a good mix of history, culture and some beaches as well
Travelers who prefer peace and quiet over bustling nightlife
Travelers looking to experience authentic Greek culture
Best Places to Stay in Akrotiri
Ambassador Aegean Luxury Hotel & Suites – This 5-star resort offers access to a private beach and has a day spa on site
Kalestesia Suites – This family-friendly hotel includes a kid’s pool and regular pool, sundeck, and spa
The Fisherman’s House – This 3-star hotel is comfortable and cozy, with a lovely pool, great service and the convenience of a tour desk
Santorini Luxury Hotels
There is a great consensus among Santorini locals and returning tourists about which hotels offer the most luxurious experience on the island. Tourists coming to Greece often look especially for a Santorini cave hotel or for Santorini hotels with private pools. The best hotels for honeymoons are also in this exclusive 5-star hotel category that combines quality, privacy, and views. The hotels below are the best of the best.
And bear with me here – lots of people want to stay in iconic and unusual accommodation. If that’s your desire, then here’s a Santorini windmill to stay in.
Santorini Family Hotels and Family-Friendly areas
The choice for families is the same as for all visitors to Santorini- the cliff-top towns and villages or the beaches! Oia and Fira offer lots of entertainment for families and groups of mixed ages. The beach resorts offer a laid back and stress-free Santorini holiday with kids. Here are some of the best family-friendly accommodation on the cliff-tops and by the beaches.
Santorini Luxury Cave Hotels
For a comprehensive guide to Santorini’s best cave hotels and cave houses, see my post on Luxury Cave Hotels.
Further Links and Information
There are so many things to do in Santorini, Greece. See all of the best things to do in Santorini, from Get Your Guide here.
For three things you need to know before you book your trip to Santorini, including the best time to visit Santorini, see my travel guide here.
For the must-see Ancient Akrotiri Minoan city, see my blog post here.
And for another must-do activity while on this wonderful island, see my Sailing around Santorini blog post here.
For a carefully curated guide of the very best tours in order to truly experience the culture of Santorini, understand its history, and visit its wonderful villages all over the island, see my post on the best 2020 Tours for Santorini Villages and Local Culture here.
And for the third absolute must-do activity on Santorini, see my detailed post on the Hike from Fira to Oia here.
Watch the Santorini sunset while sipping wine at one of the Santorini caldera-edge wineries. Read about the Best Santorini Wineries and Wine Tasting Tours.
More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, Athens to Santorini flights and how to get to Santorini more generally, accommodation and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page
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