We’re pretty sure that planning a trip to Santorini must have crossed your minds at some point and in this guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about the best areas to stay in Santorini!
Santorini is probably the most popular of all Greek Islands and for good reason. From the island’s epic sunsets and dramatic volcanic cliffs to its ancient wine-making traditions and gorgeous villages, Santorini is one of the best places to visit in Greece.
Sadly, as with all popular destinations, Santorini is very much affected by mass tourism. However, in our thorough Santorini Travel Guide, we are sharing the best sustainable travel tips for your trip to Santorini.
Picking the best areas to stay in Santorini is one of the topics that come up very often in our chats with our readers and viewers. This is why we decided to put together this useful Santorini accommodation guide to help you decide where to stay in Santorini for a trip that you will never forget.
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Where To Stay in Santorini
When deciding where to stay in Santorini, you get to choose between clifftop towns built on the edge of the caldera, traditional villages situated in the island’s interior and seaside towns located in Santorini’s eastern part, which is renowned for the impressive black-sand beaches.
The best caldera-facing towns to stay in Santorini are Oia, Fira, Imerovigli, Firostefani and Akrotiri. In those towns, you will find some of the finest hotels in Santorini. Situated on the edge of the caldera, these hotels are ideal for first-time visitors who are eager to live the dream in Santorini.
For return visitors, staying at one of the most beautiful villages in Santorini, such as Pyrgos, Emporio or Messaria, is the best choice for a glimpse into the island’s local life. Last but not least, the coastal towns of Kamari and Perissa are perfect for families travelling with kids.
No matter which town in Santorini you prefer, remember to choose family-run hotels and avoid multinational hotel chains and all-inclusive resorts for your accommodation in Santorini if you want to stay true to the principles of responsible tourism.
Cave Hotels in Santorini
You know how we always stress the importance of choosing your accommodation wisely. For us, where we decide to stay can make or break our entire trip. This is why, at the planning stage of each and every one of our trips, we make sure we double-check if there’s any special accommodation type we shouldn’t miss.
Santorini is the queen of unique accommodation types in Greece with its iconic cave dwellings, which are very similar but also quite different from the cave houses of Matera in Italy.
Due to Santorini’s easy-to-carve volcanic soil, it wasn’t long before the locals discovered this cheap way to build their houses. In the centuries that followed, when Santorini became a naval superpower of its time, the sailors who came to the island for work found cheap accommodation in these makeshift houses carved in the rock, especially in Oia.
Nowadays, most of these former cave dwellings are transformed into dreamy cave hotels that promise an unparalleled accommodation experience.
For us, you haven’t been to Santorini if you haven’t spent at least one night at one of the island’s cave hotels. Staying in a cave hotel means that you become part of the island’s living history and culture, which find their expression in Santorini’s special architecture. Ideally, a cliffside cave hotel is the best place to stay in Santorini but there are cave hotels scattered in other parts of the island, too.
If you think that all cave hotels in Santorini are ridiculously expensive, think again. There are cave hotels for all budgets in Santorini and you can find the best deals for your dates on Booking.com.
10+1 Best Areas To Stay in Santorini
1. Oia: The Quaintest Place To Stay in Santorini
If you’ve spent hours daydreaming of Santorini just by looking at the island’s photos, chances are that you’ve been dreaming of Oia all along. Oia is the most photographed of all Santorini towns and one of the most recognisable places to visit in Greece. Cliffside Oia is known for its gorgeous architecture that features century-old cave dwellings alongside imposing captains’ mansions.
From afar, Oia resembles a scrumptious cake and its whitewashed houses – interrupted by the occasional colourful one – inevitably remind you of icing dripping to perfection. Strolling around Oia’s picturesque alleys is one of the best things to do in Santorini, while the quaint town is famous for its jaw-dropping sunset views.
Oia is the ideal place to stay in Santorini, especially if you’re visiting the island for the first time. Home to the best cave hotels in Santorini, Oia features a wide selection of accommodation options built either on the rim of the caldera or on the outskirts of the quaint town. Hotels in Oia range from affordable homelike B&Bs to exclusive luxury villas with private pools and outdoor hot tubs.
Best Hotels in Oia
2. Fira: Where Santorini’s Heart Beats All Year Round
Fira is the vibrant capital of Santorini Island. A picturesque town with spectacular views of the caldera and the volcano, Fira is one of the best places in Santorini to watch a memorable sunset and stroll around dreamy narrow alleys. Moreover, for those of you who wish to have a taste of Santorini’s nightlife, Fira is the ideal place to base yourselves as this is where most of the island’s nightclubs are located.
If you’re planning to visit Santorini during the winter months, staying in Fira is the best option because this is the part of the island that most of the locals call home. Therefore, Fira is your best shot to find restaurants and bars that stay open all year round.
Fira is home to countless restaurants, bars and cafés for all tastes and budgets. The same goes for the town’s accommodation options. In Fira, you will find some of the most affordable hotels in Santorini but also exclusive hotels built on the cliffside part of the town.
Best Hotels in Fira
3. Imerovigli: The Best Area To Stay in Santorini For Luxury & Romance
Oia is undoubtedly romantic but we find that Imerovigli is even more so. That’s because Imerovigli doesn’t attract the day-trip crowds that Oia suffers from. Furthermore, in Imerovigli, it’s highly unlikely that someone will try to climb on your roof or terrace for that perfect Instagram shot. On the contrary, in Oia, you might wake up to a flying-dress photoshoot taking place over your heads at some point.
Imerovigli is the highest point of the caldera and this is why it’s often called the Balcony of Santorini. The views from Imerovigli to the vastness of the Aegean Sea and the dramatic Skaros Rock can literally take your breath away.
Imerovigli is home to some of the best luxury hotels in Santorini. Strolling around Imerovigli feels as though you’ve entered an exclusive zone of refined hospitality, ideal for anyone who wants to either splurge or live the ultimate romantic getaway on one of the world’s most beautiful islands.
Best Hotels in Imerovigli
- Agave Santorini Design Boutique Hotel
- Kapari Natural Resort
- Elia Cave Suites
- Atoles Retreat
4. Firostefani: The Best Place To Stay in Santorini For Caldera Views Without The Crowds
Nestled between Fira and Imerovigli, Firostefani feels more like an extension of Santorini’s capital rather than a separate town. What makes Firostefani stand out, though, is its authentic ambience. Although Firostefani boasts equally stunning caldera views as Fira, it attracts fewer tourists, which makes Firostefani feel more laid-back than Fira.
Firostefani is home to authentic restaurants and easy-going bars and cafés. However, Firostefani is also within easy walking distance from Fira.
Accommodation options in Firostefani may not be as varied as in other parts of Santorini. Moreover, they might be a bit on the pricey side. That said, it’s worth considering Firostefani for your next Santorini vacation if you want to enjoy unique caldera views without the crowds.
Best Hotels in Firostefani
5. Pyrgos: The Most Authentic Place To Stay in Santorini
Apart from its cliffside towns, Santorini is also known for its gorgeous inland villages. One of them is Pyrgos, one of the prettiest villages in Santorini. Built under the shadow of a rugged Venetian Castle, Pyrgos enjoys panoramic views of the entire island and the Aegean Sea.
Life in Pyrgos seems to be moving at a slower pace than in other parts of Santorini. This gorgeous medieval settlement resists the sirens of mass tourism and offers a glimpse into the real Santorini.
This is why Pyrgos is one of the best areas to stay in Santorini. With its whitewashed alleys and charming churches, Pyrgos is the ideal place to stay in Santorini if you’re looking for a laid-back vacation, surrounded by locals. Last but not least, Pyrgos is home to many traditional cave houses that have been transformed into affordable hotels and B&Bs.
Best Hotels in Pyrgos
- White Orchid Cave House & Studio
- Olyra Traditional Cave Houses
- DeltaMi Santorini
- The Small Architect’s House
- Demeter Cave House
6. Emporio: The Dreamiest Village in Santorini
We couldn’t leave our favourite village in Santorini out of this list of the best areas to stay in Santorini. In our humble opinion, Emporio is the most beautiful place to visit in Santorini and one of the most enchanting medieval settlements in Greece.
The Castle of Emporio feels like a dream come true with its narrow alleys, smooth arches and tiny staircases. Strolling around the tranquil village, a fine example of defensive architecture, is like travelling back in time while the curves and smooth edges of the buildings make them look as though they’re made of buttercream.
In Emporio, there aren’t as many accommodation options as in other parts of Santorini. However, some of them offer guests the unique opportunity to sleep within the walls of a silent, century-old castle.
Best Hotels in Emporio
- Traditional Farmers Caves
- Nalas Suites
- Timedrops Santorini Villas
- Exi Castle Suites
- Canava Villas in Santorini
7. Akrotiri: Caldera Views, Ancient Ruins & Local Vibes
Home to the most impressive archaeological site in Santorini, with breathtaking caldera views and inescapable local vibes, Akrotiri seems to have it all for an unforgettable stay in Santorini. First of all, the archaeological site of Akrotiri is among the most esteemed archaeological sites in Greece, often dubbed the Pompeii of Greece.
Secondly, the village of Akrotiri itself, dominated by the ruins of a charming Venetian Castle and within a short driving distance from Santorini’s famed Lighthouse, is one of the best places to stay in Santorini if you want to mingle with locals in a low-key setting.
Apart from the cave-house accommodation options in the heart of the village, Akrotiri also features luxury hotels built on the rim of the caldera. These are noticeably more affordable and less crowded than their counterparts in Oia, Imerovigli or Fira.
Best Hotels in Akrotiri
8. Messaria: The Best Place To Stay in Santorini To Explore The Island
Although one of the largest towns in Santorini, Messaria is also one of the lesser-known places to visit in Santorini. This is why it may not have crossed your minds as an option when deciding where to stay in Santorini.
However, apart from the fact that Messaria has an unparalleled rugged quality and an irresistibly authentic ambience, it’s also one of the best areas to stay in Santorini thanks to its central location. Especially if you’re planning to rent a car to explore Santorini and don’t want to cover long distances every day.
Messaria isn’t as developed as the rest of the areas to stay in Santorini included in this guide. This is why accommodation options are rather limited. Still, you can find some excellent cave hotels in Messaria for the most authentic experience.
Best Hotels in Messaria
9. Kamari: The Best Place To Stay in Santorini For Easy-Going Vibes
If you’ve been to Santorini before or if you’re just not into the caldera vibes but just want to experience a relaxing Greek Island vacation, Kamari might just be the best place to stay in Santorini.
Featuring a long black-sanded beach, countless dining options and a lovely promenade for your evening walks, Kamari is the ideal place to spend your summer holidays happy doing nothing on the beach.
In Kamari, you will find all types of accommodation, from no-frills studios to luxury hotels and suites. However, keep in mind that you won’t find cave-like accommodation options in Kamari, as most of the hotels are newly built.
Best Hotels in Kamari
10. Perissa: The Best Area To Stay in Santorini For Families
Perissa is yet another option for travellers who dream of a beach vacation in Santorini. Alongside the adjoining Perivolos Beach, black-sand Perissa is the best beach in Santorini, especially for families travelling with young kids. Perissa is among the safest beaches in Santorini for kids to play and parents to feel carefree.
With an abundance of restaurants, cafés and bars, Perissa is the perfect area to stay in Santorini for those who wish to relax and unwind during their holidays by the beach, without moving too much.
Similar to Kamari, Perissa features a wide selection of accommodation options. These range from no-frills studios and apartments to boutique hotels and suites, with few – if any – cave-like hotels.
Best Hotels in Perissa
Bonus: Thirassia For The Ultimately Off-The-Beaten-Path Experience
Have you ever heard of Thirassia? If not, it’s a big shame, but we’re here to fix this. Thirassia isn’t part of Santorini but a separate island that belongs to the same group of volcanic islands. With an undeniable aura of neglect, Thirassia is charming in its own special way as it comes in striking contrast with its sensational elder sister, Santorini.
Most travellers visit Thirassia on a day trip from Santorini. However, if thrilling experiences and genuinely off-the-beaten-path destinations are what you’re after during your travels, you should seriously consider an overnight stay in Thirassia. With less than one thousand residents and with stunning views of Santorini, Thirassia offers a once-in-a-lifetime accommodation experience for sure.
There are only a handful of accommodation options in Thirassia, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some fascinating places to stay among them. From super basic rooms to a renovated house in the heart of an abandoned village to a secret luxury resort on the beach, Thirassia may surprise you.
Our Favourite Places To Stay in Santorini
We’ve visited Santorini many times and during all seasons. We’ve seen Santorini suffering under the load of more people than it can hold and we’ve enjoyed it among locals, without any crowds whatsoever. Throughout the years, we’ve stayed in all sorts of hotels in Santorini, from luxury cave hotels to family-run studios, and in various towns and villages.
Bringing back all the wonderful moments we’ve spent in Santorini, we can now say that our favourite places to stay in Santorini are Oia, Fira, Pyrgos and Emporio, each for a different reason.
Oia, well because it’s Oia, the epitome of sunset views and unique architecture. Fira because we feel at home and also safe that we’ll find places to eat and hang out even during the winter months. Pyrgos because it’s captivatingly beautiful and Emporio because it feels as though we’re walking through a dream.
Have you been to Santorini or are you planning your first trip to the famous Greek Island? We’d love to know what you think about the best areas to stay in Santorini in the comments!