Still wondering where to stay in Santorini and avoid the crowded and touristy places? Read our comprehensive guide for 2020 and enjoy Santorini like a pro.
Santorini is one of the most popular Greek islands around the globe and most probably a dream vacation for many. Located on the Aegean Sea, the island of Thira, as officially known, welcomes more than 2 million visitors every year from every part of the world.
We are certain that if you’ve ever clicked on an article with top holiday destinations, Santorini was in it, and we’re also certain that if you’ve ever laid eyes on a photo of Santorini, it was a photo of the Caldera and its breathtaking sunset.
Described by many as one of the most beautiful places on Earth, it does come to a surprise to learn that the island is considered to be the most active volcanic epicenter in the South Aegean Volcanic Arc.
Santorini, or Thira, is located between Athens and Crete. Seen from above, Santorini is actually formed like a hemisphere and the neighboring islands suggest that the island was once circular – hence its older name, Stroggili (meaning, well… circular). Thousands of years ago, a massive volcanic eruption sank the center of the island, leaving a caldera (or volcanic crater) in the middle, with its towering cliffs along the sides of the island. This part now serves as the most commercial one of Santorini, so we guess that was a fortunate turn of events!
Where to stay in Santorini in a Nutshell
The settlements of the Caldera
Santorini’s commercial development is concentrated on the shores of the Caldera, with houses, villas, and top-notch hotels that offer generous views of the crater and the sea – and of course the majestic sunset.
Before getting into specifics, here is a general rule of thumb when it comes to choosing where to stay in Santorini:
Fira, the busy capital of the island, Firostefani (15 minutes from Fira on foot) and Imerovigli (the highest point on the Caldera, about half an hour’s walk from the center of Fira) are by far the most picturesque places to stay at, but they come with a price – quite literally. Staying at any of these parts of the island will give you the opportunity to witness first-hand some of the most amazing views you’ve ever seen… but keep in mind that these are also the most expensive areas to stay in Santorini.
The path that passes through these villages is full of high-end hotels, fine restaurants with Michelin-awarded chefs and of course endless places to take unique photos!
These three settlements, Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli, also attract the most visitors along with the stunning Oia village in the northern part of the island.
Santorini’s unparalleled beauty also makes it rank among some of the most expensive places to visit, however, with a little research, you could easily find an accommodation to suit your budget and style of travel. You should definitely check out our Santorini villas and upgrade your experience to the maximum.
A little further from the Caldera
The east coast of Santorini is less known than its famous west coast. The eastern seaside resorts such as Kamari and Perissa have a more traditional and island-like lifestyle, and it’s also the place where most locals live. This means if you’re more into living like a local in the place you visit, Kamari and Perissa might be more suitable for you.
These 2 villages are also inhabited by many who work on the island during the summer season, meaning accommodation here is significantly more affordable when compared to Caldera accommodation.
The coast of Santorini at this side is covered with black, volcanic sand, while in the southern part there is the famous red beach – a favorite destination for both swimming and taking unforgettable photographs!
Accommodation in Santorini is quite expensive – especially in tourist spots. Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia, have hotels and villas with private pools, views of the Caldera, whitewashed interiors, and hot tabs with endless views for amazing photos. Unfortunately, in these accommodations you have to put your hand deep in your pocket.
If you are more of a beach person, or if you simply don’t want to stay in overcrowded places and prefer some elbow room, then you can stay in Perissa or Kamari. The advantage here is that you are away from the crowds of the Caldera and also close to the sea.
So, a second rule of thumb regarding prices that can affect where to stay in Santorini is that the west side, meaning Perivolos, Perissa and Kamari, might suit you best if you travel on a budget.
Unfortunately, you have to choose between being close to the beaches and being close to the views.
If you are staying at the west side of the island, meaning the caldera with its famous views (Fira, Imerovigli, Oia, Akrotiri, Firostefani) you won’t be close to the beaches, located at the east side of Santorini (Kamari, Perissa, Perivolos).
Whether you are traveling on a budget or want to experience luxury and bespoke services, here’s a detailed guide to help you make up your mind before choosing where to stay in Santorini.
Detailed Guide for Where to Stay in Santorini, Updated 2020
The best areas to stay at the west side of Santorini are Fira (where all the buzz is), Imerovigli (romantic and slightly more secluded), Firostefani (walking distance to Fira but not so overcrowded) and of course the famous Oia town.
Fira – The Nightleife of Santorini
Fira is the cosmopolitan bustling capital, the epicenter of nightlife, the residence of those who want to be at the center of what’s hot right now. The jewelry stores of “gold street”, the clubs of “bar street”, the buzz of the central square, the quiet lazy rhythms of the “Catholics” (one of the most atmospheric neighborhoods), are the all-time classic images of Fira.
Fira is a better option if you’re visiting the island during winter or early spring months, namely from November through April. Being the capital, Fira won’t be too empty, and you’ll be surrounded by locals and with several things to see and do. During the peak summer months, from June to mid-September, perhaps you’ll find yourselves among thousands of other people, so if that’s not your cup of tea, a different place might serve you better.
If you want to be closer to popular night clubs, fine restaurants, retail shops with high-end brands and local products, and also close to the local buses, in case you don’t rent a car or private chauffer, then pick Fira.
Fira is ideal for you if:
– you want to get a full taste of the Santorini experience
– you plan your holidays during the slower winter and early spring months (between November and April). Most other places on the island are highly seasonal.
– you don’t plan or renting a car or scooter, but make use of public transportation only
Check our incredible luxury villa “Saturn” in Fira, ideal for 4 guests who would appreciate the great view and sunsets.
Oia – The Best Sunset in Santorini
If you prefer to spend your Santorini holidays on a quieter corner of the island during the day, without nightlife or shops right next to you, but where you’ll also find yourselves among a plethora of tourists that will be flocking the area every afternoon to admire the stunning sunset views, then Oia is for you.
Oia might be pretty quiet the rest of the day, but it will get significantly crowded between 16:00 and 20:00 every day, almost all year round. Here you can find one of the most well-preserved traditional settlements in Greece, known as the country of slow living. In addition to the classic Sunset at the Castle (with crowds of tourists climbing on the roofs to applaud!), walk to Sidera, the neighborhood with the impressive captain’s houses.
Oia has a more artistic atmosphere than Fira, and even though there is nothing wrong with it, the fact that every afternoon it is packed with people, especially during the summer months of July and August, is really not ideal. It is, however, what the buzz is all about!
Oia might be perfect for you if:
– you want to have the best sunset views and you don’t mind the touristy crowds
– you are OK with a lot of steps along the narrow streets
– you wish to stay in top-notch villas with unparalleled views and bespoke services and amenities
Would you like to spend the week of your life with your other half on the most romantic luxury villa with unique view and a private hot tub? Think about it…
Imerovigli – For Romantics
Imerovigli offers perhaps the quietest and most amazing accommodation options of the whole island and it’s the area with the most notable romantic corners – in case you’re visiting the island with your spouse and wondering where to stay in Santorini, your search is over!
Hands down Imerovigli is the best area to stay for a honeymoon in Santorini, with unique sunset views, marvelous accommodation options and fewer crowds. Imerovigli has become the most sought after village on the island and every year it expands beyond the boundaries of the traditional settlement.
Of course, it’s not overly difficult to understand that these are the priciest areas to stay in Santorini. Overall, if you are looking to stay close to these exquisite caldera views the best option is Imerovigli.
Imerovigli is for you if:
– You are visiting Santorini with your significant other or you are on your honeymoon
– You don’t mind being farther away from the beaches
– You want to be at the highest cliff overlooking the Caldera, known as “Balcony to the Aegean”
Akrotiri – Magnificent View
Akrotiri is one of the less popular places in Santorini, which is what makes it affordable in comparison to Oia or Fira. It is farther from the crowds and hip places, as it takes almost half an hour by car to reach Fira, but it still features nice views over the caldera!
Choose Akrotiri for your stay if:
– you still want the magnificent views over caldera
– you don’t mind driving to the restaurants and shops of Fira
– you are OK with driving to the beaches of the west side
Kamari – Ideal for Families
If you’re visiting the island with family and children or if you value a nice day at the beach more than a hip place and wondering where to stay in Santorini, then search no more!
The famous beach of Kamari is within walking distance to the village with its beautiful promenade and all its taverns, restaurants, cafes, supermarkets and shops, which make it an ideal place for families to spend their holidays at. The village is famous for its family-friendly vibe after all!
If you’re on holidays with toddlers or teenagers, then you know your days require some beach fun and a good swim before heading to dinner or a nice evening stroll, which is why Kamari is the place for you!
Book your stay in Kamari if:
– you are in Santorini with family and children
– you prefer swimming in the Aegean more than taking photos of it
– you search for relaxation during your holidays
Perissa – For Water Sports
If you prefer staying closer to the beach, like for example in Perissa, you will generally get better deals and affordable options than booking a place on the western side, for example, Oia or Firostefani.
Generally speaking, Perissa has more beach bars and is probably a bit crazier than Kamari.
Perissa would be perfect for you if:
– you are traveling with teenagers who value water sports
– you don’t like going up and down hundreds of steps every day
– you want to combine your holidays with a bit of sightseeing
Perivolos – For Relaxation
Perivolos is actually the continuation of Perissa beach. It is one of the most beautiful organized beaches on the island, in the southeastern part of Santorini. It is very large in length and width, while its characteristics are fine sand and clear waters that deepen abruptly.
Perivolos has a special natural beauty, outside the classic standards, and it is perfect for you if:
– you want to spend your holidays on an organized beach under some nice shade
– you want to be near the famous “Black beach” created by volcanic ashes with its unique morphology
– you need elbow room and serenity
Karterados – Stay in Santorini on Budget
Karterados is nothing super fancy but it features some beautiful natural landscapes, and an abundance of budget-friendly accommodation options. It is also surrounded by numerous vineyards, which we highly recommend to visit while staying in Santorini.
Karterados is the place to be if:
- you want to visit Santorini but don’t want to spend a ton of money
- you want to meet and hang out with locals
- you want to be close to Fira but not stay right in it
When to visit Santorini
The island of Santorini is one of the few places in Greece that has tourism almost all year round. The biggest demand is from April to the end of October, but in recent years, efforts have been made to make Santorini a tourist destination year-round.
If you want to visit it and take advantage of the low prices in accommodation, then the best time is either Spring or Autumn after September 15th!
Why visit Santorini
Fascinating landscape, captivating history, cosmopolitan atmosphere, unique local products and wines, constantly evolving gastronomy, high level services. Santorini is not by chance one of the top travel destinations in the Mediterranean – if not the world.
From the volcanic landscape of the Caldera, the quirky beaches with black sand and sculpted rocks and the important archaeological site in Akrotiri to the atmospheric gourmet restaurants and the intense nightlife, and from the accommodation in luxury hotels with stunning views to the high-end exclusive villas, and from cafes to excursions and discoveries in the interesting hinterland, we are talking about a unique island.
The magic and romance that inspires the landscape have permeated Santorini’s lifestyle and the foundations of its tourist development; that’s why all its dimly lit restaurants, romantic accommodation or atmospheric cocktail bars look as if they have been largely made to accept couples and lovers – and it’s no wonder that hundreds of thousands of visitors come every year from all over the world to get married or renew their vows overlooking the Caldera.
The Caldera is, of course, the number one place of development and the object of desire of all visitors. From the luxurious poolside hangouts and atmospheric captains’ houses to the simple traditional caves, perched on the Caldera eyebrow, one can find accommodation for all tastes and budgets.
Along with the Caldera, the hinterland and the beaches are evolving and attracting the attention of visitors either as a place to stay or as an option for food and entertainment. After all, the volcano has not only endowed Caldera: the beaches (from the shiny black pebble of Perivolos to the white sculpted rocks of Vlychada) and the villages (from Perissa to Perivolos) have a special natural beauty, outside the classic standards.
All in all, if you’re researching where to stay in Santorini in 2020, then rest assured that the island has a sweet corner for everyone!