When it comes to exploring the Greek Islands, Santorini seems to be at the top of everyone’s list, for fairly obvious reasons. This postcard-perfect island is stunning. The white villages perched on the rocky clifftops look like they popped off the pages of a children’s storybook and the vibrant blue domes contrasting against the white buildings are brilliant against a backdrop of the equally blue sea and sky. Santorini is romantic fairytale that everyone wants to, and should, experience when they come to Greece. As someone who spent nearly a week exploring this island, I can honestly say that one of the best ways to truly experience its most famous cities, Thira and Oia, is to stay in a luxury hotel in Santorini.
Why A Luxury Hotel in Santorini is Worth the Money
Word of caution for those who haven’t looked yet, luxury hotels in Santorini are not cheap. Yet, there are so many of them and a number of them book up really quickly.
Because, unlike in other places around the world, luxury hotels in Santorini are truly worth the extra cost.
I know what you are thinking: can a luxury hotel really be worth the hefty price tag. Well, as a someone who is quick to admit how cheap she is, let me explain why.
The Ability to Escape the Crowds
It’s no secret that Santorini is a popular island. It’s a popular cruise port and there’s a local ferry port and an airport. As far as visitors go, you’ll get everything from families, to couples, to solo travellers, to huge tour groups. It’s busy. Crazy busy- and can get really crowded.
I personally hate crowds, but even those who can tolerate them will no doubt get frustrated at some point. By having a luxury hotel in Oia or Thira, you can actually escape and go spend some much-needed down time in your room away from the throngs of people. Not only does the break help keep you sane, but, based on my experience, it also allows you to better enjoy and experience the destination itself.
Take a Break from the Heat
There’s no question that the Greek islands are hot. Even when I was there at the end of May, temperatures in Santorini hit over 30C without the humidity. This is great when you are close to a beach, but while there are a couple beaches in Santorini, it’s not really a beach island and these beaches aren’t located anywhere near Oia or Thira.
Many luxury hotels in Santorini, however have pools which can make all the difference on a hot day. Even if your hotel doesn’t have a pool (my luxury cave hotel in Oia didn’t), you will still have somewhere nice to go and get out of the sun and into the air conditioning when the heat gets to be too much.
You Get to Experience the ‘Quiet’ Side
Many of the luxury hotels in Santorini are built into the sides of the cliffs of Thira and Oia. While there will still be a bit of foot traffic, especially among those who are looking to get their Instagram-worthy photos, it won’t be anything like the crowds you’ll find in the main streets. Being able to escape the bustle will allow you to actually feel like you are on vacation.
Let’s be honest, the real reason to go to Santorini is because it’s stunning and has amazing views; views of the sea, views of the Caldera, and views of sunset. If you are going to Santorini, you want the views and the best way to ensure you get them is to stay at a luxury Santorini hotel with a view. Sometimes you’ll get your own balcony area (like I did) other times the view may be more of a common area with an infinity pool. Either way, by staying in a luxury hotel in Santorini you’ll have regular access to views that day-trippers won’t be able to see.
It Really is a Bucket List Experience
The reasons above are all very practical for why a luxury hotel in Santorini are a good option, but at the end of the day there’s also just the fact that it is a bucket-list experience and worth the splurge for that in itself. Sometimes you just need to treat yourself, which is exactly what I did (more on that below).
My Experience in a Luxury Hotel in Santorini
If you are familiar with me and my travel style, you’ll know that luxury hotels aren’t my normal go-to. It’s not that I don’t like them, because trust me I do (fairytale Irish castle hotels are my favourite) but, more so that I’m, well, cheap. At the end of the day I spend most of my time exploring so spending a lot of money on a room where I basically just sleep doesn’t make a lot of sense for me.
However, Santorini was different. In fairness, I decided to splurge as an early birthday present to myself. Greece was my 57thcountry and 2019 was my third year working for myself and running my own business. Since my two big goals were to hit 50 countries before I turned 30 and to be my own boss, I decided to treat myself. Originally, I did it just to treat myself and do something special. What I didn’t realize, when I first booked my luxury cave hotel in Oia, was just how thankful I would be for making that decision.
See, I hate crowds. Hate them. Which is why I generally spend most of my time travelling during off-season or shoulder season. Big groups of people frustrate me to no end. When I planned my Greece trip, I made a mental note that high season started in mid-June. I hoped that by travelling in May, I’d avoid most of those crowds and for the most part I did, expect in Santorini.
Santorini will always be busy on its own, but what I forgot to take into consideration is that it’s also a major cruise ship port. One of the days I was in Oia, there were three cruise ships in port. This is what I had to deal with walking through the streets.
Needless to say, I got swept up in the crowd and struggled to escape. It was my version of hell and I hated every second of it. I was so grateful to have my luxury cave hotel in Oia to escape to because if I had just been in town for a day trip, I probably would have given up right away and gotten right back on the bus to go back to Thira. It was that bad.
However, since I actually stayed in Oia, I could enjoy my luxury Santorini hotel during the day; read and relax on my private balcony overlooking the sea and get up early or go out later in the evening and explore the city without the crowds. That way, I got to experience the Oia that I wanted. Sure, there were still people around but not nearly as many and it was actually pretty magical early in the morning or later in the evening.
Santorini wasn’t my favourite of the Greek islands, but it was beautiful. That being said, I think a huge part of me being able to appreciate that beauty was because I splurged on a luxury hotel and was able to have relaxing days to myself and save the sight-seeing for when the crowds dissipated.
Should You get a Luxury Hotel in Oia or Fira?
If you are like me, you are having a hard time deciding whether to stay in Oia or Fira. Well, I recommend staying a couple nights in both. As I said above, actually being able to stay in these places will allow you really experience them early in the morning or later in the evening when the crowds are gone. Sure, you can stay outside these two main cities but then you need to worry about the bus or renting a car and are back to being another day-tripper who gets caught in the crush of fellow tourists. I promise I’m speaking from personal experience when I say the best way to actually appreciate either village is to stay a night or two.
Personally, I saw a better sunset in Fira than I did in Oia. Mind you, my luxury cave hotel in Oia wasn’t facing the right direction so I went and joined a few hundred other people at the castle for the famous Oia sunset. That being said, Oia was (in my opinion) much cuter than Fira. So, again, I think you really do need to spend a bit of time in both to get the true experience.
With that in mind, here are my top recommendations for the best luxury hotels in Oia and the best luxury hotels in Fira.
Best Luxury Hotels in Oia, Santorini
There are plenty of luxury hotels in Oia and nearby. If you are going to splurge, make sure the hotel is actually in Oia, offers a view (may or may not be sunset depending on location), and consider whether or not you want a pool.
Here are some of the best luxury hotels in Oia.
Canaves Oia Epitome
If you are looking for a luxury hotel in Oia with a sunset view, then Canaves Oia Epitome just might be the perfect pick. Some of the suites and villas have private pools while others offer access to a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking the sea. Guests will also have access to butler service.
Blu Blanco Oia Cave House
This is where I stayed and it was adorable. There is no pool, but the private balcony overlooking the sea and across to Fira was perfect for reading and relaxing. It was right in the heart of Oia, but far enough down the cliff to be away from the traffic. Plus, since it was a cave house and not part of a hotel, I had total privacy which was amazing. Everything was clean, comfortable, and I secretly wished I never had to leave while I was there
Canvas Suites, Oia
Looking for a luxury Oia hotel with beautiful views and a private hot tub? Take a look at Canvas Suites. Great location, elegant rooms offering panoramic views, and the option to choose a suite with a private hot tub.
Best Luxury Hotels in Fira, Santorini
Fira also has plenty of luxury hotel choices. Again, make sure you are somewhere with a view. Plenty of Fira hotels offer pools as well (though I saw more infinity-type pools than private ones like in Oia) so keep that in mind.
Here are some of the best luxury hotels in Fira.
Mythical Blue Luxury Suits
Located in the heart of Fira Mythical Blue Luxury Suites offers elegantly-appointed suites that are perfect for your Santorini Vacation. Some of the suites offer private balconies overlooking the Aegean Sea while others have indoor jacuzzis; perfect for relaxing after a day of exploring.
Aroma Suites is another great pick for those looking for a luxury hotel in Fira. Each apartment or room has a terrace space where you can enjoy views of the Aegean Sea and the stunning sunsets that Santorini is known for. Aroma Suites doesn’t have a pool, however you can access the pool at their sister hotel should you wish.
Emfasis Luxury Villa
Emfasis Luxury Villa is a beautiful and modern luxury hotel in Santorini with villas offering balconies with sea views and private hot tubs. There is also a hammam on site and a la carte breakfast available in the mornings. Guests love the location, especially the view, which according to a few reviews offers the ‘best sunset ever’.
Final Tips for Booking Luxury Hotels in Santorini
Hopefully by now I’ve convinced you that a luxury hotel in Santorini is worth the splurge, but there are a couple other things you should keep in mind when booking one. Remember, both Oia and Thira are built into the cliffs of Santorini. This means there are plenty of stairs (often quite steep) to get up and down the villages, especially in terms of getting to the luxury hotels which tend to be located in the side of the cliffs a little way down to avoid the crowds. This is a good thing, but can also be a nightmare if you are travelling with a lot of luggage. Hopefully, you aren’t, but either way get in touch with your hotel and inquire about a porter service. Trust me when I say you’ll need it.
My final tip is to book early. As mentioned earlier, even though there is no shortage of luxury hotels in Santorini, they book up quickly. After all, it is Santorini we are talking about, so to make sure you get the magical Santorini experience you really want- your best bet is to book in advance.
Santorini is a stunning island, and both Thira and Oia are worth a couple days of your time. However even I, as a self-declared cheap traveller, can say that in order to really enjoy your time on this island, it’s worth your while to book a luxury hotel in Santorini.