When it comes to the Greek islands, Santorini is probably the most famous. This stunning island is known for its white villages with blue-domed churches perched on the tops of towering cliffs. It’s the iconic image of the Cyclades islands and one of the most photographed destinations in the world. As such, it’s a very popular place to visit which leads to an important question for travellers headed to Greece: where to stay in Santorini?
It’s a fair question. While Santorini may not be a huge island, there is quite a bit to see and so and you want to make sure that wherever you stay is easily accessible, especially if you plan on using the local buses to get around. Having spent a week in Santorini, hopping around to three different places, I have my own opinions as to the best place to stay Santorini. However, my opinion is very dependent on what you want to see and do and how you like to travel. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on where to stay in Santorini.
Psst: Debating splurging on a luxury hotel in Santorini, I did and highly recommend it. Check out this post to find out why I think a luxury Santorini hotel is the best way to enjoy this Greek island.
Oia: Best Place to Stay in Santorini for the Iconic Santorini Experience
Oia (which is pronounced ia) is the best-known village in Santorini. It’s the town with the blue-domed churches and the famous sunsets. In fact, this village has become so popular that it is now completely a tourist hub. The buildings are all shops, restaurants, and hotels while the locals live further out. As such, it’s the most expensive place to stay on the island however if you are really after that iconic Santorini experience, then Oia is the best place to stay in Santorini.
Oia is picture-perfect. It’s a photographer’s (and instagrammer’s) dream come true. Most people just choose to visit on a day trip, so by actually choosing to stay in Oia, you will get to actually get to experience the village. Of course, this does mean getting up earlier in the morning, and going out later (generally right after sunset) to avoid the most crowded times, but it’s worth it. Early mornings in Oia were some of my favourite moments.
Depending on where you stay in Oia, you will also likely get stunning views. Not all hotels in Oia offer sunset views, so if that’s what you are after make sure to do your homework. However, I stayed in a cave hotel with a view of the sea and the Caldera and it was gorgeous and relaxing.
As mentioned earlier, Oia is the most expensive part of the island. Hotels here are very expensive, but so are the shops and restaurants. If you want to stay here, it will be a splurge. Oia can also be insanely crowded. Remember, not only is Santorini popular with tourists wanting to stay on the island, but it’s also a cruise ship port. From 10am-sunset you can expect the streets to be full of fellow tourists which can detract from the experience.
Where to Stay in Oia, Santorini
Fira: Best Place to Stay in Santorini for Exploring the Island
Fira (also spelt Thira) is another stunning village in Santorini with the white buildings and beautiful sunset views. It tends to be a little less expensive than Oia but is still home to luxury hotels and restaurants. Personally, I thought Oia was prettier as a village but Fira has more to offer.
Thira is the main hub for Santorini, which makes it the best place to stay if you want to get around and explore the island by bus. No matter your destination: airport, Oia, beaches, etc., you’ll need to take a bus from Fira to get there.
Fira also had more to offer for tourists. There were tourist offices where you could book tours, ATV and bike rental stands, and considerably more food and restaurant choices than I saw in Oia. It also has more of a nightlife scene (though, Santorini isn’t much of a party island) and a better place to find cheaper accommodation options.
Fira may not be quite as busy as Oia was (in my opinion) but it still gets packed and those crowds don’t dissipate in the evening like they do in Oia. It also feels very touristy with tons of souvenir shops and people calling out to get your business.
Where to Stay in Fira, Santorini
- Bedspot Hostel *I stayed here, nice boutique hostel.
Imerovigli: Best Place to Stay in Santorini for Luxury on a (Better) Budget
Imerovigli is located on the edge of the Caldera, between Thira and Oia (though it is closer to Oia). Another beautiful village, Imerovigli (like Oia) is mainly made up of hotels and villas for tourists. It’s much quieter than either Fira and Oia and therefore a little cheaper. Don’t get too excited though, this is Santorini we’re talking about, so prices are still steep.
Imerovigli is a great alternative to staying in Thira or Oia but is still close enough to enjoy either and there are plenty of beautiful accommodation options offering great views. It’s much quieter than either Fira or Oia, more affordable, and less crowded.
Imerovigli is more of a place to spend the night rather than a place to explore in itself, so you’ll just be using it as a base. Since it’s between Thira and Oia, that also means you’ll have a tricky time with the public buses since they normally fill up on either end. If you plan on staying here, your best bet is to rent a vehicle.
Where to Stay in Imerovigli, Santorini
Akrotiri: Best Place to Stay in Santorini to Escape the Crowds and Hit the Beaches
Akrotiri is the complete opposite of the other villages on this list. It’s located on the southern end of the island and has no white-washed village or sunset views. However, this also means its considerably less crowded, cheaper, and has the bonus of being closer to the beaches.
Akrotiri feels like a whole other island in comparison to Thira and Oia. Yes, tourists come to see the Red Beach, but it’s not nearly as crowded or busy and almost everyone leaves come sunset which makes it peaceful and relaxing.
Akrotiri is a great place to stay in Santorini if you like beaches. While Santorini isn’t known as a beach destination, there are three main spots tourists can go to; the Red Beach, the Black Beach, and the White Beach. The Red Beach is located in Akrotiri (a bit of a rocky hike so bring decent footwear), and there is a dock where a boat will pick you up and take you to the Black Beach or the White Beach for a small fee.
If you aren’t a beach person, there isn’t a ton to do. Akrotiri is small and local which is nice, but there’s only a handful of restaurants and shops are more for picking up water and snacks than for doing any actual shopping. It also doesn’t look like the Santorini that you see in the travel books and while you can take the bus to Thira or Oia for the day, you may be disappointed if you are looking for that white village, vibrant sunset, Santorini experience.
Where to Stay in Akrotiri, Santorini
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Santorini
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I spent a week in Santorini and moved around to three different places (Fira, Oia, Akrotiri). I loved all three in their own way and, while moving around every two days was a bit annoying, I think it also allowed me to better experience the island and each village I stayed in. With that in mind, if you plan on spending 3-5 days in Santorini, I do recommend you consider staying in two or more different places as well. While day trips are easy and possible, I honestly think that spending a night or two in the different villages is the best way to truly enjoy them and make the most of your time in Santorini.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Greece
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine twice before (once for damaged luggage, once because I developed a lung infection while traveling). While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance. With prices starting at $37 for 4 weeks, they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.