Last updated on November 28th, 2018 at 02:14 pm
Santorini is already a very popular destination.
And it’s only getting more in demand.
The question is:
Where are the best places to stay in Santorini (maybe travelling as a couple, or as a family or even more specifically with a limited budget)?
Well, this is exactly what you will find out in this guide.
This guide will talk not only about the usual towns of the island but also about other areas that are often underrated and that usually offer a great value for money.
Of course, the caldera view comes at a price and if it’s the trip of your life than just budget a bit more and get the right room, maybe facing the sunset as well.
If it’s not your first trip to the island or you plan more trips in your future, then I suggest trying other areas than Fira, Oia and the west coast facing the volcano.
But let’s move to the more juicy stuff.
It all depends on your budget and the type of vacation you are after. It has to be said that Santorini has a good public bus network (KTEL), you can check here the timetable.
Most of the photos you probably have seen are either from Oia or Fira (Θήρα), mostly facing the volcano. These are the most iconic areas to stay in Santorini.
There are however other areas that could be a great solution for your trip.
In the map below I drew the towns and the areas in a different colour:
Here below a list of the single towns with a brief comment. Later you will find a deeper description, including the best restaurants to visit.
Seating on the edge and with a beautiful view of the caldera area (“red” destinations on the map) these towns usually have the most expensive hotels:
Of all of the above, my personal preference goes to Oia, but I am not after the nightlife. Imerovigli is also a great alternative for a relaxed time.
Once you move inland you can find the best value accommodation and the low budget ones. Unfortunately, they all come with no view of the caldera.
They may have a view on the opposite side of the island, on the east side, which can be amazing but not as characteristic, not that postcard view you may have dreamed of.
The towns below are part of the “green” destinations on the map
Of all of the above, my personal preference goes to Karterados. Close to Fira and to the main bus station in Santorini. Easy to move around and with a nice local feeling.
And it’s now time for the beach, on the east coast, with a fabulous blue sea, typical of Greece.
Both locations have scuba diving options as well as other water sports, including windsurfing which can be quite challenging in the middle of the summer when the strong Meltemi wind kicks in from the north.
The towns below are part of the “blue” destinations on the map
My personal choice would go to Kamari, although Santorini is not the best island for beaches. You can find better options in Ios, Naxos or even better in Mikonos.
Kamari was also the village I stayed on my first trip in the late 80s and I may be a bit sentimental here 🙂
These are the towns on the cliff, with the caldera view, the ones I marked in red on the map above.
You can find hotel and resorts also outside of these towns, with a beautiful view as well, however, you will definitely need a car to move around, which is not a bad idea anyway as you can explore the island on your own pace.
These were and are two separate towns, however, nowadays you would find difficult to understand where is the end of one and the start of the other.
You will find great accommodations on both sides. The main difference is that Fira has more restaurants, bars and nightlife.
Firostefani may be the perfect place to be in Santorini if you area after:
The walk from Firostefani to Fira takes around 15-20 minutes and can be done in two ways
If staying in Firostefani, you can have dinner at Pirouni, a restaurant with international cuisine and an amazing view, straight to the caldera. The Why Not! Souvlaki is a good value, low budget, alternative, but no view.
Fira can be really crowded, especially when the tourists arrive by cruise ships. The small port below the village becomes as busy as ever with the cable car bringing up visitors in big groups.
This is not to say that you should not stay in Fira.
On the contrary, if you are after a great accommodation with a view, an easy access to restaurant and bars to have a cocktail with a view, or even a late night in one of the few clubs then Fira is the place to be.
Fira has also another great advantage, the central bus station of the island. From here you can take buses to everywhere you want, very handy. In 20-30 minutes you can go to Oia, to the beach or any other destination.
If you are not in Fira, you will be very likely to transit through this bus station.
Fira, and in minor scale Firostefani, are busy also in the low season (November to April, check the weather here) and, unless you are after a very quiet destination, it’s the place to be in Santorini.
Keep in mind that in the low season also many restaurants and bars are closed, less so in Fira.
This is just a tiny selection of 4 names. Between June and September, you should book your restaurant in advance otherwise, you will be very unlikely to have a table, not to mention one with a view.
In July and August, things can get so busy that you may feel the service is taking longer than expected. That is the peak of the season, the most challenging for the people working there.
Just 2 km north of Fira is the village of Imerovigli. It’s a great location for sunset, especially in June when the sun sets between Oia and the small island of Thirasia.
It’s one of the most charming villages in Santorini, with the typical whitewashed houses built on multiple levels of terraces, all facing the caldera and the sunset.
You will be very likely to have here an accommodation with a great view, in a more relaxing environment and local feeling when you walk the small maze of alleys and tiny streets.
You may also have a walk to the Skaros Rock, the ruins of one of the five fortresses of Thira (the old name of Santorini), for a majestic view.
Another great spot is the Ekklisia Theoskepasti, a few meters walk past Skaros; it’s a beautiful church with again an amazing view, a great spot for a few photos.
Because you are more after a romantic stay, without the Fira hordes of tourists, especially between June and August. The restaurants are more “local” and the architecture is really what you pictured from Santorini.
It may be not your place if you after a nightclub holiday. Fira offers better solutions. You can always take a taxi to Fira (5-10 minutes) for a night but can be annoying every day.
Imerovigli, in my opinion, is also hosting one of the best hotels in Santorini, the Grace Hotel. This is an accommodation that has gone through a 2-year long full refurbishment and design. It has absolutely breathtaking views and a special infinity pool. It’s luxury at its best.
The Grace Hotel is a place where you will remember every single sunset, you are either in the infinity pool or having dinner in the unique terraces. Book well in advance, it’s a popular choice.
Oia is the second most famous town in Santorini (Fira is still holding the crown), right in the northern area of the island.
How many times I heard the question:
Where is the best place to stay in Santorini, Fira or Oia?
These towns are somehow quite similar, both located on the edge of the cliff, both with an amazing view of the Caldera, both with a great sunset and both with a small harbour down the countless steps.
What Oia is missing is the nightlife and the sometimes overcrowded feeling of Fira. And this may be seen as an advantage if you after a more relaxed and chilled out experience
To my eyes, Oia is even more impressive than Fira, more of a boutique choice. But I am chilled out by nature 🙂
You can have a look at the few seconds of the introduction of the popular movie “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” to have an idea of where this town is seating, a real natural and unique amphitheatre (tip: skip to the second 51).
The story itself of Oia is actually quite interesting. At the start of the previous century (1900) it was one of the main Mediterranean ports. The population was over 2500 people and the harbour was docking over 130 ships.
Following a big earthquake in 1956 (magnitude 7.8) and the decline of the local economy, Oia population scaled down to just 300 people in 1980. Then things changed with the tourism arrival and it’s now a very popular destination.
There is a bit of a myth that Oia is the town of the artists. Probably it used to be in 80s when houses were almost gifted, but not anymore. Still, there are plenty of art shops around with works of Greek artists. If you can, try to buy local.
Although the Oia centre is quite small the town stretches on the cliff for almost 1.5km. Nowadays the edge of Oia (on the right side of the map above) is almost touching the edge of Finikia making a unique long town.
The most scenic part is the one closed to the Maritime Museum (on the left side of the picture). This is also the area with the widest choice of accommodation, although more on the boutique side.
If you are after a more “dramatic” accommodation with a sunset view and a pool overlooking the caldera then check on the centre-right of the map above. The Canaves Oia Suites are an example as well as the Katikies Hotel (book well in advance for both)
Finikia, bordering Oia, is also another option, especially if you are looking for a more budget friendly accommodation. The Oia Suites is a great example, beautiful view, so close to Oia but better value.
If you after a restaurant or just a drink in Oia you may check one of the below options:
Both Megalochori and Akrotiri are villages in the southern part of Santorini, few hundreds of meters inland from the cliff.
In both cases, the centre of town is far from the beautiful caldera view and they lack the typical whitewashed houses architecture (the ones you have seen in the postcards).
Still, you can find also here a few amazing accommodations with infinity pools and the lovely view of the caldera. They are just on the fringe of the village.
They can be beautiful and lovely, surely better value for money, however, you will be isolated and this can be an advantage if you are looking for that.
Renting a car is a must, to explore the island and even to go for dinner. There are a few local restaurants in both cases but you would need to walk a few hundreds of meters, sometime in the dark.
Megalochori is a real traditional village with the typical square, local cafes and local restaurants which will cost much less than in Fira or Oia. They are more catered to a Greek clientele, therefore with more authentic food.
This is the wine area of Santorini, therefore plenty of local wine options for a drink at sunset.
Akrotiri is a new development area, not as characteristic I must say, with just a bunch of restaurants.
Here is a good tip.
Walk down to the Caldera Beach. It’s not as busy as the beaches on the east coast and you will have also a fantastic view. It’s mostly black pebble and sand.
There is a scuba diving centre there, but based on my partner experience, it was a bit disappointing, not much fish around.
I would personally suggest Megalochori because it’s more traditional, a real rural Greek village. There are also more restaurants options, here below a few of them:
In my initial map, you may have noticed I marked in green a few towns. All inland. These are all great low budget alternatives, still very close to most of the attractions of Santorini.
Here is my personal tip.
If it is the trip of a lifetime then book a hotel with a view (if you can afford it) and skip this area. These are gorgeous villages but not like on the typical “Santorini postcards”, expect more of a medieval architecture.
If you are, however, on a budget then book at least one night in an accommodation with the caldera view (it will be the memorable one) and spend the rest of the stay inland, where it is more affordable.
There is a great advantage of these towns. You will have more of a local experience. You will feel more in Greece, with Greek people around you and not mostly tourists.
Karterados is a cosy village 2 km east of Fira. If you like walking it can take 20-30 minutes, based on your hotel location.
Of all of the low-budget towns, Karterados is the one I prefer. Why:
You should put in your bucket list the following:
In Vourvoulos you will feel quite isolated and indeed there is not much happening.
It’s an old traditional village with still a few houses in the caves and a maze of small streets, most of them with no car access, just donkeys.
The view to the east side of the island can be really magnificent.
There are a few accommodations, mostly with a traditional interior design. You definitely feel more in an old part of Greece, not very touristy.
You can always walk (20-30 minutes) to Imerovigli for the beautiful sunset and dinner at Mezzo.
In Vourvoulos you should try the Aedani restaurant, great fresh food, a greek cuisine experience and non-touristy price
These towns are all located between Fira and the beachside on the east coast (Kamari and Perissa).
They are all great locations if you plan to experience Fira & Oia as well as spending some time at the beach. You get a bit of both with usually great deals on the accommodation side.
Of the three towns probably Pyrgos is my favourite.
It’s located on a hill with a typical medieval architecture, so easy to get lost when you walk inside the town. A real labyrinth of small streets
Also, in this case, you can feel more part of a Greek experience.
The view to the east side is really majestic, to the wineries, in the foreground, and the Aegean see in the background.
Head to the Ouzeri Penelope for lunch or even better for dinner. Great selection of mezedes (tapas) with the typical ouzo to drink, or the local wine as an alternative.
If you are travelling with kids you may find that Perissa and Kamari are a better place to stay in Santorini.
Both places have a long beach with mostly black sand and pebbles, in part of it.
Resorts, as well as b&b, are available on almost every corner
Kamari is more catered for a family experience. It’s a bit quieter and the restaurants are more committed to a family clientele.
The town’s literally next door to the airport. It can be the perfect place to be if you have a very early flight in the morning.
Perissa is where you can find the beach party. I still remember myself on my first trip in Santorini staying there in a semi-organised camping area.
But that was a looong time ago 🙂
Is Fira or Perissa better for the nightlife?
Fira is better for clubbing but staying in Perissa has the great advantage that the morning after you can wake up and literally jump in the water.
You can always take a bus from Perissa to Fira for 2-3 euros and back by taxi late in the night (you would save money anyway considering how expensive can be Fira).
If you are not on a budget, however, consider a hotel in Fira with a pool and view of the caldera 😉
There are a few options:
Stef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.
Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry.
Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world.