You’ve seen the photos – black sand beaches, white-washed villages and vibrant orange sunsets. You know you want to see this beautiful island with your own eyes. But, do you know the best areas to stay in Santorini?
The island is relatively small so, wherever you are, you’ll be able to explore every corner of it. However, you need to find the right place to base yourself.
This volcanic island is split into two distinct areas, the west and the east. The west is the side that this island is famous for, it is luxurious and boasts views of the caldera as well as the most breathtaking sunsets. Meanwhile, over on the east, you’ll find the popular seaside resorts.
West: On the west of the island you’ll find the instantly recognisable white buildings with their blue domed roofs. These are perched high above the sea and benefit from the most impressive views. There are four main destinations here that are best for:
- Couples or honeymooners looking for a romantic setting.
- Party-goers heading abroad to experience the best nightlife.
- Those looking for pure luxury.
Fira: The capital, which is built 260 metres above sea level, is the most cosmopolitan and liveliest destination in Santorini. Among the white-washed buildings you’ll find hotels with infinity pools that seemingly lead straight out to sea with the beautiful backdrop of the caldera.
This is the best place on the island for shopping and it is also home to some of the island’s most popular bustling bars and restaurants. If you’re looking for somewhere with nightlife then look no further, Fira definitely knows how to party.
It is also the hub of the island, making it the perfect base to head out and explore from. It is only 10 minutes from the airport and the buses start and end here, taking you anywhere you wish to go.
Perfect location for: A lively atmosphere and the islands best nightlife.
Best Hotel: Astro Palace Hotel and Suites
Top tip: You might like to consider renting a scooter. They are very popular here and the best way to explore the whole island at your own pace.
Firostefani: This area, which has equally beautiful scenery, is actually one of Fira’s suburbs. It is a village just north of the capital and within walking distance. However, it is much quieter, the ideal destination if you want to be close to the action but not at the centre of it.
Its name means crown in Greek and reflects its position on the highest part of Fira. Nestled within its streets you’ll find cosy traditional restaurants, the perfect ending to a day spent lounging by the pool and taking in the views.
Perfect location for: A tranquil escape minutes from the lively capital.
Best hotel: Belvedere Suites
Imerovigli: This picturesque village can be found between Firostefani and Oia. It is at the highest and most central part of the caldera, which is why it is known as the ‘Balcony to the Aegean’. It is here that you’ll find Skaros Rock. As you make your way over to it you can look across the water at Oia before hiking to the top for uninterrupted, panoramic views.
You’ll find plenty of traditional restaurants and tavernas where you can take in the beautiful backdrop while grabbing a bite to eat. Head to the main square and you’ll be able to get a bus – or alternatively you can walk to Fira and Firostefani or Oia. This is also the perfect place to explore on foot with paths winding around the blue and white buildings. The hotels are particularly interesting – many of the rooms were previously caves.
Perfect location for: A peaceful and calming atmosphere in a luxurious setting.
Best hotel: Absolute Bliss Imerovigli Suites
Oia: This is the most famous village in Santorini and it’s easy to see why. As well as being incredibly beautiful the romance is palpable – especially at sunset when you’ll really see why this part of the island is so special. All this works together to make it the ideal destination for loved-up newlyweds.
It is only 7 miles from the capital but is far quieter, providing a tranquil setting to spend quality time together. Like its neighbours, this traditional village also features the blue-domed buildings however the volcano doesn’t dominate the view as much from here.
The restaurants serve up fresh fish dishes and there is an artistic air with a plethora of art galleries. From here you can take the 300 steps down to a small port where you can board a boat across to Thirassia.
Perfect location for: The island’s most beautiful sunsets
Best hotel: Kirini
East: Head over to the east of the island and you’ll be met with black sand beaches that lead down to the azure sea. The three most popular destinations here are ideal for:
- Anyone travelling to this island on a budget.
- Families, especially those with young children.
- Sun worshippers who wish to spend their day relaxing on the beach.
Kamari: This is the closest seaside resort to the capital and home to the island’s airport. It is located at the foot of Mesa Vouno Mountain and the Blue Flag black sandy beach is the longest on the island. It’s also the most touristy, which is why you’ll find plenty of amenities here. It’s the perfect place for snorkelling, diving and various other watersports.
Wander the promenade and soak up the lively atmosphere as you poke your head inside the shops and browse the supermarkets, before taking a seat at one of the many restaurants and cafes. Come evening, you can listen to traditional Greek live music or settle in at the open-air cinema for a film night. Fancy a tipple? You’re not far from the Wine Museum and wineries.
Perfect location for: A family holiday
Best hotel: Alesahne Beach Hotel
Kirsty Daniel: “Kamari is a good place to stay in Santorini. It is super close to restaurants and right next to the beach where there are loads of activities. There are also lots of supermarkets in this area if you need them. You’ll find an open-air cinema on the road into Kamari – which is amazing!
It is close to the airport if you are flying in and only 20 minutes from the port if you arrive by ferry.”
Perivolos: This is the liveliest beach resort in Santorini and is popular among young people looking for a party atmosphere. It is nestled between Perissa village and Agios Georgios, both of which can easily be reached if you continue walking down the beach. Lining the black sand you’ll find beach bars with DJs and performers playing music throughout the day and into the evening.
Visit one of the beach bars and make use of their sunbeds and umbrellas, while waiters serve you as you sunbathe. Don’t forget your snorkel mask, the crystal clear water is ideal for watching the colourful fish dart around. Above the water you can experience the thrill of a jet ski, while volleyball is often played on the beach.
Although this is a lively beach, it’s possible to find quiet areas to soak up the sun in peace.
Perfect location for: Beach parties
Best hotel: Villa Olympia
Perissa: If you want to be close to the beach party but not surrounded by it for the duration of your trip, then head to neighbouring Perissa. This seaside village and popular tourist resort is situated on the south base of Mesa Vouno mountain. The Blue Flag beach features dark blue waters and black sand and is among the best spots for watersports as well as being close to the waterpark.
This area of the island has a traditional Greek character with the benefit of many modern amenities. There are plenty of markets and shops as well as nightclubs, restaurants and tavernas. From here you can head up Mesa Vouno to explore the ancient ruins of Ancient Thera and enjoy views across Perissa and Kamari.
Perfect location for: Watersports and the waterpark
Best hotel: Veggera Hotel
As you can see, there are benefits to both sides of the island. Now you just need to decide which one is best for you.