Even from a distance, Santorini is a sight to behold. Surrounded by the azure Aegean sea and home to its famous flooded caldera, it’s a true gem of the Cyclades. This is the Greece that attracts tourists from all across the globe: the sugar cube-like houses glinting in the sunlight and the domes of Orthodox churches sending flashes of blue through the landscape.
The only trouble, of course, is that the island is almost too attractive. On the days when a cruise ship has docked, Santorini’s largest towns, like Fira and Oia, become packed with visitors. But don’t let that put you off. If you know where to look, there’s plenty of lesser-known, picture-perfect spots to stay in away from the hustle and bustle. Start your holiday here.
The 11 best hotels in Santorini
Nothing says luxury the way this private estate does. To live out your own film set-worthy dreams, book into one of the four suites (all done up in a Cubist, minimalist style by Italian designer Paola Navone) and start planning how to spend your time among the bucolic citrus and pistachio groves. Guests are invited to make use of the three-tier infinity pool which dangles off the cliff edge and offers astonishing views of Santorini’s caldera. You can also take advantage of Ayurvedic massage, pilates, yoga and personal training. Bliss.
What exactly is a ‘boutique cave hotel’? You might well be wondering. Well, it’s a jaw-dropping beautiful place to stay that’s carved right into the the volcanic rock of the caldera. The whitewashed suites are rustic chic at its best, cut through with boldly patterned fabrics and other quirky details. Scrub up nicely with Aesop cosmetics and let any signs of stress evaporate away in the jetted tubs. And, to top it all, there’s an infinity pool and provisions for al fresco dining. You asked for romance and we delivered.
Who doesn’t love the idea of staying in a windmill? Especially when the windmill is a swish private villa on Santorini’s north-east coast, where you can glimpse the sunrise from your bed. With their sails spinning in fragrant sea breezes, these three gorgeous windmill villas flaunt cool, spacious interiors, decorated in pretty florals and chalk-box pastel blues, pinks and lilacs. Each comes with a fully equipped kitchen inside, and pool with hydromassage and Jacuzzi outside. With romantic views over hill, vine and sea, this is honeymoon material.
Once home to noble sea captains and part of an 18th-century convent, this beautifully converted string of neoclassical homes has been born again as a five-star luxury retreat in Santorini’s smouldering capital, Fira. Besides gracious service, little touches like complimentary wine on arrival and terraces with staggering views out across the caldera aim to please. This is a hideaway with history, as seen in the breezy, vaulted interiors liberally furnished with antiques. Each residence and suite is named after an Aegean wind.
Blue and white and oh so bright, Oia, clinging precariously to a cliff above the Aegean, is as lovely as Greek villages come. Fitting into this picture neatly are these traditional studios, cave houses and honeymoon suites. Service might be attentive but the vibe here is discreet and peaceful, with understated rooms that are an ode to the sea, a secluded pool area, and private terraces commanding views of Santorini’s peachy sunsets. The village centre is a five-minute amble away.
On the fringes of Imerovigli, Anastasis might well elicit little gasps of wonder from first-time guests. Besides its infinity pool dropping away to the caldera and the startling blue waters of the Aegean, these cliff-top apartments entice with airy, light-drenched apartments. The Honeymoon Suite cranks up the romance with its canopy bed and private hot tub. Service and facilities are first class, whether you want a sea-view massage or some downtime in the spa, with its hydrotherapy pool and aromatherapy hammam.
Snuggling up to the cliffs in the postcard-pretty village of Oia, with arresting views of Santorini’s caldera, Maregio radiates an energy that is nothing short of uplifting, with dreamy sea views, quite terraces, and chalk-white, modern cave-style suites, funked up with bursts of azure and turquoise, that blend space and simplicity with luxe comforts like private heated plunge pools. Forget elbowing your way to the breakfast buffet – here sumptuous Greek breakfasts are served right to your terrace in the morning. Like it.
Going strong since 1983, this boutique bolthole in Oia has its own brand of boho chic. The Psychas family waved a magic wand on this cluster of 300-year-old yposkafa, the cave dwellings so idiosyncratic of Santorini. The result? Effortless, laidback minimalism in pale cave rooms, with hidden alcoves, pops of pink and lilac, and arched windows framing the brilliant blue sea. The priciest come with their own plunge pool. A spa, infinity pool, gym and highly respected restaurant dishing up clean, bright Mediterranean flavours with panache add to the allure.
Inexpensive digs on Santorini are like gold dust, so thank heavens for this villa gem in Vlychada at the island’s remote and little-explored southern tip. The cluster of low-rise, colourfully painted rooms rim an appealing outdoor pool and look out to the sun-parched mountains beyond. Come for the good-old-fashioned hospitality – courtesy of the lovely Michalis family – the peaceful setting and home-cooked Greek food. Bike hire is available and everything from massage to windsurfing can be arranged – just say the word.
All too often, Santorini’s volcanic interior is overlooked in the mad dash to the coast. But Voreina is reason enough to venture into the prettily whitewashed medieval village of Pyrgos. Rising dramatically above the island, these art-slung suites fuse contemporary luxury – from private swimming pools to Jacuzzis and fireplaces – with Cycladic architectural traditions. Kick back and enjoy the chirrup of cicadas and views of the sparkling Aegean beyond the smooth adobe walls. Home-baked goodies appear at breakfast, which is served on your terrace.
This small, minimalist boutique hotel is a real beauty inside and out, with one of the most impressive pool views on earth – though most of the chalk-white rooms have their own private plunge pools too. Rooms are cool white and blues, enlivened with traditional hand-crafted pieces, and bathrooms add mosaic feature walls. There are daily free pilates and yoga classes and a concept store as well as – bring your glad rags – a rather glamorous scene at night.