Santorini’s multi-coloured cliffs have earned the island a reputation for being the most beautiful in Greece, making your decision about where to stay in Santorini a very important one.
The sunsets blaze across the sky here, the beaches boast beautiful colours, the archaeological sights tell ancient stories, and wind-beaten vineyards produce wines that are world class. There are plenty of things to do and see in Sanotrini, which begs the question: what neighbourhoods should you consider staying in? You could opt for a clifftop area where you can enjoy views over the villages nestled into the sides of the island, you could relax in a quiet inland village or you could head to a series of hamlets positioned near to the volcanic sand beaches on the coast.
Looking for specific hotel recommendations? We've got those as well, of course.
Where to stay in Santorini
The most romantic spot on Santorini is Oia. This village seems to tumble down the side of the northernmost clifftop of the island. The corner has morphed into its own exclusive destination. That’s because it’s the quietest village, catering to the romance of the island, with most honeymooners and couples opting for a stay at the boutique cave hotels designed with modern amenities but resembling the traditional whitewashed dwellings of the island’s past. Think, smooth curved white painted rooms, private plunge pools, sea view hotel pools, cave pools and terraces that frame the heavenly sunsets that Oia is known for.
Oia has its share of romantic restaurants to pair up with its famously romantic hotels. The Red Bicycle, set on the village’s main walkway, serves Greek dishes prepared with locally sourced products. The terrace boasts outstanding views of the cliffs around the edges of the island. End your meal here with a local butter pastry called melitini.
With its unofficial designation of being the romantically quiet and northernmost village of the island, Oia isn’t known for its nightlife. However, there is one bar that keeps a chill vibe, with classic cocktails and a laid-back vibe – Hassapiko.
One of the finest spectacles to experience on Santorini is the sunset. Hundreds of people often gather at the island’s edges in Oia to take in the sun’s fiery descent. Grab a space early because spaces fill up quickly.
The Esperas Hotel’s white, arch-roofed cave houses are built into the side of the island and each one is perfectly cosy, featuring private terraces which are conveniently comfortable and incredibly romantic at sunset hour.
If you do just one thing head down to the lower part of Oia to magical Ammoudi Bay. This tiny fishing village is known for its light turquoise waters that splash onto a charming little dock, which is lined with a handful of traditional Greek seafood tavernas. The best? The traditional Katina’s Taverna, where the tables are set just inches from the sea
South of Oia are three more towns where you’ll find whitewashed boutique hotels and churches, restaurants, nightlife and sights nestled into the sides of the island. The views from each of them are equally stunning. Fira is the island’s busy capital and it sprawls northward into Firostefani which then runs into Imerovigli. A walkable path strings these villages together, it takes 40-minutes and has endless photo opportunities.
Head to Aktaion, a simple tiny taverna in Firostefani’s main square that has been operating for more than a century. Here you’ll find recipes that have been passed down through generations of owners the Roussos family. Try their versions of local plates like white aubergine moussaka, the famous and hearty Greek casserole.
Franco’s terrace opens up to a stunning view of the island’s edges. Head here for champagne cocktails and an array of lounge music. The dance crowds head to Fira where Koo Club is one of the most popular outdoor venues playing pop and dance music with a full list of cocktails and drinks.
The trail that connects Fira, Firostefani and Imerovigli is one of the most beautiful hiking routes in the world. This four-hour hike not only has non-stop breathtaking views but is a chance to see the panorama away from the tourist crowds. Pass whitewashed churches, sun-smoothed cobbled paths and feel as though you are walking through clouds.
Aenaon Villas – found in Imerovigli on one of the island’s highest peaks – were designed with modern touches and traditional Cycladic architecture, all set around an infinity pool that has you feeling like you are sitting on the very edge of the island. The sunset views are spectacular too.
If you do just one thing take a walk to Skaros, a 20-metre-high rock formation in Imerovigli. It sits on a peninsula that juts out of the island and it’s a sight to see. In medieval times, there was a fortress that once stood here to protect the island from invaders.
Megalochori village of Santorini manages to keep up the history of its seventeenth-century roots, pocked with pirate hideaways and historical old mansions built with high walls, beautiful wooden doors and hidden courtyards. Wine-making is engrained in the local culture here and it is where the island’s first modern winemaking facilities sprouted up. The tiny main square is still lively in the evening.
Feggara epitomizes the Megalochori atmosphere. Set in an old mansion with a scenic terrace, this traditional Greek restaurant specializes in local dishes. If you want to learn how to cook them yourself, sign up for a cooking class here.
Boutari Winery was the island's first winery to open its doors to the public. Head here to try Santorini’s best varieties in a scenic tasting room surrounded by vineyards.
Explore Megalochori by following its labyrinth of stone steps and cobbled alleys and observing how locals live. Be sure to stop for a coffee break in the central part of the village which opens up to Megalochori Square where, on any given summer night, elders will be playing cards or backgammon while children play in the foreground.
Vedema is a luxury hotel in the heart of Megalochori. It has transformed a 100-year-old mansion into a stylish retreat reflecting the whitewashed beauty of Cycladic architecture. There’s even a subterranean cave restaurant and a wine cellar.
If you do just one thing go to admire the views from Venetsanos Winery. This four-levelled winery was built mid-century by the local winemaker George Venetsanos and was renovated in 2014 to offer wine tastings. There’s a small museum inside but the best experience you can have here is to head up to the balconies to see the incredible views.
At the centre of this crescent-shaped island, you’ll find the charming village of Pyrgos. The whitewashed traditional village is worth getting lost in at any time, with hidden corners that lead to charming cafés, terraced tavernas, hidden courtyards where local school kids are playing or tiny shop selling handicrafts and local foods. Plus the views from here are spectacular: vineyard-filled valleys stretch out to each coast before the land hits the Aegean Sea.
Selene, one of the top gourmet restaurants in Greece, has made its name dishing up top-notch dishes centred around local ingredients. An outdoor dining balcony opens each summer, providing a breeze and scenic spot to dine. Selene also has a café where you can find lighter plates and a more casual setting.
With its marble-topped traditional Greek tables, this café-bar is a smaller version of the first Franco’s (in Fira). Cocktails and coffee can be enjoyed on a terrace with stunning views. The coffee served here is known as the best on the island and come sunset it is a popular spot to stay put and enjoy the view.
Weave your way through the village itself, which is built around a medieval castle that used to protect the town against pirates. The lanes here are lined with adorable homes and tiny shops. When you finally reach the village’s edges you’re face to face with stunning panoramic views.
The Zannos Melathron hotel is a Cycladic-style manor house that exudes elegance with is antique furniture, vaulted ceilings, cosy suites and flowery balconies with a view. There’s a pool, gardens, wine cellar, restaurant and even a vineyard.
If you do just one thing, make a short trip to the eighteenth-century Profitis Ilias Monastery which has even more views to swoon over. Monks still lead a peaceful life here.
The east coast of the island isn’t as known to visitors as some of the other neighbourhoods on Santorini. But, if you’re after a secluded break, the villages here might provide just the kind of charm you are looking for – especially if you want to be near a beach. Unlike the celebrated, elevated clifftop heights of towns like Oia, these resorts cater to sand and sea lovers – and the sights are unique. Think volcanic sands in hues of deep grey and pitch black (like you’re having a holiday on the moon). Perivolos, in particular, is perfect for an affordable island holiday experience. Here you’ll find water sports and beach clubs, with tavernas lining promenades.
One of Santorini’s historic tomato canneries has taken on a new life in the form of chic restaurant Forty One. Mediterranean dishes served here include salads, pasta and grilled seafood plates – and it all comes with a view of Perivolos beach. Check into the charming private dining room for a romantic night of wine tastings and food pairings.
If you’re looking for ambient lighting, white wooden sun loungers with soft large pillows and a consistently breezy beach vibe turn restaurant Sea Side Lounge by Notos. The beachside joint is peaceful in the day and turns into a top cocktail destination come nightfall. Set on Perivolos beach, the bar offers a bespoke seasonal cocktail list that’s colourful and creative.
There’s a world underneath Santorini that’s just as impressive as the island’s 300-meter high cliffs. Divers set off from Santorini’s beaches to explore caves, reefs, and coastlines that have been shaped by volcanic activity. Legend has it, the ancient city of Atlantis is here just waiting to be found. Sign up for diving excursions at Volcano Dive Centre, Santorini Dive, Mediterranean Dive or Caldera Diving.
Orabel Suites is a couples retreat on a quiet stretch of farmland near Perivolos Beach – and it has real secluded charm. Some of the spacious rooms here have their own private jacuzzis and there is a central sparkling pool.
If you do just one thing head to Kamari where you can explore the ruins of what was a thriving ancient city. The walk up to this ninth-century BC town is an unpaved hour-long walk and can be windy, but it so worth it once you’re there. This settlement of mosaics, a market, theatre and temple will please any history buff.