Where to Stay in Santorini
There are five islands that make up the municipality of Santorini but only one them is inhabited: Thera. At just 73 km2, it is tiny. Small though it may be, visitors to the island have a few options, the most popular being Fira, Imerovigli, Oia and Perissa.
Reading about the island prior to arrival, you’ll find a lot of discussion around Fira as the island’s shopping and dining hub. Oia is identified as the prime sunset viewing spot. Imerovigli is easily considered the choice location for honeymooners seeking out privacy. Perissa presents Santorini’s budget holiday spot.
Upon arrival on the island, it becomes obvious that deciding where to stay in Santorini isn’t really all that important - nothing can prepare you for how small the island actually is. Moreover, every part of the island is exceptionally beautiful.
Important to note is that much of it is easily accessible by foot. Take the coastal area of Firostefani, for example. To arrive in Fira from Firostefani, turn left on the cliffside path. Within 15 minutes, you will have arrived. If you follow that same cliffside path in the other direction, you’ll find yourself in Imerovigli in just 15 minutes. Imerovigli to Fira is a pleasant 30 minute walk along that same footpath.
Is hiking a thing you love? Following the same cliffside path from Fira, you’ll reach a hiking trail branching away from Imerovigli. After a total journey time of two hours (three if you take it slow), you’ll arrive in Oia. Or take the bus for €1.80 from Fira and arrive in Oia in 30 minutes (in a much drier state).
Located on the South East coast of the island is Perissa. While it does not offer holidaymakers a caldera view of the sunset, it’s only a 30 minute bus ride to Fira. Travellers can easily watch the sunset of all sunsets and then head back to their room, away from the chaos of its aftermath.
Where to Stay in Santorini: A Pros and Cons List
A maze of narrow, winding cobbled footpaths make wandering through Fira a singularly unique experience. Cascading restaurants and whitewashed apartments perch along the infamous caldera edge, where beaming travellers watch as the sun descends in all its tangerine glory. Fira is busy and bustling, particularly in the peak of summer. Live music escapes from lively bars in the town where upmarket restaurants and luxury shops are not in short supply. For the traveller who loves to be in amongst it all, Fira is the perfect choice.
Pros: Lively bars, restaurants, stores, sunset views, buses to Perissa and Oia
Cons: It can get pretty busy but that may or may not be an issue for you.
A small town located right between Fira and Imerovigli, Firostefani represents the best of both worlds. It’s just minutes from bustling Fira, but distant enough to provide a true sense of seclusion after the sun has set. As picturesque as its popular neighbours, Firostefani offers an equally exquisite view of the famous Santorini sunset.
Pros: Quiet residential space, it has a few restaurants and fewer tourists milling around. It’s a 15 minute walk to Fira, a 15 minute walk to Imerovigli and offers beautiful sunset views. Buses leave from Firostefani regularly and can take you to Oia in just 30 minutes. Less expensive than apartments in Fira.
Cons: You’ll need to head into Fira or Imerovigli if you’re planning on eating out.
Whitewashed apartments with outdoor jacuzzis look out over the horizon from a cliffedge. This is Imerovigli. Fine dining restaurants and sunset views from private pools are what you can look forward to from a stay here. With fewer travellers wandering the streets, it’s luxury and privacy that Imerovigli offers.
Pros: Quiet and secluded, perfect for a couples getaway, there are some restaurants and it’s less chaotic than Fira. Beautiful sunset views.
Cons: It’s fairly self-contained and isolated, which might make it too easy to miss out on the rest of the island.
Fira and Oia are the biggest, most popular villages on the island. Both exude luxury but they couldn’t feel more different from one another. Where Fira's walkways are cobbled and uneven, Oia's are wide, tiled and polished. Fine dining restaurants and luxury hotels and apartments form much of the landscape in Oia. Perched on the northernmost point of the island, Oia is regarded as the island’s best spot for sunset gazing. If catching sight of those iconic blue domes bathed in orange hues is on your to-do list, then Oia is the spot for you.
Pros: Unrivalled sunset views, luxury shops, fine dining restaurants, wider streets make traffic less congested. Regular buses to Fira take about 30 minutes.
Cons: Expensive (much like Fira) and a little isolated, although there are regular buses. Not as lively as the island’s capital.
The stunning sea-side village of Perissa is located on the southeast side of the island. Far less crowded than bustling Fira, Perissa is a village in Santorini that won’t hurt your wallet. While the villages on the western coastline are known for their private pools and jacuzzis, Perissa is famous for its black sand beach, where travellers can swim in the warm Mediterranean waters. If you’re staying in Perissa, hiking to the summit of Messa Vuna and watching the sunrise over Ancient Thera can easily be added to your itinerary.
Pros: The black sand beach is right at your doorstep. Also very near to Ancient Thera (perfect sunrise viewing spot). Just a 30 minute bus ride to Fira.
Cons: Much cheaper accommodation options. A little isolated from the rest of the island, although there are regular buses connecting to Fira.