International Travel, Places, Travel Planning

From Sightseeing to Solitude: Where to Stay on Santorini

It’s not hard to see why thousands of tourists flock to Santorini each year. This famous Greek island is known for its charming, picturesque towns, breathtaking views, and stunning sunsets.

However, due to the island’s immense popularity, Santorini can become incredibly crowded, particularly in the high season (June – August). This can make booking accommodations difficult – especially if you want to avoid the throngs of tourists.

Fortunately, Santorini offers a variety of distinct villages ranging from highly stimulating to more secluded.

Here is my honest overview of four different Santorini villages, including the pros and cons of each.

Oia

Oia, Santorini
Oia, Santorini

Pros:

  • Stunning views – Located on the northwestern tip of Santorini, Oia is, without debate, stunningly gorgeous. With its picturesque whitewashed houses carved into rugged cliff tops, photogenic Oia is renowned for its maze of shops, restaurants, and unrivaled views of the caldera.
  • Romance – Often referred to as the most romantic village in Santorini, Oia offers a variety of couple-friendly restaurants that set the mood for your romantic occasion.

Cons:

  • Crowds – If you stay in Oia in the high season, you’ll be sharing your “private” hotel balcony with the throngs of tourists that flock here daily. This could be particularly annoying if you’re seeking a romantic getaway. Sunset can be an especially problematic time, considering that everyone (and their mother) runs to Oia to catch the famous sunset.
  • Lackluster nightlife – Despite Oia’s many restaurants and eateries, the nightlife (or lack thereof) in Oia can leave a lot to be desired.

PRO-TIP: Unless you’re hoping to be included in a tourist’s selfie, I would avoid staying directly in Oia and visiting instead.

Fira

Fira, Santorini
Fira, Santorini

Pros:

  • Diverse options – The largest village on the island (and my personal favorite), Fira offers a variety of restaurants, clubs, and fun activities.
  • Nightlife – What Oia lacks in nightlife, Fira makes up for. It is not uncommon to hear live music playing at any given restaurant as you wander along Fira at night.
  • Shopping – Fira is where I found some of the best shopping (and where I decided to pick up my touristy souvenirs). Although probably as popular as Oia, I somehow found the crowds to be much more manageable in Fira.

Cons:

  • Noise – If you’re looking for peace and quiet, you’re not likely to find it here. You’d be much better off staying in Imerovigli, for example, and then hiking into Fira.

Imerovigli

Imerovigli, Santorini
Imerovigli, Santorini

Pros:

  • Seclusion – Situated between bustling Oia and bumpin’ Fira is the seclusion and solitude of Imerovigli. A hotspot for honeymooners (and yes, I speak from experience), Imerovigli offers the unrivaled beauty of Santorini with privacy and exclusivity.
  • Best sunset views – After being pummeled by sunset crowds in Oia, I soon discovered that the best sunset was right where I left it – at my beautiful hotel in Imerovigli.  
Catching the sunset at Absolute Bliss Hotel in Santorini
Catching the sunset at Absolute Bliss Hotel in Santorini

Cons:

  • Limited restaurants – Since Imerovigli is removed from the more touristy towns of Santorini, there are a limited number of restaurants in the immediate area. That being said, this is certainly a case of quality over quantity.

PRO-TIP: If you’re staying in Imerovigli, I highly recommend checking out Avocado Restaurant. If you do, you must try the fava bean paste! Another favorite is Anogi Restaurant.  

Kamari Beach

Kamari Beach, Santorini
Kamari Beach, Santorini

Pros:

  • Better value – Beach towns like Kamari offer more bang for your buck than the more popular cliff side towns.
  • Beautiful beach access – If you’re looking for a fun beach town, Kamari Beach is your Santorini spirit animal. Many of the hotels along Kamari Beach offer free umbrellas and lounge chairs with your stay.
  • Many restaurant options – Running alongside the beach is a long boardwalk filled with a bevy of delicious restaurant options.

Cons:

  • Limited views – If you’re coming to Santorini to bask in the views of the caldera, Kamari won’t suffice. You’d be better off staying in one of the caldera towns and taking a day trip into Kamari.
  • Removed from the main action – You can’t deny that staying on Kamari Beach will put you further away from the action on the island. That means you’ll spend a longer time traveling by bus to most anywhere else you want to go.

If you’re having trouble figuring out where to stay on Santorini, realize that this is a good problem to have. Even if you aren’t ultimately thrilled with your choice, public transportation can take you anywhere else you’d like to go on the island.

Most importantly, no matter where you stay, you’ll have the incredible fortune of experiencing one of the world’s most beautiful islands. Trust me when I say, no view is a bad one!

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