Which is the best area to stay in Santorini?

Greece may not be the most expensive country in Europe, but it can break your fortune when you book rooms in the tourist hotspots like Santorini. A room with a view of the city centre costs you a bomb. This 75sqkm big island has eight towns with many cliffside villages and few beachside towns. The stranger thing is we both could not understand how the villages are divided geographically. When we walked from Imerovigli to Firostefani, we didn’t realise when we entered Firostefani. The towns and villages merge spatially but vary with their vibe – Hustle to hush.

So choosing the perfect area to stay in Santorini can be tricky.

The story behind the birth of this post

After travelling in Santorini for a week, I proudly suggested Perissa to my sister for her three-day trip as per my relaxed travelling experience in the town. After returning, she said they got bored with Perissa and feels Fira could have been better than Perissa.

Surprised us, rethought the towns in Santorini and analysed who may like to stay in which neighbourhood of Santorini.

There is no verdict here, but we give you a checklist to cross-check so that you choose the best area to stay in Santorini as per tour thoughts and wishes.

Few things to consider before choosing the area in Santorini to stay in.

Budget for your Santorini Trip

Few of the world’s best luxury resorts are located on this Cycladic island. The cost of living for tourists is slightly higher when you compare it to Thailand or India. A mid-range hotel in Bangkok costs 1800 INR (22 EURO), and a similar room in Santorini will cost you 3500INR! 

Your group 

Are you going with your kids and other family members who are older? You must check if the hotel is by the road or if you have to climb down. Walking in Santorini requires a lot of climbing up and down. The rooms with views demand uphill and downhill walks.

Brown volcanic soil mountains by the dar blue seaside with thousands of white cube houses on hilltop at Oia

Santorini receives almost 2millions of tourists annually – The cruise ships carry most of them to Oia and Fira.

How do you enjoy Santorini?

 Are you a night owl partying. Is lazing on the sunbed by the sea your idea of a vacation? Do you want to stay at a place filled with cafes and restaurants so that you can try out as much as authentic food possible? Are you thinking of spending a week-long vacation with a book in a quieter place that got a serene landscape around? Are you planning to isolate yourself from the world but meet people over lunch and dinner? Do you mind staying in real Cycladic villages which provide you with necessities and aren’t degraded by mass tourism? Do you prefer to stay in touristy places so that every amenity is easily accessible? These things matter when you have to decide where you want to stay in Santorini because the vibe of each town is unique from the other.

Your preference for accommodation

Starting from luxury hotels to Couchsurfing, everything is possible in Santorini. But each neighbourhood has its own identity regarding the type of accommodation. Hostels and budget BnBs are more common in Perissa, while Firostefani and Imerovigli are filled with luxury resorts. The couch surfers may have to go further, far from Perissa.

List of Towns in Santorini – which town suites whom?

The busiest area in Santorini is OIa

The Busiest and expensive area to stay in Santorini is Oia

Whatever your neighbourhood preference, don’t think of commuting as a problem – Public buses are cheaper, faster, and more efficient. The buses may get crowded during sunset, but they are still worth every paisa you pay. Use Hostelworld for budget rooms /  booking.com and Air BnB for midrange accommodation/ hotels.com for luxury hotel booking.

Heads up:  While booking the rooms, check if the hotels are wheelchair friendly, there may be many uphill downhill walks. Few resorts may even restrict the rooms to Adults only. Remember that Greece imposes 5 Euro/ room, not per person/ stayover tax for tourists. It will not be part of your online payment; it is collected during check-out.

The “Prawn-ish” Santorini

Santorini town map showing most imprtant towns

The shape of Santorini is like a shrimp or the letter “C” mirrored. The western part of the island is a cliff; the eastern side is the flat land. The west side is excellent for views, sunsets, and vineyards, while the east is about sunbeds, sunshine, and beach bars. The major eight towns you must consider for accommodation are

  1. Oia
  2. Imerovigli
  3. Firostefani
  4. Fira
  5. Pyrgos
  6. Perissa
  7. Akrotiri & Kamari

Oia- everyone’s favourite

View of sea through vaulted church roof beside the terraced town of Oia full of white cube houses and blue dome

The most picturesque, hence most touristy of all the towns! Most Package tours offer accommodation either in Oia or Fira for multiple reasons. First, it is the northernmost town on C shaped island. So the views of winding cliffside villages by the sea are fantastic. Second, it is the hub of mass tourism – the neighbourhood has all hopping stalls, photo booths, dress rental shops for photoshoots and over-priced cafes.

  • Perfect for: Those who are in Santorini for a day or two and looking for the most amazing view of domes and windmills by the sea and those who don’t mind crowding all the time.
  • Terrible for those in Santorini for Sea swimming, Those exploring the island at a slower pace for a longer time, for those who can’t stand mass tourism and are on a budget trip.

Imervogli – Town of Bougenville and churches.

A quiet, calm and peaceful town. The cliffside village view is fantastic but without windmills. The walk on the grey lime plastered footpath amid pink Bougainville is the best part of Imerovigli. The place is so quiet that you may feel the locals have vacated the home. Most restaurants are expensive here, and you need to book the tables beforehand. 

  • Perfect for –Those who prefer luxury resorts, models and couples wanting a photoshoot, silence seekers who are ready to pay more for solitude.
  • Terrible for – For those in Santorini for Sea swimming, Party lovers, Night owlsBudget travellers and those who prefer hustle over hush.

Firostefani – the cliffside beauty.

Grey steps with white mansions on one side and aegan sea on the other side leading to Firostefani

The town is a combination of luxury and mid-range hotels. It is cheaper than and as quiet as Imerovigli. The options for restaurants may be limited, but they are great. Because of its proximity and affordability, many locals come here to spend the evening time. I felt Imervogili was like a ghost town without people, but Firostefani received the right size of the crowd. The views here are different as most houses/hotels are flat-roofed.

  • Perfect for – Midrange budget ambiverts like us, adding a pinch of luxury sometimes. Good for families. For those seeking a laid back vacation and who like to go for long walks.
  • Terrible for those in Santorini for Sea swimming, Night party owls, shopaholics, and foodies. 

This is where we stayed for a night in the Luxury hotel Dana Villas. This hotel remains the best hotel we have ever stayed in our life.

Fira – the capital of Santorini.

Corbelled streets of Oia filled wth tourists and shops in Fira

The busiest area in Santorini is Fira

The bustling capital town is most famous for its nightlife. It is a typical capital town with a zillion eateries, many shops, and thousands of hotels and lodges. This place is a hotspot for tourists on package trips with lots of shopping arcades. The Fira port is where Cruise ships halt. A significant chunk of hotels here is mid-range. This town is the focal point when it comes to public transport. Bus routes to all the other towns and villages start from here. 

  • Perfect for –Mid-range budget travellers who prefer commercial places, shopaholics, Nightlife seekers, party people, foodies, city lovers, and convenience seekers.
  • Terrible for -Budget travellers, Sea swimmers, solitude seekers, Introverts and Ambiverts! Personally, Fira was just a transport transit point and a Yoghurt eating place for us. We prefer small towns over bustling cities.

Pyrgos

Real cycladic village of Pyrgos full of lime plastered walls on white cube houses

The most beautiful village and area to stay in Santorini is Pyrgos

Unpolished Cycladic Hilltop town- unadulterated by tourism. This place gives you the real essence of the Cycladic Islands. At a distance, you see a terrace tomato farm on a cut hill. Behind that lies the blue Aegean sea glittering in silver during afternoons. The narrow shaded alleys open up to the endless mountains and sea at corners. From behind, you hear “clip-clop. That is a villager taking down the dried tomatoes downhill on his mule! When you wonder if you have gone back thousands of years, you see the asphalt road at the end of the village.

The place was so quiet that we were whispering to each other than talking while we strolled. Most of the house doors were shut- it looked as if nobody was inside. That is because most residents work either in Fira, Oia or the vineyards. An older man welcomes you to their community church smilingly. When we felt we were in an abundant village, we would bump into an artist doing paintings on the canvas. 

Pyrgos would have been our place for a five-night stay in Santorini if we didn’t want to stay near the beach.

BnB house in Pyrgos painted with peach and arched entrance

The quietest and most beautiful neighbourhood of Santorini is Pyrgos

The most beautiful and well-maintained house in Pyrgos we saw was Donna’s house. ( not so pocket friendly, but it may be worth it)

  • Perfect for – budget and mid-range budget travellers, Introverts, ambiverts & authenticity seekers.
  • Terrible for – Sea swimmers, Luxury travellers, convenience seekers, party people and those who are not ready to change two buses to get to Fira or Oia.

Perissa – Beach and locals.

Tourists chilling under the thatched umbrella on a sea bed on the black sand by the seaside in Perissa

A village with more locals and fewer tourists is Perissa. The main road is lined with Bougainville plants and a flat roof white painted house with a blue door. Smaller+tastier+affordable coffee shops, bars, bakers and two or three supermarkets make it a heaven for backpackers & flashpackers. This is the town where you have plenty of options for BnBs and hostels. There are hardly any expensive restaurants here, even if you want to shell out your money. It gives you more of a community feeling than the town. Most local bars and bakers knew the other villager who came to pick the usuals. The cafe may have a name, but locals call it by the owner’s name. After staying here for two nights, a local “Boulangerie” baker began to recognise us every time we went to grab some pies.

Where did we stay – Traditional Studio with a private balcony hosted by Sami. The host was friendly; the neighbours were kind. Room facilities were worth every rupee we paid with the backside terrace with ropes for drying clothes, a semi-furnished kitchen, and clean toilets. The front corridor extended at each studio’s door, creating a semi-private balcony space overlooking the street.

The small town Perissa and its perks –

One perpendicular road to Perissa’s main road takes you to the black sand beach. Again, this road is full of BnBs and hostels. One word for Perissa after staying there for five nights is – “Homely.” There is no cliffside village with blue domes here. Most houses are flat-roofed and come with a balcony. The village suffices all your touristy needs – vehicle rentals, direct bus from Fira, Supermarkets, ATMs, cheap cafes and local bakers.

  • Perfect for: Sea swimmers, beach vacationers, cyclers, backpackers, flashpackers like us, ambiverts, and people with walking disabilities as the village is not on the cliff but at the mountain’s base. 
  • Terrible for – party people, nightlife seekers, city lovers, convenience seekers, shopaholics and those who want their country cuisine and not local food.
White house with arched porch and terrace in Perissa
  • Perfect for: Sea swimmers, beach vacationers, cyclers, backpackers, flashpackers like us, ambiverts, and people with walking disabilities as the village is not on the cliff but at the mountain’s base. 
  • Terrible for – party people, nightlife seekers, village haters, convenience seekers, shopaholics and those who demand their nation food over authentic Greek food.

Akrotiri & Kamari

Akrotiri is a prehistoric village ruin protected under a modern roof to preserve the mudbrick buildings. If you are an archaeology enthusiast, you may like to stay near this place. Plus, the red sand beach is closer to Akrotiri. However, not every tourist who comes to Santorini would visit Akrotiri or red sand beaches. So staying in one of the few hotels may be useful if you stay away from the crowd and closer to the red beach. From Fira, buses run to Akrotit regularly.
Kamari Beach – One more black sand beach town. I have heard from the locals at Perissa that Kamari is a combination of Perissa and Fira. You got beaches and party places with lots of cafes and bars. If you love to party on the beach but not in the city, Kamari may be a good option for you.

Some FAQs

Is it better to stay in Fira or Oia in Santorini?

Neither! According to us, Oia needs a break from tourists. You have the best views of blue domes and windmills in Oia, but the “Over crowd” overwhelmed us.

What is the best area in Santorini to stay in?

According to us, it is Perissa.

Where should I stay in Santorini for the first time?

We stayed in Firostefani and Perissa as a first-timer. Everything is organised and easy to go around. You need to stick to Fira, just because you are a first-timer in Santorini. Choose Fira if only you are a party animal and convenience seeker.

Which is the quietest area in Santorini?

Pyrgos! The charm and warmth make it the quietest area in Santorini.

Which town of Santorini do you prefer to stay in after reading our post? Let us know in the comments below.

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