When it comes to deciding where to stay in Santorini, the tiny island offers quite a lot of variety. Big names like Oia and Fira certainly leap to the mind, but their popularity can mean that you'll struggle to find a room at a good price, if at all.

    In terms of variety, you can find Santorini towns and resorts that are great for families, romantic couples, hikers, historians, photographers, beach bums and wine lovers. It's a bit of a cliché to say that there's something for everyone, but it's very nearly true, as you'll see below.



    For the sunsets

    Oia is pretty much everything you picture when you think of Santorini – this town has beautiful windmills, a ruined castle, whitewashed walls, vividly blue domes and, of course, stunning sunsets.

    Being one of the most popular destinations on the island (and definitely the most romantic), there's naturally a good selection of hotels, bars and restaurants. Amoudi Bay, down the cliff from Oia, adds a pleasant diversion and be sure to check out St Nicholas Chapel, which is on a tiny island just 30 meters off the shore.



    For the nightlife

    • Nightlife
    • History
    • Photo

    Fira is the capital and largest town on Santorini. It's sometimes also known as Thira, which is the ancient name of the island. As with most capitals around the world, Fira has the best collection of services, including a great choice of hotels, nightlife spots and shops.

    While there are no nearby beaches, you can head down the hill on either the cable car or down the shallow-stepped staircase and enjoy a cup of coffee one of the seaside cafés by the Old Port. Up in the town, there's a good selection of museums to check out, as well as the famous Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, home to the much-photographed 3 Bells of Fira. Go on – do it for the 'gram!



    For the beach

    • Nightlife
    • Budget
    • Families

    Perissa is the destination of choice for those visiting Santorini on a tight budget. It has a laidback, backpacker vibe, particularly along the seafront. There, you'll find a huge choice of beach bars and clubs, with plenty of low-cost hotels and villas behind them.

    The beach itself is the star attraction here. If you include Perivolos and St George beaches (easy to do, as there's no geographical separation between the 3), it extends for about 3.25 km, every centimeter of which has the iconic black sand Santorini is famous for. Along its length, you find plenty of umbrellas, sun loungers and parties.



    For the family

    Kamari is the closest beach town to Santorini Airport and is the best place to stay if you're traveling with a family. It's the list of attractions that makes the town great for little ones, with a mini-golf course, escape room games, a playground and both indoor and open-air movie theaters to choose from. And a beach, of course.

    The hotels in Kamari tend to be a bit bigger than they are in other parts of Santorini, and most of them have a good-sized swimming pool. Parents will also appreciate the large supermarkets and choice of international restaurants. There are even a few bars for a nightcap or 2.



    For the views

    Imerovigli is just north of Fira and is arguably just a suburb of the larger town. Even so, it has a distinctly different atmosphere, being comparatively sleepy and peaceful. Many of the restaurants and hotels along the clifftop enjoy the same great views you get further south, but nightlife is virtually non-existent.

    When it comes to looking for things to do during the day, the Anastasi Orthodox Church is as charming as any other on Santorini and the famous 3 Bells of Fira are only a short walk south. Walking west will get you to Skaros Rock, which is a superb viewpoint with a fascinating past. It may not look it, but it was once the site of a formidable fortress.



    For the history

    The town of Akrotiri itself is pretty small and, in all honesty, unremarkable. There's a ruined Venetian castle on a hilltop in the center, a blue-domed church or 2 and a good selection of hotels, but little else. But if you include the countryside around the town, it's one of the most beautiful parts of Santorini.

    If you head east of Akrotiri Town, you'll find the lighthouse – the oldest in Greece and a great place to watch the sunset. To the north are great views of the Santorini Caldera. Going south, you'll first come across the well-preserved remains of the prehistoric Akrotiri village, followed by a colorful coastline with black, red and white beaches.



    For the local color

    • Food
    • History
    • Photo
    • Unusual

    Pyrgos Kallistis is a small, quiet village about 7 km south of Fira. It’s one of few spots on Santorini which remains virtually untouched by tourism, partially thanks to its protected status. It’s a lovely place to explore, with the island’s traditional architecture on full display and narrow alleys winding between shops, churches, galleries, museums and restaurants.

    Most eateries sell the delightful tomatokeftedes, a Santorini specialty made from crushed or pureed tomatoes deep-fried in oil. Look out for rooftop bars and restaurants around the ruins of Pyrgos Castle for amazing views that stretch all the way to Oia, which are especially good at sunset.



    For the wine

    Megalochori is a tiny village with at least 5 wineries in or around it. The hills to the east are almost entirely devoted to the unique approach to viniculture that Santorini has been using since ancient times – supposedly longer than any other winemaking region in the world. Take a look around and you'll find vines trained low to the ground in a basket-like shape to protect the grapes from the wind and sun.

    Megalochori is not without its attractions, too. Couples should certainly check out the Heart of Santorini, as well as various viewpoints, thermal spas, cliffside chapels and luxurious villas and hotels that dot the village.



    For the peace and quiet

    Vlichada is a tiny village, numbering barely a couple of dozen buildings in total. However, it should not be overlooked when it comes to choosing where to stay in Santorini. Despite having only a few villas to choose from, its local atmosphere and excellent beach make it a great escape for couples. In a place as popular as Santorini, a peaceful escape can be hard to find!

    Sometimes spelt as Vlychada, the town is built around a fancy marina built primarily for luxury yachts. You can rental boats from here for fishing trips and sunset cruises. If you'd rather keep your feet on land, head northwest along the coast to Eros Beach, appropriately named for the Greek god of love.



    For the hiking

    Manolas is on Santorini's neighboring island of Therasia, which is the only other populated island in the archipelago. Manolas may be the island's largest village, but it's still tiny, containing just a handful of guesthouses and tavernas. Even so, the views back across the caldera towards Fira and Imerovigli and the rest of Santorini Island are exceptional.

    You don't really stay in Manolas for the village itself, but for what's around it. The rugged, untamed landscape of Therasia is fantastic for hiking, with plenty of tiny local hamlets and hilltop churches to discover. Further west, the land flattens and is more cultivated, but also offers uninterrupted views of the sun setting into the Aegean Sea.



    For the convenience

    • History
    • Photo

    Mesaria (or Messaria) was once the main industrial hub of Santorini and, now that the island's main industry is tourism, it kind of still is. While it lacks the great views and attractions of the coastal towns, its central location makes it a very good place to stay if you plan to get out and about most days. The airport is 3 km to the east while Fira is 3 km to the northwest. Santorini's main harbor is 3 km southwest of Mesaria.

    The town itself has plenty of hotels and a modest selection of attractions, including some signs of its prosperous past. There are several great manor houses, remarkable churches and a winemaking museum to explore in Messaria.

    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveler

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