Choosing where to stay in Santorini — Oia or Imerovigli — is a tough choice for many travelers. We cover the pros and cons of each as well as the best places to stay in Santorini!
The Greek island of Santorini is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, and also one of the most popular. One of the Cyclades Islands set in the Aegean Sea, Santorini is about 28 square miles in size and has a local population of roughly 15,000 spread out over multiple towns and villages — most notably Fira, Imerovigli, Oia, Emporia, Pyrgos, and Perissa.
During my time on Santorini, I had the opportunity to stay in both Imerovigli and Oia, two of the most iconic and picturesque towns on the island. Oia, located at the northwestern tip of the island, and Imerovigli, just south of Oia across a small bay, are similar in that they’re historic and set along the rim of the crater (the caldera), yet they have very distinct personalities.
After spending time in both towns, I learned the pros and cons of staying in both Oia and Imerovigli. My personal favorite of the two towns is Imerovigli, but I’ll let you decide based on the pros and cons of each.
Where to Stay in Santorini: Oia or Imerovigli?
Located only two kilometers away from the capital of Fira, Imerovigli is the perfect oasis if you want a peaceful and relaxing vacation spot. The town is home to just 500 locals and is at the highest and most central part of the caldera, offering unreal views of the Aegean Sea below.
During my time in Imerovigli, I stayed at Iconic Santorini – a stunning boutique cave hotel that is perfect for a romantic getaway. The luxury hotel, like so many buildings in the area, is carved directly into the hillside and provides a serene, welcoming setting.
Pros of Staying in Imerovigli
Easy Access to Both Sides of the Island
Due to its relatively central location, if you’re looking for a great spot from which to check out both sides of the island, Imerovigli is the place to be. Getting from the west to the east side of the island makes for a great day hike or, if you want to explore a little further than that, ATV’s and scooters are easily rentable.
Without a doubt, Imerovigli is home to the most unreal views of the caldera and some of the best photography spots on the island. Not to mention, its high elevation and west-facing facade mean it’s one of the best locations on the island from which to watch the sunset (it’s my personal favorite).
Note: For another one of my favorite sunset experiences in Santorini, I recommend this romantic sunset catamaran caldera cruise (includes meal and drinks).
Compared to the bustling nature of Oia, Imerovigli is a quiet, peaceful getaway. I found it to be a great place to relax and recharge my batteries while still having tons of sites to see and things to do.
Staying at Iconic Santorini is right on the cliff so it feels remote, even with the other cliffside hotels nearby. Each room at Iconic Santorini has its own private outdoor area where they serve a gorgeous breakfast every morning and where I spent the bulk of my time. Most rooms have their own private outdoor plunge pool. My room had its own cave pool INSIDE my room, which felt like the ultimate luxury.
The best part about Iconic is that they rarely, if ever, allow the hotel to book at full capacity because they really want people to feel like they have the place to themselves — which I often did.
Perfect For a Couples Getaway
Due to its chill atmosphere, Imerovigli is well-known as being the perfect place for a romantic getaway on Santorini. Think long strolls through town, peaceful hikes, sipping on wine, and luxurious spa treatments.
I found the Greek Hospitality to be much more pronounced in Imerovigli than in Oia, perhaps somewhat due to the much lower number of tourists found there. The meals at Iconic Santorini felt like I was welcomed into someone’s home, rather than a hotel restaurant. They literally cater to your every need.
Cons of Staying in Imerovigli
Less Entertainment Options
Due to Imerovigli being the quieter location of the two, there is less of a selection of local performances and nightlife spots. That said, Imerovigli is super close to Fira, which has a ton of entertainment options from which to choose.
Not As Social
In line with the lack of entertainment options, if you’re looking to meet other travelers and have a social experience, you might have more difficulty in Imerovigli than in Oia. That’s not to say you won’t have genuine experiences with locals and see other travelers in Imerovigli, it’s just that Oia attracts more people and has a more outgoing environment.
Located on the northwestern edge of Santorini, Oia extends along the edge of the caldera and is famed for its blue and white houses. The homes and businesses in the town are built into the steep slope of the hill, and narrow passages guide the way throughout.
Oia is also one of Santorini’s biggest tourist hotspots, and the paths of the town tend to get very busy during the main and shoulder tourism seasons. I have to say, despite thinking Oia would be my favorite spot on the Island, I found the crowds to be a bit much at times – so definitely take this into consideration if you travel there during tourism high times.
Pros of Staying in Oia
More Shops and Restaurants
Oia is home to a ton of shops and restaurants from which to choose, so if you want to try out different styles of cuisine and do some shopping, Oia is your best bet.
More Hotel Options
Whether you’re looking for a boutique hotel or a cute bed and breakfast, you’ll have tons of options to choose from in Oia. That said, Oia does tend to be more expensive than elsewhere on Santorini, so if you want to stay in Oia on a budget, I recommend looking at hotels just a little outside the main town.
Iconic Photo Spots
When people think of Santorini, they’re probably conjuring up an image of Oia in their minds due to the iconic photography locations there. For some great shots, head to Oia Castle at sunset, head to the three blue domes, and spend some time wandering around.
If you’re looking to take in some performances or experience the local nightlife, then Oia is the place to be (next to Fira, that is). Whether you’re into romantic bars or beach hangouts, there’s a nightlife spot for you.
Cons of Staying in Oia
As mentioned above, before I went to Santorini I thought Oia was going to be my favorite village on the island. Don’t get me wrong, Oia is indeed an incredibly beautiful place, but I found the crowds of tourists to be overwhelming and it took away from my overall experience.
If you plan on staying in Oia, I recommend going during the off-season or simply brace yourself for the mayhem.
Read more: 10 Of The Most Spiritual Places On Earth
Due to the tourist rush that Oia often experiences the prices are generally higher than those in Imerovigli. While there are ways to stretch your budget in Oia, know that you’ll have to shell out a bit more than if you stayed elsewhere.
The Best Places to Stay in Santorini, Greece
Now that you have figured out the best area to stay in Santorini based on the type of experience you are looking for while on the island, I’ve included a list of the top hotels in Santorini — all with amazing reviews!
Best Places to Stay in Imerovigli
Iconic Santorini: As mentioned above, I stayed at Iconic Santorini in Imerovigli and absolutely loved it here. This spot is for the travelers looking for a luxurious, quiet hotel with plenty of space away from other guests, private pools (outdoor and indoor cave pools are available) and a view to die for.
San Antonio: With an infinity pool on the cliff and incredible views, San Antonio looks like something out of a fairytale. Located in the outskirts of Imerovigli, in a secluded location, privacy is number one at this hotel.
Santorini Princess Spa Hotel: Private balconies along the cliff with views of the sea with stunning grounds and pool area, Santorini Princess Spa Hotel is highly rated by all of their guests.
Best Places to Stay in Oia
Armenaki: Armenaki is located in Oia and all rooms come with a balcony with a stunning view of the Aegean Sea. They have several types of rooms — you can choose between a private plunge pool, hammam, and more!
La Perla Villas and Suites: This adults-only hotel is located in the best-rated area of Oia and it features panoramic views of the sea. The rooms at La Perla Villas and Suites are decorated in the gorgeous, traditional style of the island and they offer rooms with private plunge pools with a view.
The Museum Project Oia: For more of a budget option in a gorgeous property in Oia, The Museum Project offers an outdoor swimming pool, bar, garden and free WiFi. Some of their rooms offer a private balcony with a garden view.
Volcanic Arc Suites: Another budget option (compared to other properties in Oia) Volcanic Arc Suites offers a stunning pool with views of the sea and several different suite options.