Perhaps the most enduring and magical image of the Greek islands is the iconic view of blue-domed churches overlooking a cobalt sea. This postcard-perfect scene is the signature shot of Santorini and has made the Cycladic isle a staple on many a bucket list.
Though its picture-perfect vineyards and whitewashed villages are beguiling, Santorini’s geography tells of a much more violent past: those cliff-top churches gaze out on a sea-filled volcanic crater.
Some of the island’s best hotels are located along its rim, but there are hideaways worth checking out inland and on the beach too.
The best hotels in Santorini are:
That famous view of the church domes is found in the village of Oia (pronounced ee-ya), way up on the island’s northwest tip. Avoid the crowds that descend at sunset by staying a five-minute walk away at the adults-only, all-suite Santo Maris. Each suite is a romantic retreat with its own plunge pool and Jacuzzi, plus the westerly aspect makes this an unbeatable spot for soaking up sunsets in privacy.
Price: Suites from €447 (£385)
More centrally located to Oia’s action is Andronis Luxury Suites. Perched on the caldera’s edge, its jumble of spacious guest rooms tumble down towards the sea and offer a peaceful sanctuary from the hubbub above. When not being mesmerised by the astonishing views from each suite, the cliff-edge infinity pool and the spa (housed in a cave) are noteworthy distractions, as is the open-air fine dining at Lycabettus Restaurant, the hotel’s trump card.
Price: Suites from €500 (£431)
For sunset views without Oia’s crowds, try the sleepier village of Imerovigli. A 15-minute walk from its bars and tavernas is Andronis Concept, a spa retreat with a tailor-made programme of therapies, nutrition and yoga. Many of the ingredients used in the restaurant come from the hotel’s garden, and the treatments at the onsite spa are exceptional. For a sense of adventure, follow the clifftop footpath that skirts the caldera all the way to Oia.
Price: Suites from €500 (£431)
Fira, the island capital, is as lively as it is beautiful. Spread along the caldera’s rim, this whitewashed town is packed full of bars, clubs and restaurants, many of which can be enjoyed alfresco. Stay in the thick of things at the newly renovated Kalisti, which has the largest pool in town and rooms with typically Cycladic interiors: a mix of minimalism and natural materials. Recover from nights out with poolside mocktails or a massage at the in-house spa.
Price: Doubles from €327 (£282)
Set inland on the outskirts of the lovely village of Pyrgos, Carpe Diem is the perfect hideaway for two. The ultra-private complex has just 10 lavish suites complete with butler service, chic design and individual plunge pools. The swish, onsite spa offers couples’ massages and a Turkish bath, plus there’s an excellent restaurant that celebrates Greek cuisine. One of Santorini’s best wineries is a short walk away, or guests can take a cab to Fira’s bars and restaurants.
Price: Doubles from €942 (£813) per night
Caldera views are costly, so save money by staying away from the rim. Located well below the buzz of the town centre’s bars and restaurants, Gianna Suites is a handy base for discovering Fira. This comfortable and characterful hotel embodies traditional Cycladic style but at a fraction of the price of properties further uphill. A courtyard and pool deck provides space for daytime relaxing, while the Lignos Folklore Museum around the corner offers a cultural fix.
Price: Doubles from €97 (£84)
Renowned as the boutique hotel that put Oia on the map, Perivolas is an island legend. Carved into a series of centuries-old caves that were formerly stables and wine cellars, the 17 private houses overlook the Aegean and are decorated in a striking “Cycladic Zen” style. Inside, it’s all organic curves, whitewashed walls and splashes of bold, bright colour, while outside there’s an Instagram-friendly showstopper of an infinity pool and a welcoming, pervading sense of calm.
Price: Studios from €516 (£438)
On the far side of the island from the sheer caldera cliffs, Santorini slides gently into the midnight-blue Aegean. Here you’ll find beaches of sea-worn pebbles or dark volcanic sand, among which the jet-black stretch at Perivolos is a favourite. Perched right above it is Istoria Hotel, a former stable block transformed into 12 very lovely beachfront suites. This is, without doubt, one of the very best hotels on this side of the island.
Price: Suites from €390 (£359) per night
Not everybody comes to Santorini for sunsets and style. The black sand beaches on the island’s south easterly edge also appeal for laidback family holidays. Aqua Blue Hotel is a brilliant bet due to its three outdoor pools (including a kids’ pool) and buffet-style dining that pleases every palate. There are more pools (plus water slides) at the nearby Santorini Water Park, or stay local on a lounger at the hotel’s stretch of private beach.
Price: Doubles from €168 (£142)