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Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
Epic things to do in Greece abound, from Athens and the Acropolis, steeped in mythology and history, to ancient Delphi, home to the mystical oracles. Meteora’s gravity-defying monastery will blow your mind, and passage over the spectacular Corinth Canal leads to the Peloponnese and more wonders. There’s the acoustically marvelous Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus and the smalltown charms of flower-shrouded Nafplio. Priceless archaeological sites in Corinth, Mycenae, and Olympia invite you to embrace your inner Indiana Jones.
But what if you’re longing for some leisure time in the Greek Islands? We’ve got excellent news for you. Some of the best vacation spots on the planet can be found there. That said, Greece boasts a total of 6,000 islands and islets with only 227 inhabited. So, a clear travel plan is in order. Keep reading for our breakdown of the six best Greek Islands to visit with kids.
The heading above might look like a trick question. After all, who doesn’t want to spend time in a real-world paradise surrounded by turquoise seas and sandy beaches? But for families on the go, this is always an important question. Some locations prove more family-friendly than others, whether you’re worried about finding great food for picky eaters, staying in a safe and clean area, or finding unique activities to ward off tween and teen ennui. Greece checks all these criteria and then some.
So, what makes the Greek Islands among the best family vacation spots on the planet? Besides stunning natural beauty, they offer the perfect combination of peacefulness and paradise. And despite the fact these locations are veritable slices of heaven, many remain surprisingly authentic and unchanged. Think pristine coastline, homey tavernas with mouthwatering cuisine, ancient temples and settlements, and tranquil harbor towns.
If you’ve seen 2008’s Mamma Mia!, then you’re already familiar with this stunning location in the Sporades. Fortunately, the hype over the film (and its sequel) have died down, making Skopelos relatively crowd-free. Explore paradisiacal coves, quiet beaches, and time-tested, churches. And savor the island’s picturesque beaches. (Our personal favorite is Kastani, a sand and small pebble beach sheltered by emerald-hued pines.)
You’ll also never run out of fun things to do, with options for water sports, boat trips, sandcastle building, and more. Kayaking along the coast reveals rugged limestone outcroppings receding into verdant pine forests and the blue waters beneath you stretch into eternity. Island hopping takes your family to incredible neighboring locations like Alonnisos and Skiathos.
Kids will love an excursion to the island’s Mediterranean monk seal haven. Just be sure to dress in layers and bring extra towels, sunscreen, hats, and beach towels. Take advantage of the island’s incredible marine-scapes on a scuba diving adventure where you’ll explore underwater caves and shipwrecks. Or embark on an accessible hike, exploring the island’s flora, including Aleppo pine trees and olive groves.
In western Greece’s Ionian Islands, you’ll find Kefalonia (a.k.a. Cephallenia), a world unto itself. More mountainous and wilder than many of the other Greek Islands, it invites visitors to explore its unique terrain by car, bicycle, or on foot. Yet, you won’t lack for gorgeous beaches. (All told, the island boasts 39!) Our personal fave is the beach at Myrtos with its gorgeous white sands.
Highlights of a family trip to Kefalonia include a visit to Fiscardo’s picturesque harbor, characterized by Venetian-style houses in splashy pastel colors. An easy road trip brings you to the Venetian fortress ruins at idyllic Assos. Or, take the ferry to Lixouri, the second largest village on Kefalonia, where you’ll savor impressive views from the ruins of St. George’s castle. The harbor at Argostoli draws wild Loggerhead turtles, definitely worth scoping out. And if you head to the shore, you’ll find spots to feed the fish.
What’s another family-friendly activity your family will never forget? A boat tour of the Caves of Melissani. They contain a sapphire-hued subterranean lake and an ancient grotto where offerings and statues of the gods were once dedicated. A small portion of one of the cave’s roofs collapsed centuries ago, permitting a single sliver of stunning sunlight to penetrate to the turquoise waters below.
Crete is Greece’s largest island and a destination that should rank at the top of your family travel bucket list. The island’s history spans millennia and has the incredible archaeological sites to prove it. Where should you family start exploring the island’s storied past?
Just three miles from Heraklion, you’ll find the Neolithic ruins of Knossos, the greatest city known to the Minoan Civilization. Home to mythic King Minos, the location inspired legends like those of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur, and Icarus. Other destinations you’ll want to check out include Phaistos, Malia, and the Byzantine wall of Chania.
Besides ancient sites, thousands of miles of coastline await discovery, boasting incredible beaches like the Elafonisi’s powdery pink sands. There’s also the palm-forested Vai Beach on the eastern side of the island and breathtaking Matala Beach with its rugged caves. Balos Beach’s turquoise lagoon is a must-see, and you won’t want to miss out on Ammoudara Beach’s golden sands.
A volcanic island, Santorini (formerly Thera) contains expansive coastal views and dramatic caldera-derived landscapes. The northwestern portion of the island has four charming villages: Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia. Each retains a unique vibe, and one of the pleasures of visiting Santorini is exploring them on foot. Fira, Firostefani, and Imervigli are all within easy walking distance of one another. But Oia requires a two-hour hike or a 20-minute drive to reach.
Beachfront real estate tends to be the most expensive in locations worldwide. But when it comes to Santorini, the caldera gets all the attention. As a result, seafront hotels are surprisingly affordable. The most popular beach towns on the island include Perivolos, Perissa, and Kamari, and all of them contain the island’s characteristic ebony sand. Make sure you set aside time in your itinerary to watch the sunset from one of these picturesque places.
What about kid-friendly fun? In Santorini’s capital, Fira, you’ll find family tavernas and plenty of entertainment for little ones. For fun in the sun, head to Perissa or Kamari, beach towns renowned for excellent sand and swimming locations. Kamari contains a miniature golf course and open-air cinema. And be sure to make time for a boat tour of the caldera, including a swim to the volcanic hot spring.
Another family-friendly activity providing stunning views is the hike from Fira to Oia in Santorini. This scenic route culminates in photogenic clifftop views from the town. Along the way, you’ll trek along an old mule trail, learning about the island’s history while enjoying panoramic vistas of the caldera. The hike up takes roughly three hours, so we recommend starting early to avoid the heat of the day. Highlights include the churches of Panagia Agion Theodoron and Agios Gerasimos and the convent of Agios Nikolaos. Approaching Imerovigli, you’ll revel in enchanting views of Skaros Rock, a large and celebrated promontory.
From its pastoral farmland to its amber-colored beaches and rustic olive groves, Naxos represents a feast for the eyes. It contains more than 200 Byzantine churches and the ruins of countless castles and temples, a nod to the island’s historical role as the hearth of the Cycladic Civilization.
As the largest and most fertile of the Cyclades Islands, Naxos represents the region’s agricultural heartland. It supplies most of the local products used on other islands like Santorini and Mykonos. As a result, Naxos’s culinary scene is to die-for. Farm-to-table cuisine is the standard, with the island’s farms providing everything from fruits to potatoes, olives to herbs, wine, honey, and fresh-caught seafood.
Naxos Town (a.k.a. Chora) is an excellent place to begin your family’s exploration of the island. It contains the Portara, an ancient doorway for an unfinished temple to Apollo. (We recommend watching the sunset from this incredible location.) You’ll also want to check out the Castle of Naxos, located in the medieval core of the city. The site still contains grand gates, chapels, courtyards, tunnels, and fortified towers, and is a fun spot for exploration. Next, head to the pebbly Grotta Beach for a nice dose of leisure time. You’ll also find many museums, shops, and restaurants worth exploring.
Traveling the Greek Islands means carefully choosing your destinations. While islands like Santorini might seem like a no-brainer, their fame means lots of cruise ships. As a result, you could quickly find yourself contending with massive crowds, making for a less than kid-friendly experience.
But if you stick to islands such as Naxos and Paros, you can avoid this hassle. After all, they’re small enough that cruise ships don’t dock but still big enough to provide plenty of fun stuff to do. If you choose Paros, we suggest staying in the main town in Naoussa. That way you’ll enjoy your pick of accommodations and restaurants within easy walking distance.
What to do in this idyllic location? At the top of our list is an early morning (ideally sunrise) walk around Naoussa and the harbor. The views are stunning, especially against the breathtaking light of dawn. And plan on spending a day in Paros’s other main town of Parikia, chock full of delectable restaurants, charming boutiques, and incredible photo ops of flower-decorated, whitewashed villas and quaint cobblestone streets.
Paros is also renowned for jaw-dropping beaches, so you’ll want to leave plenty of room for sandcastles and swimming. Among our favorites are Kolymbithres with its shallow turquoise waters and rugged lunar geology. Conveniently situated near Naoussa, the bay is celebrated for its eroded, smooth granite rocks and sandy, intimate coves. Or head to Santa Maria, which boasts golden sands and azure waters, inviting families to partake in watersports and snorkeling.
The Greek Islands are a Mediterranean paradise your family will fall head over heels for. From Minoan sites in Crete to Cycladic sites in Naxos, ancient history comes to life. You’ll also enjoy incredible opportunities to explore medieval castles and fortresses in Naxos and Kefalonia, and film-worthy beaches abound in Skopelos and Paros (along with the other islands on this list)!
Want to start planning your itinerary to the best Greek Islands to visit with kids? We’re here to help. We’ve got the local connections, inside knowledge, and family travel expertise to ensure you benefit from the best family vacation ideas for the Greek Islands.
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