Taking your little one on holiday for the first time needn’t be a daunting experience. If you select the right place, it can be an exciting adventure and a fabulous way for the whole family to spend quality time together, as well as introducing the newest member of your family to a different culture – all those new sights, sounds and tastes to explore!
If you’re lucky enough not to be tied to school holiday dates, then there can be few better places to choose than the Greek islands, since they are easily accessible from most UK airports, have a relatively short flight time, and generally reliable for warm sunshine April to October. Not to mention the fact that there are stunning, sandy beaches to relax on, fringed by clean, crystal clear waters gently lapping at the shoreline – mostly perfect for safe swimming and paddling. Plus, there’s lots to explore from quaint, colourful villages and idyllic fishing harbours where you’ll be sure to receive a warm welcome, to the ancient ruins of past civilisations.
There’s also the family-friendly spirit of the Greeks, who invariably have a friendly smile and warm welcome for little people. Greek food is also kid friendly with bite-sized meze bits from mini cheese pasties, to pitta break and dips being perfect for little hands and mouths.
Best of all, the Greek islands offer abundant luxury accommodation the whole family is sure to appreciate.
If you’re planning a holiday to one or more of the Greek Islands, here’s our definitive guide to the best Greek islands for families with young children.
The Best Time to Visit Greece
Strong heat and young children often don’t mix well, so it’s better to avoid July and August if you can and aim for the cooler months of April, May, June, September and October. The added benefits being you can also dodge the peak season crowds and flights and accommodation are usually considerably cheaper.
the last few years have seen a growth in superior accommodation on the Greek islands ranging from luxury, full service resorts with family suites, spas and private beaches, to villas with heated pools and lush gardens adorned with olive and fruit trees.
Emphasis is on meeting the needs of parents and children. Child-friendly resorts and villas are well equipped with baby essentials such as highchairs, cots, baby baths, beach toys and DVDs. Many places also provide childcare facilities such as kids clubs, crèches and babysitting services.
The family meal is an important part of Greek culture, and most restaurants and tavernas have a relaxed, casual approach to dining. Like all Mediterranean cultures, the Greeks greet children with genuine warmth and it’s quite normal to see families dining out together until late.
Traditional Greek food features Mediterranean ingredients such as olive oil, cheeses, freshly caught fish and seafood, and locally grown fruit and vegetables. Must tries that little ones are sure to love include calamari (fried squid), tiropitakia (cheese pastry parcels), saganaki (fried cheese) and loukoumades (small doughnut balls drizzled in honey).
The following islands are breathtakingly beautiful and wonderfully set up for holidays with a touch of luxury. They have a good selection of accommodation that specifically cater for families, wonderful food, and stunning beaches to ensure a relaxing and enjoyable family holiday.
The largest of the Greek islands, beautiful Crete has a bit of everything. There are magical, safe beaches with crystal clear waters and rock pools, while Crete’s position as the southernmost of the Greek islands means it boasts one of the longest beach-lounging seasons. As the cradle of the Minoan civilisation, Crete is brimming with ancient treasures including the magnificent palace of Knossos, so there’s plenty to keep the family entertained if you want a break from the beach.
There’s a diverse range of landscapes, including fertile valleys, rugged canyons, steep gorges, impressive mountainscapes, and isolated villages and coves. If you’re a foodie, Cretan food is pure heaven and one of the healthiest diets in the world. And the island has its own distinct culture, traditions and atmosphere. It is also home to some fantastic family friendly accommodation, such as Domes of Elounda and Domes Zeen
Young families will love exploring the coastline by boat, discovering over 2,000 species of Mediterranean sea life at the Cretaquarium, and splashing about at the Acquaplus waterpark at Hersonissos that has extreme waterslides for daring adults, as well as safe pools and slides for younger children. And kids will love visiting the magical cave at Dikteon, the mythical birthplace of Zeus, with its fascinating stalactites and stalagmites.
The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes is one of the most popular Greek islands for families. Its eastern coast is fringed with miles of golden sandy beaches with warm shallow waters that are perfect for little toes to dip into. There’s a forested, mountainous interior, home to castles, frescoed churches and picturesque villages, and the atmospheric Old Town of Rhodes, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the finest medieval towns in the Mediterranean. A legacy of the Knights of St John, wandering the cobbled streets will transport you to a different era.
Further south, the picturesque town of Lindos clings dramatically to a hillside presided over by its ancient acropolis, a natural watchtower that protected the wealth of the ancient city-state. The village of Lindos sits below, with its cubic whitewashed houses, Byzantine churches and pretty cobbled streets stretching down to the pretty bay of St Paul’s where you can relax in the azure-blue waters after a morning’s exploring. A short drive from Lindos you’ll find the beautiful 5-star Lindian Village, which the whole family will love.
The enchanting Valley of the Butterflies in the north of the island is a great day trip for families, offering a peaceful walk through a shady green valley with lush waterfalls and millions of beautiful butterflies.
Gloriously green and with miles of unspoilt sandy beaches, it is little wonder that the Ionion island of Corfu is so popular! That is not to say it is always crowded though. The quieter yachting havens and sandy bays of the North are often tranquil. For example, the family-friendly Bella Mare Hotel is set in the little village of Avlaki, where the spectacularly turquoise coastline is backed by just a handful of quality tavernas, a smattering of villas and this stylish, all suite hotel popular with parents of under 10s.
The elegant Rou Estate just around the corner enjoys a similarly tranquil vibe nestled amongst the trees with stunning views of the North East Coast. Here, a hamlet of pretty 1, 2, 3 & 4 bedroom stone cottages have been given a sophisticated make-over with private plunge pools, a spa, restaurant and babysitting service care of UK company Ionian Nannies.
Nestled at the heart of the Cyclades, the island of Paros offers everything you’d expect from this iconic island chain. There are whitewashed villages with blue domed churches and cobbled streets, sandy beaches with clear, blue waters, and quaint fishing villages where you can enjoy the freshly caught catch of the day. In the North East side of Paros you’ll find the traditional Kallisti Villas, which are within walking distance to the beautiful unspoiled sandy beaches.
The stylish capital of Parikia offers a quieter alternative to the popular Mykonos, without the hype or price tag, while the colourful, traditional village of Naoussa has the ruins of a Venetian fortress at the harbour entrance – a romantic backdrop to an alfresco dinner next to the water.
The nearby island of Antiparos is an easy day trip from Paros, where you can seek out your own spot on a secluded beach and bathe in the tranquil waters.
Spring is the best time to enjoy Paros, when the landscape is still green, the sea has reached a suitable temperature for swimming, but the summer hordes of tourists have yet to descend.
Lefkada, or Lefkas, is a tiny Ionian island attached to the mainland by a small bridge. But it’s remained relatively unspoilt by tourism with just two main resorts: Vassiliki in the south, a mecca for kitesurfing and windsurfing, and Nydri on the east coast, which has an ultra-modern marina and an enviable view looking over the surrounding islets.
The capital, Lefkada Town, is full of character with picturesque alleyways, small squares, and traditional houses, while nearby Gyra is the ideal spot to dine on freshly caught fish. A short way from the main resorts feels as though you’ve stepped back in time, as shepherds tend their sheep and life centres around the kafenio in the island’s sleepy villages.
The luxurious Mousses Villas has everything you need for a relaxing family getaway – inviting pools, fabulous food and excellent crèche facilities – and is situated within walking distance of the sandy beaches at Milos and Ai Yiannis. For total privacy, 2 of the villas have their own private pools and gardens.
Zakynthos, or Zante, is a popular Ionian island but, despite its reputation for attracting hordes of all-night partygoers, it has plenty to offer families seeking a tranquil, relaxing break including some of the most child-friendly beaches in Greece.
While the eastern and southern coasts are prime for package tourism, head to the unspoilt northern and western coasts and central forested mountains and you’ll be rewarded with a restful holiday far from the crowds.
Navagio, Shipwreck Beach, is undoubtedly one of the island’s highlights, a blissful cove surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs, while the pine-forested peninsula of Vasilikos in the southeast has been protected from development due to the loggerhead turtles that nest on Gerakas Beach.
Zakynthos Town, the island’s capital, blooms brightly with cherry-red bougainvillea, and is home to an interesting assortment of castles, churches and museums. It’s also the birthplace of Italianate folk ballads, known as kantádhes, which can still be heard in the local tavernas. Less than half an hour drive away from Zakynthos Town is the stunning new Domes Aulus Zante luxury resort; a sophisticated take on an all-inclusive holiday with elegant dining and an exceptional kids club with creche, play areas, dedicated pool, kid’s social suppers and activities for little ones from 3 months to 17 years.
The largest and greenest of the Cycladic Islands, Naxos is a delight for families. There are over 30 beaches, including the stunning long, sandy beach at Plaka that’s perfectly set up for children of all ages.
The capital, Hora, is an old town with an imposing Venetian castle, steep cobbled alleyways, and the general hubbub of tourism. But you don’t need to travel far to find a secluded spot to call your own, whether an isolated beach, atmospheric village or ancient ruins.
The rugged interior of the island contains the highest mountains in the Cyclades, lush fertile valleys, and numerous hiking trails. Like Crete, Naxos has enough natural resources to be almost entirely self-sufficient, and these fresh, local ingredients find their way into the island’s top restaurants. The local, small potatoes are renowned, as are cheeses made from sheep, goats and cattle that roam the island, grazing on the lush terrain. And don’t leave without trying the delicious local wine!
The second largest of the Cyclades, Andros is a lush island with wild mountains, fertile valleys, and numerous good beaches. The interior of the island is abundant with natural springs, waterfalls and small creeks, and the island is home to the Sariza spring, Greece’s own Evian, which ships bottled water worldwide. It’s worth renting a car to venture into the countryside to cool off at the bubbling streams and witness the wildflowers that carpet the landscape in early spring. While you’re mobile, don’t forget to drive the coastal roads to enjoy dramatic views over the Aegean Sea.
The resort of Batsi is the most touristy place on the island, owing to the abundance of gorgeous surrounding beaches including Golden Beach and Agios Petros, while the handsome capital of Chora, also known as Andros, is home to neoclassical mansions decorated with glorious bougainvillea and interesting art museums with some world-class exhibitions.
To book your family holiday in the magical Greek islands, head to Baby Friendly Boltholes to explore our range of stylish escapes, all perfectly set up for families with pre-school children. Alternatively, contact us now to discuss your Greek island adventure.