A Guide to the Best Greek Islands for Families
Taking your little one on holiday for the first time is a special and exciting adventure. Your whole family gets to spend quality time together, and you can introduce the new member of your family to a different culture – all those new sights, sounds and tastes to explore!
If you’re planning to take your new family on holiday, there can be few better places to choose than the Greek islands. There are stunning, sandy beaches to relax on, protected by coves and caves and fringed by clean, crystal clear waters gently lapping at the shoreline – perfect for safe swimming and paddling. 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.
Your whole family will enjoy taking a boat trip around the islands to discover secret, secluded coves, and there are plenty of beautiful landscapes with easy walking trails to potter along. Greek food is kid friendly, delicious and prepared with fresh, local ingredients – no supermarket meals here! And 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
Searing heat and young children don’t mix well, so it’s best to avoid July and August when soaring temperatures often exceed 40 degrees.
As well as the sweltering heat, summertime is peak tourist season. The islands, especially the larger tourist spots, can be overcrowded, flights and accommodation are jam packed, and prices are higher.
One of the benefits of holidaying with babies and toddlers is that you’re not constrained by school term times. If this isn’t a problem for you, spring and autumn are definitely the best times of year to enjoy the Greek islands.
It’s less crowded, prices are lower, you’ll have the pick of accommodation and, best of all, the weather is gorgeous without being too hot. The kids can spend all day on the beach and you can lie back and relax in peace and tranquillity. The best months to make the most of your Greek island holiday are May, June, September, and early October.
There’s a wide range of 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.
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.
Situated a short hop south of Corfu, the tiny Ionion island of Paxos is a million miles from the busy resorts of its neighbour. This stunning little island, only seven miles long and a mere three miles wide, is one of the most uncommercial and unspoilt of the Greek islands. It’s the perfect destination for families that want the ultimate hideaway for a peaceful, relaxing break.
Legend has it that this tiny island was originally the southern tip of Corfu before the god Poseidon broke it off with his trident. And the island is fitting for this godly purpose. There are stunning white pebble beaches, a deep turquoise sea, warm hospitality, and some of the best seafood in the entire Mediterranean.
Highlights include the Venetian architecture of Gaios a delightful fishing port surrounded by olive groves, the picturesque fishing village of Laggos, and the town of Lakka where you can enjoy a coffee in the square while locals coo over your little companions.
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 are the Periyali Villas; a collection of eleven villas, each with their own pool. This is the perfect destination if you want to be close to the town, but far away enough that you can enjoy some peace and quiet.
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.