A few suggestions for making a visit to Santorini fun and enjoyable for the whole family.
You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve heard the stories. You’ve read the articles in National Geographic. Now you want to visit Santorini.
But … you’re in Greece with your kids.
There’s no sense denying it. Santorini can be a challenge to visit with kids. Most visitors are adults – often on a package tour or cruise ship. It’s beaches are black volcanic sand that can be scorching hot in the mid-day sun. There are few kid friendly attractions and many of your fellow visitors aren’t visiting the Greek Islands to hang out with kids.
But there’s no denying the stunning beauty of Santorini either. You’ve come all this way to visit Greece, it would be a shame to miss it. You should visit Santorini.
Here’s a short list of tips, suggestions and things to do if you’re visiting Santorini with children.
Make Your Visit Short
There are so many great islands in the Cyclades for kids and families that spending more than a night or two on Santorini is probably too long. But you needn’t feel short changed by a short visit. The good thing about Santorini is that its charms are immediately apparent. Even as you’re arriving on the ferry the views of the cliffs are incredible. (Arrival by plane is no less stunning – but on the ferry everyone has a window seat.) The drive from the port of Athinios up to the main towns above is an experience in itself. (If you come on a smaller boat, you’ll probably arrive at Skala Firas where the only transport up is by donkey, cable car, or your feet.) And it only takes a few moments wandering the lanes of Oia or Thira to sense the incredible beauty of the island and peer down into the caldera below.
Don’t Visit in July and August
April and May in the spring and October and early November in the fall are the best times to visit. June and September are almost as good for sightseeing, but better for swimming as the sea will be warmer. The summer is high season when an already busy island becomes totally overwhelmed with the hordes of tourists flying, ferrying and yachting to its shores.
On other islands hotel prices increase during July and August. On Santorini they skyrocket.
Consider A Day Trip
One option for families that don’t think a visit to Santorini will work for them is to do a half-day visit. Santorini is not a ferry hub but many ferries come and go throughout the day. As I said above, you might be amazed at just how much of Santorini you can enjoy over just a few hours.
Two different boats run day trip tours from Paros and Naxos. The boats arrive in Santorini just after 10am and make the return trip to Naxos and Paros at about 6pm. Catamarans connect Santorini with Ios 3 times a day and take only 30 minutes.
Have A Plan
Sometimes I recommend winging it, being flexible and seeing where life and the kids take you. I wouldn’t suggest that when visiting Santorini however. Remember, you’re just here for a night or two (or 8 hours if you’re doing the day trip I recommend above). So hit the highlights, have some fun and then move on to a slower paced more kid friendly island.
Get Some Water Shoes For The Kids
Santorini’s unique beaches can be appealing or disheartening, or both, depending on your tastes. On one hand the dark black sand is cool to look at and makes for a very unique beach experience. On the negative side the sand can get scorching hot and can easily make the beach a no go zone for young children.
Hit The Beach In The Morning
The sand doesn’t get blazing hot until around noon, so get to the beach early and enjoy the peace, quiet and cool of some great Greek beaches. The best beaches in Santorini for kids are Monolithos, Perissa and Kamari. Monolithos is a protected beach with a shallow entry and calm water. Perissa and Kamari are both beautiful beaches but do have a fairly steep drop off in sections.
Walk From Thira to Oia
This is a 10km/6mile walk so it’s only for families with older kids, but what a walk! The trek is fairly simple but get good directions before you set out. It takes at lest 2 hours so time your walk to arrive in Oia as the sunsets. Eat a late dinner in Oia and bus or taxi back to Thira (unless your hotel is in Oia of course).
Visit The Water Park
There is a simple but fun water park at Perissa beach with 3 pools, 3 water slides and a kids’ play area. It’s just about the only truly kid friendly attraction on the island so make use of it. Staying at one of the beach resorts – either Perissa or Kamari should also be a consideration for traveling families.
Wander The Streets and Lanes of Oia and Thira
Great views and cobbled streets aren’t just for adults. You probably know best if this sounds like something your kids would find appealing. But I’d be surprised if most parents couldn’t stretch the wandering out for an afternoon. Ice cream, crepes and a few stories about exploding volcanoes and destroyed cities might add to the experience.
Rent A Car
I’m usually very big on getting around by bus on the Greek Islands. You see more. You get to see Greeks being Greeks. You get away from the tourist scene. But Santorini – perhaps sadly – is not the place you go to see authentic Greek culture. You’re there to see the stunning landscape. To get some perspective on how the island was formed. And (as I said in my first tip) to do it all rather quickly.
So rent a car. See the views of the caldera from a number of different angles around the island. Hit the best beach for kids on Santorini at Monolithos and then get on that ferry and get you and your family to Crete, Milos, Paros or somewhere that better combines all the things that make the Greek Islands a fantastic destination for families.