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. 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 list of tips for making a family trip to Santorini awesome, fun, and memorable.
- Most visitors are adults – and most aren’t visiting Santorini to hang out with your kids.
- Its beaches are black volcanic sand that can be scorching hot in the mid-day sun.
- It’s expensive. Many hotels have a boutique feel with smallish trendy rooms.
- Wine and food are big draws for Santorini – and neither are top things to do for the typical child.
- Lots of great swimming spots all over the island.
- Kids love the boat tour of the caldera and the swim (from the boat) to the volcanic hot spring.
- The history of the island and caldera is pretty darn interesting.
- As long as you know what to expect I think Santorini is a great island for families. But the best way to make it fun for everyone is to stay busy and explore what the island has to offer. It’s not really a hang-by-the-pool sort of destination (save that for Naxos, Paros, or Mykonos).
1. Book Your Hotel Early
For many islands showing up on the ferry without a hotel isn’t a problem – in fact, it’s half the fun. But not on Santorini. Book a hotel as soon as you know your dates and plans. There aren’t a lot of hotel rooms on Santorini that will sleep a family of 4 to 6. Santorini doesn’t have a lot of large rooms that fit a large family which makes booking early even more important. These are some of the best family-friendly hotels on Santorini.
2. Visit Other Greek Islands
In a perfect world we’d all get as much time as we wanted on each of the Greek islands. But, of course, you’ve got a limited amount of time. There are so many great islands in the Cyclades for kids and families that spending more than 3 or 4 nights on Santorini is probably too long.
But you needn’t feel short-changed by a short visit. The great 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 or a cruise ship, 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 Fira to sense the incredible beauty of the island and peer down into the caldera below.
3. Do a Boat Tour to the Volcano
This is one of the highlights of Santorini. The boat takes you first to the volcano where you want to top and see some of the craters that have been created over the years. Then it’s to the hot springs to swim in the warm sea water just off one of the volcanos. Then dinner on board followed by a cruise around the base of the island where you could see the cliffs of the caldera up close. Finally, you watch the sunset and do some Greek dancing (a little gimmicky but still lots of fun) before heading back to port. These are easy to book after you arrive so no need to arrange in advance.
4. Explore the Towns of Pyrgos and Emporio
These are 2 wonderful historical towns with a maze of walkways and alleys. Pyrgos is built on a hill with an old castle on top. Emporio is flat and smaller, but both offer plenty of opportunities to get happily lost.
5. Hit the Beach in the Morning
Santorini’s unique beaches can be enchanting or disappointing, 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 gets scorching hot and can make getting around on the sand a tricky undertaking. (Tip: get some aqua Socks for your kids’ feet.)
The sand doesn’t get really hot until afternoon, so get to the beach early and enjoy the peace, quiet, and cool of some great Greek beaches. The best beach on Santorini for kids is Perissa.
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 takes at least 3 hours with kids so try to walk in the early morning before its too hot. Eat lunch in Oia then bus or taxi back to Fira (unless your hotel is in Oia of course).
7. Go to a Movie at the Kamari Open Air Cinema
This is one of the most fun things to do in Santorini. The movies aren’t always kid-friendly so check the schedule but they’re just about always popular Hollywood-style movies in English (with Greek subtitles).
8. 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 make an afternoon of wandering and exploring. Ice cream, crepes, and a few stories about exploding volcanoes will add to the experience.
9. Go for a Swim off the Rocks Below Oia
Locals swear this is the best place to swim on Santorini. Ask in Oia for directions to get down to the seawall and have a fantastically refreshing swim near Ammoudi Bay. There are a couple restaurants in the small settlement at the base of cliffs. It feels like a little fishing village and makes for a great afternoon outing.
10. Rent a Car
The bus system in Santorini is pretty good so you don’t have to rent a car but it will make experiencing some of the island’s attractions easier. All buses use Fira as their hub. Thus, getting from, say, Oia to Akrotiri, will require a stop and a new bus in Fira.
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 stop at one of the island’s wineries. These are all things that are much easier when you have a car.
11. Santorini with a Baby – Specific Tips
Here is an excellent trip review (below) that I found on a travel forum. After contacting the author and getting some more input from her I thought I’d post it here for everyone. I’ve edited it for brevity and to include her later updates.
I have traveled with my kids before, but this trip to Santorini was my longest by far and I was going solo with only my 4-month-old son. (My husband and 2-yr-old daughter stayed home.) Here are a few thoughts of visiting Santorini with a young baby.
Flying with a baby on a multi-leg, overnight flight to Greece
Book well in advance so you can secure a seat in the bulkhead that has a bassinet option. I know British Airways and many other airlines have these. The downside of these bassinets is that they “trap” the person in the middle seat for as long as the bassinet is in place. If you are traveling with another adult, the trapped person may be one of you … but since I was traveling as a solo parent, it was a complete stranger. This made for some interesting negotiations over space and timing of putting the bassinet in place. If possible, wait to install the bassinet after meal service so you or the stranger in the seat can get up and go to the bathroom. ( I held my son in my arms while I ate). BA allowed me to pre-board and go through transfer at Heathrow in the priority lane. If they don’t point you to the fast lane, just ask.
Time Change, jet lag, and baby’s sleep schedule
My son adapted more easily than expected (usually he is not a great sleeper and doesn’t have a good schedule, so I was expecting the worst). I followed the same rules for him that I follow for myself when traveling overseas: Adapt immediately to new schedule and throw in an extra nap when needed. With the bright sun, it would have been very hard to try to keep him on his home schedule (and I would have been miserable).
Best place to stay with kids
We stayed at the Anema Villas located about 10 minutes outside Fira on the flatter side of the island. It was such a beautiful place that I felt excited about being “stuck” there while my son napped. We easily and happily passed time during the hottest hours of the day. We had our own private pool just off the room, so I could be out there relaxing while he was inside napping – and I could still easily hear him. There was plenty of room so we (and our stuff) could spread out. Though the villa was a bit more expensive than many of the hotels, the difference was not huge, and the rate included a rental car.
Baby supplies – What to take
Santorini was bigger than I expected and I could find most everything at the grocery store in Fira, including US brand diapers. I’m still breastfeeding so I didn’t need formula, but my suggestion would be to pack what you need if you use a specific brand. They had limited choices of baby formula and it didn’t match US products very well. There was no Similac or organic formula brands.
Don’t take a stroller
I regretted lugging my stroller through the airport. Some suggested that it might be nice to have so the baby could have a place to sit while out to eat, etc, but I found it wasn’t worth the effort to take it out since most places are off hilly cobblestone streets. And I didn’t use it in the airport either. I did use my Baby Bjorn and kept the kiddo strapped in while I ate or took turns having friends hold him while we ate.
Car transportation and baby seats
The car rental I used (set up by the hotel) was the local one in town and they supplied a car seat. The car seat was very basic and old … definitely not up to the standards of car seats in the US, but it served its purpose. I tried to drive very cautiously and stay off the busy main road in Fira as much as possible. I felt fine driving on the quieter roads and main roads between towns.
Things to do
July is HOT in Santorini. I found it tough to be out and about with a baby. Even with a hat on him and loads of sunscreen I was still nervous about the sun. We focused our activities in the early morning and evenings. During the day, we hung out at the villa and enjoyed the scenery, pool, and the coolness of the villa. Don’t try to hike between Fira and Oia – really any part of it – unless it is in the evening. The sun really beats down on you. Also, it was sweaty and unenjoyable to walk around Fira other than in the evening. But once the sun started setting, we hit the town. Restaurants and wineries were great about having a baby. I have never been any place where people loved babies as much as Santorini. People gave him kisses and asked to hold him and bent over backwards to accommodate us. We ate at (and loved) Nicolas in Fira, Katina’s on Amoudi Bay (Oia), and the Sigalas winery outside of Oia.
And finally I have to say just how happy I am that we went. Several people (both on the travel forum and in my life) thought I was bonkers for traveling so far away with my son by myself. Though it definitely had it’s stressful moments (I recall being close to tears as my son wailed his way through the L-O-N-G customs line once we were back stateside), I was still absolutely able to enjoy my trip – in fact, some of my favorite memories from the trip were created BECAUSE I had my son with me. It was like people saw me as a person they wanted to engage with and not just a tourist.
Hotels for Families in Santorini
These hotels have good-sized family rooms.
There aren’t many large rooms on Santorini so book early if you need more than the typical layout with 2 double beds.
- Aria Suites, Fira
Large rooms with caldera view
- El Greco Hotel, Fira
Triple and quad rooms
- Anteliz Hotel Apartments, Fira
Senior and VIP suites.
- Kamares Apartments, Fira
Apartments for 4 to 6 people.
- Astra Suites, Imerovigli
Beautiful family rooms with views of the caldera and sunset.
- Santorini Princess, Imerovigli
Triple and quad rooms.
- Whitedeck Hotel, Imerovigli
Family cave suite is a good size.
- Fanari Villas, Oia
Good sized suites sleep 5 (or maybe 6).
- Villa Agnadi Studios, Finikia
Large family suites.
- Sea Sound White Katikies Apartments, Perivolos
Sea view suites for large groups.
- Hotel Sea View, Perivolos
Suites for family of 6.
- Aegean Plaza Hotel, Kamari
Large triple rooms.
- Voreina Gallery Suites, Pyrgos
Deluxe suites with private pool.
Ferry To Santorini
Highspeed ferries and catamarans from Athens to Santorini take about 4 or 5 hours. Conventional ferries take between 8 and 10 hours depending on the vessel and the route they take. The approach to the island by ferry is spectacular and makes the half-day lounging around the boat worth it.
Flights To Santorini
There are flights from Athens and Thessaloniki to Santorini with Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. The following budget airlines have cheap flights to Santorini from the main hubs in Europe (e.g. London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris) and many of the smaller airports as well: