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. Its beaches are black volcanic sand that can be scorching hot in the mid-day sun. There aren’t that many kid-friendly attractions and many of your fellow visitors aren’t visiting the Greek Islands to hang out with your children.
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.
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.
And these are the most popular destinations:
Or visit my own website on Santorini hotels:
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 a three or four 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, 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. Visit in the Spring or Fall
May, and early June in the spring and September and October in the fall are the best times to visit. June and September are a little busier but better for swimming as the sea will be warmer. July and August are high season when an already popular island becomes very busy with the crowds of tourists flying, ferrying, and yachting to its shores.
On other islands hotel prices increase during July and August. On Santorini they skyrocket.
4. Consider a Day Trip
One option for families 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 how much of Santorini you can enjoy in 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. There are also day trips to Santorini from different towns in Crete.
5. Hit the Beach in the Morning
Santorini’s unique beaches can be appealing 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 after 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.
6. 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 sun sets. Eat dinner in Oia and bus or taxi back to Thira (unless your hotel is in Oia of course).
7. Visit the Santorini 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 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 visiting families.
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 might add to the experience.
9. Go for a Swim by 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 in Amoudi Bay.
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 formala 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
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.
- 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.
- Santorini Princess, Imerovigli
Triple and quad rooms.
- Oniro Suites, Imerovigli
Family cave suite is a good size.
- Fanari Villas, Oia
Good sized suites sleep 5 (or maybe 6).
- 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, Athens Airways, 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: