This post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission when you use my links to make a purchase, at NO extra cost for you. Rest assured I only recommend products I believe in.
Santorini — a stunning volcanic island rising from the dark blue Aegean Sea is a dream destination for many. White-washed houses and blue-domed churches cling to the top of craggy cliffs, overlooking the azure waters. In the past decade or so, Santorini has become one of the most visited places in the world, particularly popular among honeymooners.
But is Santorini suitable for kids? Last summer, I spent a week on Santorini with my three-year-old daughter and we had a blast. It was my second trip to Santorini, but a first for Kaleya. It was the perfect spot for a real holiday — we spent our time swimming in the Aegean Sea, wandering around charming towns on foot, and feasting on fresh-from-the-sea food.
Truth be told, Santorini isn’t exactly what I would call a Kid-friendly destination (read on to find out). But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel Santorini with kids. There’s no denying how spectacular Santorini is: with white-washed villages perched precariously on craggy hills, overlooking the indigo sea. Plus there’s so much kids could learn here: from the formation of volcanoes to Greek mythology.
Santorini with Kids
Should You Travel Santorini with Kids?
First of all, you should know that Santorini’s natural topography isn’t particularly suitable for kids. Most of the beautiful towns are stacked on hilltops, which means there are narrow pathways and steep steps everywhere you go. It’s really inconvenient if you need to travel with baby strollers.
Let’s not forget that Santorini draws in lots of honeymooners and romance-seeking couples who aren’t exactly interested in hanging out with kids. Expect to have people eyeballing you and your kids. Because of this romantic atmosphere in Santorini, many of the accommodations on the island are boutique hotels with small and trendy rooms, rather than large family suites.
That said, the island has lots of great swimming spots and kids would love the boat tour around the caldera (where you get swim in the volcanic hot spring). There are also lots of families and kids around — my daughter made several new friends of our trip, and she had a blast!
When to Travel Santorini with Kids
The height of the tourist season in Santorini is July and August — but please take my advise and avoid traveling to Santorini during these two months. The island is bursting at its seams and many hotels, restaurants and car rental companies jack up their prices. Hotels get fully booked months in advance and even if you’re lucky to find something, expect to pay at least $150/night for a 3-star hotel in Oia.
We traveled to Santorini at the last week of August, and it was so overwhelmingly crowded. I know that summer is the only time for families with kids of schooling age to travel, but try to time your trip to coincide with the mid-term holidays when there are much less people.
The best time to visit Santorini is spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October), when the cruise ships fewer and there is less crowd. The weather is great for swimming from late May to early October. Outside of these months, the beach towns will be very quiet and the weather usually isn’t consistently warm enough for swimming.
How Many Days In Santorini?
Santorini isn’t a massive island like Crete, but you’ll need at least three days to explore the beautiful towns and feast on views of its caldera. There’s plenty to do and it’s easy to fill up 5 to 7 days. We stayed for a week, that was just the right amount of time for us to explore and still enjoy lots of down time by the pool and at the beach.
Some essential things to do include walking all around Oia, doing a boat trip around the caldera, taking the cable car at Fira, and taking a wine tour. Other things that are worth experiencing including hiking the Fira to Oia footpath, exploring the villages of Pyrgos and Emporio, and visiting the historical sites of Akrotiri and Ancient Thira. Scroll down to get a detailed list of things to do in Santorini with kids.
How to Get to Santorini
As compared to 10 years ago when I went to Santorini for the first time, it is now much easier to get to the island. Here are the two ways to get to Santorini:
Santorini is easily accessible by plane from many parts of Europe, including Amsterdam, London, Milan and Zurich. If you are planning to travel other parts of Greece, there are cheap flights from Athens and Thessaloniki to Santorini with Olympic Air, Athens Airways, and Aegean Airlines. Easyjet, Norwegian Air and Thomas Cook Airlines fly direct from London.
Our flight from Amsterdam direct to Santorini (3.5 hours) cost around US$280 return, even though I booked it at the last minute and we were traveling in the peak season. If you are traveling in the shoulder season, you can usually find flights from most parts of Europe to Santorini for as low as $150 return.
Search for Cheap Flights to Santorini
Santorini can be reached by ferry from other Greek islands. The high speed ferry between Santorini and Athens is about 5 hours and will cost you as much as a flight (around US$100). The slower boat is 8 hours, but is relatively comfortable and costs only $30. We took the slow boat on our first trip to Santorini and it sailed during the night, which saved us time and money.
Click for more info on ferries to Santorini.
Getting around Santorini
There are only 36 taxis in Santorini, so don’t expect to stand on the street and hail a cab. You will see many ATVs and scooters around but they are not particularly safe for kids. Renting a car is probably your best bet with the family. There are public buses connecting the main towns, but they are usually slow and often late. Having your own wheels lets you travel independently, at your own pace.
I rented a car for only a day since it was quite expensive at peak period. I booked a Smart Car (super compact car that fits only 2) as I’ve always wanted to try it and it’s great for maneuvering the narrow roads of Santorini. I booked it at the last minute and paid €65 for one day, including picking up and dropping it at two different hotels (which saved me around 20€). Daily rates range from €30 at low season to €60 during high season. Book your car in advance to save money.
It’s really easy to drive on Santorini, as roads are clearly marked and sign posts are easy to follow. Roads are well-paved, and there are regular rest stops and gas stations for refueling. I particularly love the stretch of highway in the mountains leading to Oia that was exciting and scenic.
Book your Car Rental!
Things to Do in Santorini with Kids
Go on a Sailing Trip
Santorini is most famous for its volcano caldera, which can be explored on a sailing trip. It is quite an experience, and great fun for the whole family. That said, I recommend doing a sailing trip if your kids are older than 4-5 years old as the Aegean Sea can be pretty rough. My 3-year-old quite enjoyed it as she wasn’t afraid of jumping into the sea, but there were a few people onboard who spent their entire day on the catamaran without swimming.
There are a few choices when it comes to the type of sailing trips:
- Budget trip — Sailing on a wooden boat with up to 80 passengers on board, including stops at Thirassia where you can have lunch and go for a hike. Price: €37-45
- Mid-range trip — Sailing on a big catamaran with no stops, just snorkeling off the boat. Price: €90-105
- High-end trip — Sailing on a small catamaran, private boat for you and your family
We booked a mid-range catamaran trip on GetYourGuide and it was quite affordable as I just had to pay for myself (it was free for Kaleya). Even though we just snorkeled off the boat, we stopped at quite a few places including the volcanic springs and red beach and we sailed close to many craggy cliffs. The bbq lunch was fantastic and the catamaran was very comfortable. There are also sunset cruises that you can consider booking.
Book your Sailing Trip!
Visit Nea Kameni Island
Nea Kameni is an islet in the middle of the flooded caldera. It is one of the most violent volcanoes on the planet and is one of the contested sites for the lost city of Atlantis. The eruption that destroyed most of Santorini 3,600 years ago produced tsunamis that reached as far as Turkey and probably wiped out maritime Minoan civilization. The new craters that appeared in the following centuries are currently snoozing, although they are under constant surveillance by scientists at Fira’s volcanology institute. Tour the volcano by boat, or go for a walk around the crater to see it up close.
Kayak in the Caldera
I would most definitely have chosen to do this if Alberto was with us or if Kaleya was slightly bigger. Kayaking in the caldera beats any kind of sailing trip as you’re close to the water and completely on your own. However, it’s not cheap to rent a kayak here and it’s only advisable if you have lots of kayaking experience due to the strong currents.
Most sea kayaking tours start from Mesa Pigadia, the black beach on the south coast of the island. You’ll get to paddle along the coastline exploring caves before reaching Black Mountain and the Akrotiri lighthouse. The sea kayaking tour also includes lunch on Kampia Beach. Check out this sea kayaking tour or this sunset sea kayaking excursion.
Try Sea Kayaking off Santorini!
Wander around Oia
Santorini’s leading star is its most attractive village, Oia. With its white houses and blue domed churches tumbling over the lip of the caldera, Oia has one of the most magnificent settings on Earth. Meander along its cobblestoned alleys, catch sunset at one of its many charming cafes and browse Greek mythological books at the famous Atlantis Bookshop. Many of the houses here have been converted into stylish boutique hotels that have gorgeous views of the crater.
However, it can be really crowded here in summer, especially at sunset as crowds flood to the Oia Castle. Just wander a bit further out of town to the eastern side of Oia (close to Finikia) and you’ll have the whole place to yourself. We stayed at a hotel there and I was surprised by how quiet the area was.
Catch the Cable Car at Fira
Fira is the capital city of Santorini, so it’s much bigger and more inhabited by locals. Here you’ll find more shops, restaurants and tourist-oriented facilities. I wouldn’t recommend coming here when a cruise ship is docked as it gets packed. The cable car ride down to the seafront is quite a fun experience for the whole family and there’s a cafe and a few interesting shops by the port. The cable car ride costs 6 euros each way and 3 euros for kids.
Visit the Quieter Towns
Oia and Fira are the two main tourist towns, but there are plenty of other quiet towns on the island worth visiting. Pyrgos was my favorite discovery, located inland and far from the ports where cruises dock or beaches where tourists flock to. It’s a small hilltop town dominated by a church, surrounded by a maze of winding cobblestoned walkways. There were very few tourists when we wandered around the town and it was just magical. We also had the best meal there, at a restaurant named Cava Alta.
Learn History at Akrotiri
At the tip of the island lies the Akrotiri Archaeological Site. Dating back to the Bronze Age, the settlement was an ancient Cretan civilization. It was destroyed in the Theran eruption sometime in the 16th century BC and buried in volcanic ash, which preserved the remains of fine frescoes and many objects and artworks. Today it’s a popular archaeological site great for visiting with kids.
Visit the Red Beach & White Beach
Two of the most prominent beaches on Santorini are the red beach and white beach. Located just next to the Akrotiri archaeological site, Red Beach is a stretch of pebbly sand surrounded by high, bright-red cliffs. Further along the coast is White Beach, which is white pebbled surrounded by white towering cliffs that form a beautiful, small cove and provide partial shade. Most sailing trips visit these two beaches but cannot dock on the beach (due to the island’s rules).
Enjoy the Perissa Water Park
Kids would go crazy at the Santorini Water Park located in the town of Perissa on the east coast. It is fairly small with just 3 slides and a play area for kids but it still makes for a fun day out with the kids.
The swimming pools and slides are open from 10 am to 7 pm with the park staying open until midnight for people to enjoy the evening at the poolside bar. The good thing is once you purchase a ticket you are able to leave and come back later in the day if you want to.
Where to Stay on Santorini with Kids
Santorini has some of the most beautiful hotels in the world — hotels created from ancient cave dwellings, perched over the cliff edge, revealing spectacular views of the volcano caldera. The most popular places to stay are Fira and Oia, that have the best views of the caldera. Accommodation is unfortunately overpriced in these towns — the minimum price you’ll have to pay is €100/night and even then the quality of the accommodation might not be great.
But there are more affordable and equally stunning options in Finikia and Imerovigli, which are walking distance from the big towns. Here are some suggestions for family-friendly hotels in different parts of Santorini. Wherever you choose, there aren’t many rooms on Santorini so be sure to book early!
Family Hotels in Oia
The most beautiful and most popular town to visit is Oia in the northwestern part of the island. It is a small town but can be very crowded with tourists in summer. I recommend staying in the eastern side of Oia close to Finikia, which is much less crowded and more beautiful.
Olympic Villas — We stayed at this three-star hotel perched right on the edge of the caldera with spectacular views. The location was excellent but the quality of the accommodation wasn’t great. It was the most affordable place at this location. We did enjoy the pool a lot and spent all our days there with a dramatic view of the caldera before us. There were other kids around, which was made it great! Check the latest rates.
Canvas Suites — With a central location in Oia, this luxurious cave hotel is exactly the kind of Santorini hotel most dream of staying. With several pools perched on the slopes and suites all overlooking the caldera, you really can’t find anything better than this in Oia. It has spacious suites and two or three-bedroom villas for those with big families. Check the latest rates.
More Family Hotels in Oia
Alternatively there are cheaper accommodation in Finikia, just a 10-minute walk from Oia along the scenic walkway. I highly recommend staying here as you’ll get to experience how it is to stay on the slopes overlooking the caldera, but without the crowd.
Finikia Memories Hotel — Built in the style of the traditional Cycladic architecture, the contemporary hotel has big, spacious rooms. There are also a swimming pool, two hot tubs and a big sun terrace and roof garden. Check the latest rates.
Oia Suites — Another modern Cycladic-style hotel with a big swimming pool and every suite overlooking the caldera. The decor is very stylish and locations is excellent. Some suites also have their own hot tub and all of the suites are very spacious, perfect for families. Check the latest rates.
Family Hotels in Fira
Fira is the capital, with winding streets and steps running up and down the hillside, dotted with shops, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. In my opinion it’s not the best area to stay for families but if you like to stay where the action is, this would be your spot.
Blue Angel Villas — Perched on a cliff in Kato Fira of Santorini, Blue Angel Villa has a 17-century cave villa perfect for families. It features a split-level arrangement, three bedrooms, a spacious seating and dining area and an indoor hot tub with mosaic glass tiles. Check the latest rates.
iSuites — Each of the villas at iSuites has its own private pool with sea views. You’ll have plenty of space for your kids to run around, plus spacious dining and living areas to really enjoy time together. The decor here is colorful and quirky, great for families! Check the latest rates.
Search for More Hotels in Fira
The neighboring town of Imerovigli is much cheaper, less crowded and offer the same stunning views.
Dome Santorini Resort & Villas — Built on the steep rocks, all the residences in this modern hotel have spectacular views and verandas overlooking the caldera and the sea. All rooms have traditional décor, combined with modern elegant elements. There is also babysitting service available. Check the latest rates.
Andromeda Villas & Spa Resort — Located in scenic Imerovigli, this all-white boutique hotel is perched 300 m above the dramatic Caldera. They have a family two-bedroom suite that fits up to 5. This hotel ranks very high among family travelers. Check the latest rates.
Search for More Hotels in Imerovigli
Family Hotels in Kamari
Otherwise if you’re on a budget, Kamari Beach is quite a pleasant and quiet area to stay. It is however a 1-hour drive from Oia and Fira. Accommodation is a lot cheaper and value for money here. We stayed in Kamari for four nights and really enjoyed our hotel and the restaurants nearby. The beach itself is just mediocre, but there are comfortable sundecks that are free to use with any consumption.
La Bellezza Eco-Boutique Hotel — We also stayed at this hotel and met other families with small kids here. This small and intimate boutique hotel is a 5-minute walk from the beach and has modern and comfortable rooms. All of its suites have private outdoor jacuzzi on their balcony. The outdoor pool is shallow and excellent for kids. During our stay, we had the pool to ourselves almost the entire time. Check the latest rates.
Makris Beach Hotel — Located right on the black sand beach, this apart-hotel is very tastefully designed with arched roofs, wooden furnishing and white walls. Its one-bedroom apartments are big and spacious, with lots of living space for kids. It doesn’t have a swimming pool, but with the beach just steps away, who needs one?! Check the latest rates.
Search for More Hotels in Kamari
Where to Eat in Santorini with Kids
Santorini has a great wine and food culture, with fresh seafood served in Mediterranean style and locally produced wine made from volcanic grapes. You’ll definitely be spoiled for choice when it comes to food on the island. My daughter absolutely loved the food in Greece, which was a blessing as she’s usually a fussy eater!
One thing to note: The main boulevard of each town is often flooded with tourists, but once you meander off to a side street you’ll find small taverns that are quiet and serve cheaper and more authentic food.
Here are some of the best restaurants we ate at on Santorini:
Cava Alta, Pyrgos — This charming tavern was definitely where we had our best meal. Don’t miss the grilled pork belly. A young, local lady recommended this place and I was deeply impressed! We sat out on their open-roofed deck where we had awesome views of Pyrgos, which was such a charming village that few travelers visit.
Oia Gefsis, Oia – Located in the heart of Oia but slightly off the main boulevard is this rooftop restaurant Oia Gefsis. It is one of the newest spots in town that has great sunset views, pricey but good Greek food and nice atmosphere. Prepare for crowds and definitely make a booking in advance.
Mes Amis, Oia – An open-roofed bistro in the quiet part of Oia with spectacular views of the Caldera and the sunset. This was our go-to place right around the corner from the place we were staying and while the food options were limited, I really liked the laid-back atmosphere, away from the crowds.
Anemomilos, Oia — Anemomilos is an affordable tavern just across the road from the main row of hotels in town (therefore no views), and yet the prices are very reasonable and food is excellent. Be sure to try the grilled octopus and feta cheese baked with filo pastry and drenched with honey.
Alismari Tavern, Kamari – A modern gourmet tavern right on the beach of Kamari, amongst the row of restaurants. It stood out to me because of the stylish and more contemporary look. The food was excellent; don’t miss the Saganaki seafood platter which was an excellent mix of mussels and calamari drenched in a rich tomato-based sauce and fried feta cheese.
Practical Tips for Traveling Santorini with Kids
Book family rooms
Many hotels on Santorini are adults-only, so be sure to check that when choosing your hotel. On Booking.com, you can select the number of adults and children (be sure to specify the age of your kid). The results will only show those that are family-friendly. You can also see the rating that each hotel receives from family travelers.
Avoid taking a stroller
I regretted bringing Kaleya’s stroller around Santorini as the killer steps are making it torturous. It wasn’t a big deal for me as her stroller is foldable and lightweight, but you won’t want to be lugging a baby stroller around. Most streets in Santorini are made with cobblestones and there are so many steps to climb in almost every town. If your kid still goes in the baby carrier, then just bring that.
Rent a car with baby seat
I rented a car for only a day to explore the island. I picked a smart car (super compact car that fits only 2) as I’ve always wanted to try it and it’s great for maneuvering the narrow roads of Santorini. The car rental I used (booked online here) supplied a car seat for free. The car seat was sturdy and clean. And Kaleya could use it on the front seat next to me in our smart car. She had never been on the front seat before so that was a first and she really enjoyed it!
Take care of the heat!
If you’re visiting in summer, it can get really hot from noon to sunset. Kaleya didn’t quite enjoy a hot and sweaty walk we did around Fira in the afternoon, so we spent most of our days swimming and chilling and only went out for walks in the evenings. If you have young kids, I wouldn’t recommend doing the hike between Fira and Oia during the day.
Inspired? Pin it!
More from WildJunket
The post Santorini with Kids: My Travel Guide for Families appeared first on Wild Junket Adventure Travel Blog.