Santorini is a popular destination for couples but what about visiting the Greek island as a family? We spent five days in Santorini during autumn half term and had a brilliant time exploring its unique geology and hilltop villages. Yes, some parts of the island are tricky to navigate with children but it is possible. I have compiled a list of pros and cons of visiting Santorini with kids.
Black and red beaches
Why have yellow sand when you can have black, red and even white beaches! Santorini’s volcanic activity means there’s multi-coloured beaches to explore. Not something you get on your average beach holiday!
My daughters loved playing in the black sand at Perissa beach. As the particles are larger – and black – they are easier to see (especially when getting caught up in sandwiches). They also brushed off better than regular sand.
Santorini is famed for its hilltop villages with whitewashed buildings and blue domed churches lining the coast. The village of Oia (pronounced ee-ya) is the most popular and it absolutely lives up to expectations.
Make sure you have plenty of storage available for photographs when you visit. Oia isn’t the only stunning village though. Fira, Pyrgos and some of the lesser known villages such as Finikia, Emboreio and Megalochori are also worth a look.
Almost everywhere you look in Santorini are stunning views. The volcanic activity which has shaped the island has left a legacy of rugged coastline and colourful rock formations.
The repeated volcanic eruptions of lava has also created the three islands in the caldera: New Kameni, Old Kameni and Thirassia. It is possible to get boat cruises to the islands including the crater of New Kameni (although I wouldn’t advise going with younger children). The good news is you can get incredible views all along the western coast and from its hilltop villages. On the east side of Santorini you can spot the islands of Crete and Folegandros.
Where there are great views, there are fantastic sunsets. Santorini has some rather special ones.
My daughter was fascinated by Santorini’s volcanic rock formations. One of our highlights was viewing the red beach and its towering russet rocks overhead. For older children, who are learning about geology, Santorini is a wonderful lesson on volcanoes and what they can create. Santorini is made up of several islands formed after a volcano collapsed into itself creating the current caldera.
Santorini doesn’t just have geological wonders, it also has a Bronze Age settlement. A powerful volcano which erupted in 1627 BC buried the town of Akrotiri preserving it until it was discovered in 1967. It is still being excavated but you can walk around what has been uncovered so far. It turns out the ancient town had plenty of modern touches such as multi-storey buildings, colourful frescos, ceramics and a sewage system. Santorini also has a number of Roman ruins too.
All Day Eating
Greece’s restaurants stay open all day! Getting something to eat with children can be difficult in countries such as Spain and France where restaurants close after lunch and don’t open until 7pm. We were able to eat at our leisure and not worry without them falling asleep or getting cranky. Always a bonus. The food was very good too.
Much of Santorini’s appeal is its clifftop villages and their picturesque views over the caldera. Those views do come at a price though – it’s hilly. It was hard work at times with the pushchair and our eldest daughter had the odd moan. We managed though. If you have a young child, a baby carrier would be a good idea. It isn’t all steep though, the east side is a lot flatter and there’s plenty of other things to see and do.
Oia is Santorini’s most popular village and one of its highlights is the walk along the cliff top to the ruins of the Venetian castle. The views from there over the caldera and rest of the village are spectacular.
People gather there for sunset which is said to be one of the best in Santorini. However, it is a steep drop down and no real safety measures so do be careful! Hold onto those little ones. Personally I wouldn’t go there for sunset with children. It would get too busy and stressful. It may not suit those with vertigo either. We went in the daytime and got some great shots.
Lack of pavements
Although the centre of Santorini’s towns are pedestrianised, you have to walk on the road to get to them. Santorini is lacking in pavements so keep children close to you when walking on the roadside.
Few high chairs
Some of the restaurants in the less touristy places didn’t have high chairs. If you are going with a small child, be prepared for them to sit on your lap or take a portable booster seat. In Fira and Oia this wasn’t a problem.
A lot of the hotels, especially in Oia, are built into the clifftop and as such aren’t hugely family-friendly. Some hotels are for adults only. We went for an Airbnb apartment in the lesser-known town of Pyrgos which was cheaper and suited us very well. This was our view from the terrace.
Parts of Santorini are tourist hotspots and this is reflected in the restaurant and bar prices. If you don’t want to shell out for a mediocre meal, do your research. We found restaurants a lot cheaper in Pyrgos and found an excellent bakery with reasonable prices (and delicious ice cream). Accommodation is also expensive in the main spots.
Santorini is a fantastic place to visit and is possible with children as long as you take care and manage expectations on what you can and can’t do. Enjoy!
Have you been to Santorini? Would you visit with children?
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