It's no surprise that Greece is a dreamy summer destination. It combines everything that makes for a summer paradise - stunning beaches, a little culture and a little physical activity, delicious food (maybe dare I say my FAVORITE food to eat when it's warm out?), and friendly locals. This is our second summer in a row with a trip to Greece - a resounding endorsement from us!
Here’s our itinerary for this time around, including what we loved and tips!
We flew from Paris to Santorini - it’s an easy direct flight. We were in Santorini at both the beginning and the end of the stay in Greece, as this is where the best airport for us is. Upon arrival we had a transfer lined up (included with our hotel; I recommend this if possible, taxis are apparently quite expensive).
When we arrived the hotel, we found out that our room had a problem. They lined up a new hotel in Akrotiri, and upgraded us to a huge villa with a pretty large private pool (it was at the Ambassador hotel, and was definitely out of our price range without the free upgrade!). We also had lost luggage! Be ready for some small hiccups in Greece - we lost time, but everyone was so apologetic that it was fine.
Thoughts on Santorini
Santorini felt pretty chic - picture lots of honeymooning couples, fancy hotels and restaurants with panoramic views. Also... lots of people taking selfies, and women doing the famous flying dress photo shoots. That said, it was the easiest way for us to get out to the smaller islands, and staying for 2-3 nights was nice, and made us appreciate the calm of other locations. Also, Fira and Oia were crowded, but there were smaller cities on the island that were not drowning in visitors, and retained a more authentic feel.
Personally I think this island is better visited with older kids - This is a location that might be best with teens! With a 5 and 8 year old, we had a good time, but I think with younger kids it might be a bit stressful between the fanciness and also the fact there are stairs everywhere (not stroller friendly at all:)). That said everyone is lovely and locals are laid back so I am sure it is fine with younger kids too! Just maybe less ideal.
We had an excellent dinner in Fira at the restaurant Aris with a panoramic view of the sunset - check what time the sun goes down, and reserve in advance for a table along the edge of the terrace. A bit fancier but still kid-friendly! Fira is a beautiful city, and worth going to for some exploring.
We splurged on a private catamaran cruise with Santo Cruises. It was so lovely and a highlight of the whole Greece trip. Thomas and Ellie make you feel like you're with friends, and Ellie cooked up an amazing dinner while we were swimming at one of the hidden coves we visited. We opted for the 1/2 day sunset cruise. I think we will remember this special afternoon for a long time (or at least… I will:)).
At the end of the trip we spent another 24 hours in Santorini, this time in Oia. When you picture Santorini, it’s probably this city you are thinking of. It is very beautiful with white stacked architecture, the iconic blue domed roofs, and views over the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed in an Airbnb with a (tiny) pool - Seacrest Villa - Volcano View.
Dining highlights in Santorini (everything was a highlight actually!!!):
Karma for breakfast - Greek breakfasts are sooo good. This place also happened to be so beautiful! We loved the chia seed pudding, Greek yogurt with fruit and big fluffy pancakes. Reserve in advance.
Niko’s Place Grill House - this was a gyro shop, and wow was it good! 5 euro sandwiches with tatziki on fresh pita, count me in.
Lolita’s Gelato - excellent gelato, right next to Nico’s Place.
Melitini - we had an excellent dinner here. The baked feta cheese and fried zucchini were to die for!
To leave Santorini and head to Folegandros, our next location, we used the speed boat. It was a 50 minute ride, with tickets purchased in advance. This is the more expensive option (I believe tickets were about 60 euros each way). There is also a ferry option that takes about 3 hours. You can also purchase tickets in advance, and it costs a fraction of the price.
Next up, Folegandros - the real reason we came to Greece!
This Greek island is the opposite of Santorini, meaning slow and sleepy (except at night, when things pick up in the main city, Chora. Definitely plan at least one dinner there to experience the fun ambiance!), and very authentic feeling. It is a quite dry outcropping of rocks in the middle of bright turquoise waters. I heard the island only gets 10 cm of rain annually, and life seems to take place outdoors here! It also happens to be pretty windy, which helps to keep the temperature down. Honestly it was warm in the afternoons, but the mornings and evenings were very agreeable. One evening we even wore sweaters!
Our friends’ parents have a home on the island, and we were lucky enough to get to stay there with them! We spent 5 nights here, which seemed about right to cover most of the highlights (we could not do everything because of high winds! Many of the boats you need to get back from remote beaches were not running.).
Try to avoid being at the beach between 1-5pm, as the sun is quite intense.
Agios Nicolaos beach - park at the Agali beach, and hike 20 minutes along the cliffs to the hidden beach. This was doable with 6 kids (including two 3.5 year olds). Set up camp in the shade of a tree and enjoy the crystal clear blue water, and snorkeling. This beach is very family friendly with almost no waves and a wide shallow area for kids to play. When you’re hungry head up to the beach restaurant Taverna Agios Nikolaos. Kids (or you:)) can just wear swimsuits if they want, it’s very laidback. This is just a simple beach restaurant but the food was SO GOOD. The fried eggplant with tatziki, the mint meatballs with homemade French fries, and fresh catch of the day… wow! I want to go back to Folegandros just to come here again. Reserve a table upon arrival at the beach. When weather is good (apparently it was not for us even though the sea seemed calm ?!?) you can hike to the beach, and then catch a boat back to the port. Another reason I want to come back!
The sunset hike to the top of a hill towards the Church of Panagia. The hike is easy, although not stroller friendly. Count about 20 minutes, and start about 40 minutes before sunset. We climbed onto the rocks above the path for the most incredible view of the sunset!
Agali beach - this is another kid-friendly beach, that is easier to squeeze in on a day when you have other activities going on, or don’t feel like hiking.
Araxe - this became our go to for casual meals - it's the kind of no fuss spot that as parents, we LOVE. The service was lovely, and the food was good. Whatever you do, don't miss the Greek yogurt with fruit, drenched in local honey. I've never had such amazing yogurt. The main perk of this spot was having an enclosed outdoor space for the kids to run around. No need for reservations.
Piatsa - this was more refined Greek cuisine. Perfect for an outdoor dinner. Reserve in advance
Parasagas - we tried the two gelato shops (naturally), and this was our preferred location.
Taverna Agios Nikolaos - as mentioned above, this is a must and was our favorite restaurant experience in Greece:)
There you have it! Have you ever been to Greece? Any off the beaten path surprises that worked great for your family? We would love to hear!