Choosing where to go on your family holiday is a big decision. After all, these are the memories you’ll be cherishing for years to come: blissful days spent playing in the sun, jumping waves, eating ice-creams… But as every parent knows, keeping everyone happy can be challenging. Whether you’re looking for bucket-and-spade beaches, round-the-clock activities or a safe space to fly-and-flop, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourites that we think brilliant for families.
Which of these Greek island getaways is right for you?
Crete: spectacular and easy to reach
This is the Big One: 5th largest in the Med, and with a distinct cultural heritage, Crete is easy to reach with plenty of flights to both Heraklion and Chania. Long and thin, with a mountainous backbone, the island has something for everyone from warm, shallow water to bustling Italianate harbour towns and the famous archaeological site of Knossos (of Theseus and the Minotaur fame).
For knock-out beaches, including turquoise lagoon Balos and expansive white Falasarna, head to the north-west corner. Base yourselves at Cretan Contemporary Villas, a gorgeous set of modernist self-catering villas, each with its own infinity pool, most with second bedrooms and all with breathtaking views.
To get more bang for your buck, and a better insight into island culture, don’t be afraid to head inland. A former hilltop hamlet and olive mill, Kapsaliana Village Hotel now offers rustic-chic family suites, an organic restaurant with kid-friendly dishes and a pool; the coast is only 25 minutes away.
The Cyclades: hidden Andros and beachy Naxos
A cluster of islands close to Athens, the Cyclades are the original and best for island-hopping by boat – a fun way for children to travel. This is picture-postcard territory with white-washed villages, sandy beaches and rocky hills. Each island has its own character: some are thronged by tourists in summer, others offer unspoilt island life dependent on farming and fishing.
Just 2 hours by ferry is Andros, whose mesmeric coves, tumbling waterfalls and pristine beaches have escaped the crowds. Onar, a collection of stone houses within a national park, is a real hidden gem. With an unspoiled beach reached by walking through a river, it’s ideal for outdoorsy families with older kids keen to run, explore and swim.
Largest of the Cyclades, laid-back Naxos has lovely gold beaches, dramatic scenery, lush terraced valleys and authentic villages. Small resort Kavos Naxos, above a sand dune beach with safe shallow waters, is perfect for families with smaller children. It has 2- and 3-bedroomed villas with kitchenettes and shady verandas, and a poolside restaurant with kids’ menu.
Evia: the wild and overlooked island
A 2-hour drive from the capital (across a bridge), Evia rivals Crete in size and scenery but is far less famous. Beauty is in its dense woods, lush mountainous interior, rivers and secluded beaches, ideal for exploring by bicycle, boat or on horseback.
Sleek contemporary Thalatta Seaside Hotel is a dream for families: special kids’ mealtimes and a nightly family movie mean parents can dine à deux. There’s also a huge children’s pool, a daily kids club staffed by excellent ‘animators’ and even a Magic Forest play area.
The Ionians: unspoiled Lefkas and a Zakynthos secret
This island group, off the west coast of mainland Greece, is famous for its sculpted cliffs, azure seas and gentle but reliable winds.
Unspoiled hilly Lefkas – under an hour’s drive from Preveza/Aktion Airport (well served by charter flights) – is known for watersports such as windsurfing and kitesurfing. For a multi-generational holiday, or 2 families together, check out the tranquil 3-storey Stone House, complete with stunning infinity pool, extensive terraces and superbly equipped kitchen. It’s also conveniently close to the yachting town of Nidri.
The south coast of Zakynthos feels overdeveloped, so head to its north coast for the bluest seas in Greece. The Blue Caves have luminous waters and unique rock arches. Kayaking, diving and snorkelling are popular pastimes; try Alykes Beach for waterskiing, windsurfing and paragliding. For a relaxing family stay, Paradisso Beach Villas works brilliantly: the 3 serviced villas each have a full kitchen and their own private space. All share a lovely garden with play area and ping pong table, and have direct access to a private beach.