We teamed up with Nelios who has a great insider knowledge of the Greek islands. Read what they suggest for families that love to get off the beaten path.
Greece is a very diverse destination, often associated with summer vacations due to its large number of beautiful islands. However, it is a place that can be enjoyed outside of summer too as there is so much choice depending on travelers’ preferences and the time of year. The capital city of Athens showcases a different kind of allure each season, but it is equally exciting to visit all year round. Crete, Greece’s southernmost and largest island can also be enjoyed throughout the year, however, it is even more pleasant during the shoulder seasons. During summertime, the islands are the place to be in order to fully capitalise on the generous sunshine that Greece can boast about. If it’s a winter escape you are considering, the Pelion mountains are simply an enchanting place to be.
The amazing weather that Greece experiences makes it a paragon of the Mediterranean climate, therefore, depending on the season of your visit you can choose one of the following Greek holiday experiences for active travel with kids.
Athens city – Enjoyable all year round
Α thrilling place full of contradictions with such a tangible ancient past it is bound to win you over in seconds of your arrival. The highlights of Athens are definitely its ancient attractions, such as the Acropolis with its monuments and incredible views of the Athenian skyline, as well as its namesake and state-of-the-art museum. Kids will love browsing through the artefacts, some of which also include prehistoric toys, although an Acropolis museum guided tour is recommended especially when visiting with children as they probably won’t spend any time reading the informational placards.
For something that is interactively fun, child-friendly and admission free, consider the Digital Museum at the Plato Academy. It is an alternative museum that aims to bridge the gap between ancient and modern Athens and is built with a deliberate single entrance and exit, to symbolise the path to enlightenment. If your children show an inclination toward science and astronomy, the National Observatory of Athens in Thissio or the Planetarium may be just the thing. Be sure to check their opening hours beforehand. For more leisurely activities with the kids, a stroll around the old National Gardens at Zappeion could make an interesting experience while your family can also enjoy a sensational picnic at an Acropolis view rooftop! If you have older children you may want to consider staying there too, situated in one of the most hip and vibrant neighbourhoods of the city.
Crete – Ideal for shoulder seasons
Crete is an excellent choice in case of visiting Greece during the shoulder seasons which are typically Spring and Autumn. Generally, you can expect less crowds, plus you can take advantage of school mid-terms. There are less people around while the weather is at its best; not too warm and not too cold for enjoying the outdoors. On an island such as Crete you are able to combine many different activities, even brave a beach day! Sea temperatures are highest during Autumn, having been warmed by the summer sun while during Spring they are colder following the Winter chill. For your first visit to Crete, choose Chania in the center of the island. It is built around a quaint, Venetian harbour brimming with wonderful cafes, tavernas and shops to peruse at your leisure. Families with children of all ages are welcomed at Samaria Hotel in Chania, a comfortable city hotel close enough yet far away from the buzz of the old town, ensuring a tranquil stay for all.
It is also home to the national park of the Samaria Gorge that belongs to the White Mountains, the largest ravine in Europe that measures 18 km in length, up to 700 m in depth and ranges from 3 m to 150 m in width. It is a doable feat for teen children although not recommended for younger ones. Younger children might really enjoy the Fun Train that has a dozen itineraries to choose from, taking you on leisurely rides across Chania’s amazing landscapes. For discovering the underwater world of Chania, try a glass bottom boat ride for a nautical adventure that will take you to the nearby islet of Lazareta. If you’d like a road excursion, make a day out of visiting the Crete Aquarium or the Dinosauria Park both of which kids will love, while on the way back to Chania you can stop at the Botanical Park of Crete for a lovely stroll as you get to know the local flora and fauna.
Island hopping – Essential for Summer months
If you prefer to visit Greece during its peak season, typically June through to August, be prepared the most sunshine packed holidays the Mediterranean can offer. The Greek islands are at their most popular, but with so many of them, how do you go about making a decision on which ones to visit? It would take a fair amount of research in order to make the right choices as well as time spent getting from place to the other; regular ferry connections can take up to many hours to get you from A to B while not all islands have an airport. So, if you have a strong urge to discover as much of the Greek islands as you possibly can, consider taking a boutique cruise that is right in the middle between traditional sailing boats and massive cruise liners. A boutique cruise around Greece gives your family the choice of duration and predefined itineraries that can cover up to 10 stops, combining both island and coastal mainland destinations worth exploring. What’s more is that you can opt for all the in-land excursions that are carried out by a local guide who will reveal all the wonders of each location. Active, educational, time-saving and absolutely fun for all family members, with the added bonuses of comfort, ease and the simple fact that you only board once, without having to unpack and repack in order to visit a handful of fascinating places.
Pelion Mountains – The perfect Winter escape
Nature lovers and the more adventurer family types are often drawn to places that are off-the-beaten track. One such place is Pelion, a mountainous region northeast of Athens that is accessed via a short flight to Volos, the nearest major city and a drive 1,5 hour drive to Pelion. Alternatively, you can drive all the way to Pelion from Athens, but it will take you approximately 4,5 hours. It may seem far, but Pelion’s phenomenal landscape will definitely compensate you. Combining mountain and sea views, a winter escape to Pelion is something to experience.
Prepare for colder weather here and some snow, although plenty of sunshine is still on the cards, except for perhaps a few cloudy days. If your family skis, then you can visit the Pelion ski center and engage in winter shenanigans at one of the first ski center created in Greece. Pelion is actually a legendary place; myth has it that centaurs (half man, half horse) used to roam its forests, taking refuge under the thick canopies. A forest trek within Pelion’s woodland is a fantastic activity for the entire family, however if there happens to be plenty of snowfall it is not recommended. This activity is best experienced during early or late winter so that you can enjoy most of the scenery without it being veiled in a white blanket of snow. Pelion has many picturesque villages to visit too, where all the houses are built in the local grayscale stone that makes them incredibly charming. Portaria village is one of those and the family-friendly Erofili Hotel in Pelion is the ideal setup for your base. When in Pelion be sure to expect fantastic local food, hot cocoa in front of a fireplace, or for the adults, a must try is the local ‘tsipouro’, a strong alcoholic beverage that will definitely warm your insides.
Have you been to Greece with your family? Let us know in the comments below your suggestions on activities what we should not miss and some great family hotels or resorts.
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