“With an olive tree, a vineyard and a boat, you can rebuild Greece.” – Odysseas Elytis, Greek poet and Nobel Laureate
Whitewashed islands, sailing boats, fishing villages, ancient ruins, olives and feta cheese, enduring myths, awe-inspiring sunsets, the strum of the mandolin, sun-kissed figures – these are the images that Greece evokes. Romance. Luxury.
Not the ideal destination for antsy, precocious kids. But we scoured through some sound advice from the Internet and put together a 10-day kid-friendly Greece Itinerary. This was limited to the city of Athens and the two most visited islands in the Cyclades – Santorini and Mykonos.
To pique interest for the kids, we got them a set of Leslie Patricelli’s Mini Myths including ‘Be Patient, Pandora’, ‘Play Nice, Hercules’ and ‘Make a Wish, Midas’.
Greece is good any time of the year – winters do get cold though (it even snows!), so if sun and sea are what you seek, anytime between March and October is a great time to travel. Then again, off-peak months like April and September provide sunshine without the party crowds.
Olive Tree: Athens
Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, is said to have won the contest for the patron deity of the city by gifting Athens an olive tree.
And olive trees are what greeted us we drove from the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport to the Royal Olympic Hotel near Plaka. The hotel boasts of panoramic views of the Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus.
Plaka is a quaint neighborhood of traditional houses and cobbled streets strewn with cafes, shops, and ancient ruins. Syntagma Square with the Greek Parliament and Monastiraki are a short walk away.
Athens sleeps in the afternoon but is open till late especially in summer, so a long stroll in the night is highly recommended.
What to see in Athens with kids
Athens is a city full of historic monuments and sites.
Acropolis is a must-do for any visitor to the city. The Parthenon atop the Acropolis is a temple dedicated to Athena. Our guide, an erudite Greek lady, explained the significance of the various ancient structures.
Make sure you hike to the top of the Acropolis site. The sweeping views of the city right up to the Piraeus port are definitely worth it. Don’t miss Mount Lycabettus and the Monument of Philopappos. This two-hour trek involves some bit of climbing, so make sure to carry water and caps to fight the sun.
The Theatre of Dionysus was the first theatre ever built. This is at the foot of Acropolis. It was supposedly the birthplace of Greek tragedy. The theatre could seat as many as 17,000 people with excellent acoustics.
Parts of the sculptures that adorned the Parthenon are now housed at the British Museum in London (a contentious issue between the two countries), though the Acropolis Museum has replicas. Located at the foot of the Acropolis, the museum also offers family backpacks and trails to pique the young children’s interest. The café on the terrace offers a welcome respite after a hectic day.
The Hellenic Children’s Museum focused on experiential learning is free of cost. This Museum would delight every kid from 4-10 years. In the Playground, they play with building materials to create different constructions. At the Marketplace, they are taught about the concept of supply and demand, and in the Kitchen area, they experiment with food ingredients and recipes and have the opportunity to try their hand at cooking.
Check out Athens Museum Guide for more information.
Unfortunately, we had only 2 days in Athens and missed out on some of the other fascinating sites like the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, the Piraeus Port, the funicular rail car to the Lycabettus Hill. A day trip to Delphi also sounds like a wonderful addition.
Santorini features on many lists of island destinations and is a favorite with the honeymoon and cruise crowds: it definitely lives up to the hype and more!
Santorini has a unique geology. The caldera and the minor islands were formed through volcanic eruptions hundreds of thousands of years ago, submerging parts of the land in the azure sea.
The island has stunning beaches. Think red and black sand with the azure blue sea. It also produces one of the finest Greek wines, the Assyrtiko.
We took an early morning flight to Santorini. A ferry from Athens is an alternative option but it takes almost 5 hours. Do read the fine print if booking with a low-cost airline like Ryanair or Easyjet for baggage allowances, check-ins and boarding passes. There is a reasonable bus network on the island, but we opted for a self-drive car with an international license, though no one checked us.
As we reached the Atlantida Villas at the edge of Oia on the northern tip of the island, we were mesmerized by the breathtaking views of clear cobalt blue sea. Oia town gets crowded in the evenings and when the cruise ships arrive. It is nevertheless pretty as a picture.
The beaches on the island – the Red beach, Kamari, and Perissa – are unique and stunning. We spent half a day frolicking at the beach shacks in Perissa.
Amoudi Bay on the northern tip has glorious views of the caldera as well as blue and green waters. We walked up the steep steps from the bay to the old church in Oia through narrow streets and whitewashed houses with donkeys to give us company.
The boat ride in the caldera at sunset was ethereal. Our captain let us swim in the sea just off the coast of Thirasia and near Nea Kameni, where the hot currents and sulfur reminded us of the proximity of the volcano.
Mykonos is a 20th-century addition to the travel map, epitomising the island life.
Till the middle of the 20th century, Mykonos lived in the shadow of the ancient island of Delos and was occupied by the Venetians for more than three centuries.
The two-and-a-half hour ferry ride from the Thira port to Mykonos took us through the islands of Ios and Naxos. The luggage and cars went into the belly while all of us traveled comfortably in the indoor cabin.
Mykonos has idyllic sandy beaches; we visited Psarou in the south. Evenings were spent strolling through Mykonos Town with white buildings and bright blue doors. We didn’t find the famously irascible pelican but met numerous cats lazing around, while stopping for pictures in Little Venice and near the windmills.
A last-minute change in plan brought George, the owner of Paradise Beach Resort, to pick us up at the Mykonos port. This hotel, where we stayed for just one night, was walking distance from the beautiful party beach. Paradise Resort (no points for originality here!) was good value for money. George and his staff were attentive and friendly.
We moved the next day to Ilio Maris, which is closer to town and walking distance from the windmills and Little Venice.
Shopping in Greece
Apart from the fridge magnets and other knick-knacks, do shop for Greek cotton and linen clothes, pottery and handmade jewelry. The islands have boutiques targeted at the honeymooners and cruise crowd, but you are better off shopping in Athens for better pricing.
Olives, olive oil and olive oil soaps are must buy, as are the Grecian leather sandals.
Food & Drink options
Greek food is both delicious and healthy and we pigged out on the creamy yogurts, olives, feta salads, seafood, tomato fritters (keftedes), stuffed vine leaves (dolmathes) and baklavas.
Greece produces amazing wines as well, which surprisingly aren’t exported. But who would want to share such treasures! Assyrtiko white wine is made in wineries in Santorini from a locally grown grape and is light with citrus and fruity notes. We enjoyed a bottle of Domaine Sigalas, Assyrtiko watching the sunset in Mykonos while the kids frolicked in the pool. Another delicious white wine is the Moscofilero.
We loved the seafood at Terina and the Indian food at Indian Chef in Athens. Skiza Café in Oia, Santorini had great service and decent food. Melenio in Oia had a cheeky one-liner for those seeking free WiFi – ‘Don’t ask for the WiFi password, talk to each other!’ and with great coffee, pancakes and a breathtaking view, who would argue with that!
Check out the website Kids Love Greece for more ideas on a family trip to Greece.
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This is a guest post by Shweta Markandeya. After 10 years of climbing the corporate ladder, Shweta decided to call it quits and just “chill” with her now six-year-old daughter. When not wandering on foot, she wanders in her mind by reading, writing and planning yet another trip! She lists Greece, Northern California and Prague as her favourite destinations – she’d be happy to run a book-and-coffee shop in Oia.
Have you visited any Greek island? If yes, which is your favourite one? Share with us in the comments below.
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