Island hopping in Greece is for all ages. We travelled with two children aged 4 and 6 who carried their own backpacks. It was a success.
As seasoned travellers and ambitious parents we wanted to introduce our boys to the noble art of backpacking. Greece was a natural destination and island hopping in the Cyclades archipelago was beckoning us.
The mother had been hopping here before, but I had only been twice to Greece. The first was a “stag” trip with friends to the beaches of Khalkidhiki in 1983. In 1995 we spent a week with our baby son on Skiathos, in the mid-Aagaen.
Entire travel books and a lot of blog entries have been describing the prerequisites, challenges and rewards connected with travelling with children. Looking back at many years of doing that, my experience and advice may be summed up in this short list:
- Don’t travel many places during your vacation, but find a place to stay for several days and call it home
- Make sure you have easy access to a swimming pool or a beach
This is the recipe we followed on all trips with young children. They will survive a museum or two and a village or three. They will even accept a car ride for a few hours at a time. But there must be a reward like a swim and an ice-cream at the end of the day.
With this in mind, we decided to fly to Santorini to spend a few days there in the beginning and end of our fourteen days in the sun. We also added the touristy island of Naxos and the very little touristy island of Schinoussa on our itinerary.
Our means of transportation would be ferries between the islands. We had made no bookings and we had made no plans as to how long we would stay on each island.
Questions: How did we do it? And how did the children react?
Answer: Read on
Finding a place to stay in Santorini was no problem. At the airport we were approached by a number of men flying their photo albums eager to find new guests. We joined one of them to a nice little hotel on the outskirts of Thera (also called Thira and Fira), the main town on Santorini.
- Hotel Babis proved to be a fine place for the family, with a pool we did not hesitate to try out. The location was not perfect as we had to walk along a fairly trafficked road for half an hour or so into the centre of town.
There are a few highlights to see on Santorini, and we picked some of them. The first evening we went into town to have a look. Thera/Thira has a fantastic location on a very high cliff, the edge of an old volcano crater actually. Several restaurants are perched on the very edge. With 2-300 metres down to the sea and facing west the location allows visitors to enjoy beautiful sunsets.
View of main town of Thera on Santorini
The next day we took a cable car from Thera down to the old port. This one is mainly used for smaller vessels carrying tourists on short distances. We could have used the traditional donkey transportation instead. Here we boarded a boat going out to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni. This island is completely inhabitable and there is hardly anything organic on it. Sulphurous gasses emit from the rock and make a walk around pretty exciting, and not only for children.
The banana shaped island of Santorini is the largest rest of what used to be a much larger island. A series of volcanic eruptions and explosions not more than 3,500 years ago created a huge crater in the middle which was filled with sea water. The islands of Aspronisi and Therasia constitute the rest of the caldera ring. Nea Kameni sits in the middle of the crater. Some say that Santorini was in fact the origin of the Atlantis legend.
The small tourist port of Thera on Santorini
Volcanic island of Nea Kameni, near Santorini
The most famous part of Santorini is perhaps the northern tip and the town of Oia. Lots of people arrive here in the early evening with one purpose in mind; to enjoy the sunsets. They are supposed to be extremely beautiful right here. Well, it was really nice the evening we took a local bus out there, but it did perhaps not make up for the hordes of fellow sunset worshippers squatting on every piece of rock, roof and steps there was to find.
Waiting for the sunset in Oia, Santorini
Early one morning we asked the hotel proprietor to drive us down to the port. We were taking a ferry to Naxos.
When we returned to Santorini from Naxos we found a place to stay in Perissa on the south-east side of the island. It has a very long beach, but the sand was dark from the lava and very, very warm. This did not suit the children in particular and we also had to change pensions between the two nights we stayed here. The hygienic standards of the first pension did not suit the needs of a family. Perissa was not a particularly photogenic place to stay anyway – unlike the rest of the island.
Santorini is a very popular island and deservedly so.
These are the chapters in this series: