Santorini is the quintessential romantic destination with its fantastic sunsets and small restaurants overlooking the caldera so the question of whether it is worth visiting with children in tow is absolutely legitimate.
Santorini can be circumnavigated without particular problems by renting perhaps a car to be more autonomous, it offers several noteworthy treks suitable even for small children, moreover in our opinion at least once in a lifetime must be visited!
If your baby is still sitting in the stroller, know that it is tiring to dribble through the multitude of tourists and the various steps, but doable. A baby backpack would be ideal.
Our answer, therefore, is absolutely affirmative, taking into account, however, a few caveats:
- avoid the summer months altogether, both because of the exorbitant prices, the deadly heat and the hordes of tourists. Santorini is not a famous destination for its beaches (although some are noteworthy) but it deserves more for the views with the characteristic small white houses and the roofs of the small churches with blue domes, wandering through the narrow alleys of its many villages to discover nooks and crannies where you can take the perfect photo, and of course for its sunsets.
- plan a visit in the mid-seasons (April/May or September/October) because in any case it is warm enough for bathing and you can organize several interesting hikes without suffering too much from the summer mugginess.
- leave with the knowledge that perhaps some things will not be able to be done, especially if children are young. For example, waiting for sunset time in Imerovigli with a screaming infant in the midst of hundreds of people is not exactly the best.
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Information, how to get there, and how long to stay
Santorini is the iconic island of the Cyclades, located in the Aegean Sea. Following an impressive volcanic eruption that occurred around 1627 B.C., the island was divided into 5 separate units: Santorini which is the main one, Thirasia, Aspronisi and the two volcanic islets Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni located in the center of the caldera which are one of the most popular destinations for a boat excursion.
Getting There – There is an airport on the island located north of the village of Kamari and 7 km south of Fira, the capital, where several agencies operate with direct flights from Italy (e.g. Volotea, EasyJet, Vueling, a couple of hours) or with a change in Athens (Aegean Airlines, 45 minutes).
How long to stay – If you plan to plan an out-of-town trip in late spring or fall, 4 to 5 days is enough time to tour the island and rest a few hours by the sea.
What to see in Santorini with children
The most charming of Santorini’s villages, located at its northern end.
It is characterized by small white houses built overlooking the caldera, small alleys where fine boutiques stand, and the ruins of the Venetian fortress.
From Oia there is a unique view of the bay and the volcano.
Imerovigli and Firostefani
Imerovigli is a small traditional village where the mountain of Skaros is located. One of the most beautiful sunsets on the island can be enjoyed from here, but one must position oneself on the ruins of the fortress (the best place to see the sunset) well in advance, at least an hour beforehand, otherwise access becomes impenetrable for the multitude of people.
Called the “roof of the island,” Firostefani is about a 20-minute walk from Imerovigli. Even from here you can enjoy enviable sunsets while sitting on terraces overlooking the sea. Not surprisingly, Firostefani is Santorini’s quintessential natural viewing terrace.
The capital of Santorini, overlooking the edge of the caldera. It is characterized by small alleys drawn with white paint where you can wander around for a couple of hours looking for some souvenirs or traditional handicrafts (pottery, jewelry, textiles), beautiful little churches and restaurants where you can sit and have a bite to eat and enjoy the island’s beautiful sunsets.
You will frequently see tourists reaching the upper part of the town from the harbor on the back of a mule. The slope is huge and the heat deadly, we do not share the exploitation of these animals for the benefit of the tourist.
The village of Pyrgos is built on top of a hill in the center of Santorini from which there is a splendid panoramic view of the entire island. It is worth wandering around its winding alleys to discover the many small churches (as many as 48, most of which are private and therefore cannot be visited) with the classic blue dome until you reach the Monastery of the Prophet Elijah, on the top of the mountain of the same name, 4 km from the village center. It stands at 567 meters above sea level and is the highest point on the island of Santorini.
Megalochori is a picturesque traditional village located about 9 km south of Fira. It is characterized by neoclassical-style houses, arched or set in caves, and small whitewashed churches. One can spend a pleasant hour or so wandering around its narrow alleys and visiting the Church of Our Lady with 365 miniatures of saints, and the Boutari winery.
The plain of Megalochori is indeed famous for its vineyards. At harvest time, the roofs of houses are covered with grapes that are left to dry in the sun to make the grapes, later used in the production of Santorini’s sweet wines, even sweeter.
Scavi di Akrotiri
The archaeological site is 9 kilometers from Fira and is located precisely in the village of Akrotiri where we can also view a lovely church and one of the most beautiful sunsets in Santorini near the Lighthouse that remains perched on the cliff at the very tip of the island (about ten minutes drive from the village of Akrotiri).
The site is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Aegean and will appeal greatly to children as well. It is the ruins of a Minoan city buried by ancient ash around 1500 B.C. whose dwellings already had sophisticated plumbing and sewage systems.
Site hours are 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and tickets cost 12 euros adult, 6 euros reduced. Always check the archaeological site.
Ancient Thera is located 15 km southeast of Fira, the capital, at an elevation of 396 meters above sea level; from here the view of the beaches of Kamari and Perissa is unparalleled.
Being perched on a promontory, it is very windy. Remember a hat for the little ones and sunscreen because there is no shelter from the sun. If possible plan an early morning visit.
The archaeological site, 150 meters wide and 800 meters long, now consists of ruins; two Agora (administrative and commercial heart of Ancient Thera) stand out among the ancient remains, where you can see numerous ruins of Greek temples including the Temple of Dionysus and the Sanctuary of Apollo Karneios.
The site also includes Roman baths, the small stone church of Agios Stefanos with the Terrace of Feasts (a place where festivals were celebrated in honor of the God Apollo), Byzantine walls, and the Sanctuary of Artemidorus, carved into the rock and containing carvings in honor of Zeus, Poseidon, and Apollo. Finally, we find the Necropolis, which features tombs from the Archaic and Roman periods.
How to reach Ancient Thera
To reach the site of Ancient Thera, there are three ways: by your rental car from Perissa, by bus from Kamari beach, or on foot along a somewhat strenuous path that winds through terraces but is very characteristic. A description of the walking tour, which we enjoyed very much, can be found in the trekking section.
Access to the site is free and if you wish you can book a guide who will accompany you along the route explaining the various points step by step.
The opening hours of the archaeological site are 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; always check first on the Culture of Greece website.
More things to do in Santorini
There are several hiking trails that can be taken with children that are worth taking to discover the island in toto.
Zoodochov Pigis Cave with arrival at Ancient Thera
This is a beautiful hike that will take you a half day (counting the visit to Ancient Thera). Leave very early in the morning if possible, with a good supply of water and comfortable sneakers.
If your child is too big to fit in the backpack carrier, he or she will need to be fairly well trained and have already hiked trails in the mountains.
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Just past the Antinea Suites & Spa hotel in Kamari, you need to take the hiking trail that starts on the right and not the main road. The walk is steep, it is about 300 m of elevation gain, but peaceful, and the views are incredible.
About halfway down, you will come to a small blue and white church with a bell tower, perched on the hill, and just beyond you will find the cave with the spring. It is the only freshwater spring on the island of Santorini.
The interior is very dark so if you want to take a look inside, you will need to bring a flashlight. It is ideal for enjoying some coolness after the climb.
After resting in the shade of the tree in the churchyard, listening to the sound of the water flowing inside the quarry and admiring the village of Kamari from above, you will be ready to continue on the uphill path that later comes out onto the paved road and from there shortly after you will arrive at the entrance to Ancient Thera.
Why we liked it
We really enjoyed this hike to get a taste of the air of the real Greece, away from the more touristy places.
We had a hard time finding information about this hike precisely because it is so little traveled, so we have tried to reproduce a sort of layout in the map below.
The black line indicates in broad strokes the walking route, the blue line the driving route.
↪ Path Fira-Oia
Among the various hikes in Santorini, the most famous is the walking trek from Fira to Oia via Firostefani and Imerovigli, which provides splendid views of the caldera and the Aegean Sea.
The route is 10 km long with an elevation gain of about 300 m and winds through a sandy and rocky dirt road in some places close to the cliff, passing through typical villages and monuments. It takes about 3 hours/3 1/2 hours and can be returned by taking a bus to Oia. We surrendered at Skaros rock (it took us an hour or so).
This very scenic hike is feasible in our opinion in mid-season, especially if you have small children, because in the height of summer it is really too hot.
If the children are old enough, you could arrange a catamaran trip to the volcano caldera or to the small island of Therasia, taking a swim in the most hidden coves. You could go directly to one of the many tourist agencies on the island that offer such services.
Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni
Also interesting is the boat excursion to the two (uninhabited) volcanic islets Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni, where you can go to explore the crater from which sulfur vapor comes out and walk along paths of solidified lava. You can also bathe in the hot springs.
Visiting a winery
Boutari is one of the best known wineries in Greece. In Megalochori, resides Boutari Winery, which organizes guided tours of the vineyards, wineries and tastings of their wines accompanied by cured meats and cheeses.
For info www.boutariwinerysantorini.gr/.
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5-day itinerary in Santorini
Below you can find an itinerary idea with an indication of what to do day by day, to better organize your stay with children in Santorini.
Excursion to Zoodochov Pigis Cave with arrival at Ancient Thera; afternoon relaxation at Kamari beach. Sunset in Fira and dinner at Anemoolos.
Trekking Fira-Oia; in the afternoon well-deserved relaxation on the beach and dinner at To Pinakio, in Kamari.
Discovering Oia and Ammoudi Bay; in the afternoon relaxation at Monolithos beach and dinner on the Kamari waterfront at Almira Restaurant.
Discovering Pyrgos and Megalochori; in the afternoon relaxing at Vlychada Beach. Sunset at Oia and dinner at Pitogyros.
Relaxing in Red Beach; in the afternoon exploring Akrotiri with a visit to the archaeological site and sunset at the Lighthouse. Dinner at Captain Dimitris’s in Akrotiri.
Where to eat in Santorini
There are so many typical taverns where you can taste the specialties of Greek cuisine such as tomato fritters (Santorini’s own specialty), tomatoes stuffed with rice, mussaka, souvlaki (meat skewers), gyros, barbecued fish, and baklava (typical dessert with honey).
The ones we liked best are Anemoloos in Pyrgos, To Pinakio in Kamari, Pitogyros in Oia, Captain Dimitris near the Akrotiri Lighthouse, Almira Restaurant on the Kamari waterfront.
Where to stay in Santorini and how to get around
The advice, if you are moving with children, is to stay in Kamari because it has the beaches on its doorstep (clear, shallow water) and the waterfront is full of little restaurants and stores where you can eat and take a leisurely stroll. Without taking into account that the prices are lower.
Below is a list of hotels that can meet the needs of a family with children.
Alafouzos Studios & Apartments – This is a two-level apartment with free cancellation, free crib on request and swimming pool. Book here.
Anassa Deluxe Suites – This is a really spacious and elegant suite with a kitchenette (so convenient if you have to prepare baby food for the little ones), small terrace and breakfast included. It’s right off the Kamari waterfront and also has a pool, gym and spa. They do not have cribs available. Book here.
Morning Star Traditional Houses – Located in Pyrgos, in the center of the island, it is in a quiet, private area with stunning views. It is a typically furnished apartment, with several bedrooms, very spacious and equipped with everything (free crib on request). Book here.
Chelidonia Traditional Villas – Little folly in Oia. Traditionally decorated apartment overlooking the caldera and private terrace on which breakfast (included) is served in the morning. They do not have cribs. They offer babysitting services for a fee. Book here.
Moving with children, renting a car might be a good idea so you can get around the island (which is about 80 square kilometers in size) independently.
The daily cost for renting a car is approximately 50 euros.
If you need to rent a car, you can compare offers and save 70% by booking the car on the DiscoverCars portal.
Beaches of Santorini worth mentioning
Santorini is not as famous for its beaches as it is for its sunsets, but there are some that are worth a visit, to take a dip or even just to take a look and snap a photo.
Kamari is the beach in Santorini in our opinion best for children because its clear waters are quite shallow and there are a variety of restaurants, bars, and souvenir stores on the promenade where you can eat and walk around. It consists of black sand and pebbles that stretch for nearly 5 kilometers with a width of about 200 meters. Access to the beach is free for a drink at an all-too-honest price.
Located between Kamari and Perivolos beaches, Perissa is another popular beach on the island, with a length of about 7 to 8 kilometers of dark-colored beach and small pebbles. Its waters can get quite deep. Its waterfront is also lined with restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, and tourist agencies.
On the east-central coast of Santorini, this is a quiet beach suitable for families with children. It is characterized by dark beach and finer sand than its predecessors.
It is one of Santorini’s most beautiful and characteristic beaches, consisting of red and black volcanic pebbles. It is located in the southwestern part of the island, close to Akrotiri. One has to park the car and continue on foot.
It is about ten minutes of walking on a somewhat uneven path so we recommend wearing a pair of sneakers (although most venture out in flip-flops). The beach is tiny and fills up quickly, so in our opinion it’s worth popping in even simply around sunset time to take some nice photos with the glowing red rock contrasting with the blue sea. Postcard-worthy!
It is located near the harbor in the southern part of the island. It is a very special beach because it is characterized by dark sand with very high pumice stone walls behind it that also serve as shelter from the wind. One part of the beach is equipped, the other is free but more difficult to access.
It is located in the southern part of the island on the west side and its name comes precisely from the color of the cliffs. Its small beach consists of large white, gray pebbles and black reindeer. It is located near Red Beach but can only be reached by sea starting precisely from Red Beach, Akrotiri, Kamari or Perissa. It takes about 15-20 minutes and the ticket is done directly on the boat.
Ammoudi is a quaint little harbor located in the northwestern part of the island, accessed from the Venetian fortress (in Oia) down a steep flight of 300 steps. You can bathe by diving into the crater waters and enjoy good fish dishes in one of a variety of fishermen’s taverns.
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