The Greek islands might not be the first place you think of when you think of a European family vacation, but they should be.
Greece is an extremely family-friendly country, and its slower pace and small villages are a nice contrast to the European tourist traps such as Paris or Rome.
So what are the best islands in Greece for families? Check out these islands to get the best out of a vacation to Greece:
Each of these beautiful island getaways has a rich ornate history, some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world, and plenty of family-friendly activities for all ages and preferences.
Let’s look at each of them below and see what they have to offer.
Crete is one of the most famous of the Greek islands, and with good reason.
Also known as Megalonisos, or the “great island,” Crete is the biggest of all the Greek islands, so no trip to Greece is complete without hitting this gorgeous spot.
Crete is renowned as the birthplace of Zeus, and has two of the only pink sand beaches in the entire world.
This island also features Europe’s last leper colony and its largest palm tree forest.
No matter whether you’d rather hit the beach or check out a theme park, there’s something for everyone.
Go Scuba Diving
Crete has some of the best scuba diving in the Greek world and is a top-notch place for snorkeling and other water activities.
The waters of Greece are blue and translucent, allowing for maximum visibility for catching glimpses of the local sea life.
To go scuba diving or snorkeling in Crete, you can check out some of these popular scuba diving spots:
Bay of Afrata in Chania: The Bay of Afrata is a great place to take the family, as they not only offer free sunbeds and sunshades but also feature a pleasant local tavern to stock up on food and drink.
The Bay of Afrata is not very crowded compared to some places in Greece, which makes it a great low-key stop to take the family when you need a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle of touring the Greek islands.
Panormos Village in Rethymon: While this small beach can be a bit of a hard find, it is worth the trek. This beach is sandy rather than rocky, and while the seas can be rough along the Grecian coastline, the benefit of this beach is that it is an enclosed harbor.
Because of this, the waters remain calm and safe to swim in even for children, and the water stays a bit warmer.
Hersonissos Cape in Heraklion: Hersonissos is the largest tourist resort in Crete, so expect plenty of amenities geared towards travelers here. Unlike Panormos or Chania, Hersonissos is not a small, picturesque Cretan village–it’s a bustling tourist town.
Hersonissos is a great place to pick up your family’s souvenirs or to get a larger variety of choices in restaurants or local activities than your average small Greek village. There is also good scuba diving here.
“Nikolos” Reef in Lasithi: Lasithi is where you want to head if you’re serious about scuba diving. Featuring ancient shipwrecks and some of the most beautiful reefs in the world, this part of Crete is for the serious scuba divers in the family.
Lasithi is Crete’s wildest area, with some of the greatest biodiversity in the Greek islands, so it’s definitely worth the stop.
Aquaworld and Cretaquarium
For families that would rather see fish up close behind glass rather than go scuba diving to catch a glimpse of them, the theme parks Aquaworld and Cretaquarium are a good bet.
Aquaworld is the first aquarium in Crete and has many specimens of marine life that were rescued from other parts of the world, making it a wildlife sanctuary as well as a tourist park.
This aquarium is a good choice for children because many of the exhibits are hands-on and interaction with the animals is encouraged.
Cretaquarium is another aquarium in Crete that was started by marine biologists from the Institute of Marine Biology of Crete and is the first large aquarium in all of Greece.
This park contains over 250 species of marine life in over 60 exhibits, so there’s plenty to take in.
No family trip to Crete would be complete without a visit to Dinosauria Park.
This theme park near the town of Gournes displays fossil specimens as well as several life-sized animatronic dinosaurs for the dinosaur lovers in your group.
These specimens are located along a hiking trail, and each one is accompanied by posted information, so you can learn about the dinosaurs as you see each of them.
This park has over 30 different dinosaur species from the Mesozoic era as well as other prehistoric animals.
When the family gets tired, they can hang out at the Dinosauria playground, watch live dinosaur hatches, and watch dinosaur-themed movies at the cineplex.
Acqua Plus Water Park and Limnoupolis
If your family would rather get rowdy and wet, you can check out the excellent water parks at Acqua Plus Water Park and Limnoupolis, two water parks available to visit in Crete.
Acqua Plus Water Park is a great option with children because they have a wrist band system where you can scan food, drinks, and other purchases to your wrist band, rather than having to carry money.
There are also photographers taking action shots, so you can get that perfect splashdown photo.
Limnoupolis is another water park you can visit in Crete that has two freefall water slides, a black hole, a triple twist slide, a crazy river ride, a rainbow multi-slide, and two giant slides.
For smaller children, it also has a separate kid’s pool with their own mini waterslides and a lazy river that is over 675 feet long.
When everyone gets tired, you can relax and grab some food either at the restaurant, a fast food stand, or the pirate-themed bar.
Go Spelunking at Dikteon and Sfentoni
If you’re wanting to get your family out of the blaring Grecian sun, you can’t get a much better diversion than the cave tours at Dikteon and Sfetoni.
Dikteon Cave: While this cave has a bit of a steep climb to get to the entrance, the exercise is well worth it. While the walk up can get a bit hot, the cave itself is beautiful and cool, with plenty of interesting geographical formations. Once you are in the caves, you can take your time and look as long as you like.
There is also food and drink available to refresh yourselves, and donkey rides for those who feel unable to make the steep ascent. Be sure not to wear flip-flops on this tour, as the terrain can be very uneven in places.
Sfentoni Cave: This cave features robust guided tours and excellent rainbow lighting, which wavers and changes and creates a truly mesmerizing experience for everyone involved. The road to get to this somewhat remote spot is a bit of a mountain trek, but the scenery is wonderful.
Sfentoni Cave is also a great place to see some of Greece’s subterranean wildlife, such as the large colony of bats that resides there.
Because the main goal of Sfentoni is conservation of both the cave’s formations and the wildlife, no touching of the rocks or flash photography is allowed.
However, this cave also features a pleasant outdoor cafe with chocolate lava cakes and ice cream that the kids (and those who are kids at heart) will be sure to adore.
If your family is more interested in the history of Greece rather than the local tourist attractions, then look no further than Naxos.
Featuring some of the most beautiful beaches in the Greek islands along with some fantastic historical sites, Naxos is a great stop for any family.
Naxos showcases some of the coolest museums in the Greek islands.
Whether you want to learn more about Greek folklore, learn how olive oil is made, or study ancient archaeology, there are all kinds of things to learn on this gorgeous little island.
Naxos Folklore Museum: The Naxos Folklore Museum features numerous artifacts and exhibits that explore how natives of the island have lived over the past 150 years.
Featuring black and white photography mounted in relief, this museum almost gives a person the sensation of time travel to a bygone era. This museum also displays clothing, household tools, and explanations of local cheese and wine making techniques.
Eggares Olive Press Museum: The Eggares Olive Press Museum is not only educational–it’s also tasty.
The tasting tours presented in this family-run museum are sure to keep kids entertained, and the olive oil cakes, marmalades, and other treats are some of the most delicious to be found in all of Naxos.
NOTE: The best part about these tastings is that they are provided out of hospitality, which makes this a relatively low cost stop for families.
The friendliness of the docents is impeccable; this museum is a hidden gem of the Greek islands that is not to be missed.
Naxos Archaeological Museum: This museum has an impressive collection of Cycladic art as well as mosiac and sculptures that date back to 3,000 BC. There are also great views of the town from the museum’s roof, and the Venetian castle is also nearby for a joint visit.
The items in this archaeological museum illustrate a vast history, and the historical information is presented in an easy way that can be appreciated even by children.
While the Naxos Archaeological Museum is a bit small, this makes it a good stop on a larger trip to Naxos.
Along with its excellent museums, Naxos also offers several ancient historical sites not to be found anywhere else in the Greek world.
You can’t go to Greece without visiting some Greek ruins, and some of the best are found in Naxos.
Temple of Apollo: While the Temple of Apollo can get a bit crowded, especially towards sunset (prime photography time) the walk up to the temple is not too steep for children and if this temple is visited in the early morning, it tends to be less busy.
This temple has stood on Naxos for over two thousand years and is also an economical choice since visiting it is free.
For an even better view of the Temple of Apollo, buy passage on a boat and check it out from the harbor.
Temple of Demeter: The Temple of Demeter located in Sangri near Naxos is an interesting site because it was later taken over by the Christians, who used the temple as a Christian church.
When restoring it, archaeologists were careful to leave both examples of building design–pagan and Christian–intact, making this a fascinating architectural study.
For those who want to know more about the temple, there is also a small museum open until three o’clock each day.
This temple is located on the top of a hill, so keep that in mind if you are traveling with small children, the elderly, or anyone else with mobility issues.
Kouros of Apollonas: Also known as the Colossus of Dionysus, this giant archaeological wonder located in an ancient quarry is a bit of a jaunt (about an hour from the main town) but is definitely worth a stop if you want to really experience the ambition of the pagan Greeks.
If you’re wanting to touch a piece of Greek history over 2,600 years old, this is your chance. The views from this area are also great, making it a good place to stop and take a breather.
Here you can see where the Greeks were actually in the process of sculpting this immense status when it was abandoned.
It is thought that ancient sculptors discovered a series of cracks in the colossus that would have led to it shattering if it was lifted from the quarry, so it was left.
Mykonos was supposedly founded by a descendant of Apollo and is renowned around the world for its famous nightlife, but if you’re traveling with children in Mykonos Town, Ornos Beach or Platis Gialos are probably better choices for your hotel picks.
Read More: Is Mykonos Suitable For Families?
For such a small island, Mykonos is rife with beaches, so if you want to catch your breath form the more tour-heavy parts of your Greek vacation and just hit the sand for a few days, Mykonos is the place to go.
While some of the beaches in Mykonos, such as Agios Ioannis and Kapari Beach, are quiet and not as crowded, which makes them a nice spot to take a breather, other beaches on the island, such as Ornos and Platis Gialos, are busier but feature activities such as the following:
Ornos is also a good choice of beach for those with small children, as the waters there are very shallow and calm due to the shelter provided by the bay.
Go to the Movies Under The Stars
One unique attraction of Mykonos is the Cine Manto, Greece’s answer to the drive-in movie. Cine Manto is an open-air cinema that plays both current blockbuster films out in theaters as well as kid-friendly movies.
The Cine Manto also features a lovely garden cafe with excellent Greek barbeque with other drinks and snacks, providing a tranquil and tree-shaded respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.
NOTE: The only drawback to the Cine Manto is that it can be a bit difficult to locate in the twisting maze-like alleyways of Mykonos Town.
Visit the Birthplace of the Gods at Delos
No trip to Mykonos is complete without a side-trip to the adjacent small island of Delos, the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.
Named as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Delos is a must-see stop for anyone with even a passing interest in Greek mythology.
If traveling with children, the best way to get the most out of your trip to Delos is to schedule a well-reviewed private tour so you can be led by someone who really has the capacity to bring the stories and legends of the Greek gods, demigods, and heroes to life.
Delos was a holy site for a thousand years before the Greeks named it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, so it is rife with mystique and history. Despite this, Delos is a tiny place, boasting only fourteen year-round inhabitants.
While visiting Delos, be sure to visit Apollo’s temple, the sanctuary of Artemis, and the Avenue of Lions, a line of seven snarling marble statues that line the Sacred Way.
The Greek Islands are Great for Families
No matter which of the Greek islands you decide to take your family to, you’re bound to have a good time.
From the delicious food to the overwhelming kindness and hospitality of the locals, you just can’t get a much better option for a laid-back European vacation.
Because the islands are small and close together, it’s easy to plan a tour to visit multiple ones, so there’s no need to choose between Crete, Naxos, and Mykonos–make your reservations to see them all!