Ever wondered what the best Greek Island for families is? Wonder no more! You have come to the right place for a definitive answer on the best Greek Island for families who travel.
Drum roll please ….. Crete is the best Greek Island for families who travel!
Why do you ask? Please read below to understand why Crete is the answer and why you should start planning your Greek adventure to this family friendly destination!
The Greek people think it is the most family friendly island.
If your family visits other Greek Islands before arriving in Crete and you tell local Greeks that your itinerary includes Crete, they will inform you that people in Crete love kids. They will tell you how beautiful the island is and how warm the people are. You will see their love for Crete in their faces and hear it in their voices.
Crete is where Greek people vacation
These same Greek people whose faces light up at the mention of Crete could spend their vacations on any of the beautiful Greek islands, but they choose to spend their vacations in Crete. Clearly, Crete is the best Greek island for families because Greek people come here with their families.
Crete is the largest Greek island
Crete is also the fifth largest Mediterranean island. This means that there is plenty to see and do on one island without having to island hop which can be difficult with children, luggage, car seats, and strollers in tow. So save yourself the hassle and visit the best Greek island for families.
You can visit Italy and Greece in one day
Ok, not really. However, Chania along the Northeast coast has a distinctly Italian vibe. You can drive two and a half hours south to Loutro and experience a traditional Greek village with whitewashed buildings and blue accents. The variation of what can be seen each day keeps kids entertained which is one of the reasons Crete is the best Greek island for families.
Despite the fact that parts of Crete feel more Mediterranean than Greek, the menu is distinctly Greek. Many kids prefer raw veggies to cooked veggies, so order a large Greek salad that the whole family to nibble on.
There are many simple grilled meats on the menu for the kids, a favorite for many being “chicken sticks” which are grilled chicken skewers with Greek spices. For the grown-ups, order everything – tzatziki, spanikopita, gyros, saganaki cheese with honey and sesame, and dolmades.
Although oranges are not indigenous to Crete, they thrive there. Everywhere you turn, you will see oranges and signs for fresh orange juice. Strange to think that a simple fruit could be part of the reason that makes Crete the best Greek island for families, but it is true! Honestly, they may be the juiciest oranges you ever try and your kids are sure to love them too!
The restaurants cater to children
You probably want your kids to try authentic Greek food, but if they are not having it, many restaurants in the tourist areas provide kids menus with the items you might expect – pizza, chicken nuggets, etc. Even if your kids do not need those special menus, the restaurants usually have paper and crayons for your kids to use while waiting for your meal. Be prepared for your waiter to dazzle your kids with their drawing skills or bring a special sweet for your children at the end of the meal. The people living in Crete really do love children.
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Hiking the Samaria Gorge
While this hike would not be recommended for younger children, it is a must for an active family. It is the longest gorge in Europe and provides stunning views. However, it is more than just views that will please hikers as there are remnants of villages throughout the hike that give hikers an insight to the history of the area.
Samaria Gorge is located in Crete’s only national park. Your hike will begin at the Xyloskalo trailhead and will probably take around eight hours with children. Take a lunch break at the Samaria settlement, then continue to the “Gates” where the path narrows and the gorge soars upwards on each side. At the end of the gorge is a cafe where hikers can refuel before continuing the final two kilometers along the coast to the town of Agia Roumeli where you will catch a ferry back to the bus. It is recommended that you take an organized trip with a tour operator to ensure that your logistics are taken care and that somebody is keeping tabs of you and your family!
If you want to experience Samaria Gorge the easy way, you can take a ferry from Hora Sfakia to Agia Roumeli and hike round trip to the most impressive part of the gorge at the “Gates” and back. This will avoid the most strenuous part of the hike at the beginning, but of course, you will have to walk round trip and repeat your views on the return.
Samaria Gorge was actually converted to a national park to protect the Cretan wild goat. If you choose not to hike the Samaria Gorge, do not worry – you will most likely see many goats during your Cretian holiday. These animals are not shy and watching them clamber up the side of mountains is so entertaining. Your children will enjoy playing the “how many mountain goats can you count” game and will enjoy watching the goat antics which is why these mountain goats are part of the reason that Crete is the best Greek island for families.
The beaches truly are stunning. Even better than that, they are not over-commercialized. You may find small tavernas where you can grab a lunch or rent a beach chair, but there are no large hotels on many of the beaches – just sand and some of the clearest water you will ever see.
Many people are familiar with Elafonisi beach in southwest Crete because it has been named by TripAdvisor as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world for multiple years. The pink sands, shallow waters, and lagoon will impress everyone who visits its alluring waters. To visit Elafonisi, you have to be a little adventurous as the roads are windy and narrow, but the views along the way are worth it.
For smaller crowds and clearer water make sure to visit the Falassarna beach on the west side of Crete. The calm, shallow water is perfect for families and it is one of the beaches you must visit while traveling around the best Greek island for families.
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For a more intrepid journey, visit Balos. The unpaved road ends high above the beach and the rest of the journey must be completed by foot. The walk will take about 30 minutes, but you will be rewarded with beautiful vistas along the way and can cool off upon completion of the hike in Caribbean-esque calm turquoise water. There is an easier way to make the trip via the town of Kissamos. From here, you can take a ferry in the morning and spend the day on Balos enjoying the shallow, warm lagoon which is why it is perfect for a traveling family.
Another unique beach in Chania is Vai beach which is surrounded by the largest palm forest in all of Europe. Add in soft sand and crystal water, and you have yet another beautiful Crete beach to visit. The list of beautiful beaches in Crete is quite long actually. To properly see all of the beaches, do not go the typical route of using Chania or another city as your base because you will waste half of each day in your car. Make the most of your rental car and stop at various hotels along the way. While this may be harder with younger kids, it really allows you to spend more time at the many beaches that comprise the best Greek island for families.
Recommended Road Trip Itinerary to see the best Greek island for families
There is so much to see that a family really should rent a car and embark on an epic road trip that allows them to explore a diverse and beautiful island. It is recommended that families beach hop in Crete. Staying at these beaches allows them to be experienced during downtime after the crowds have returned to the towns where most tourists stay and avoids extra time in the car each day by making round trips. There is so much to see on the best Greek island for families that it would be a shame to see the same thing on a return trip when families could instead explore more of the island.
One Week Itinerary – Western Crete:
Day 1: Arrive in Chania, dine along Chania’s waterfront.
Day 2: Take an organized trip to Samaria Gorge. If that is not on your agenda, replace Samaria Gorge with a trip to Marithi Beach and Loutraki Cove, both close to Chania. For a more adventurous beach experience, visit Seitan Limania beach, but be prepared to share your beach towel with some brazen mountain goats!
Day 3: Spend the morning navigating the charming streets of Chania, then head to a hotel in Kissamos.
Day 4: From Kissamos, take the ferry to Balos beach – unless you are feeling adventurous and want to drive and hike down (see above).
Day 5: Visit Falassarna beach from Kissamos.
Day 6: Head to Elafonissi beach – keep your eye out for mountain goats! Spend the day here and stay at one of the few hotels in the area to enjoy the beach once the crowds leave.
Day 7: Return to Chania to return home or …continue.
Two Week Itinerary – Crete:
The roads do not run through Samaria National Park where Samaria Gorge is located, so you will have to return to Chania to continue your journey along the coast of Crete.
Day 7: Make your way to Loutro to get that Greek village experience everybody craves from Greece. This involves a short 15 minute ferry ride from Hora Sfakia. Please note that you will need to leave your car at the port in Skafia because there are no roads in Loutro.
Day 8: From Loutro, take the footpath or take a boat to Glyka Nera beach, also known as ‘sweet water’ beach for the fresh water that bubbles up from springs and through the pebbles on the beach. Mountain goats come down the mountain here to enjoy the fresh water so you may be lucky enough to get a selfie with a one! Be warned: there is a nudist beach on one end, so make sure to choose the correct side of the beach if that is not your sort of thing!
Day 9: Spend the night in Matala and visit the beach and caves in the area.
Day 10: Take your time driving along the less populated southern coast of Crete and stay a night in Myrtos.
Day 11: Drive to Vai and spend the night here. This is the beach listed above with the unique characteristic of the largest palm forest in all of Europe.
Day 12-14: Time to slow down, spend your final two nights in the resort town of Elounda. On your way there, make stops at Sitia and Agios Nikolas. From here, you can visit the island of Spinalonga, once a leper colony, both for its beauty and to teach your children lessons on empathy and acceptance.
Day 15: Today is the day you must leave the best Greek island for families. Depart from Heraklion if you can.
Best time to visit the best Greek island for families
The best time to visit most Greek islands is September once the crowds have left, the temperatures are perfect, and the springtime winds have died down. This may be impossible for families with children in traditional school. To really experience why Crete is the best Greek island for families, try to visit outside of the European school holidays of July and August.
Crete has it all – rugged natural beauty, Mediterranean flair, Greek culture, unspoiled beaches, and some of the clearest seawater you will ever set your eyes on, but what really makes it the best Greek island for families is the people. The Crete people will dote on your children like they are their own. Crete is not for the faint of heart, you have to work to access much of its beauty. That is why it is recommended for families that travel often, who have the sense of adventure to rent a car, drive curvy roads, walk narrow footpaths, and venture outside of a resort to get an authentic understanding of their destination. If that sounds like you, Crete needs to be added to your bucket list straight away!
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