Parents are often anxious about traveling with kids. Family Travel Blogger Gabi Ancarola puts them at ease. Today, she recommends family-friendly Crete.
By: Gabi Ancarola
Choose family-friendly Crete for your holiday destination
During winter, our tired minds start daydreaming about summer holidays. We picture ourselves indulging in warm weather and pictures… until we look down and see that tiny little soul reminding us that our holidays will never be the same. Well… it doesn’t have to be like that if you choose wisely. There is a place in Greece where every dream is possible, where kids can have fun and parents can relax without getting rid pleasure: family-friendly Crete. Greece’s largest island is a great holiday destination.
You might have already started dreaming of summer. Resolutions are more or less on track and we are back to routine… So why not plan your summer break ahead?
The Greek island of Crete can be a perfect place for your next holiday. Excellent for all kind of travelers, from lonely adventurers to Instagram foodies, and, of course, ideal for families, especially those with small kids. Parents might be a bit reluctant about bringing a baby or a toddler to Greece. Rest assured, though, there is nothing to worry about.
Apart from the plethora of activities that will see kids as the leading characters of the vacation, Greeks are best known for their hospitality. Structures such as hotels and restaurants are used to welcoming kids. It will be really easy to find all a kid might need everywhere, from a kid’s menu to highchairs and plastic cutlery.
There are many hotels, however, if you prefer to cook your own meals and not to depend on someone else’s timetable, go for a studio or house rental. Restaurant owners and bartenders will be available to warm bottles of milk in any moment and, of course, Greeks have kids like everybody else, so there is no shortage of diapers, wipes, or powdered milk in supermarkets.
A bit of planning before getting there
There is no major arrangement to make before your trip. Being Crete is the biggest island in Greece, it could easily be described as a country in itself where all comforts and facilities are accessible to anyone. You’ll just need a bit of planning regarding moving around, but that is easy to settle.
Even when the transport service is quite efficient, especially during the high season, buses and toddlers don’t always match. Besides, thanks to affordable fees and reasonably good roads, renting a car is certainly the best way to explore such a huge island. A car will allow you some extra freedom to stop wherever you want and whenever you need to, either to admire the landscape or for a quick diaper change.
There are two international airports on the island, so make sure where you’ll be landing. First, get a map and take a good look at it; highlight the places you intend to visit and design an itinerary. Then, book hotels or studios accordingly, allowing some free time to explore. Don’t get stuck inside a resort, no matter how comfortable it might be. Get out and discover Crete. The impressive landscapes, warm people and local experiences are really worth it.
What to do on Crete with kids (… or without them)
Now let’s talk about things to do on the island of Crete.
Crete boasts Mediterranean weather — summers can be long and temperatures high enough to enjoy endless days on the beach. Still, it never gets unbearably hot as mild winds and warm seas provide constant relief. Crete also has some of the most magnificent beaches in Greece, most absolutely safe and apt for children. Let’s explore some of the beaches.
Beaches are stars on the western area of the island. The world-famous Elafonisi is an incredibly huge extent of pinkish sands and turquoise shallow waters. There, kids enjoy exploring safe ponds and reach small islets pretending to be dangerous pirates or intrepid adventurers, all in utter safety.
A little bit up north, Falassarna stretches along kilometers of sandy beaches — a coast bathed by the most impressive clear sea. Here you’ll enjoy one of the most amazing sunsets on the island. And if it gets windy (which sometimes happens), a stroll among olive groves will lead you to the nearby Ancient Falassarna. This mysterious place reveals some Minoan wonders.
Don’t miss a day in Balos, an absolute paradise of relax and dreamy views. Children enjoy the shallow waters and a wonderful lagoon, while moms relax. You can reach this Caribbean-like coast near Kissamos by car; however, arriving to Balos by car also includes a final 20-minute walk to get to the sea. Choose the comforts of a cruise if you are traveling with babies and toddlers, ships depart every morning from the port of Kissamos.
Less known, but still with an endless offer of coastal possibilities is the Akrotiri peninsula, with quaint seaside spots like Kalathas, Stavros or Marathi. They offer sheltered waveless beaches with traditional cafés and tavernas to cater to all your needs.
Crete certainly doesn’t run short of terrific beaches. A visit to the Eastern portion of the island will introduce you to places like the tranquil Agios Nikolaos, or the impressive Vai, home to the largest natural palm forest in Europe.
Entertainment and Culture
Important cities like Chania and Rethymno, or the capital, Heraklion, have a wide array of activities for everybody’s taste. Interesting archaeological sites and museums as well as entertaining theme parks and child-friendly opportunities blossom all over the place. From the tiny and traditional mini golf courses to extreme waterparks, the choices are endless. Even a simple stroll through the old towns of Rethymno and Chania can be turned into entertaining visits to old castles, fortresses, lighthouses, and mosques.
A morning inside the impressive archaeological site of the Palace of Knossos, just a few kilometers away from Heraklion, would ignite your child’s curiosity about the past of the island. For older kids, the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is home to one of the most stunning collections of Minoan artifacts. Combine an afternoon visit to the museum with a morning around Knossos for a combo of entertainment for all the family.
If you think the Palace might be a bit too much for your kids (which it won’t), start with a few hours at Labyrinth, a nearby theme park offering an original and interactive way to approach the myth of the Minotaur.
For kids into marine life, an afternoon spent at Cretaquarium will not only provide shelter from sunny beaches but also entertainment for all the family. Lovers of dinosaurs and prehistoric times will find their oasis in Dinosauria, a theme-park home to fun and didactic activities, with an impressive collection fossils, true-to-size animatronics, a 5-D cinema and an open playground.
Gastronomy and more
A visit to any Mediterranean island can’t be defined as such without a taste of their produce. On Crete, taste is enhanced thanks to the wonders its mild climate works on the land. Tables are a genuine portrait of earth’s generosity and local hospitality. Not only will your children be eating tons of healthy, organic fruit and vegetables, sprinkled with top quality olive oil, but parents will also be able to make the most of it too.
Fantastic gastronomic tours and trails allow to savor terrific cheeses, oranges or figs, and even try the character of tasty local dishes. It is always possible to involve kids in these adventures. Book visit to a traditional olive oil factory for a completely different experience that will make children get closer look at nature, focusing their eyes on something other than smartphone device for a while.
Family-friendly Crete wine tours
Children are stars on the island, but parents won’t be left aside. There is so much for them to do as well! Even a visit to a local family winery will teach your kids about interesting production processes while parents indulge in the innovative tastes of one of the most prolific and praised wine territories of Greece. Wineries have an open-door policy and are always glad to receive wine lovers, curious visitors, and kids as well.
Kids are stars on Crete
It’s not hard to understand how Crete reserves a place for every member of the family. So don’t be afraid of booking that trip you’ve been dreaming about. Kids love Greece, yet and more important, kids are loved in Greece. Cretans will welcome them as very special guest and parents will relax the minute they arrive. When planning your summer holidays, plan to go to family-friendly Crete.
Gabi Ancarola is a travel writer, journalist, and translator specializing in Greek destinations, Cretan wine tours, and gastronomic experiences. She writes about family travel for several magazines. Gabi runs the travel blog, The Tiny Book, where you can find more advice for families traveling with tiny, curious adventurers around the Mediterranean and in farther lands too.