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This tiny Greek island with its bright blue and white contrasts is high on the lists of romantic getaways, but how does it hold up as a family holiday?
My first visit many years ago was very special as it was where my husband proposed to me, so it has held a special place in my heart.
However, could this postcard perfect island be interesting for our three kids? We decided to give it a go as we really wanted to revisit.
Deciding where to stay on the island took a long time decide, but after a lot of deliberation, we decided on Oia.
We were unsure what our kids would think of Santorini, but the sunny views and the sparkly caldera won them over. We kept our days very low-key and enjoyed afternoon ice-creams and sunset dinners at the restaurants in Oia.
Thinking of visiting Santorini with young children and babies? Oia has very easy walking paths, that said, you’ll want to wander around the cliff paths and I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable with a child under 8. I think that from that age, they can appreciate the location and they are able to better navigate the walkways. I did see tourist though with prams and babies. If you are unsure about taking your toddler or baby there, have a think about what it is you're looking for in the holiday. If it's just a sunny, Greek holiday with toddlers and babies then try out nearby Crete or Naxos. However, if your heart is on Santorini and you are bringing a baby, I would definitely stay in Oia as it is the easiest place to get around with a pram.
READ > Exploring Santorini with Kids
Where to stay?
We stayed in Oia (pronounced Ia). We stayed here because it is the prettiest place in Santorini-- although Imerovigli is gorgeous as well but it feels more like a couples destination. Despite the tourism in Oia, it made even a lazy day, magnificent. Staying here though doesn’t come cheap; however, there are a few affordable options. We stayed in the beautiful and comfortable Casa Francesca It has ocean views but not caldera views. We didn’t realise it was in such a good location until we arrived. We stayed in a family room that included a small kitchen. They also offer cribs for families that need it. They arranged our taxi pick up and drop off from the ferry. It was serviced daily as well. It was very comfortable staying here and there are small supermarkets and a bakery nearby. We had all our breakfasts here.
While we normally have dinners at home when we travel, Santorini was not one of those places. We treated ourselves to nightly sunset dinners as a family. We chose the restaurants and our meals together. We now have some wonderful family memories thanks to those evenings.
The advantages of staying in Oia is that within a few steps you have the best Santorini has to offer at your doorstep- which includes those gorgeous daytime and sunset views. You won’t have to fight the crowds to and from Fira on the bus. Or, even worse drive there and look for parking. The negatives is that the accommodation is more expensive.
Oia is elegant and clean whereas Fira is bustling with people. We also found cheaper food places in Fira, but minus the views we got everywhere in Oia. Oia has its massive crowds as well. Large groups of people come for the sunset views and photo opportunities. If you are trying to take an “iconic” photo that area can get quite unpleasantly packed. That said, if you stay there, you can see a lot of this in the morning hours before the real crowds come in and the sun makes everything too hot.
Ekklisia Panagia Platsani
This lovely church has a little piazza in front of it and is in the centre of Oia.
Ammoudi Beach- This small port lined with restaurants is known for having the best sunsets on the island, but we chose to enjoy a wonderful lunch here. There are many day cruises that leave from here which you can book in one of the many travel agents around Oia. There are 300 steps down to Ammoudi port from Oia which are covered in donkey poo. The kids had a great time avoiding, complaining and laughing about that.
Bring water with you. We went down the steps, but we asked the restaurant to call us a taxi for the way back up.
You can technically take a donkey ride up the stairs- but there are signs everywhere around Santorini that show the suffering the donkeys experience because of these rides. Personally, it doesn’t even look comfortable and possibly dangerous for both donkey and rider. I feel bad for these sweet animals.
There is a “beach” or water access area a bit further up from the port. There is a path that leads you out of the port area to the beach. It’s basically an access point into the water and offers a great opportunity to dive and enjoy the fresh, clear waters here. That said this is better for confident swimmers.
You will find so many shops - from the super elegant to the more affordable trinkets. If you and the kids are into books though you’ll want to check out Atlantis Books. This bookshop was opened by English-speaking expats and is such a gem! It’s a traditional cave house and you have to go down the stairs into the main area of the bookshop. They stock mainly English books, but they also carry books in many other languages. Every possible nook and cranny is filled with books! They also have a children’s books section. They have a large selection of books about Greece, mythology, and philosophy, so my kids and I did our part and all bought books! Even if you are not that into books, I would still visit. They also have a terrace with caldera views where you can buy inexpensive second hand books and take photos. They also organise activities, so check out their website. It’s easy to miss, thankfully, my eldest daughter spotted it and insisted we go in!
Lolita’s Gelato -- We agree with all the great reviews! We had ice-cream here every day of our stay and we ventured out of Oia! It was delicious and fresh and there is a comfortable seating area where you can enjoy your ice-cream.
READ > Mykanos with Kids
Remember to Bring:
Sunglasses- The glare from the whitewashed walls and the pavement becomes unbearable for your eyes. Make sure you and the kids are all wearing sunglasses. I thought hats would be enough but the glare from the ground will make your eyes water. If you are bringing a baby or toddler, get those strappy sunglass goggles to protect their eyes.
Sun protection- Bring your hats and lots of sunscreen.
Mosquito repellent- My kids are mosquito magnets, so this was important for our whole stay.
FYI: All opinions and recommendations are my own - and are not influenced by anything other than our own self-funded travels.