One of the birthplaces of western civilisation, Greece is a land of culture, history, remarkable beauty, golden beaches and sun-soaked islands.
Steeped in history and surrounded by azure blue waters, the archipelago of islands that make up most of Greece has always been a tourist draw, and with so many destinations to choose from, you are sure to find your perfect holiday spot. Whether you desire a break by the beach or want to roam around some ruins, each island has something unique to offer.
There are six basic island groupings in Greece. The Ionian lies to the west and contains the holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean Sea and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the north east is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete ¬– Greece’s largest island.
It’s a bumper year for Greek holidays in 2018 as Thomas Cook reports that bookings are up 12% and TUI (formerly Thomson) are investing heavily in Greek hotel expansion. Greek tourism officials are expected to report a record number of holiday visitors this year with tourist arrivals forecast to top the 30 million mark. So now is a great time to book a family getaway in the sun.
With activities for everyone, one of Greece’s spectacular islands could be the place for your next trip abroad. Short flight times and turquoise-hued seas backed by some of the world’s finest beaches are just some of ingredients for a memorable family getaway within a nation that prides itself on looking after its visitors both young and old. Family hotels and Greek-style rooms are clean, simple, elegant and on the islands you’ll find private villas for families, resorts with family suites and all the amenities, and simple hotels – many of them right on the beach.
With the help of Travel Counsellors, the expert travel planners, JLife explores some of the best Greek islands for families. Opa!
Rest and relaxation is the order of the day in Rhodes, where the whole family can explore no less than 30 miles of pristine golden beaches along the east coast. Plentiful accommodation also sits within this stretch, with a range of all-inclusive packages and contemporary amenities featuring wellness centres, babysitting services, kids’ clubs, restaurants and cafes, providing the ideal base for exploring diverse island attractions such as the UNESCO-listed Rhodes Town – a 2,400-year old preserved medieval settlement.
Faliraki is an andrenaline junkie’s haven, with activities such as water sports, go-carting and bungee jumping attracting many British tourists, but if you’re looking for a quieter time on the island, then escape to one of the many traditional villages such as Emponas, renowned for its wine and traditional costumes, Apollona with its folklore museum, Archangelos with its long tradition of ceramics and music, Trianda to check out the Mineralogy and Palaeontology Museum or Kritinia to enter Castello Castle.
Venetians, English, French, Russians have all lived and flourished in Corfu and left their mark on the island’s numerous sights and attractions. Jewish people in Corfu have a long and turbulent history, including relative peace in the Napoleonic times to unrest for Corfu’s 2,000 Jews when the Germans invaded in the Second World War. The Old Fortress, where some of daily Jewish life took place, is a tourist spot but only one of the four original synagogues survives.
Highly affordable yet no less appealing, family getaways to Corfu, known as the Grand Lady of the Ionian islands, contain a wealth of child-friendly activity within a Mediterranean paradise of diverse flora and fauna. There are plenty of family-orientated hotels in Corfu, and many run daily activity programmes for children, leaving you free to relax in one of the beach-front guesthouses.
More commonly known as Zante, Zakynthos is the third largest of the Ionian islands. The Venetians called this southernmost Ionian island Fiore di Levante, the Flower of the East. Today’s visitors would agree and though they come for its endless beaches, British, French and Italian tourists have been known to flock to Zakynthos to party.
Famous beaches include Shipwreck Bay, one of the most recognisable settings in the Mediterranean, which can be reached via private boat ride from the coast. Many boat tours also pass through the Blue Caves, where you have the chance to swim the vibrant blue waters, while younger children may enjoy a glass-bottomed boat tour. Why not take the kids and see if you can spot the protected loggerhead turtles laying their eggs at Gerakas beach at the tip of Vassilikos peninsula? But be careful to not disturb them, of course…
Skiathos is a cosmopolitan stop for travellers, and its lively marina attracts yachts and sailboats from across the Mediterranean. Holidays mean adventure and exploration and the famous sea caves of Skiathos – Pounta, Fonissa and Altanous are all waiting to be discovered. Above water and high in the hills is the Monastery of Evangelistria, an 18th century monastery renowned for the part it played during the Greek War of Independence, as well as being where the first known Greek flag was produced.
Many Greek islands offer family-friendly beaches in droves, and Skiathos is no exception. The southern coast sands of Koukounaries are perfect for young families, with calm shallow waters and enticing cafes around every corner. Take a boat ride to the remote north coast and bask on Lalaria Beach, considered by many to be the most beautiful beach on the island.
Get in touch with your local Travel Counsellor to find out about the latest offers on Greece’s best places to stay. Visit Travelcounsellors.com to find out more.