Santorini is one of those bucket list destinations everyone should visit once in their life. It is one of the highlights of the Greek islands, and if you are planning a family trip to Greece be sure to include it on your itinerary. Here is your guide on how to vacation in Santorini, along with the best things to do in Santorini with kids.
Where is Santorini
Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands located in the southern Aegean sea. It was formed by a volcanic eruption on the island of Thera (present day Santorini) in 1646 BC. The force of the volcano separated ancient Thera into five smaller islands with a caldera in the center.
Today, the majority of tourists make their way to the main island of Santorini, Thira. The smaller islands are Therasia (population 300), Aspronisi (uninhabited), Palia Kameni (hot springs), and Nea Kameni (volcano). We would highly recommend taking a tour to Nea Kameni via boat and hiking the volcanic island to get a better idea of how Santorini came to be.
Getting to Santorini with kids
There are a few ways to reach Santorini. The island is located 125 miles southeast of Athens, and 85 miles north of Crete. The airport at Santorini is centrally located, with easy access to most hotels and villages.
There are flights from Athens or Thessaloniki either on Sky Express, Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air. If you are traveling from other parts of Europe, there are other flight options available. We recommend booking an airport transfer through your hotel in advance if possible.
Another option is to travel to Santorini by ferry. The high-speed ferry from Athens takes roughly five hours, whereas a conventional ferry takes eight to ten hours.
We used Ferryhopper to buy our tickets in advance when we traveled from Crete to Santorini. There are two ferry ports in Santorini, Athinios Port (also known as “new port” or “Thira port”) and the old port which is where you will arrive on a cruise ship (also the sight of the Santorini cable car). Locals refer to them as the old port and the new port, but once they know what type of ship you’re sailing, they know exactly where to go.
While some don’t like the long travel time with ferries, the view, price savings, and experience on the boat can be worth it!
Getting Around Santorini
The best way to explore the island is with your own vehicle. There are many popular activities around the island, so if you’re planning on being there for more than a few days a car is a good option. Know that driving involves busy roads in the towns and narrow roadways, but there is ample free parking around the island.
If you only plan to stay for a day or two and everything you want to do is nearby, you can always walk to your destination. That is the great thing about visiting a smaller island with kids; walking is free and lets out their energy!
There are also plenty of tours that offer transportation, or you can find taxis throughout the island as well. If you plan on relying on taxis or private drivers, ask your hotel to make reservations in advance.
Where to Stay in Santorini with kids
Many travelers come to Santorini for their unique beaches, stunning sunsets, and breathtaking views. As such, accommodations that offer any of these amenities will come with an added expense. Prices will definitely be higher in the summer, which is their high season. While there are many accommodations in Santorini, the main towns of Oia, Imerovigli, and Fira offer the best hotels for families with kids.
Oia is a great place to stay with children as there are restaurants, shops, hotels, and everything you will need close by. Some areas are quieter than others, but know that there are a lot of stairs to climb and young legs might get tired. However, this is the heart of the action.
From hotels to villas, there are some luxurious and budget-friendly options in Oia.
Family friendly hotels in Oia
Imerovigli is another great town to use as a home base in Santorini. It is within walking distance from Fira and quieter than the capital of Santorini. Some hotels have a pool that kids will enjoy as well. Imerovigli has beautiful sunsets you can enjoy as well as a view over the caldera.
Family hotels in Imerovigli
Fira is the island’s capital (also known as Thera or Thira) and the most lively area in Santorini. There are inexpensive places you can stay in at Fira, including some suites and hotels. In Fira, you will find just about anything you need, making it a great location to stay during your vacation.
Hotels for families in Fira
What to do in Santorini with kids
Here are 11 of my favorite things to do in Santorini with kids. These work for both younger and older kids and will be so much fun on your family vacation!
1. Visit the Red Beach
The Red Beach is one of the most famous places on the island and a definite must when visiting Santorini with kids. The beautiful red volcano cliffs along the blue ocean are stunning.
Many tours go to the Red Beach, but you can travel by car as well. You can go to the viewpoint and look at the beach, but it is usually pretty crowded with tourists.
The beach is just a short walk from the viewpoint, and your kids will love taking a refreshing swim on a hot summer day. Snorkeling at this beach is better for older kids.
If you have extra time, drive down the road to the White Beach which is equally beautiful. Kids can snorkel here in the crystal clear water. Note: the beach doesn’t have facilities so plan ahead before enjoying this less touristy beach.
2. Walk the Path Between Fira and Oia
Your kids might also enjoy a beautiful hike between Fira and Oia. It is around six miles (one way) and has many beautiful sights to see. If you have a stroller, this hike might not be entirely suitable for its entirety. While there are many paved streets, there are also dirt trails as well.
During this hike, you will walk along the edge of the caldera. You can visit the Skaros Rock (where the first castle in Santorini was built in the 15th century), which will add an hour to the hike but is worth the effort.
There are also charming small churches with blue domes, beautiful hotels, and panoramic views. The overall hike will take anywhere from three to five hours in total so bring food and drinks for everyone.
3. Swim in a Hot Springs
Palea Kameni has the best hot spring in Santorini and would be fun to visit and swim in during your family vacation. Palea Kameni is a small island off the mainland. Volcanic activity underneath the springs makes them between 86ºF and 95ºF all the time.
We took a boat trip with TravelID Greece on a traditional wooden boat. We sailed to the volcano, swam in the hot springs, ate a wonderful Greek dinner in the harbor of Thirassia island, and saw the sunset from Ammoudi Bay. The cruise definitely gave us a different perspective of Santorini and I would highly recommend.
4. Get Lost in the Streets of Oia
The village of Oia is perfect for getting lost. From watching the stunning sunsets to seeing the spectacular views everywhere you look, this is one place you want to spend some extra time.
When you need a change of pace from all the busyness, your kids will enjoy the street vendors selling crepes and ice cream while you enjoy the fantastic views. It is also an excellent time for family photos here as you will have many beautiful views of the caldera in Oia.
5. Get up close with a Volcano – Nea Kameni
What child wouldn’t want to visit an active volcano? Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni are two small islands that were made only hundreds of years ago. You can actually go on the volcano and hike around.
There are no ferries out to the volcano, so make sure to book one of the boat tours in advance. During a tour, you have approximately one hour to explore with a tour guide. Your travel guide will share the history of this volcano and let you roam around on your own. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience with your kids!
6. Tour the Ancient Ruins of Akrotiri
One of the best places to explore on Santorini with kids is the ancient ruins of Akrotiri. A catastrophic volcano erupted in 1613 BC and destroyed the Akrotiri settlement. This was one of the most important Minoan trading centers prior to its destruction.
Today you can see the Akrotiri archaeological site, and it is quite impressive. Many Santorini tours make a stop at this location, but if you don’t plan on taking one, make sure to show your kids these ancient ruins. It’s completely sheltered, making it a good escape from the heat on warm summer days. We would easily say it’s one of the best archeological sites we’ve seen in our travels.
7. Explore Small Towns
It might be fun to go explore some small towns that don’t get many visitors or tourists. We booked a guided tour of Santorini with Luxury Transportation Services and saw many of the small villages and popular destinations on the island.
In addition to stopping in ancient Akrotiri and the Red Beach, we drove to the top of Mount Profitis Ilias (the highest point in Santorini) and explored the Monastery of Profitis Ilias. Next, we walked through Megalochori village, drove to the black beaches, and along the vineyards (yes you can have a wine tasting or wine tour with kids if you want). This tour was one of the highlights of our family trip to Santorini.
If you’re looking for more towns to explore, Exo Gonia is on the southeastern side of the island and is only about five miles from Fira. This is a beautiful small village without the crowds.
There are a few cafés and restaurants that are perfect for enjoying authentic Greek cuisine. The church of Agios Charalambos in Exo Gonia and is worth a stop as well.
Vothonas is a small town but quite unique as it was built in a steep gorge. The Church of Saint Anna is the oldest place in the town and has a beautiful wooden screen with pictures from the Old Testament.
In Vothonas, you will find tons of stunning architectural designs that are worth seeing in person. It’s the perfect spot for some family photos.
8. Make Time for Beautiful Sunsets
One of the best things to do in Santorini is to make time to view all of the incredible sunsets while you’re there. The island of Santorini is most famous for its breathtaking sunset views.
There are tons of places to see the sunset, so you won’t have difficulty viewing it in the evening. Here are a few great places to see some picture-worthy sunsets:
- Akrotiri Lighthouse
- Rooftop restaurants in Fira and Imerovigli
- Skaros Rock
- Sunset cruise
- Santo Winery
Try to watch the sunset every day you are in Santorini; you won’t want to miss any of them!
9. Tour the Caldera by Boat or Jetski
You can take a jet ski or boat tour of the caldera, which your kids will love, especially teenagers. You can go at your own pace on the wave runner and there’s a boat accompanying you at all times in case you need assistance.
Kids will love being in the water and exploring the caldera. Not only will the tour teach them some of Santorini’s history, but they will be learning while having tons of fun! These tours can be anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3.5 hours. This is usually one of the most popular things to do in Santorini for kids.
10. Swim at the Black Beaches – Some of the best beaches in Santorini
If you are visiting Santorini in the summer, be sure to swim at the beautiful black beaches. There are a variety of beaches with black sand all over the islands, and they are simply gorgeous.
Most of them have beach bars and nearby restaurants, and they are some of the most unique beaches on Santorini island. Be sure to wear beach shoes or flip flops as that black sand is hot!
Some of the best beaches to visit with kids include:
- Kamari beach
- Vlychada beach
- Perivolos beach
- Columbo beach
- Perissa beach
- Mesa Pigadia beach
11. Watch a Movie at the Open Air Cinema
This is another very unique experience in Santorini and one your kids will surely love! It feels like you are in a movie theater, but you’re under the stars. You will feel the nice cool breeze while you enjoy your movie and treats. Don’t worry; the movies are in English with Greek subtitles.
The Open Air Cinema is in Kamari, a short distance from Fira. The only downside is the cinema is only open from May-October. So, if you visit during the summer months, don’t miss out on the open-air cinema experience.
These 11 activities, tours, and experiences are some of the best things to do in Santorini with kids. Families with kids of all ages can enjoy visiting Santorini. While it does take some planning, it is definitely worth it!