After much debate, we saw Ancient Greece by land versus by sea, and we were more than happy with our decision. We toured the ruins, explored beaches, had the amenities of great hotels and ate local food.
We started in Athens. Despite warnings of strikes and crazy airports, we were pleasantly surprised. I worried that our first hotel might be a bit commercial. We stayed at the Westin Athens Astir Palace, located in Vouliagmeni, twenty-five minutes south of Athens on the coast, because it has a large pool for the kids. And I was pleasantly surprised, as the hotel was perfectly nice. The concierge was very helpful arranging dinners and sight-seeing, and the complimentary breakfast was very good. The salt-water pool and beach area were great for little kids, and the Aegean sea was gorgeous to swim in every day. The hotel was a bit understaffed, so the service was slow, but overall the staff was more than friendly and aiming to please.
Our outings from Athens included:
- A sight-seeing trip to Cape Sounion (the site of Poseidon’s temple). We took a bus tour there, which was a great experience thanks to our knowledgeable tour guide. We also really enjoyed our half-day private our of Athens. Our guide showed us the Acropolis, the New Acropolis Museum and Plaka (the Old City). It was the perfect amount of culture for my kids.
- A day trip to the island Aegina. A very cool hydrofoil ferry takes you there in forty-five minutes. We then took a taxi to Marathon beach. Like most of the local beaches, there is not much room to “lounge”, but the swimming and views were fabulous. Pistachios are the local specialty and you should get a bag before taking the ferry back to Athens.
We did not make it to Delphi (another possible day trip from Athens, but probably better done in 2 days). I have heard its gorgeous , but too long of a trip with kids. We also wanted to see Hydra…next time.
In terms of restaurants, we enjoyed the Grill at the Astir Palace, which had gorgeous views and great service. The food was not amazing but overall, it was a lovely experience. We also really liked Itahaki, which served great seafood. Nobu at the Astir Palace was a little disappointing.
Onward to Mykonos, where we check in at the Mykonos Grace, a charming boutique hotel in Stefanos, about fifteen minutes from the center of the island. It was a lovely hotel but probably better suited for couples. Although child-friendly, it was a bit small.
Highlights in Mykonos included:
- Although quite windy, dinner at Sea Satin was peaceful, good and had a nice local feel. We also stumbled upon a nice small restaurant called Ceasars, owned by a local couple. It was good food, and the owners showed us the best streets for shopping and for souvenirs.
- In terms of sightseeing, Delos was more than worth the trip. It’s a fabulous half-day tour. A highlight was the small café next to the museum, which served the freshest watermelon.
Our last stop was Santorini. We traveled by ferry and stayed at the Vedema, in Megalochori, which was spacious and charming. Although far from buzzy Oia, the hotel was special with a gracious and helpful staff. Megalochori itself was wonderful, and it was nice to stay in a small local town. I would not worry about getting to the Pervolis beach (there are more interesting beaches on the island).
Highlights on Santorini included:
- A full-day sailing trip along the Caldera is a must. The captain grilled lunch for us on the boat. The tomatoes, capers and cucumbers were all local from his family farm. He played Greek music as we boated along the coast. It was dreamy.
- We also loved the Red Beach, which was more than worth the hike. There was a man serving fresh local grilled corn in the parking lot. A great snack for the car trip home!
A tip: Fira was packed with tourists and tour buses. I don’t recommend it in July. The cable car ride was not worth it—my husband was right. It was 3.5 hours total with 3 hours spent in line.
As for restaurants, I would recommend Ambrosia, with delicious food and great views. One thing to note, however, is that you cannot see the sun set from your table. I would do sunset viewing somewhere else and then come to Ambrosia for dinner.
We also loved the local restaurant Feggera Café, in Megalochori. A two-minute walk from our hotel, it was a casual spot serving local but creative Mediterranean cuisine. We had plans to go to Koukomavlos, Katinas, and Selene for dinner, but we were so happy at our hotel and its neighborhood, that we did not venture much further!
We left wanting to go back. There are so many more Greek islands to explore: Paxos, Hydra, Rhodes, and more! I would highly recommend this trip for families! Thank you Indagare for all the great tips. The locals would agree with your picks.