Want to holiday on a Greek island but don't want the hassle of a million other families on the doorstep? You're in luck! Here are the top 10 hidden gems in Greece for the family. Off the radar Greek islands perfect for peaceful family holiday relaxation. Just don't tell anyone else.
This is a gentle, laid back island. People come here to enjoy the tranquillity and unspoilt beauty so don’t expect theme parks and 24/7 entertainment. If you want a day out, kids should love exploring the ruined ghost town of Mikro Horio, abandoned during World War II. Otherwise there’s canoeing and kayaking to keep everyone entertained. Eristos beach, an easily accessible but quiet beach with shallow waters and sand, is great for families. Tilos is small in size, at only nine miles long, but packed with rewarding but gentle trails through its wooded hilly interior and down onto secluded golden beaches. In fact, the whole of Tilos is a nature reserve it’s so green and packed full of wildlife including rare birds and flowers. The whole island is also powered by solar and wind, so if you want a holiday with ethical credentials, here it is.
Where is it? Tilos is a Dodecanese island. It sits in between Kos and Rhodes in the Aegean Sea
How to get there? It is easy to access with a connecting ferry from one of the neighbouring islands of Kos or Rhodes
Skiathos is a great place for families if you want your holiday in Greece to be off the beaten track, but still have enough facilities for all. The trade-off being that this is a fairly built-up island with cars and some busy roads. There’s an open air cinema here, plus boat cruises, and mountain bike hire. Snorkelling and hiking is also popular. The best beach for younger children is Koukounaries, on the south coast, with powder soft sand set against a forested backdrop, and plenty of sunbeds and cafes to keep everyone refreshed.
Where is it? Skiathos is part of the Sporades group of islands
How to get there? Direct flight to Skiathos airport
Antiparos is a photographer’s dream, full of classic whitewashed homes with contrasting cobalt blue doors and splashes of crimson bougainvillea creeping up walls. It’s less well known and commercial than its neighbour Paros, and all the better for it, though does have its share of glitterati - many celebrities have been spotted here escaping their hordes of fans. There’s much to interest families here apart from the safe, shallow, sheltered waters. Wander up to the Venetian fortress of Kastro in the centre of town or explore the unique cave system from inside Agios Ioannis hill. Archeology fans should take a day trip to Despotiko Island, an uninhabited island full of ancient finds. The quiet cobbled streets of the day come to life in the evening as chatter spills onto the streets and tavernas fill up with diners.
Where is it? Antiparos is a small Cycladic island in the southern Aegean sea. It sits less than 2km from Paros its larger sister
How to get there? Take a flight to Athens, Santorini or Mykonos, a ferry to Paros, and another to Antiparos
Lefkada Island has the right balance of buzz and peace. It’s got enough going on, but is relatively untouched by mass tourism, so ideal for families wanting a little more than a stretch of beach. It’s the perfect getaway for watersports fans. Head to Vasiliki Bay for windsurfing and kayaking or north for kite-surfing at Milos. Lefkada Town is a charming harbour town, worth an afternoon’s exploration, as is the Agia Mavra castle built in the 1300s. Active families will enjoy seeking out timeless villages in the olive grove-filled hilly centre of the island. It’s also ideal for sun worshippers with many beautiful beaches and hidden bays. Porto Katsiki beach is often rated one of the world’s best beaches, and there are plenty of family-friendly beaches that are safe for swimming.
Where is it? Lefkada sits in the Ionian sea, west of mainland Greece
How to get there? An easy drive from Athens, over a short bridge
Symi is a tiny island with hidden, pristine beaches tucked around rocky inlets. Children will love the adventure of taking a water taxi to find their own secret beach to enjoy. Snorkelling is fantastic here with year-round warm seas, crystal clear waters and abundant sealife. Symi’s colourful neo-classical harbour is the best place to base yourself for a stay, with plenty of excellent tavernas to eat in (shrimps are a speciality here) and old lanes to wander through. If you can bear to peel yourself away from beachlife, a trip up to the old church and remains of the islands fortifications is worth the effort.
Where is it? Symi is part of the Dodecanese group of islands, just north of Rhodes
How to get there? There are ferries to Symi from Kos and Rhodes, both of which have international airports
Koufonisia is actually made up of three islands, one of which is inaccessible to the public for archaeological reasons. Tiny 3.5km long Pano Koufonisia is best for families. Kato Koufonisia is more windswept and rugged, and better for a day trip. Pano Koufonisia is a chic, bohemian island popular with the Italian in-crowd. There is little traffic and few roads here, so crime and accidents are virtually unheard of. Visitors tend to hike to local beaches or take water taxis to secret golden bays. Pori beach is a good choice for families, though there is plenty of choice here; all the beaches are absurdly beautiful with luminous blue waters. Chora is the only town in Koufonisia but it does come alive at night with buzzy tavernas hosting fine local dishes.
Where is it? Koufonisia sits in the Cyclades, between Naxos and Amorgos
How to get there? Fly to Mykonos or Athens, and then take a four-hour ferry
Andros is the second largest northernmost Cyclades island full of cascading waterfalls and natural springs, ancient medieval Venetian castles, tumbling green hills, and secret coves. It’s a fantastic location for outdoorsy families with older kids who are keen to go walking and swimming as there’s over 300km of paved and marked trails inland to explore and Caribbean-like beaches to rejuvenate in.
Where is it? Andros sits east of mainland Greece
How to get there? Fly to Athens then take a ferry
Paxos is adored by wealthy Italians so you’ll see lots of expensive yachts lining the harbour here, plus pricey (but worth it) seafood restaurants perched on high limestone clifftops. It’s a great choice for a family holiday because it has enough to keep children occupied, yet isn’t overly commercial. Galazio beach (the Blue Lagoon of the Med) is one of the island’s best beaches but does get busy in peak season. Monodendri on the eastern coast is quieter. The three towns of Gaios, Lakka and Loggos are connected by marked trails and the teeny island of Antipaxos is a short water taxi ride to the south.
Where is it? Paxos is part of the Ionian group of islands. It sits west of the mainland and south of Corfu
How to get there? Fly to Corfu, then take a ferry to Paxos
Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades, has some of the best turquoise waters you could wish for. Families should head west to Agios Georgios or Plaka beach, for shallow waters to paddle and splash about in plus horse riding and pedalo trips. This green and mountainous island also has great hiking and cycling opportunities plus some interesting historical sites such as Naxos castle and the ruins of ancient Apollo’s Temple at Portara Gate. Chora, the capital, is a lively town with plenty of choice for dining.
Where is it? Naxos sits in the south Aegean sea, south east of Athens and the mainland
How to get there? Fly to Athens then take a ferry to the island
Remote Alonissos does not boast the classic Grecian landscapes of boxy white houses and powder sand beaches, but all the better for it. It has one of the most unspoilt, wilder landscapes in Greece, perfect for families wanting total seclusion and a back to nature feel. Beaches are pebbly but with a good amount of shade and calm waters. Families desperate for sand should head to Chryssi Milia. Alonissos is also one of the best places to see sea life, as it sits in Greece’s largest marine park. Dolphins are commonly spotted here, the rare Mediterranean monk seals too. It also has many marked hiking trails of varying difficulty.
Where is it? Alonissos is part of the Sporades group of islands, north of Athens and the mainland
How to get there? Fly to Skiathos then take a ferry