Find your sanctuary
Ithaca, Kefaloniá, Léfkas and Zákynthos are fairly small islands with relatively few permanent residents. There is no mass tourism on Ithaca and Kefaloniá whatsoever, and on Léfkas it is still in its infancy. Although there are a few modest development on Zákynthos, you’ll not find any large, commercial amusement parks on any of the islands.
The lack of major tourist facilities, which can seem essential to us Brits for a family holiday, lies in the fact that the Greeks are very child friendly – they let their children take part in almost everything that older people do – until well after midnight. Children are welcome guests at night in café bars and tavernas; they can romp around in public places, mingle with the locals out for a stroll, and even play soccer in front of the church. With many of the sporting facilities and water activities there are no age limits, so whatever the children are able to do (and what their parents allow them to do) is available for them to try.
Read Simon Reeve’s advice on what to do on a family holiday in Greece.
Explore the islands
The good weather, wonderful beaches and sea all mean that children are seldom bored. All the islands (except Ithaca) have more than enough shallow, sheltered bays where little ones can splash and swim. Almost all of the large hotels on Zákynthos also have wading pools. Boat trips are always great adventures and if you are experienced enough, then you can even rent a motor boat – the kids will love being sailors and cabin crew.
Explore on foot
Walks here are fun even for children who are reluctant to go walking with their parents at home. On the Greek islands there are no boring and crowded trails; instead the routes are mostly used by shepherds or goat paths. Along the way there are countless lizards and sometimes you can even spot snakes. There are seldom any ‘do not’ signs so the children can scramble around as and where as they wish – even in the ruins and medieval castles that are almost never secured!
Discounts for children are offered on public buses, domestic flights, ships and excursion boats, as well as on many of the excursions for children under 12 years old. Visits to the state museums and archaeological sites are free of charge for children.
Since there are no attractions specifically aimed at children on the other islands, here are some fantastic recommendations for family fun on Kefaloniá and Zákynthos.
When the sandman comes for children elsewhere, children in Greece prefer to stay up and get behind the wheel of a Jeep or a VW Beetle. In good weather, the small electric cars are available daily in Argostóli in the Luna Park fun fair at the northern end of Odós Rizospáston (five euros for 15 minutes). The park also has remote controlled boats, table football and other games.
All about the miniature train
Miniature trains with locomotives and wagons, with space for about 20 people, are popular throughout Greece. They are driven by electric motors and have rubber wheels. Argostóli has one that runs through the town, and departs from the harbour daily, between 8.30am and 10.30pm.
Price: The trip costs 3.50 euros for adult, and 2 euros for children.
Fun and games
In Paidotopos Prókris, parents can enjoy their coffee in the adjoining café in a beautiful garden, while children jump on the trampolines, bowl or play basketball. Fifteen other games are available and there are also various events and activities such as childrens’ theatre, crafts and dance lessons. Barbeques take place on weekends. Mazarakáta, below the Ágios Geórgios fortress, is open all year round, Mon–Fri 6pm–10.30pm, and Sat/Sun 11am–10.30pm.
Price: Four euros per child for all games.
Horse-drawn carriage ride
In the late afternoon, horse-drawn carriages line the Ágios Nikólaos pier at the edge of the Platía Solomoú in Zákynthos Town. Trips through the island capital take 20 minutes, and if the little ones feel brave enough then they can hold the reins and sit next to the driver. Carriages are also available in Alikés, where they usually wait for customers on the road that runs parallel to the beach.
Price: 20 euros for 20 minute trips, although off-season you may be able to bargain the price down to 15 euros.
Animals up close
The Áskos Stonepark is scenically situated between the hills in the north of the island. The park has sheep and goats, rabbits, tortoises, birds of prey, lizards and many more animals. There are also ancient cisterns, cottages and stables as well as a stone wine press. The admission price is, however, disproportionate for this park, which is still under construction. The attraction is open May–Sept, daily 9am–7pm and Oct–April, daily 10am–5pm.
Price: 8.50 euros for adults; 5 euros for children 5–12 years.
Fun without the parents
On Zákynthos, more so than on the other islands, the large hotels provide entertainment during the day for children under 12. Be sure to check out the inclusive hotel Eleon Grand Resort in Traganáki (tel.26 95 06 52 45) and the all-inclusive hotel Louis Zante Beach in Laganás (tel. 26 95 05 11 30). Both hotels are right on the beach and their services allow parents some time to themselves. Hotels can be extnsive, so it’s sensible to book a package through your travel agent.
Travel time: Flights from London to the Greek islands take approximately three and a half hours.
How to get there: Fly direct with easyJet from London Gatwick to Zákynthos; from £194 return. There are direct ferries between Kefalonia and Lefkas in the north, Ithaca to the East and Zakynthos to the south.
Top tips: Read a Marco Polo travel guide before you go on your family holiday.