Guest Post By: George, from Creti.co
The incredible island of Crete has so much to offer to travelling families and it is often voted one of the most popular and safe destinations for family holidays. Crete is the biggest island of Greece known for its rich culture and amazing scenery. You will discover stunning sunny beaches with crystal clear waters, rocky coves in idyllic landscapes, endless groves, delicious food and of course, the unsurpassed Cretan hospitality. We asked George – a local holiday specialist and dad to a little one – who lives in Crete to share his top 10 things to do with kids on this family-friendly Greek island.
1. Take to the Water
If you are a fan of underwater exploration, and your children are old enough, you can discover the gorgeous underwater world of Crete through scuba diving courses. There are many scuba diving centres throughout the island (mostly in the north), catering to divers of all levels. Popular scuba diving locations in Crete are the Bay of Afrata in Chania, Panormos Village in Rethymnon, Hersonissos Cape in Heraklion and “Nikolos” Reef in Lasithi.
You can also enjoy sea kayaking on the south coast. There are some remarkable sea kayak routes that will take you to some of Crete’s most unique places including as Paleochora, Sougia, Agia Roumeli, Loutro, Sfakia, Vai and Spinalonga Island.
Crete also offers plenty of surfing opportunities – wind surfing, paddle surfing and kite surfing – in locations including Elafonisi, Falassarna, Agia Marina, Plakias, Amoudara and Ierapetra.
2. Hit the Mountain Bike Trails
Biking on dirt roads, along picturesque mountain roads through traditional villages, is a great way for you to enjoy the spectacular mountain views of Crete. You can either join one of the scheduled bicycle tours in Crete, or you may plan your own tour along with your family.
Mountain bicycles are usually offered by car/bicycle hire companies. The smallest bikes that you can find for rent are for seven-year-old kids. If your kids are younger, you may rent a baby seat appropriate for bikes. For further information, we recommend Auto-Kappa car and bicycle hire.
3. Go Animal Crazy!
Aquaworld in Hersonisos was Crete’s first aquarium, home to a unique display of local sea life and reptiles from everywhere! Most of the animals were rescued or injured and now have a loving home at Aquaworld. Take wonderful photos with your kids and enjoy hands-on interaction with many of the animals. Aquaworld is open from 10:00 until 18:00 every day from April until October.
For more information visit the Aquaworld’s Aquarium official website.
You can also visit the Cretaquarium, one of the largest and most modern aquariums in Europe. It was established as part of THALASSOKOSMOS, the largest complex for marine research in the Mediterranean area, and is a wonderful way to education both children and adults about the species and ecosystems of the Mediterranean.
For more information about the opening hours, fees and tours visit the official website of Cretaquarium.
4. Walk with Dinosaurs
Dinosauria Park offers the chance to experience a unique, prehistoric family adventure! A huge selection of model dinosaurs from all periods of the Mesozoic era are on display as well as other prehistoric animals; it really is a one-of-a-kind destination. Wander through the huge space (2500 m2) and marvel at the large number of exhibits, including amphibious dinosaurs. Be aware, the dinosaurs move and make noises! Children can learn about the lives of dinosaurs through interactive displays and educational games. There is also the opportunity to excavate fossils!
For more information about your prehistoric adventure visit the Dinosauria Park’s official website.
5. Take a Hike in Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge is one of Crete’s most popular sights. Measuring 18 kilometres long, it is the longest gorge in Europe. The gorge starts at Xyloskalo (1,227 m. above sea level) on the Omalos Plateau and runs down to the seaside village of Agia Roumeli, on the south coast of Crete.
The walk through the Samaria Gorge takes between 4-8 hours; expect to complete it in six if you walk at a steady pace and take time to stop for photos and a rest! Throughout the gorge there are resting points where you can drink water and have a snack. However, if you don’t feel up to the whole route, the foresters riding cute donkeys are there to take you to the exit of the gorge! Remember to bring some snacks, wear soft sneakers and sunblock. You can also relax on the wonderful beach of Agia Roumeli after crossing the gorge.
6. Go Underground in Cretan Caves
Another adventurous activity you can do with your kids is to explore of the many mountainous caves that are of both an archaeological and folkloric interest. Dikteon Cave, one of the most important caves of Crete, is situated on the slope of the mountain range Dikti in Eastern Crete. The cave is full of stalagmites and stalactites and is also an important habitat rich with fauna; at the entrance you’ll see wild pigeons and other birds while the cave itself is home to the vampire Mediterranean Ear Bat and other arthropods. According to legend, Zeus was born and raised by the goat Amaltheia here. Another version of the myth says that Dikteon Andron was the place where Zeus carried Europe, after he kidnapped her from Foiniki. Another popular cave to visit is Sfentoni in Zoniana village. It is easily accessible, with stalactites and stalagmites of different colours and shapes decorating the cave’s chambers.
7. Visit the ancient Minoan Palace in Knossos
Travel back in time to ancient Crete of the Bronze Age at the archaeological site of Knossos. The beautiful Knossos Palace is located near Heraklion and it is the most important archaeological finding in Crete. Knossos is connected with great legends such as the story of Daedalus and Icarus, the fearsome Minotaur, and the love story of Theseus and Ariadne.
You can explore the ancient palace on a tour or go by yourself. The site is open from April until October, every day from 8am to 7.30pm. The entrance price is 6,00€ for adults and 3,00€ for kids. Don’t forget to bring water, hats and sunscreen as the sun can be strong.
8. Discover the Old Town of Chania
The famous Venetian Port in the Old Town of Chania should be top of your list if you plan to visit western Crete. The beautiful harbour with its gorgeous lighthouse, plentiful restaurants, cafes and shops is the perfect spot to take a relaxing walk with your family. Spend your morning wandering the narrow streets in the Venetian harbour area and then take the kids on a glass bottom boat ride around the harbour.
9. Water Park Fun
Acqua Plus is by far the most popular water park on the island of Crete and the first in the Balkan region! It is situated 5 km from Hersonissos and only 30 km from Heraklion city. The water park has two connecting sections, one for adults with extreme water slides and one for kids with water safe slides and pools.
For more information visit the Acqua Plus Park’s official website.
Another water park, Limnoupolis, is located only 8 km outside of Chania city. This aquatic park is a “fun land” full of fascinating aquatic games, especially created for you and your kids to play in the water in a variety of ways! Limnoupoli’s games and water activities are very modern and chosen according to the same strict specifications of rides and games at Disneyland. When you’re exhausted from all that watery fun, have a snack, meal or drink in the restaurants and bars of the park.
For more information about the waterslides and rates visit the Limnoupolis official website.
10. Beach Time!
Of course Crete has some of the best beaches in the world, included family friendly ones with easy access to clean and shallow waters with soft sand. Elafonisi beach and its pink sand will leave you speechless, the sunset at Falassarna beach will charm you and Chrissi Akti, Platanias, Tersanas and Bali beach offer plenty of family-friendly amenities. Matala, Agia Pelagia and Makrigialos are also good family friendly choices that will make you and your kids feel safe and have lots of summer fun!
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