While Crete doesn't cater to kids the way that some destinations do, children will be welcomed and included wherever you go. Greeks generally make a fuss over children, who may find themselves receiving many gifts and treats. Teach them some Greek words and they'll feel even more appreciated.
Best Regions for Kids
Crete’s most family-friendly region, with big beach resorts, water sports of all sorts, high-octane water parks, Minotaur mysteries in Knossos and even a chance to mingle with dinosaurs.
- West & South Hania
Crystalline and gentle waters at Elafonisi, Balos Lagoon and Paleohora are big draws, as are the ghost stories of Frangokastello castle and the labyrinthine old quarter of Hania. Take teens to tackle Samaria Gorge.
Youngsters love Rethymno’s Venetian fortress and the playgrounds of the municipal park. Adventures outside the city include an olive oil factory, a spooky ossuary in a rebellious monastery and cool caves.
- Eastern Lasithi
Low-key region with great appeal to for outdoor-loving kids. Clamber around gorges, visit the cave where Zeus was born, explore a spooky former leper colony or go swimming on a palm-studded beach.
Crete for Kids
Crete has plenty of beaches to choose between, from sugar-fine sand to pebbles, and hidden coves to public stretches. Add the coral-blue waters aglimmer with sunken ships to explore while snorkelling, and the fun boat trips to be had, and you can see that H20 is going to be a big part of your Cretan adventure. But there are many other attractions that will light their imaginations, ranging from myriad ruins and creepy caves to ruined castles and ancient myths.
Greek cuisine is all about sharing, and ordering lots of mezedhes (appetisers) lets your children try the local food and find their favourites. Some dishes that kids might grow to love include kalamari (fried squid), tiropitakia (cheese parcels in filo pastry), dolmadhes (flavoured rice wrapped in vine leaves) and saganaki (fried cheese). Most menus also include international kids' faves such as pizza, omelets, chips (French fries) and spaghetti.
Nuts and dairy find their way into lots of Cretan dishes, so if your kids suffer from any severe allergies, ask someone to write this down clearly in Greek so you can show restaurant staff before you order.
Hikes, Bikes & Horses
Apart from the more strenuous gorge and mountain walks, such as the Samaria Gorge, there are numerous shorter and easier options to suit the family. Just ask any local for tips and advice or join a guided tour offered by agencies throughout the island. The same goes for cycling, while most horse-riding outfits are excellent at tailoring sessions to all ages.
Museums & Attractions
Head to Iraklio’s Natural History Museum, where the Discovery Centre is crammed with interactive features. If it's extinct animals that spur your kids' imagination, take them on a prehistoric adventure at the Dinosauria Park in Gournes. A trip to a water park will also go a long way to keeping tempers cool. Acqua Plus near Hersonisos and Limnoupolis near Hania are both excellent options.
- Watercity, Anopolis Enjoy this water fun park southeast of Iraklio.
- Natural History Museum, Iraklio Nose around the engaging children’s section in this imaginative museum.
- Agora, Hania Browse through Hania’s lively daily market.
- Fortezza, Rethymno Dial back centuries while exploring Rethymno’s Venetian fortress.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Big resort-style hotels tend to open later in the year than independent accommodation – as late as June – but they are generally more tailored to kids’ needs. Many hotels don’t charge for young children and will often provide a camp bed.
Accommodation is considerably cheaper in the off seasons, potentially quieter, and locals have more time to chat.
Before you Go
An excellent way to prepare your kids for their holiday and to encourage an active interest in the destination is by introducing them to some books or movies ahead of time. Lots of younger children enjoy stories of Greek gods and Greek myths, while slightly older kids will enjoy movies such as Mamma Mia, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or even My Big Fat Greek Wedding for their Greek settings. You can also find children's books about life in Greece that include a few easy phrases that your kids can try out.
- Sunscreen – and plenty of it! – as well as hats, sunglasses and water bottles.
- Travel highchair (either deflatable booster seat or a cloth one that attaches to the back of a chair).
- Lightweight pop-up cot for babies.
- Medicine, inhalers etc along with prescriptions.
- Reusable plastic cups and cutlery for little ones.
- Newborn’s car seat – unless you have pre-checked with the car rental agency, you’ll likely be disappointed.
- Portable change mat and hand sanitiser – nappy-changing facilities are rare.
- For toddlers not yet walking, consider bringing a sturdy carrying backpack, as strollers are a struggle in villages with steep cobbled streets.
Fresh milk is available in large towns and tourist areas, where supermarkets are the best places to look. Formula is available almost everywhere, as is heat-treated milk. Disposable nappies are also ubiquitous,
When to Go
For younger kids and toddlers, it’s worth thinking about visiting in spring, early summer or autumn when the sun is not too strong and temperatures are pleasantly warm. June is probably the earliest your kids can swim in the sea; anytime before that, the water will be cold.