The story of Santorini tells about sea and fire, about submerged cities and vanished civilizations, about sunsets and volcanoes. If you plan to visit Greek islands, you will surely have browsed a guide and come across a view of Santorini, with the blue domes, which act as a union between the sky and the sea passing through the white of the houses.
Santorini is sunsets. Santorini is the caldera with magnificent views.
Santorini is first and foremost Oia
Oia (read Ia) is the most iconic town in Santorini. It is the quintessential romantic place, made up of caldera views and unique sunsets (they say it’s one of the ten most beautiful sunsets in the world!).
Oia is made up of breathtaking views, classy restaurants and luxurious accommodations, where wedding proposals and honeymoons take place. Oia is made of blue domes, steep streets, steps.
… but Oia is not suitable for children
We were warned when we were looking for accommodation in Oia! It was supposed to be a special holiday and I didn’t want to give in or settle.
I wanted to stay in Oia. I had a high budget, I knew that staying in Oia in mid-June is very expensive, but I was willing to pay pretty much any price. We wanted to celebrate a birthday, a promotion, I had a photo project, we wanted to be in what is the place to be of Santorini.
Visiting Santorini with children: many hotels told me that in Oia they do not accept children under 13 years. Others laconically, adults only.
All the most beautiful and prestigious hotels in Oia have this policy. Outraged, I kept searching and found a luxury house in the center of Oia, which turned out to be a perfect accommodation.
We had a great time but the point is not this: who had answered me only adults was right.
Visiting Santorini with children: 10 reasons why Oia is not a place for children
Kids in Oia have nothing to do (the attractions, which I’ll talk about later, are very few): they are unlikely to capture the romance of a sunset. And if they catch it, they won’t understand why every night for a week you have to go hunting for the right location to watch the sunset.
In short, in Oia, sunset is a real obsession. In addition to a business (mediocre restaurants with the advantage of having a terrace overlooking the sunset…). An obsession that of course is worth it. But explain it to a child, who will have to walk in the still warm streets amidst hordes of daily tourists who do not reside in Oia, but who from other villages or cruises arrive only for their selfie with the sunset.
In Oia there are no beaches that can be practised by children. There are a couple of bays, hard to reach, with deep water and full of boats… If you want a children’s beach in Santorini, just choose to stay in another place, perhaps in Perissa where there are many villages. Remember, however, that the volcanic sand is dark (and that in Southern Italy, without spending 800 euros of flights, there are beautiful seaside resorts)!
If you use (and children also) to do trekking, the trail that connects Oia to Fira is very beautiful. But trekking under the scorching sun of Greece may not be very advisable even for the most experienced of mountaineers…
You die of heat. And not all of Oia’s super hotels have a pool/Jacuzzi. Which means, with small children (but also for grown-ups), that from 11 to 18 or you can stay in a pool or you’re holed up in the room with the air conditioning…
Oia’s only two attractions suitable for children are Museum of the Sea and Atlantis Bookstore. Also beautiful to visit is the church of Panagia Platsani, which being Orthodox provides a cue to explain how churches of other religions have different characteristics. Stop.
If you opt for excursions to Ammoudi Bay (a former fishing village turned into a series of restaurants with local produce) or Armeni Bay, prepare your children to descend about 300 steps (which you will then have to climb up). At the end of the path you will encounter donkeys. Animalists or not, a photo is always a nice memory for kids (and anyway you can not walk the way back to the back of a donkey because it is forbidden)!
Souvenirs and boutiques: even for those who love shopping, child or adult, there is little to choose from. There are many Chinese series (passed off as traditional products), but in the end a memory is still a memory.
Restaurants. Few restaurants are kids friendly, all of them are expensive. In our case, we’re lucky because Sissi eats everything, but if you have kids that eat just a few things you’ll really struggle. Ps: the least salty bill was 180 euros for three people. No wine.
If you have small children and plan to use stroller in Oia… leave it at home! Rather use a baby carrier, but consider that from 7pm to 9pm you’ll have to walk in the narrow streets of Oia with the aforementioned daily tourists.
So yes, they were right. Oia is not suitable for children.
And I didn’t mention the other point of view, that is, that of adults on their honeymoon or on a hyper-romantic couple’s trip, who doesn’t want to listen to squeals or to witness sketching in the pool.
I did not mention it because I think that this aspect can be overcome by the education that everyone imparts to their children.
Therefore Oia is not suitable for children, simply from the point of view of children!
Visiting Santorini with children: how we made Oia suitable for a 7-year-old girl
Our gorgeous accommodation had a small patio with private Jacuzzi and views of the caldera. It was great to have breakfast in the morning (not too much) early, before the hordes of daily tourists stormed Oia, and enjoy the real peace and relaxation with the view of the caldera.
We told stories and legends.
The volcano, Atlantis, the Minoan civilization: myths, stories and legends that fascinate the little ones.
Here we are, taking a tour of the famous Atlantis bookstore, where you’ll find several shops and a typical market nearby: Sissi wears a set very suitable for the island style, from cool italian brand Fun & Fun.
I gave Sissi my old Instax Mini. That actually had some problems: with the strong daylight and with a kind of albedo created by the reverberation of the white of the houses many instantaneous pics were burned. But the idea of having Sissi photograph the beautiful views of Oia on its own was a very good and entertaining choice.
So we got the wrong location? Could Santorini be visited lodging in another town?
Other towns aren’t Oia.
It is worth taking a tour of the island (we rented a car) to realize the morphology of Santorini, to enjoy more views on the caldera and the Aegean, to see the vines… but neither Fira nor Imerovogli nor Akrotiri are as beautiful, picturesque as Oia. In particular Fira is extremely chaotic.
Oia still worth the trip, even with the children. Although it’s not the perfect destination for kids.
But I wouldn’t go back.
Once it was enough to enjoy with the five senses of Santorini.
But I wish Sissi to go back as a young girl, in love
I wish her to watch the sunset hand in hand with her love, to get lost in the alleys and white houses with her partner, to receive a marriage proposal at dinner just when the sun kisses with the sea. I wish her to dive off that blue sea from a boat on the excursion. To visit Atlantis Book and remember that there was, many years before, with her mom and her dad.