With beautiful scenery, amazing food and a low cost of living, it’s not surprising that Greece is a firm favourite with Irish holidaymakers.
Until recently however, Greece was considered more suitable for couples or groups than families. I guess the perception was that the accommodation was more basic in Greece than its European counterparts and maybe lacking in some kids facilities. This may have been the case many years ago but certainly not any more…
I managed to find a great family resort on the Island of Zakynthos called the Alykanas Beach Village. It’s like a hotel but with self catering facilities so if you have small kids this is ideal for making breakfasts, baby food etc. They have endless facilities for adults and children, day and evening entertainment, a kids water park, kids clubs and three swimming pools. There is a ‘quiet’ pool if day time entertainment isn’t your thing and failing that, the Hotel is right on the beach. They also offer free wifi, although if you are an avid ‘Facebooker’ beware – it can be temperamental!
Many family resorts in Greece are ‘All Inclusive’ , with all meals and drinks included. This works very well for many families but personally I prefer to dine out so the Alykanas Beach Village suited me perfectly. In Greece, the food is so good and so cheap, my personal favourites are their traditional dishes like stifado or saganaki and of course the typical Greek salads. The restaurants cater so well for kids too with most places having play areas or bouncing castles. My little ones had great fun choosing the restaurant each night and the restaurants with biggest play areas usually got picked! They also believe that the best spaghetti bolognese is not to be had in Italy, but in Zakynthos!
But it’s not just the accommodation that made the holiday so special for me. Zakynthos has so much to see and do for all family. There are numerous options for day trips, a trip to see the famous loggerhead sea turtles is a must. These are now endangered so it is great to see them in their natural habitat. Another famous landmark is Navagio or ‘Shipwreck beach’ as its more commonly called. It is the most photographed beach in the world and is simply stunning. It is only accessible by boat but there are organised boat trips to bring you there from all of the holiday resorts. A word of warning though, the bus trip from your Hotel is not the most comfortable! It is a long winding road and can lead to some upset tummies. If you are travelling with kids make sure you get good seats on the lower deck of the bus ; trust me, the sound of sick kids on the upper deck was not a pleasant way to start the trip! The pictures that you see of Navagio beach on various websites are, dare I say, a little misleading! Yes, it still is a stunning site, but the white ‘sandy’ beach that you see in the photos is actually tiny white stones and is quite hard underfoot. I would recommend that you bring surf shoes to make it easier to jump off the boat and if you want to go swimming. Also bear in mind that unless you go extremely early in the morning or late at night, there will be thousands of other people on the beach with you!
Although I would highly recommend taking one of the organised boat trips, if you don’t fancy doing this there are numerous other activities to satisfy you. All of the typical water sports you would expect to find at a beach resort are in Zakynthos too, from pedaloes with slides to glass bottom boat rides. There is also a waterpark with plenty of slides and high speed tubes to keep kids entertained all day long. And if you are still looking for more action you can visit the larger island of Kefalonia, less than an hour by boat, see the setting for Captain Corelli’s mandolin and the beautiful capital, Argostoli.
I am writing this on my return plane journey home, a leisurely 3 and a half hour flight. I can’t help asking why have I waited so long to bring my kids to Greece? It has so much to offer and still relatively unspoilt, I will definitely be returning.