London lifestyle & travels with kids and babies
For volcanoes obsessed kids and Atlantis legend seekers, look no further than Santorini, bliss for all parties, but question is Imeroviglia or Oia or Thira? The 3 of them come with caldera views, white washed buildings hanging on cliffs, breathtaking sunsets and blue domed churches, Santorini signature postcards, but they all have rather different vibes. For best of Santorini with kids, we adored our stay at Aqua luxury suites in Imerovigli: epic views, boutique design and warm hospitality; however pre-kids we opted for fun filled Thura and its vibrant nightlife!
We felt in love with Santorini over 15 years ago, couples and friends holidays. Santorini with kids, dare I say we enjoyed even more, with Imerovigli the perfect pied a terre: the highest point of the caldera has epic views; plus it feels authentic and uncrowded (unlike Oia or Thira! )
Overlooking the 2 volcanic islands (Nea /”New” Kameni and Palea/”Old”Kameni ), sights from Imerovigli hardly can get any better. From Skaros, one can soak in Santorini’s dramatic geography and the cobbled alleys and white washed villas are picturesque and way quieter compared to Oia and Thira.
Why do I also labelled 2020 Santorini holidays as formidable after years of sustainable luxury and authentic travelling? We stayed at Aqua Luxury Suites Grand Suite, one beautiful boutique 2 beds, with a huge terrace and private pool with jacuzzi overlooking the volcano, perfect for the boys to play and for us to chill sipping bubbles and thanking God and Aqua team for bringing us back to life after months of lockdown, home-schooling and super long working hours with all sorts of added complexities.
The Grand Suite set-up is perfect for families: 2 bedrooms and one super beautiful living area; Santorini themed therapeutical colours: turquoise, white, pale grey and pastel green.
The breakfast on our terrace was out of ths world. Each morning 9:30am, the team would bring us warm pastries, fruit platters, eggs and Nutella pancakes. The orange juice was fresh and the cappuccinos perfect, all blissful in this epic and zen setting. Lunch at Aqua Mare Restaurant felt also very special: Santorini rose wines are mineral and crisp, risotto and Greek cheese pastry fabulous. The boys loved their pastas and pizzas and Aqua team and setting made it super hard for us to venture outside this glorious boutique hotel, they totally get our votes for best of Imerovigli Santorini restaurants!
The sunsets in Santorini are to die for and we simply cannot decide which one was best. Oia makes a delightful walk at 5pm through its whitewashed cobbled streets, chic and arty boutiques but do expect big crowds and Instagramers: Oia versus Imerovigli is definitely busier! We descended in Amoudi bay for dinner, delicious mussels saganaki, octopus and squid. The sunset was so emotional, back after 14 years in Santorini after 2 kids and 1 pandemic!
The second sunset we loved was sailing: the sun disappeared surreally and slowly, red and orange into the sea. But the one that I found the most spectacular was from Imerovigli: a golden sky went gradually on fire.
Santorini sailing is the way to soak in the epic geography and rock formations. We swam by the white beach, we sailed by the red beach, we passed by Dali-esque rock formations and black beaches. We swam in warm springs, next to the volcano and by the 2 volcanic islands (Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni). The kids adored splashing and snorkelling, jumping on the catamaran and sailing – a wonderful half day spent with Santorini Sailing Spiridakos.
Trekking and climbing in Santorini are great fun and few minutes from Aqua Luxury Suites, there’s Skaros rock, an ancient Venetian castle with epic views. This used to be the principal place of the Christian congregation in Santorini, till the beginning of the 1800s and the legend says that it has never been conquered during its 600 years of existence. Completely ruined during an earthquake in the 19th century, now makes an adventurous climb perfect before sunset for the vistas over Imerovigli, Oia and Thira. We picked a windy day which made the ascent and the descent with the 6 years old even more dramatic. Luckily, there are few terraces with killer views to sip a well-deserved aperol post hiking and to get to enjoy what happened to be the most spectacular sunset.
One can also trek along the caldera from Thira to Oia or the other way – just over 10 km (about 6 miles), a mix of paved, pedestrian streets and dirt hiking trails, hilly walk with little shade, best very early in the morning or late afternoon to experience.
Santorini food options are superb. Best Imerovigli Santorini restaurants must include our regular feasts at Aqua as well as Anogi: great food and sweet piazza setting , friendly cats and personnel.
Ammoudi Fish Taverna overlooking the Aegean, listening to the waves and indulging into traditional Greek seafood over sunset skies is magic. But our 6 days gourmet highlight has been The Seaside – eclectic fine food at its best. We had an early dinner wrapping up an afternoon on the beach and we loved their sushi, ceviche, and modern Santorini dishes. They say they won the finest restaurant awards in Greece, we fully agree it’s well deserved.
Kamari and the seaside makes a wonderful place as well to spend the day or afternoon on Santorini’s iconic black beaches – fun for the kids to play with the black sands and little pebbles and splash into a crystal warm sea.
Covid 19 adjustments: In the brave new world of 2020, we found Aqua Luxury Suites well versed in keeping us all safe and healthy whilst not compromising on warm and super professional service. All staff were wearing masks or transparent shields, the temperatures are checked at arrival, breakfasts limited mostly to your own terrace, lots of antibacterial cleaning plus QR code menus everywhere.
For lovely and safe transfers and guided tours we warmly recommend Simos Ioannis: super prompt, helpful and knowledgeable. So our overwhelming conclusion is not only luxury Santorini with kids is feasible, but highly recommended and I’d add Imerovigli versus Oia or Thira. Receiving usually 2 million tourists per year, Santorini is top bucket list one of the most photographed spots worldwide. Summer of 2020 when we had this magic island almost to ourselves, spared of the cruise ships crowds and the usual touristy gatherings has been truly formidable!
BA flies directly from Heathrow, 4 hours to paradise. And in case one wishes to extend Santorini family holidays with more Greek island hopping, we highly recommend Crete and Elounda Beach Villas, just over 1.5 hours of ferry (and less than 1 hour drive from Heraklion port), Paros or Mykonos – this gorgeous party island is always a great idea!
In the new brave era of travels during and post pandemic, Greece managed well the cases and travelling restrictions, Santorini family holidays are high on our travel list and so are the Cycladics, perfect for some further island hopping!
Disclosure: many thanks to Aqua Luxury Suites for the media rates, Grand Suite upgrade and warm hospitality. Super excited impressions as usual are ours and our kids’.