Top 6 Family Day Trips you must do in Western Crete
- 1. Visit the majestic Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa
- 2. Swim at the turquoise waters of Elafonissi Beach
- 3. Hike the Samaria Gorge with the family
- 4. Enjoy a family getaway to the Botanical Gardens of Crete
- 5. Explore the Akrotiri Peninsula, Chania – what’s not to love!
- 6. Discover the hidden beauties of Rethymnon
There is so much to do and see with the kids in western Crete! It would be a shame to have traveled so far with the family and not see more of this beautiful part of the island.
There are gorges to be walked, ancient sites to be visited, time trodden villages to be discovered, and further afield stunning sandy beaches to be lazed upon. Why not hire a car and get out and about? You can hire for just one day or as many as you choose. We will be happy to recommend local car hire companies.
Here is a list of our Top 6 Family Day Trips you must do in Western Crete with the family.
1. Visit the majestic Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa
If you happen to stay close to Chania on your family vacation in Crete, Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa are two MUST visit places. The natural scenery, the exotic ambiance, and the turquoise waters will surely overwhelm both you and the kids.
Balos is one of the most famous Greek beaches. Pictures of Balos Lagoon continuously feature in travel articles about “the best beaches around the world”. It is a beach of unparalleled beauty with shallow warm waters and soft white sand that your kids will love!
Gramvousa, also known as “The Pirates’ Island” (witnessed by a pirate flag you will see as soon as you arrive!), is a small, beautiful, and wild island off the coast of northwestern Crete. In fact, Gramvousa is actually a small complex of two islets, the “Agria” (“Wild” in Greek) and the “Imeri” (“Tame” in Greek). Boat cruises usually visit the “Imeri” part of Gramvousa.
Gramvousa is great for snorkeling, especially around the old shipwreck located near the port. Your kids will also love exploring the remains of the old Venetian castle, built at the top of a hill. It will take you around 15min to hike up the footpath leading to the castle. If you are up for a climb, bring a pair of trainers, your hat and of course your camera!
The best and more fun way to reach Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa, with the family, is by boat. Your kids will find the boat trip totally exciting! Sailing, exploring, and swimming in the emerald lagoon – all in one trip!
TIP: Want to experience the magic of Balos and Gramvousa with the family, at your own pace? Join our private Family Sailing in Balos-Grambousa family-friendly Day Cruise.
2. Swim at the turquoise waters of Elafonissi Beach
Elafonissi Beach, together with Balos Lagoon have been nominated as two of the best beaches in the world for 2020, according to TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards.
Tucked away in Crete’s south-western corner, Elafonissi beach offers a unique natural landscape that will amaze both you and the kids. The warm and shallow aquamarine waters at Elafonissi Lagoon are ideal for children.
Have your kids ever made a pink sandcastle? One of the most distinguishing elements of Elefonissi beach is its pastel-pink sand, a natural phenomenon caused by thousands of shells washing up over the years and tingeing the white sand!
White lilies, junipers, and sea daffodils that grow in the area around Elafonissi beach create a color palette of unparalleled beauty. Did you know that Elafonissi beach is a natural shelter for the endangered sea turtle Caretta Caretta? If your kids are lucky enough they might spot one near the beach!
Whilst at Elafonissi beach, its worth visiting the beautiful Monastery of Panagia Chrisoskalithisa, famous for its “golden” step and breathtaking views of the Cretan sea.
If you would like to explore Elafonissi beach at its best, try to avoid visiting the beach in July and August when it usually becomes too crowded.
TIP: Looking for family-friendly accommodation near the scenic Elafonissi Beach? Check out a list of our top picks for families and BOOK you STAY now!
3. Hike the Samaria Gorge with the family
The Samaria Gorge is the longest gorge in Europe and arguably the most spectacular one. If you are an active family and feel adventurous enough, then you should not miss the Samaria Gorge challenge whilst in Crete!
Many argue that the Samaria Gorge is the acknowledged natural site and symbol of the island of Crete. Τhe National park of Samaria is nested inside the beautiful White Mountains of West Crete. The trail of Samaria Gorge runs from the beautiful plateau of Omalos (1,230m above sea level) all the way to the amazing Lybean Sea. With 450 different species of plant and animal life, the Samaria Gorge is a UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve.
Both you and the kids will find the hike simply fascinating. Along the way, you will pass through forests with pine, cypress, and holly trees, abandoned villages, small churches, and water springs. Your kids will love “meeting” the gorge’s real inhabitants, the famous Cretan mountain goats known as “Kri-Kri”.
Crossing the Samaria Gorge will take you around 6 – 7 hours. The beautiful trail of 13km exits at a narrow passage, commonly known as the “Iron Gates”, or “Portes” (which means doors in Greek). A further 3km takes you to the south coast in Agia Roumeli, a majestic black sandy beach. The moment that you will walk out of the gorge into the Libyan Sea is a moment that both you and the kids will remember forever!
Hiking the Samaria Gorge is mainly suitable for active families with kids no younger than 8 years old. In case you might be traveling with younger children you could still enjoy a day trip up to the entrance of the gorge and enjoy the breathtaking view from Omalos plateau.
Are you ready to take the Samaria Gorge challenge with the family? We invite you to join our Private Family Hiking Tour at Samaria.Ask for info!
4. Enjoy a family getaway to the Botanical Gardens of Crete
Set in the foothills of the beautiful White Mountains, the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete is a natural paradise of nearly 20 hectares, hosting hundreds of plants and animals. If you want to take a break from the beach, then the Botanical Park is a great spot to visit with the family in West Crete.
In less than 30 min drive from the Old Town of Chania, you will find this green oasis full of fruit trees from all over the world, Cretan herbs, medicinal and ornamental plants. Your kids will love observing the playful ducks, geese, and other aquatic birds, that have found shelter at the park’s lake.
Kids will also have the opportunity to meet Aigagrous, the Cretan Wild Goat (only found in the Cretan White Mountains) as well as several other rare animal species of the rich Cretan fauna. Watching the hawks flying proudly in the Cretan sky is an amazing experience for parents and kids alike.
The passion of the family that owns the park is obvious in every detail. They managed to recreated this natural paradise out of the ashes of a great fire which destroyed the area in 2003. In the midst of this unique landscape stands a burnt centennial olive tree, as a memorial.
Exploring the park with the family will take you approximately 2 hours. Do not hurry your way through! The peaceful ambience is a perfect opportunity for you to relax, clear your mind and enjoy a some quality time with the kids while discovering the multiple beauties of the Cretan nature.
At the end of your family walk, do not forget to pay a visit to the park’s restaurant and taste several authentic local flavors. The ingredients used for the dishes are all fresh and organic, coming from the park’s garden. Enjoy a delicious meal while gazing at the majestic views of the White Mountains.
Would you like to find out more about Cretan nature? Check our Nature and Outdoor Tours for active families in West Crete!
5. Explore the Akrotiri Peninsula, Chania – what’s not to love!
Picturesque sandy beaches, centuries-old monasteries and churches, impressive caves with rich archaeological interest, and historical monuments, the Akrotiri peninsula attracts many visitors every year, all of who enjoy Cretan hospitality and nature at their best.
The Akrotiri Peninsula separates the city of Chania from Souda Bay. This beautiful area enjoys a rugged coastline with several lovely sandy coves. Kalathas, Marathi, Tersanas, Loutraki, the majestic Stefanou Beach (Seitan Limania) and Stavros are just a few of the many beautiful beaches in the area.
At Stavros beach you will also find the cave of Leras where Anthony Quinn is dancing the well-known Greek Syrtaki dance in the famous film “Zorbas the Greek“.
If you are funs of hiking, you could visit the Cave of the Virgin Mary of Arkoudiotissa, commonly know as “The Bear Cave”. After around 10 minutes hike in a beautiful mountainous scenery, you will reach the picturesque 16th century chapel, squeezing itself against the entrance of the cave.
According to one of the many fascinating legends, the cave took its name from a stalagmite that resembles the shape of a bear drinking water from a stone tank. Archaeologists believe that the cave was used since Minoan times and took its name from Goddess Artemis, whose sacred animal was the bear.
Among the many beautiful monasteries of the Akrotiri Peninsula, two that are really worth visiting are the Monastery of Agia Triada Tsangarolon and the Monastery of Gouvernetou, both within easy reach.
The path from Gouvernetou leads to Katholikon Monastery which is at the bottom of a wild and magnificent ravine. The walk takes about 40 minutes and good footwear is essential. Don’t try this walk if you are traveling with young children since the path is quite steep.
As you reach Chania town from the east, make sure to make a stop at the Venizelos Graves, two of the most charismatic Greek politicians. The panoramic view of the old city of Chania from that spot is exceptional, especially during sunset. Do not forget to bring your cameras along and capture some beautiful family moments.
After a quick stop at the Venizelos Graves make sure that your take a break at the famous Koukouvayia café, also offering breathtaking views of the city. Your kids will absolutely love the chocolate pie served with fresh ice-cream!
Join one of our Family-Friendly Tours and Activities in Chania and enjoy your family vacation in West Crete with the kids to the full!
6. Discover the hidden beauties of Rethymnon
Rethymnon is the third-largest town on Crete, located less than 1-hour drive from Chania Town. If you are exploring the west part of Crete with the family, it’s really worth planning a day trip to Rethymnon and discover its numerous beauties.
Both you and the kids will love the Old Town of Rethymno. Spend some time strolling around its paved, narrow alleys and discover the small colorful shops, cozy cafés, and traditional small taverns found almost in every corner of the Old Town.
Continue your family-walk at the picturesque Old Venetian Port, a city spot offering an amazing atmosphere, especially during sunset. You may even choose to make a lunch or coffee break at one of the Old Port’s restaurants or cafés. Right behind the Venetian Port stands the Fortezza Fortress, one of the biggest fortresses of the Venetian Era. Wander around the castle with your kids and enjoy the panoramic views of Rethymno town.
Besides the Old Town and Port, Rethymno’s mainland is full of interesting sites and attractions that are worth visiting with the family.
The famous Monastery of Arkadi, recognized by UNESCO as a European Freedom Memorial, is a must-see monument to visit with the family. Your kids will be fascinated by the history of Akadi and the tales of courage and bravery of its inhabitants. We recommend that you do some background research with the kids before you visit the Arkadi Monastery.
Very close to Arkadi (approximately 10 minutes drive) you will find the Museum of Ancient Eleftherna. Both the Museum itself as well as the surrounding area are really beautiful. Take some time to admire the many interesting archaeological exhibits while your kids attend the special educational programs offered at the museum.
After your visit to the Museum of Ancient Eleftherna, make a short stop at the picturesque village of Margarites (“Daisies” in Greek). Margarites village is famous for its handmade pottery. Your kids will love visiting the small colorful ceramic shops. They may even participate in a short pottery class offered at some of the village’s workshops. Make sure to buy some ceramic souvenirs to take back home!
If you are coming from the west to Rethymnon stop by the lake of Kournas, and drop in at the mount village of Argiroupolis, an ancient village with Roman remains. Walk down to the Church of the Five Virgins and see the beautiful fountain and the 2000-year-old plane tree.
If you want to explore the beautiful region of Rethymnon accompanied by a family-friendly guide, join one of our Family-Friendly Tours and Activities in Rethymnon!
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