The standout Cyclades island chain isn't just for honeymooners—take the entire family with this itinerary. You'll start in Mykonos, where you can dodge the jetsetters with quiet beaches and a farm visit. Then go on to Naxos and Santorini. See into ancient history, experience scenic shores, and dive into the sea to fill photo albums you'll enjoy for years to come.

Highlights

  • Have an interactive day of myths in Athens
  • Ride horses in Naxos and donkeys in Santorini
  • Splash on the beaches of Naxos and Mykonos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens Athens
Day 2 Interactive Mythology Experience Athens
Day 3 Athens to Mykonos Mykonos
Day 4 Mykonos Beach Day Mykonos
Day 5 Farm Visit and Mykonian Dinner Mykonos
Day 6 Ferry to Naxos Naxos
Day 7 Naxos Beaches and Villages Bike Tour Naxos
Day 8 Horseback Riding in Naxos Naxos
Day 9 Beach Day on Naxos Naxos
Day 10 Naxos to Santorini Santorini
Day 11 Volcanic Lagoon Boat Tour Santorini
Day 12 Santorini to Athens and Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Athens

Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis
Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis

Welcome to Greece! You'll begin your trip in Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. The mythology of this spectacular city precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with lively nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. Make the most of your time in the city at some of these spots:

  • Check out the views of the can't-miss Parthenon. (Pro tip: The Parthenon is the temple, the Acropolis is the hill.) This temple to Athena has enchanted visitors since its construction was completed in 438 BC. It's probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of ancient Greece and is visible from many of the city's high points.
  • Stop at the sprawling National Museum for a crash course in ancient iconography. Be sure to seek out the room housing the Antikythera mechanism, essentially an ancient astronomical computer.
  • Visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at shops and cafes. 
  • Find your perfect souvenir or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market. 

Spend your evening exploring the up-and-coming Pangrati neighborhood or amid the nightlife and mezze of the Psyrri district.

Day 2: Interactive Mythology Experience

Interactive games await
Interactive games await

Experience the stories of Classical Greece from a new perspective during this interactive session. Start at the Acropolis, where you'll visit the Parthenon and other sites with guides specializing in children's education. Reenact the battle between the gods and giants for control of the world on the lands where it took place.

You'll visit the National Gardens next, where professional performers will present you with stories of adventure, gods and goddesses, giants, and more in the shadow of the archaeological site. In addition to the stories, the games will also continue, including weaving while hearing about Athena's loom, a puzzle challenge that represents the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the heart of the Athenian people (guess who won), and more.

Visit the Plaka neighborhood after the curtain goes down, also known as the neighborhood of the gods. As the oldest neighborhood in Athens, Plaka is home to neoclassical homes rubbing shoulders with outdoor tables lining the streets. Feast on Greek favorites such as the classic horiatiki salad, souvlaki, lamb dishes, and more. Go mezze-style to try them all.

Day 3: Athens to Mykonos

Bright balconies of Little Venice
Bright balconies of Little Venice

You'll start your time in the islands on Mykonos, one of the most famous islands in the Cyclades chain. Known for its glitzy restaurants and nightlife, art scene, and jet set crowds (it was recently home to a Gucci pop-up boutique), Mykonos will throw you headfirst into your island adventure.

Your first day's itinerary is up to you. You'll receive a personalized list of tips for exploration, but some highlights include:

  • If you need to get your toes in the sand immediately, head to remote Agios Sostis beach to find your own isolated paradise.
  • For a more active experience, Ftelia Beach is known for its excellent windsurfing.
  • Stroll through Little Venice, an 18th-century neighborhood where colorful former captains' mansions and seaside restaurants seem to sprout straight from the sea. It's also right next to the island's famous hillside windmills for great photo ops.

Day 4: Mykonos Beach Day

Join the lines
Join the lines

Spend a relaxing day filled with sea and sun! Choose from one of Mykonos's many lovely beaches, such as:

  • Agios Sostis, full of island residents and travelers who prefer tranquility to amenities, with just sand and a nearby taverna.
  • Fokos, a quiet beach on the northeastern end of the island, with no distractions but a single taverna serving up local favorites and organic white wine produced on the island.
  • Elia, considered one of Mykonos's most beautiful beaches. This beach has one of the longest stretches of sand on the island and plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas to keep you fed and serviced.
  • Kalo Livadi, a petite pebbled beach on eastern Mykonos. This is one of the best spots for swimming, with plenty of people enjoying the beach along with you.
  • Platis Gialos, a popular beach lined with hotels and restaurants with music drifting out of their patios.
  • Kalafatis, a quiet beach ideal for family relaxation.
  • Ftelia on the northern side of the island, known for windsurfing and sailing when the winds are blowing and tavernas along the bay.

Day 5: Farm Visit and Mykonian Dinner

A mealtime spread
A mealtime spread

The morning is yours to explore, so head to a beach to lounge or stroll through the cosmopolitan streets, scoping out the boutiques that draw the island's stylish crowd season after season.

In the afternoon, you'll pay a visit to a traditional farm. Talk to the farm's caretakers to learn about how vegetables are grown on the islands and how the livestock are raised, and even say hi to the animals.

As the sun begins to set, you'll sit down to a traditional dinner. You'll be welcomed into a local Mykonian household for the meal, where you'll experience the traditional Greek way of life, culture, and cooking. Hear all about their stories of the island's culture and history as well as their own family history, over authentic dishes and free-flowing local wine (for the older crowd).

Day 6: Ferry to Naxos

Looking back from the Portara
Looking back from the Portara

Time to ferry over to bustling Naxos after breakfast. With an active main town where you can shop and admire the Venetian architecture, a historic Kastro (castle) area, and expansive beaches, the island offers opportunities for both laidback relaxation, as well as water or land activities. The rest of the day is yours to unwind as you choose. Try out some of these options:

  • Hike up to the summit of Mount Zas, the mythological childhood home of Zeus, the ruler of the gods, and the highest point in the Cyclades.
  • Head inland to the town of Chalki, home to the island's oldest market and a petite, shady square perfect for whiling away the afternoon. Stop at the kitron distillery to sample the local liqueur and learn about its distillation process over the years.
  • Visit the Temple of Demeter at Sangri on your way. Multiple deities of fertility were worshipped here, particularly the goddess Demeter. The temple was constructed in 530 BC, during the tyranny of Lygdamis, and represents a precursor of classical Athenian architecture. 
  • Stroll to the Portara, the entrance to the Temple of Apollo. Construction on the temple began in the sixth century BCE but was never finished, but the still-standing entranceway has become one of the hallmarks of the island. You can find it on the islet of Palatia, just over a causeway from the heart of Naxos Town (Chora).

For dinner, wander up the hill through the streets of the Kastro neighborhood to pick out your favorite of the area's tavernas, where you can sample the island's fresh produce in its best forms.

Day 7: Naxos Beaches and Villages Bike Tour

Cycle by the sea
Cycle by the sea

Discover Naxos's hidden spots on today's two-wheeled tour. You'll bike with an expert guide through the villages and attractions on the west side of the island. The western coast is also home to some of the island's best-known beaches, including Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Plaka, Orkos, and Mikri Vigla. 

On your way back, you'll see the villages of Vivlos, Agios Arsenios, and Glinado. The beginner-friendly route covers roughly 12 miles (20 km) and will take you about 2.5 hours. 

Spend the rest of your day exploring the main Naxos Chora, especially the Kastro district. Wind up the narrow streets to the Venetian Castle in the center of town, stopping at the neighboring Catholic church, Ursuline school, and Archaeological Museum along the way. Even the houses are part of the experience, once home to the descendants of Duke Venetians.

Day 8: Horseback Riding in Naxos

Meet some new friends
Meet some new friends

Get a different perspective on the island from atop one of its resident horses. The stable will work with you to create a ride that suits your age and skill level to maximize your experience and trail route. 

A trip to the village of Apiranthos is a potential ride highlight. Also known as the "marble village" due to its white architecture and marble stone streets, this mountainside spot offers inland views and a slew of museums and crafts to peruse. Listen for the local dialect among the residents, which has remained distinct from the rest of the islands.

Day 9: Beach Day on Naxos

Aliko Beach on Naxos
Aliko Beach on Naxos

What's a trip to the islands without a day on the beach? With smaller crowds than its Cycladic neighbors, Naxos makes it easy to find your own slice of paradise, whether you want privacy or a more lively scene. Terminology tip: If a beach is described as "organized," that generally means it has sunbeds and umbrellas available to rent and plentiful restaurants.

Agios Georgios is the closest to the main town and generally filled with families enjoying the shallow waters. Neighbors Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios also have plenty of amenities on their sweeping sands, with enough shoreline that you'll be able to stake out a spot but sufficient tavernas to keep you fed.

The more isolated beaches of the southwest coast—including Plaka, Mikri Vigla, and cedar-lined Aliko—are some of the best on the island. They're farther out from the main town, and your travel will be rewarded with quieter sands and scenic surroundings.

Day 10: Naxos to Santorini

Caldera-side lights
Caldera-side lights

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll get an early ferry to Santorini. Nothing says "good morning" like watching the sun coming up over the island's iconic cubic architecture. Upon arrival, you'll take in the island's central caldera—the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history—rising above you. 

The island's volcanic history has led to the formation of some of the more unique beaches in the Greek islands, along with the dramatic cliff views on the island's caldera side. Spend your day relaxing at the beach or catching some exercise—and even more views—from one of Santorini’s more than 12 scenic walking routes, ranging from between two to eight miles each.  At dinner, sample the island's signature cherry tomatoes and white eggplants as guest stars in seafood dishes or the main event.

Day 11: Volcanic Lagoon Boat Tour

Your vessel awaits
Your vessel awaits

No trip to Santorini is complete without an exploration of its iconic caldera. The island is shaped by the volcanic eruptions of its past, the most intense of which is known as the Minoan eruption in the mid 2nd millennium BC, when the volcano created the island's current structure and was felt around the ancient world. 

After breakfast, you'll be transferred from your hotel to the port of Athinios, where you'll hop on a traditional wooden boat to begin your journey. You'll sail the caldera for six hours, seeing the majority of the lagoon with a guide providing the details and backstory of your surroundings.

Head across the basin to the two small lava islets in its center. These are the youngest of their kind in the eastern Mediterranean, only forming about 50 years ago.  Stop to hike around the rocky red soil of the islets before hopping in the hot springs at Nea Kameni. These yellow-tinted waters are high in sulfur and renowned for their potential therapeutic benefits. You'll also take a break to purchase lunch on the less famous island of Thirassia and enjoy the views of the cliffs of Oia rising across the water. If you're up for it, take a hike up to the island's main village of Manolas, which feels like Oia may have before the arrival of tourism.

Day 12: Santorini to Athens and Depart

Take one last look
Take one last look

It's time to say farewell to Greece! Savor one more breakfast in Santorini before your transfer to the airport or your ferry to begin your journey home.

Map

Map of Family Adventures in Athens and the Cyclades - 12 Days
Map of Family Adventures in Athens and the Cyclades - 12 Days