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Imagine visiting the legendary Acropolis, the entrance to the Underworld, the site of the original marathon and hopping over to a Greek island? Well, that’s just in the first five days as you stay in or near Athens. Then you’re off to the Peloponnese, in the footsteps of Hercules, and to archaeological sites like Epidaurus, Mycenae and Ancient Olympia.
You’ll go wine- and olive-oil tasting, climb mountains, swim in rivers and hike in beautiful countryside. And you’ll be introduced to great towns like Nafplio and Kalamata, before looping up into mainland Greece and finishing in battle-famous Nafpaktos and Ancient Delphi. Oh, and did we mention the beach-time? There’s lots of it. Just check out Voidokilia in Messinia and you’ll see what’s in store!
Sound like fun? We think so … especially if you do the whole tour (or any part of it) with a kid-friendly guide.
Feel free to shorten or lengthen your stay. All the destinations are close enough to get back to Athens within a few hours if you want to follow just a part of the itinerary.
Walk just about anywhere in Athens and you’ll be introduced to Greek mythology and history. Right at the centre of that journey is, of course, the Acropolis, dedicated to Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom and Practical Reason. It was Athena who beat Poseidon, God of the Seas, in a contest to name the city. So there are no prizes for guessing where your family trip to Greece begins.
You’ll love visiting the Parthenon. It’s been the prized possession of every conqueror of Athens and a symbol of the city’s freedom each time they were defeated. You can tour the Acropolis by yourselves but to hear the full story of the gods and myths associated with its temples and buildings, it’s worth going with a guide. There are even thematic tours that allow the kids to create their own Greek mythology hero in a comic or a pottery workshop.
No stay in Athens is complete without visiting the Acropolis Museum. You’ll learn all the secrets of the Sacred Rock (as the Acropolis is known to Greeks) and get up close to many original and replica artefacts. Again, a guide will reveal the full story, introducing you to the 12 gods and ancient treasures such as the elegant Caryatids. There are even tours for kids with role-playing with Athena and Poseidon as they fight over the naming rights of the city.
Either before or after visiting the Acropolis Museum, explore the surrounding area. You’ll adore the island-like district of Anafiotika, and the areas of Plaka and Monastiraki are must-sees (the kids will love the flea market). By climbing Pnyx Hill, just next to the Acropolis, you’ll discover the centre of Athenian Democracy. You can still see the speaker’s platform and seating terrace of the Democratic Assembly. It’s also an oasis of green, the perfect place sit and admire the Parthenon opposite… and even paint or sketch it! Some kid-friendly tours involve drama games, riddle-solving and creative arts & crafts activities on the hill.
Your first day trip from Athens takes you along The Sacred Way. In ancient times, this was the route taken by processions celebrating the Eleusinian Mysteries, ending at the Sanctuary of Demeter in Eleusis (modern-day Elefsina). Still known today as Iera Odos (The Sacred Road in Greek), it’s become part of the fabric of Athens and is the most ancient road still in use. You return to Athens for the night.
The day begins at the ancient cemetery and museum of Keramikos, a beautiful but little-visited archaeological site in Athens. Keramikos (from the Greek word for pottery) was a settlement of potters and vase painters in antiquity and was the main production centre of the famous Attic vases as the soil was rich in clay deposits thanks to the Iridanos River. The area close to the riverbank was continuously flooding, so it was converted into a burial ground which gradually developed into the most important cemetery of ancient Athens. There’s a great view of the Parthenon and spring here is especially magical, with plenty of flowers and tortoises to enjoy.
On your way to Elefsina, the Diomedes Botanical Gardens is a great spot for a picnic and stroll. There are around 4,000 plant species, many with roots (pun intended) in Greek mythology. Learn about what connects the pine trees with Pitys, the nymph that the God Pan fell in love with. And about the relationship between the first feminist, Rodanthe of Corinth, and the roses. Ancient Greeks had a close relationship with nature – the sea, sky, streams, lakes, trees and springs being associated with or even becoming gods. With Aphrodite’s myrtle, Apollo’s laurel and Zeus’ oak tree, you’ll find out why.
Photo by: Diomedes Botanical Garden
The day’s highlight is another little-known but fascinating archaeological site. The Eleusinian Mysteries that took place in Eleusis involved a secretive 9-day ceremony to the cult of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. It involved the myth of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, who was abducted by Hades, the god of the Underworld. Inconsolable, Demeter stopped the earth bearing fruit until Zeus negotiated that Persephone split her year between her mother and the Underworld (nature froze in autumn and winter and was reborn in spring and summer as a result). You can see the spot where Persephone entered the Underworld. After visiting the sanctuary, stroll along the waterfront and enjoy a meal in a traditional taverna.
You discover the Athens Riviera today with a trip to the city’s beaches and seaside tavernas and reach the beautiful Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio. If you don’t want to spend the afternoon on the beach, head all the way back down the coast towards Faliro, and visit the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.
Right at the eastern tip of Attica, at Cape Sounio, the Temple of Poseidon is where Athens’ King Aegeus (after whom the Aegean is named) threw himself from the cliff when he saw the boat carrying his son, Theseus, returning from Crete. Theseus had defeated the deadly Minotaur but forgotten about his father’s request that he hoist white sails if he was successful. You’ll love the way the sun reflects off the marble and the view from the temple is amazing. There’s also a great beach nearby. If you want something more lively, check out the beaches of the Athens Riviera (such as Vouliagmeni and Varkiza) on your way back, or look into sea kayaking and other watersports.
Another coastal stop the kids will love is the Archelon Sea Turtle Rescue Centre, in Glyfada, where you can meet the endangered Loggerhead sea turtles that are being rehabilitated following injury or illness and learn about the program to protect them. You can even get an adoption certificate for supporting the recovery of one of the sea turtles. If you haven’t been tempted by one of the tavernas on the way down the coast, there are plenty of eating spots for all tastes in Glyfada.
Photo by: David Leveque (unsplash)
Back down the coast, towards the port of Piraeus, you reach the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center, which contains the National Opera House and National Library. It’s one of Athens’ modern architectural gems. There are guided tours which explain the sustainability-focused concept of renowned architect Renzo Piano. The kids will also love the grounds, which include a huge grass area and a sensory garden.
No trip to Greece with kids can be complete without visiting an island. You hop on a ferry in Piraeus and, just 50 minutes later, you’re in Aegina, an island known as a home to poets, writers, sculptors and painters. It’s also full of ancient history and gorgeous countryside.
Head straight to one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Greece. Together with the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens-Thission and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, and the Temple of Apollo in Delphi and the Parthenon, it was part of the two ‘sacred triangles’ of Greek Antiquity. A guide will explain everything and there are even tours that include a painting workshop, perfect for art-loving kids.
There are plenty of magical places to walk in Aegina but a favourite is amongst the olive groves of the Eleonas Valley, with trees that are believed to be 1,500 to 2,000 years old. The mountain valley can be reached from a path that starts opposite Marathonas Beach (around 10mins drive for the port). After about 50 minutes, you reach a great picnic spot in the olive trees. And when you’re done, you can head straight for a swim in Marathonas Bay, on one of Aegina’s sandiest beaches.
Photo by: Lucio Patone (unsplash)
Strolling along the waterfront, it won’t take long before you’re tempted by one of the pistachio sellers or the fishing boats that are actually floating markets, filled with locally grown fruit & veg. You’ll also enjoy wandering the narrow streets of Aegina town and sitting down for seafood in a taverna by the sea while the kids play in the sand.
Your final day trip from Athens takes you up to Marathon and the Bay of Schinias. You visit the location of one of the most important battles in antiquity, forever associated with the messenger Pheidippides running from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of the victory, a story which inspired the modern-day marathon.
It’s one thing hearing about how the outnumbered Athenians defeated the first Persian invasion in 490 BC and it’s another visiting the site where it happened. You’ll learn more about this pivotal battle, which set the stage for a century of Greek innovation in politics, philosophy, art, theatre, and culture. There are interactive guided tours within the Tumulus of the Athenians sheltering the bodies of some 200 soldiers who fell in battle. Look for the replica of the trophy of Marathon commemorating their win.
Photo by: Marathon Municipality
Where there’s culture, there should also be food & wine. So the second part of your day is dedicated to visiting one of the Attica wineries. The Kokotos Estate, in the village of Stamata, has the added attraction of an animal farm. There are tours that allow the children to feed the animals (including ponies, rabbits, chickens and ducks) and pick vegetables from the organic garden. Meanwhile, the adults get to tour the vineyard and cellar and go wine-tasting before the whole family gathers for a farm-to-table lunch.
What better end to the day than an afternoon swim at the sandy and family-friendly beach of Schinias. You can snorkel, build a sandcastle or go for a sunset walk in the pine forest around the beach, which is part of the Schinias National Park, before heading back to Athens for the night.
Your family road trip in Greece heads into the Peloponnese, the land of Hercules’ Labours and many other myths, though not before visiting the canal that separates the Peloponnese from the rest of the mainland. There are boat trips that take you up the canal and into the Corinthian Gulf. Finally, you head to Nafplio, one of Greece’s most charming towns.
A guided tour of the Corinth Canal will explain how digging a canal connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf and the Aegean was talked about as long ago as 1st century AD but how it took until 1893 for the dream to become reality. Near the canal is the archaeological site of Isthmia, built around the Sanctuary of Poseidon, an important cult and athletic centre where the Isthmian Games took place every two years.
A boat trip crossing the canal and heading into the Corinthian Gulf will be an unexpected highlight of your family road trip in Greece. Look out for the submersible bridges of Posidonia and Isthmia in the canal, before entering the gulf and heading to the tiny islands of Diporta and Alkyonides, which have small fishing settlements (with tavernas serving fresh fish) and untouched beaches. You pass by Melangavi Lighthouse (safeguarding passing ships since the 19th century) and the archaeological site of Heraion (dedicated to the goddess Hera, with a charming little beach just below it), as well as Lake Vouliagmeni (connected with the sea by a narrow channel).
Completing your day, you get to stroll around the first official capital of Greece and a favourite weekend getaway of Athenians. You’ll be returning to Nafplio over the next few days and each time you’ll see something different, especially at sunset. High above you, you’ll see the Venetian’s imposing Palamidi Castle (where some of Greece’s revolutionary heroes were briefly imprisoned in the 19th century) and in the bay is the island fortress of Bourzi. The local ice cream is fantastic but leave room for dinner. The restaurants in Nafplio are fantastic.
You get to experience not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites today. Heading to the east coast, your first stop is Ancient Epidaurus, associated with the origins of western theatre, before circling back inland to Ancient Mycenae, famous for its 4th century BC civilisation, considered one of the most advanced of the time. At night, you get to enjoy Nafplio’s restaurants one more time.
Ancient Epidaurus is most famous today for its incredible theatre. It’s not just one of the best-preserved from ancient Greece but the acoustics are legendary. You can hear someone practically whispering on stage from the back row of the 6,000-person auditorium. Don’t believe us? Try it. But in ancient times, Epidaurus was much more than a theatre venue. It was the original luxury healing centre, with visitors from all over Greece. And part of the treatment was the therapeutic power of theatre. The Sanctuary of Asklepios (god of medicine) is the part of the site awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. There are tours you can book that include fun, theme-based activities for kids.
Moving on to Ancient Mycenae, you visit one of the most important palatial centres of ancient Greece – ‘gold-rich Mycenae’, as Homer described it. A guided tour will introduce you to Perseus, the hero who killed the gorgon Medusa, as well as the stories of the Cyclops, the one-eyed giants who are said to have built the archaeological site’s massive walls. You’ll also learn about the mythical King Eurystheus, who ordered Hercules to complete his twelve labours and the era when Mycenae became the legendary kingdom of Agamemnon, where the Trojan War began.
Day 8 of your family road trip in Greece is dedicated to the wines of Nemea and the mountains of Corinth. After a morning wine-tasting, you explore the unique ecosystem of two alpine lakes. Delving deeper into the mythology of Nemea, you discover that this was the home of Dionysus (the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and theatre) and the location of two of Hercules’ Labours – the Stymphalian Birds and the Nemean Lion. Your day ends by driving to one of the Arcadian villages that will be the focal point of Day 9.
First up, it’s all about Nemea’s wine tradition. Nemea is associated primarily with the Agiorgitiko grape that produces excellent reds. But as you delve deeper into the subject, you’ll find that it was actually Dionysus who first put Nemea on the oenological map. There are plenty of wineries to visit, including some that offer family-friendly tours involving wine-tasting for adults and grape-tasting for kids. As well as a tour of the estate and cellars, you’ll enjoy learning the process of winemaking, from picking and crushing to fermenting and bottling.
Lake Stymphalia is where Hercules defeated the man-eating Stymphalian birds but it’s also an important ecosystem and part of Europe’s protected Natura 2000 habitats. There’s a museum you can visit to learn more about the flora and fauna of the lake – although thankfully the deadly birds with beaks made of bronze and sharp metallic feathers aren’t among them today.
Equally beautiful is nearby Lake Doxa, in the Feneos plateau. You can enjoy a walk in nature but you’ll have most fun if you book a hydrobike tour on the lake. Your guide will point out the sinkholes said to have been opened up by Hercules to drain a swamp and provide fertile land to a nearby village. Another legend says they were the entrances to the Underworld used by Demeter to find her daughter.
Photo by: Dimitris Pallas (unsplash)
The region of Arcadia, in the heart of the Peloponnese, is represented in Greek and Roman mythology as an earthly paradise, a utopia. And you won’t disagree when you see the landscape, especially Mt Menalon, full of fir trees and home of Pan, the god of woods, fields and – according to mythology – filled with dryads, nymphs and other spirits. It’s also home to stone-built villages, such as Vytina and Dimitsana, which have beautiful guesthouses to stay in overnight.
Begin the day by hiking a stretch of the Menalon trail, passing villages, monasteries and archaeological sites. You’ll love the fir trees and rivers, lined with watermills and stone bridges, stopping at small waterfalls and picnic spots. A guide will make the experience even more special. There are even tours in which you collect wild mushrooms and asparagus (depending on the season) and cook them as part of your meal.
Photo by: mamakita.gr
Another highlight in Arcadia will be rafting and swimming in Lousios River, where Zeus (the father of the Olympian gods) was bathed after his birth, or in Ladon River, associated with river-god Ladon, who transformed his daughter, the naiad Daphne, into a laurel tree. There’s no end to the myths associated with this region, including those involving Artemis (the goddess of forests and hunting) and Pan falling in love with the nymph Syrinx.
The evening is dedicated to enjoying village life and learning more about Arcadia’s authentic mountain settlements. If you choose Vytina, the stone-built bridges and watermills on the Mylaon River are unforgettable. Also breathtaking are the views from Dimitsana, where you can visit an open-air waterpower museum. And there are other Arcadian villages seemingly untouched by time, most of which played an important role in the Greek War of Independence.
Your great family road trip ventures further into the Peloponnese today as you discover Messinia, where you’ll have the opportunity to swim in one of the most beautiful bays you’ll ever see and go olive oil-tasting. The region is famous for the Kalamata olive, named after the town you’ll be staying in.
It’s all about luscious, golden extra-virgin olive oil this morning as you drive past row upon row of olive groves. There are plenty of olive presses you can visit in Messinia, introducing you to a tradition that goes back to antiquity and where you learn that olive oil-tasting is every bit as sophisticated as wine-tasting.
Moving on to the Messinia Gulf, you reach one of the most beautiful bays in Greece. Crescent-shaped Voidokilia is one of Europe’s pin-up beaches, with turquoise water and sand made white by crushed shells. On a hill above the beach sits the medieval castle of Paleokastro and you can climb as far as the so-called Cave of Nestor, the mythical king of Pylos. If you feel like exploring more, the Gialova Lagoon just behind the beach is Natura 2000-protected and home to up to 250 species of birds.
Finally, you drive back inland to Kalamata. The capital of Messinia is a fantastic base for so many activities in the region, combining seaside fun, fantastic food, culture and mountain activities. The city has a lively folk dance named after it and, just walking the streets, you’ll feel the love of life. Go for a sunset walk along the waterfront, with the mighty Mt Taygettus in distance, before discovering for yourself why Kalamata is famed for its food.
The Messinian Gulf is steeped in history, particularly around Navarino Bay, so today is dedicated to an all-day boat trip along the coast. You’ll snorkel and dive in crystal-clear water and hear stories of naval battles, pirates and myths related to the sea, before ending the day in Pylos, where you stay the night.
Your boat trip starts in the coastal town of Marathopoli, just north of Gialova and opposite the tiny island of Proti, whose name derives from the sea god Proteus, son of Poseidon. In Greek mythology, Proteus would be transformed into a beast when he was angry, hence the name of the crocodile-shaped island. You stop at various beautiful diving spots and sandy Vourlia beach as you explore the coast and you can also enjoy an on-shore cookery lesson in Marathopoli with plenty of Messinian olive oil and Mediterranean produce.
Photo by: mamakita.gr
Eventually, you reach the opening to Voidokilia Lagoon and, just beyond that, the Navarino Bay, protected by the long-and-thin-shaped Sfaktiria island. As you sail past, imagine Navarino Bay as it would have looked in October 1827 during successful battle between an armada of British, French and Russian fleets against the Ottomans. It was the last naval battle fought with sailing ships and many of the wrecks are still on the seabed. Your trip might include stops in Gialova, Pylos, Methoni and the island of Sapientza at the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese. You return to beautiful Pylos for the night.
Another ancient Greek landmark is in store today as you head to Ancient Olympia, the site of Zeus’ most magnificent sanctuary and the origins of the Olympic Games and all of the ideals that the Games stand for. You will be staying the night in Olympia.
What could be more precious than friendship, respect and excellence… all the values of the Olympic Games? Exploring the Ancient Olympic site, you’ll witness where the original Olympic athletes lined up for flat races, wrestling and other contests. You’ll also be able to see where the Olympic torch is still lit every four years and the remains of the temple where one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Statue of Zeus, stood for more than 800 years. There are even guided tours that allow the whole family to experience a dig with the guidance of an archaeologist.
After all that archaeology, treat yourself to a swim in one of the beaches along the nearby coastline. What is known as the Olympian Riviera has some of the longest sandy and kid-friendly beaches in Greece, such as Loutra Killinis and Kourouta, where you will also find many dining options.
Photo by: Nelly Antoniadou (unsplash)
Staying close to Ancient Olympia, you have a full day in nature on the slopes of Mount Erymanthos, known for its coniferous forests, rare flora and fauna, waterfalls and epic views.
One of the most beautiful forests of Peloponnese, Foloi is considered the oldest European self-planted beech and oak forest and the biggest of the Balkans. The mysterious beauty of Foloi Oak Forest inspired Ancient Greeks to believe that the forest had been inhabited by centaurs and fairies. So keep your eyes open as you enjoy a hiking tour in another Natura 2000-protected site. According to mythology, Hercules captured the Erymanthian Boar here before taking it to King Eurystheus in Mycenae.
Photo by: mamakita.gr
The highlight of your day is swimming in the Nemouta Waterfalls. After an easy hike that keeps the whole family’s interest from beginning to the end, you head to the three waterfalls. You can swim in all three, with the most impressive called “Gate to Paradise”. You return to Olympia for the night or, if you prefer, Katakolo on the coast.
Photo by: mamakita.gr
You leave the Peloponnese today, crossing the Corinthian Gulf via the impressive Rio-Antirrio Bridge, heading to the (scarcely pronounceable) region of Aitoloakarnania, full of stories of castles, knights, battles and writers. You visit the Messolongi Lagoon and the castle-town of Nafpaktos, where you stay the night.
Today, you visit a unique ecosystem and the stage of two East-West confrontations – the 16th-century naval battle of Lepanto and the Greek War of Independence Siege of Messolongi. The lagoon is utterly beautiful, especially the birdlife of the salt lake. Visit the Museum of Salt to learn how the flower of salt is extracted, as well as a traditional fishermen’s house (pelada). A fishing boat trip will introduce you to the region’s delicacy, bottarga (cured grey mullet roe).
Ending the day in Nafpaktos (formerly Lepanto), explore one of the most beautiful and best-preserved castle-towns in Greece. The views of the bay from the top of the hill are amazing. End the day in the Venetian harbour, by the statue of Cervantes, the great Spanish writer commemorated for his participation in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto that put an end to Turkish Naval Supremacy. If you fancy a swim, there are sandy beaches along the northern coast of the Corinthian Gulf.
Photo by: George Mitropoulos (unsplash)
Your epic family road trip in Greece ends at yet another unmissable cultural landmark… Ancient Delphi. Considered the centre of the world and the most important oracle in antiquity, it’s also another majestic corner of Greece, overlooking the Corinthian Gulf and the slopes of Mount Parnassos.
Touring the archaeological site of Delphi brings to life one of the most notable tales of ancient Greece. Everyone from Roman emperors to common folk travelled to Delphi to consult the soothsayer Pythia, who delivered the god Apollo’s prophecies. It’s worth getting a family-friendly guide to explain everything and explore the ancient site which, apart from being historically fascinating, benefits from incredible views over the Pleistos Valley.
The second half of your day is spent in the Mt Parnassos National Park, very close to Delphi. A guide will show you the trails leading from the ancient site (part of the E4 European long-distance hiking trail) to the Corycian Cave (also known as Pan’s Cave). An ancient myth says that the cave is visited by divine spirits. There are easier routes if you’re travelling with smaller children, including to the entrance of the underground Eptastomos cave (yet another entrance to the Underworld).
You could return to Athens now, spending a last night in the city or going straight to the airport. Another option is to spend your last night in the beautiful coastal town of Galaxidi, where you can walk along the promenade lined with colourful houses and have a final taste of fantastic seafood while watching fishermen clean their nets. (Note that the 230km to Athens International airport from Galaxidi are not included in the distance.)
So what do you think? Pretty inspiring, right? Some of the most epic tales of Greek mythology and history, and no end of activities in mountains, lakes and rivers in just two weeks. And if you still don’t believe us, ask your kids what they think about the idea of a myth-filled family road trip in Greece.
All your holiday planning needs in one place, letting you book direct and benefit from official online rates