It’s that time of year again, the sun is shining and the kids are running amok! The ice cream vans are doing their rounds, dad’s got the sprinkler on and you’ve probably had BBQ for dinner every day this week. This is also the time when the monotony can set in and the younger members of the family become restless. It’s the perfect time for a change of scenery, but finding a family holiday to suit everyone can often be more hassle than it’s worth. Well, I’ve found the perfect destination that has something for everyone!
Heraklion, the largest city on the island of Crete, is bursting with family-friendly attractions and a fantastic range of excellent all-inclusive summer deals. Finding affordable accommodation is easy and, with an endless list of things to do just a stone’s throw away from the centre, there’s no need for a pre-planned itinerary. We all know how unpredictable holidays with kids can be, but with an extensive range of options nearby, changing plans to suit you is easy. So whether you have a brood of history geeks, mini-adventurers or water-babies, everyone’s bound to have a good time.
With so much on offer, the hardest thing you have to do is choose. I’ve created a list of a few of my favourite days out and, as you’ll see, there’s something for everyone!
Allow the children’s (and your own) imaginations to run wild and travel back to a magical era of King Minos, Princess Ariadne and the mythical Minotaur – because a trip to Heraklion is not complete without visiting Knossos. This ancient city was one of the most advanced in all of Greece and is steeped in fascinating history and legend. Designed by the notorious Daedalus, it is a place where history truly comes to life and it makes for a fun and educational day out.
Top tip: Plan to arrive early to beat the crowds – and the heat!
One of the most modern aquariums in Europe, CretAquarium in Gournes – only 15 minutes from the centre – is a perfect way to escape the heat of the Mediterranean sun and is an all-around crowd-pleaser. With a hundred observation points, you have the chance to see over 2,500 marine species, plus there are a number of ‘touch tanks’ that allow inquisitive visitors to get a closer look at our fishy friends. It’s easy to lose yourself in this magical underwater world for more than a few hours.
Make like a team of adventurers for the day and allow yourselves to ‘get lost’ in the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Believe me, it’s more fun than it sounds! Only a 20-minute drive from Hersonissos, in eastern Crete, Labyrinth Park has numerous activities for every age. Daredevils can enjoy quad bikes and archery, there’s pottery for the artists and a mini farm and horse riding for animal lovers.
Top tip: End the day with a delicious meal at the pretty cafeteria in the park, which offers a varied menu using produce from the organic garden.
When you need a break from the pool, the beach and the history, this is a great alternative. This interactive theme park is just 15 minutes away from the centre and is devoted to all things dinosaur. It’s sure to entertain everyone – parents included! With life-sized moving dinosaurs and friendly staff, you’ll learn everything there is to know about these primeval beasts.
Top tip: The park’s location is very close to the aquarium, so if you’re keen for a double whammy of fun, seeing both in a day is a good idea.
Riding Academy of Crete
Only a few kilometres away, the riding club of Heraklion is an ideal day trip to escape the crowds. Set in beautiful natural surroundings, it gives parents a chance to relax in the gardens while the kids enjoy their riding lessons, which are suitable for all levels of experience.
Where to Stay
El Greco Hotel: Located right in the heart of the town, the El Greco is an excellent base for families who wish to explore the endless attractions that this city has to offer. With easy access to all points of interest, including public transport and shops, it’s a popular choice among families.
The clean, modern rooms are all air-conditioned and sound-proofed (important for those tired-out tantrum moments!), and come complete with Wi-Fi and TV. A snack bar, cafeteria and breakfast lounge are always available to guests, meaning that nobody will go hungry.
How to Get There
Flights from the U.K to Heraklion International Airport take around 3 hours and 45 minutes. You’ll have five different airlines from which to choose, offering at least 22 flights a week in total.
To make sure your summer holiday kicks off without a hitch, I’d recommend organising a pre-booked airport transfer with Shuttle Direct to your accommodation. It’s just a short four kilometres from the airport to the city and their friendly drivers will get you there in around 10 minutes.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct has been making planning a summer holiday that little bit easier for many years. As the leading providers of pre-bookable airport transfers throughout Europe and North Africa, their experienced drivers know how to get customers from A to B smoothly and safely, meaning that all you have to think about is which beach to visit first!