Family Destination File: The Riches of Andros

This non-touristic Cycladic island is near enough to Athens for a short visit and offers a plethora of relaxing, outdoorsy activities.

Only two hours ferry ride from the port of Rafina near Athens, Andros’s lush and varied nature (unusual for the Cyclades), quiet villages, unhurried pace of life, scenic beaches and broad variety of inland walking routes make it an ideal family holiday spot.

Starting Point: Chora

In Chora, with its elegant cluster of neoclassical mansions built by old ship-owning families, do like the locals and sip your coffee in the main Kairis Square. Watch the world go by as your kids run free in the pedestrian-only square. Even in the busiest months of mid-July through August, Kairis never gets too chaotic and there is always somewhere to sit for an iced coffee or juice. A few of the shops here have a wide selection of coin-operated amusements ensuring hours of (albeit change-eating) fun for toddlers and small children.

The square has two flights of wide stone steps leading to the town’s two beaches. One goes directly down to Paraporti, a huge stretch of sand with a beach-shack café and umbrellas at the far end (not recommended on windy days as the strong underwater currents can be dangerous).

On the opposite end, the steps lead down to Niborio beach, another long stretch of sand, this one with shallow waters ideal for young kids and lined with tavernas and cafes. On the way you will pass the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art, well worth stopping at between June and September to see the annual art exhibition.

From Kairi square you can also stroll through the kamara archway into the old part of the town to explore narrow cobblestone streets leading past a church and finally to the square where the statue of the Unknown Sailor stands. Further out to sea are the ruins of an old Venetian castle and further on, the iconic Tourlitis lighthouse.

At the other end of the Agora (the shop-lined main road leading to the square) is the official Iroon square where kids can also play freely, and where in the evening you can enjoy an ouzo and meze at the café before heading to the open air cinema.

Walk the walk

Andros’s varied landscapes, especially bountiful in spring and early summer, can be enjoyed via long walks along the island’s old paths, known as kalderimia, most of which have been cleared and restored by various local and visiting organizations. Among all of the Cycladic islands Andros has one of the most well-developed and well-mapped networks of walking routes that will leave hikers of all levels satisfied.

Award-winning Andros Routes organizes various hikes for groups of all ages and abilities, as does Trekking Andros; the latter also organizes a variety of other family-friendly activities such as cooking classes, scuba diving, yoga, windsurfing, SUP and quad biking.

Korthi for swimming, dinner and ‘after hours’ kiddie play

Korthi, on the southeastern side of the island, is another popular spot for kids to swim and play as its main bay has shallow, clean and sheltered waters, especially at the beach by Aghia Katerina church. Several tavernas nearby serve fresh fish overlooking the sea. In Korthi itself, a laid-back fishing village, the Sea Satin restaurant offers burgers and plenty of other child-friendly options. Here local and visiting children often play hide-and-seek on the street until late into the night in the original Greek island style.

Visit picturesque villages

Unusually for the dry Cycladic islands, the inland villages of Menites and Apikia have running water as their soundtrack – the former with a row of stone lion’s heads through which mountain water gushes, and the latter being the source of Sariza springs, from which mineral water is bottled in a nearby factory. The fresh water keep the villages  erdant throughout the summer; traditional and pretty they are popular stopping points for hikers.

Beach it

Although the Chora beaches are popular and charming, there are some far better shores to visit with your kids on the island. Given the prevailing north – northeasterly winds in the summer, most of the more sheltered beaches are located on the  western coast.

Starting from Gavrio port, you can head to Chryssi Ammos (Golden Beach) or Aghios Petros (near touristy Batsi village), a large sand beach with shallow waters that also has loungers and umbrellas for rent and nearby cafes for refreshments and snacks. Likewise on blustery days Chalkolimionas is a good choice as it’s protected from the winds.

For older children interested in windsurfing lessons, Kipri beach has the recently opened and well-run Wesurfin club offering lessons for all levels by highly trained and enthusiastic staff..

Also child-friendly is Gialia on the eastern side, at the back of which, under the shady bridge, is a giant pond where kids can see dragon flies, frogs, ducks and swans. More scenic but not shallow beaches are white sand-turquiose water Achla, north from Chora (once only reachable by sail boat and now visitable with a return trip on a tourist boat from the main town), where there is also a river which sometimes plays host to a breeding pair of swans and their cygnets.

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