Easter is a great time of year to take a family holiday in southern Europe. It’s generally warm enough for playing at the beach (and even a quick dip in the sea) but cool enough to make family sightseeing and hiking attractive propositions. Accommodation prices are lower than they would be in the summer and there are fewer crowds. Easter is full of ancient traditions in many European countries so there’s an interesting cultural angle to taking a holiday at this time of year. So, I’ve put together some Easter family holiday ideas across southern Europe. Each of these destinations works well for a family holiday in April.
Landscapes are particularly attractive around Easter time: hillsides have yet to lose their fresh green hues and meadows are often carpeted with wild flowers. So if you want more than just a family beach holiday next spring, read on for my top 5 destinations for Easter, tried and tested by some great family travel bloggers.
Easter family holiday in Crete
Great for: road trips, characterful family-friendly accommodation, attractive port cities, ancient history, mountain and gorge hiking, remote beaches.
Since writing this post, I’ve taken my family to Crete for an Easter holiday. We enjoyed driving around the island exploring the mountains and tiny villages as well as visiting some of the more well known coastal towns including Chania and Rethymno.
There are some really lovely child-friendly places to stay in Crete. We particularly enjoyed staying in a little cottage at family-run Eleonas Country Village and we loved hiking through the spring flowers and olive groves at Milia Mountain Retreat. As a treat at the end of the trip, we had a few days of beach time relaxing at the very lovely Ammos Hotel near Chania.
Crete offers that important blend of mountains, sea, culture and history along with good food and reasonable prices. It’s also large enough to feel like an adventure, with caves, gorges and historic sites hidden away in the interior waiting to be discovered.
If you’d prefer to base yourselves in one place, there are some great ideas on the Tin Box Traveller website, which features Crete among its best Greek Island holidays for families.
Early summer sun in Cyprus
Great for: amazing castles and archaeological sites, mountain villages, beaches and early summer sun.
Probably the most reliable option for families looking for some early summer sun, Cyprus is eternally popular with beach-goers and swimming pool addicts. But as Karen from Mini Travellers can attest, away from the family-friendly hotels you’ll find a wealth of history and stunning landscapes.
Cyprus came a close second when I was planing our 2018 trip as the Troodos Mountains with their welcoming guesthouses, vineyards, painted churches and peaceful walking trails sound really appealing.
Archaeological sites such as the ancient cities of Amathus and Salamis rub shoulders with beautiful beaches while the castles of northern Cyprus such as St Hilarion, are bound to appeal to young explorers. I’m also keen to visit Nicosia, the last divided capital in the world, to learn about the more recent history of the island.
Easter family holiday in Sicily
Great for: road tripping, child-friendly culture and food, volcanoes, puppet shows, farm stays, ancient history, castles, sandy beaches.
The ultimate family-friendly destination in my opinion, Sicily’s appeal is off the scale as we discovered on our trip to Sicily this year. The history is epic and will appeal to even the most reluctant scholar: invaded by everyone, you’ll find ancient Greek temples, Arabic arches, Norman churches and magnificent Baroque palazzos.
Natural forces have come to bear on the island too with earthquakes and volcanoes leaving their mark on the cities and countryside. Geography lessons are a lot of fun in Sicily: we enjoyed a trip up Mount Etna and visited lots of cities which had been rebuilt after a massive earthquake hit the island at the end of the 17th century. Accommodation in Sicily is perfect for families: if you choose to stay in an agriturismo you can expect family-friendly apartments, delicious home cooking and plenty of space for the kids to unwind.
There are some delightful seaside towns such as Taormina, Syracuse and Cefalu and much of the coastline is lined with sandy beaches. With pizza, pasta and gelato on tap, you’d be hard pushed to find a better place to take the family.
Explore the coastlines of Malta and Gozo
Great for: museums, boat trips and water sports, rich architectural history, stunning rocky coastlines and beaches, family-friendly accommodation (on Gozo).
These two isles easily warrant a holiday each as they’re both packed with history and culture. Gozo is often overlooked as just a day trip destination but Claire from Suitcases and Sandcastles discovered 17 must-see sights including the ancient temples at Ggantija and beautiful clifftop walks. Gozo offers a great range of family friendly converted stone farmhouses, some of them look incredible.
On Malta, I know my sons would love the daily canon fire of the Saluting Battery in Valletta and the Malta at War Museum sounds fascinating. Older kids would no doubt enjoy exploring the underground burial chambers of the neolithic Hypogeum (aged 5+). I haven’t mentioned to my kids that Malta, the place we are not going on holiday to, also boasts a Playmobil Fun Park: one of Playmobil’s main factories is located on the island.
While much of Malta’s coastline is rocky, the north of the island has some great sandy beaches and diminutive Gozo has an even better selection. With the islands being so small, it’s easy to combine a bit of sightseeing and culture in the morning with time at the beach in the afternoon, not forgetting a long lunch to fully appreciate the blend of Italian and Arabic cuisines which the islands are famed for.
Easter family holiday in Madeira
Great for: outdoor pursuits, tropical gardens, cable cars and toboggans as modes of transport, child-friendly museums, boat trips.
When I was a travel agent, Madeira only appealed to my more mature clients but after reading Nichola’s report on Global Mouse Travels, I now realise there is plenty of interest for younger visitors too. I like the idea of Madeira’s remote and tropical feel with lush foliage and steamy mountains. This is definitely one for families who enjoy the great outdoors, and the island is now starting to feature some seriously good accommodation so after a day hiking the island’s trails, you can return to a cottage or contemporary hotel to enjoy a hearty meal and a good bottle of wine.
Funchal’s cable cars and toboggan route look like great fun and I know my children would enjoy pretending to be pirates aboard the Santa Maria de Colombo, a replica of Christopher Coloumbus’s ship. Pirates were once a real threat to natives and the stunning but remote Curral das Freiras valley is named after a group of nuns who took shelter there.
Madeira’s levadas, water channels which crisscross the island, provide excellent walking routes through the mountainous landscapes. Back in civilisation, the Whale Museum looks incredibly interesting (if a little harrowing) and the CR7 Museum, all about Cristiano Ronaldo, should hold a certain appeal… I might skip that one though.
So, do you have any family travel plans for Easter? Do you have any good recommendations for family holidays in springtime? Let me know in the comments below.
Some of the images in this post are courtesy of Pixabay.
Looking for other beach holiday ideas? I’ve written a detailed article about the best beach towns in Europe.