The island resort of Lakitira conjures up magic for children and adult alike, says Charlotte Civil.
Daydreaming of my week on Kos I’d imagined relaxing on a sun-drenched beach and getting stuck into a novel.
So, sitting on a bike in the searing heat pedalling along the yellow brick road –this one, a narrow tiled path, leading not to Oz but to a 14th century castle – wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.
I was on a 13-mile tour around the rugged, wilderness-like terrain just outside the harbour town of Kardamena that eventually leads to the ruins of the medieval fortress of Antimachia.
The tour was one of many offered at Mark Warner’s Lakitira resort on the southern coast of Kos where my husband David and I and our two children Katy, eight, and William, five, were spending the week.
We had skied with child-friendly Mark Warner before and been encouraged by other Mark Warner aficionados to try one of their summer resorts (there are four in Greece), so we swapped whooshing down the snow-covered mountains for tennis, watersports and other sunshine activities.
Lakitira is set in four glorious landscaped acres that are flanked by beaches with bamboo-thatched parasols peppering the soft sand.
Granitecoloured rocks form piers that reach out into the sea which is so clear it’s easy to spot shoals of fish darting about.Mark Warner’s tennis facilities are regarded as the best on the island boasting 11 all-weather courts.
The expansive watersports hub offers plenty of activities, too, and you can borrow a kayak or sailboat, windsurf, or take a series of lessons with the experts.
Katy and William joined the Kids’ Clubs, which we can’t recommend highly enough, and throughout the week they were happily ensconced in a varied programme of indoor and outdoor games led by dedicated staff, the Nintendo DS didn’t even get a look in.
This provided the perfect excuse for David and I to resist the sunloungers on the oh-so-delectable beach and try the many activities including the bike tour.
One morning, bleary eyed, I joined the sunrise pilates session at 7am in the private cabana.
From my pose on the teak decking and against a backdrop of birdsong, through the trees I caught a glance of the waves lapping the shore.
Later, while David tried his luck at windsurfing, I joined a gaggle of women at the Aqua Zumba class that was taken by effervescent rep Claire, before a mother-daughter kayak adventure with Katy.One afternoon during a stroll along the beach we spotted sailboats entering the water.
It was Katy and her Kids’ Club pals setting off on their first sailing lesson.
William’s group, meanwhile, were scouring the beach on a pirate-themed treasure hunt, gold coins replaced with pearl-like shells which I later discovered stashed in our room in a huge pile.
Lakitira offers guests various types of accommodation.
You can opt for contemporary rooms in the main hotel building where we were, or choose the villa-style apartments dotted around the pretty gardens, evoking a whitewashed Mediterranean village feel.
Dark wood, marine blue furnishings and tiled floor complemented the cool, white interior of our spacious air-conditioned room.
A nice touch was the Greek-themed sketches on the walls featuring The Agora of Athens and fishing boats in Cyprus.
Each evening we sat out on the wraparound balcony to watch the sun setting over the beach, its dying rays casting shadows over the golden sand and the last bathers of the day.
Champagne cocktails in the Star Bar became a pre-dinner evening ritual.
We sank into comfortable, cream sofas in the huge canopied area with potted palms and rattan furniture, while the children sipped chilled lemonade and chatted with their new-found friends.
Of the several restaurants, our favourite was The Terrace, which looked out on to the pool and the perfectly manicured grounds.
The scrumptious food included traditional Mediterranean dishes such as tabbouleh, stuffed vine leaves and salads with feta cheese followed by fresh fish and the sweetest desserts including Turkish delight.
A fruity, local red wine from Kos proved the perfect accompaniment.
Another night as Katy and Will enjoyed a movie, we had a romantic meal at Plateia, the resort’s Greek taverna tucked down one of the cobbled paths in a pretty courtyard setting.
By candlelight we tucked into mezedes (small plates of grilled meat and fish) as a local musician gently strummed a bouzouki: if only all nights were like this.
Later in the week we saddled up again for a leisurely ride along the coastal road to Kardamena for a spot of shopping.
Renowned for its lively nightlife, bars and colourful tavernas line the seafront where, by day, you can also spot fishermen casting lines into the water.
Wandering in the maze of narrow streets, this small town is a lovely place to explore with quaint shops selling leather, lace, porcelain and jewellery.
I couldn’t resist the pretty wicker baskets bulging with soaps and lotions made from local olive oil and traditional sweets such as baklava sold on every corner.
Loaded down I then happily cycled back to our holiday paradise: the yellow brick road was worth following as it had a magical treat worth waiting for at either end.