Five family-friendly adventures
Kerala is home to 560 miles of waterways that host a variety of boating events. (Paddy Photography/Getty)
Having kids need not put a stop to global explorations or imaginative travel experiences. Continue the journey with one of these family-friendly holiday ideas.
Kerala, India: The laid-back one
With its riot of sounds, sights and smells, India can prove overwhelming for first-time visitors, not least children. One of the best places to acclimatise is mellow Kerala, where families can enjoy the country’s richness of nature, history and culture without the hassle.
Flanked by the mountainous Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, the slender state descends from tea plantation-cloaked slopes to golden beaches that edge into vivid blue seas. In between is Kerala’s tangle of backwaters, 560 miles of emerald waterways that wind languidly past paddy fields and riverside villages. Gliding along in a traditional teak-and-palm-thatch houseboat, watching local life play out and sleeping under the stars, is one of India’s most magical experiences to share with your children.
In the summer holidays, there’s an additional treat: the colourful snake boat races, where teams of up to 100 oarsmen compete in long, canoe-style boats while cheering crowds look on. The most famous is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race held in Alappuzha on the second Saturday of August, a spectacle young travellers won’t easily forget. Though the snakes here are metaphorical, there are plenty of animals to spot in the jungles of the vast Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, including monkeys, tigers and about 1,000 elephants.
Explore’s family holiday in Kerala includes a guided nature trek in Periyar National Park and two days exploring the backwaters near Alappuzha (taking in the Nehru Trophy Boat Race where possible). Families can also cycle Kerala’s back roads, visit local villages and temples and take part in a homestay. Back on the coast, there’s the chance to explore historic Kochi, the oldest European settlement in India, and laze on the palm-fringed sands of Varkala and Kovalam.
Iceland: The weird and wonderful one
Many Icelanders still believe in supernatural creatures, and if there were a place where elves, dwarves and gnomes surreptitiously roamed, this otherworldly land would have to be it. Straddling tectonic plates, it’s a volcanic playground of fuming earth, twisting lava and glittering icebergs. All this natural drama makes Iceland an exciting prospect for children.
Top of the list should be the twin attractions of Gullfoss, a double cascade that thunders down a narrow ravine, and Geysir, the original hot-water spout after which all others are named. Surrounded by colourful springs and steaming vents, it can shoot water up to 70m into the sky. It’s best to stay out of the way of this one, but elsewhere Iceland’s geothermal oddities invite the curious to come closer. Almost every town has a thermal pool to swim in, with the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavík the most famous. Here, familes can splash about in the warm turquoise waters against a backdrop of eerie lava fields.
These mysterious landscapes are easy to explore. Hiking is one option, but a more memorable way to experience them is to ride a pony across the black rocks or to the summit of one of Iceland’s numerous volcanoes. A trip to the surreal lava caves of the Heiđmörk conservation area offers kids the chance to journey into the underworld.
As its name suggests, it is ice, as well as fire, that accounts for some of Iceland’s most magical experiences. The snowy expanses of the world’s third-largest glacier are up for exploration in the Vatnajökull National Park, or at their journey’s end in Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. The vast, blue-tinted icebergs that drift here are best viewed from the prow of a Zodiac inflatable boat.
This activity is just one of those on offer on Exodus’s family tour to Iceland. Traversing the southern coast, this trip takes in Geysir, Gullfoss, and the Blue Lagoon, as well as the caves of Heiđmörk. Optional activities include whale- watching and horse-riding, and there’s free time in family-friendly Reykavík.