The Best Places for Families to Visit in 2019

5 Amazing Places to Take Your Kids This Year

 
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You probably know more about JORDAN than you think you do. The star attraction of the most family-friendly country in the Middle East is Petra, the famous city of rock-carved temples, but this is also the place where you can float in the Dead Sea and snorkel in the Red Sea. You’ll recognise the surreal desert landscapes of Wadi Rum from Lawrence of Arabia (your kids will know it from Rogue One) and just about every film ever set on Mars. And Jordanian hospitality is legendary. But what you might not know is that you can also watch chariot-racing amongst Roman ruins, sleep under the stars in a Bedouin camp and poke your nose round Crusader castles. And that from November this year, easyJet will start flying direct to the Red Sea town of Aqaba, making a Big Trip to Jordan in 2019 more achievable than ever.

 
THE TREASURY, PETRA

THE TREASURY, PETRA

 
 
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South Africa has always been a dream destination for families, but the launch of new British Airways’ direct flights from London Heathrow to Durban in June this year brings the exhilarating province of KWAZULU-NATAL into much sharper focus. KZN is the Rainbow Nation in microcosm. There’s a melting pot of different cultures in the sunny city of Durban. There’s scenery on a dramatic scale in the Drakensberg Mountains. And then – the clincher for kids – there’s the wildlife: black and white rhinos in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi; African hunting dogs in uMkhuze; and hundreds of hippos in iSimangaliso. And unlike Kruger to the north, KwaZulu-Natal’s reserves are all malaria free.

 
RHINO, HLUHLUWE-IMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE

RHINO, HLUHLUWE-IMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE

 
 
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Scattered in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, midway between the UK and the US, the subtropical islands of the AZORES are an adventure-seeking family’s paradise. With its crater lakes and collapsed calderas, misty forests and steaming hot springs, this remote Portuguese outpost is like a verdant cross between Iceland and Hawaii, and offers cycling and canyoning inland and whale-watching and snorkelling of its wild coastline of steep-sided cliffs. Island-hop the Central Group or base yourself on São Miguel, the main island, and hike up above the shimmering lakes of Sete Cidades, relax on Lagoa da Fogo’s white-sand beaches or wander amongst bubbling mud pots and volcanic vents at Furnas. In spite of all this, the Azores remain off most people’s radar – for now.

 
LAGOA DAS SETE CIDADES, SÃO MIGUEL

LAGOA DAS SETE CIDADES, SÃO MIGUEL

 
 
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It's no surprise that SRI LANKA has emerged as one of the places to travel to this year. With an intriguing mix of Sinhalese and Tamil cultures, wildlife-rich forests and fabulous beaches, it makes a perfect introduction to South Asia. And 2019 is a great time to visit this fantastically family-friendly destination, before the secret’s well and truly out. Compact enough to cover a lot of the country in a couple of weeks, Sri Lanka is an exotic playground for kids of all ages – explore ruined temples and take trundling train rides, visit tea plantations and feast on delicious curries, and pinch yourselves at the sight of leopards prowling the parks and blue whales migrating their way around the south coast.

 
DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLES

DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLES

 
 
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OK, so we’re probably a little biased here (this is our next Big Trip), but if there’s a country that blends the past and the present as exhilaratingly as JAPAN, then we’d like to know about it. Ancient teahouses, robot restaurants, Shinto shrines, neighbourhoods drenched in neon – and that’s just Tokyo. Elsewhere in this remarkable country, your kids can try their hands at kendo, stay overnight in a temple, take an onsen in the mountains and ride trains that look like they belong to Science Fiction. There’s going to be huge interest in Japan over the next couple of years, with the Rugby World Cup being held there at the end of this year and the Olympics coming to Tokyo in 2020. So go now and beat the crowds.

 
FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE, KYOTO

FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE, KYOTO

 
 
Keith Drew