The Malta Independent 24 February 2020, Monday

FIRST: Six top unusual family destinations around the Mediterranean

First Magazine Thursday, 13 April 2017, 07:35 Last update: about 4 years ago

If your perfect family vacation entails an all-inclusive hotel with children's club, theme parks and massive water-slides on end, the list below isn't for you. If, however, your ideal family holiday includes historic exploration, family-suitable cultural emersions, natural beauty and some secluded, stunning beaches - then read on to find out more about our personal favourites after travelling the Med extensively with our two - now three - toddlers.

Andalucia, Spain

Travelling in an area that culturally embraces children makes any holiday so much more enjoyable and southern Spain stands at the top of that list. No tapas bar will ever give you 'the look' when kids are being kids. Across historic plazas, children can roam freely while you sip a delicious glass of Rioja and munch on some olives and tortilla - both favourites with two of our toddlers.

Our highlights included a visit to the breath-taking mountain-top town of Ronda, where the children spent hours playing knights in the mediaeval castle; playing goat-whisperers during a hike through the Parque Natural Sierra de la Nieves and giving improvised flamenco performances in the cobblestone streets of charming Seville.

Good to know: Free tapas generally accompany drinks.

Madrid, Spain

Spain's capital is full of fun and discovery for everyone. Little children love running across the Plaza Mayor, whilst grown-ups marvel at the famous square's architecture. Older kids can get into the arts at the famous art triangle, including the Prado and Reina Sofia - home to pieces by Velázquez, Goya, Picasso and many others. Everyone loves the expansive Parque de Retiro, the utterly unique train station Atocha, full of turtles, ponds and lush trees, and a pause for some churros dipped in hot chocolate at San Gines, the oldest chocolateria in town.

Good to know: Both the Prado and the Reina Sofia offer free admission during the last two hours of the day.

Route de Napoleon, France

Probably one of the best and most unique family holidays we ever had was travelling with our then one and two-year-olds for two weeks from Geneva to the Cote d'Azur in a motor home. That particularly picturesque part of the French Alps is known as the Route de Napoleon and is tranquil and refreshing, historic and truly French.

Most mornings we would go in search of each town's best croissants. This quest led us across markets with the freshest baguettes and most delicious local wines and cheeses. Disneyland fades into the background compared to the appeal of most of these old towns. On other days we would wake up near pristine rivers inviting us for refreshing swims and a day out with nature.

Good to know: France is arguably the most camper-friendly country: almost every town and city has a specific spot where vans can stay overnight free of charge, often with complimentary water and waste facilities.

Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes makes for the perfect history-with-beach destination for families. There is no worry about cars as you wander through its cobbled alleys around the 14th-century fortress. After the impressive Knight's castle, visit the Acropolis of Rhodes and Lindos. Dreamy Lindos, half-way down the island, with whitewashed cubic houses built into a hillside above a curving sandy bay, is a world away from the big brash modern resorts that dominate many other Greek islands. A hassle-free day trip can take you to the green meadows of Butterfly Valley. Here families can stroll past a waterfall towards a monastery, while marvelling at nature's beauty and examining the life-cycle of butterflies.

Good to know: Stay at the Hotel Ellique, a renovated 14th-century b&b in Rhodes town with connecting rooms for families, a delicious breakfast and a shaded patio with a stunning stone mosaic.

Dalyan Delta, Turkey

The Dalyan Delta, nestled between Turkey's well-known districts of Marmaris and Fethiye, is one of the Mediterranean's largest nesting sites for loggerhead turtles. Between a visit to the interesting turtle hospital and the stunning rest of Iztuzu beach, several days of family fun and relax are easily had. Similarly, the fascinating Lycian Rock Tombs and Kaunos ruins mesmerise all ages, more so as the sites are reached by an atmospheric boat ride across the river.

Get everyone a souvenir without stretching your wallet at Dalyan's bustling markets. At the end of a full day, grab a family massage deal in one of the hammams or head for the natural version at the hot springs and mud baths where throwing and rolling in mud - for once - is totally ok!

Good to know: Baby turtles hatch in July and August.

Reef Mountains, Morocco

The hustle and bustle of Moroccan cities is arguably not for every child, and generally easier to handle with teenagers than toddlers. However, a trip to the quieter Reef Mountains will have something enjoyable for all ages. Expect stunning hikes past pristine rivers and traditional pop-up huts in the middle of nowhere serving up the best tagine you have ever tasted. You might even get lucky and spot some endangered macaque monkeys, a few mountain goats or a fish in the creek. Adventurous families sign up for an organised hike of several days.

Our little ones' favourite was the almond tree near our simple, clean and comfortable cabin. Finding, then cracking open and finally eating the delicious nuts made for hours of entertainment - and plenty of chill-out and reading time for mum and dad.

Good to know: Internet is unreliable in the mountains, so it's best to book your stay beforehand.

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