When all you want to do is escape the crowds, introduce the kids to something new, and go somewhere none of your friends have been, our friends at Lightfoot Travel have come up with the following list. Some destinations are close to home, others are further afar, but all have the distinction of being somewhat hidden from the regular tourist path.
Only accessible from April to November, Kamikochi is the gateway to the Northern Japan Alps, offering some of the country’s most incredible mountain scenery. Arriving by bus (cars are not allowed), travelers come face to face with snow-capped mountains, alpine lakes, lush wooded areas, and a flowing river with crystal clear mountain water. It is nature at its finest, and made all the more charming by the fact that the area is only moderately developed with a few lodges, shops, and plenty of hiking trails. Kamikochi is ideal for rambling family walks; more challenging hikes for older teens; and is just a lovely and relaxing place to kick back, enjoy the comfort of your lodge and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
Where to stay: Kamikōchi Nishi-itoya Sansō
This is a friendly and cozy lodge that dates from the early 20th century. We highly recommend the river-facing rooms on the second floor. The sliding doors that span the length of the room open out to a little balcony and feature handy screens, so you can leave the windows open all night listening to the sounds of the gushing water below. Kids will love the Japanese-style beds!
Referred to as the “Switzerland of the Middle East”, Jordan is politically stable, economically developing, and safe for travellers. It’s fantastic for self-drive holidays, with an extensive and easily navigable road network, and major sites can be visited in a week. Leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the Middle East in terms of nature conservation, but the Dana Nature Reserve is arguably the most beautiful. With incredible views of the Sharah Mountains, abundant plant and animal life, and plenty of hiking trails, it’s definitely worth spending a night or two exploring this unique and beautiful region. Kids will love having the roaming space, wildlife to look out for, and the Bedouin guides are incredibly knowledgeable with a wicked sense of humor!
Where to stay: Feynan Eco Lodge
Feynan is devoted to sustainability and is Jordan’s only solar-powered ecolodge. A trio of cats rule the roost; a herd of goats often stop by for breakfast; and all staff are from the surrounding Bedouin villages, with stories to impart on guests as they take them on daily excursions around the lodge and in the reserve.
Located on the northernmost tip of Palawan, El Nido is a coastal town that also includes many outlying islands. More remote than popular Cebu or Boracay (meaning less tourists!), travelers take a one-hour flight from Manila to El Nido Airport, followed by a boat ride to the property of their choice. A heaven for water-loving children, families can visit the famous big and small lagoons, hike to waterfalls, or kayak and snorkel to their heart’s content. It’s also a diver’s paradise, and a great place for older kids to learn as most resort’s feature their own dive school. The area topped CNNGo’s list of ‘Best Beaches and Islands’ in the Philippines, due to the clear waters, extraordinarily white beaches and magnificent views.
Where to stay: El Nido Pangulasian
Located on a beautiful 700 metre stretch of white sandy beach, El Nido Pangulasian features beachfront villas, pool villas, and even ones up in the canopy with spectacular views over the island. From the moment you arrive and are met off the boat with cold towels, you know you have come to a special place!
When it comes to Cambodia, families tend to bypass the lesser-known regions in favor of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. But for those looking to get off the grid in Cambodia, Koh Kong is the place to go. The country’s most south-western province, it’s highly underdeveloped with a long coastline and largely inaccessible mountainous interior. This is a destination for adventurous families who are really looking to immerse themselves in nature, and experience authentic Cambodia without the throng of tourists.
Where to stay: 4 Rivers Floating Lodge
The only place to stay in the area, the property is located a 3-hour drive from Phnom Penh, followed by a 20-minute boat ride. Located on the confluence of two rivers, families can swim, kayak, hike to waterfalls, picnic in remote areas, or enjoy a meal with the communities who reside by the riverside. The eco-friendly lodge’s 12 rooms are set up like African safari tents above the water, with flaps that can be left open, enabling guests to wake up to the sights and muted sounds of the surrounding Cardamom Mountains and river below.
For families looking to embark on the ultimate Australian outback adventure, the Flinders Ranges is the place to go. A 5-hour drive or 65-minute flight from Adelaide, it’s one of the most accessible outback destinations in Australia, with a tremendous variety of bird and wildlife including species like red and grey kangaroos, emus, wallaroos, camels, and oh-so-cute yellow-footed rock wallabies! In the area you can hike, four-wheel drive, camp, go on scenic flights, or even take a train ride on the historic railway through Pichi Richi Pass.
Where to stay: Arkaba Station
Occupying a landmass larger than Singapore, only five people live at Arkaba Station permanently. It’s about as far as you can get from the dense crowds of Hong Kong. There are a ton of family-focused activities on offer such as treasure hunts that teach kids how to navigate with a map and compass; learning to track wildlife using their habits and behaviors as clues; or hunting for native herbs to make fresh bread. All meals are homemade, healthy, and cooked over the campfire, while the parents can kick back and snack on canapes with a delicious selection of wines. Arkaba also provides the ultimate glamping experience with incredible starbeds that the kids will die for.