While we would never turn down a beautiful beachfront resort or luxurious city hotel, sometimes it’s fun to get off-the-beaten path and take the kids somewhere really different. Be it a tent, a tiger lodge, a liveaboard or a campervan, our friends at tailor-made tour operator Lightfoot Travel have picked their favorite unique family hotels around Asia for families. Let’s go!
Staying in an overnight campervan is a fun and unique way for travelling families to experience the Great Wall of China. Leave the hustle and bustle of Beijing behind, driving along winding mountain roads as you make your way into the rural countryside. Visit less touristy sections of the wall with unrestored walkways, steep stairs and crumbling watchtowers in varying degrees of ruin. It’s a much more authentic wall experience, and great fun for the kids to clamber around and explore Indiana Jones-style. Afterwards, pull up alongside a pretty lake or amongst the foothills of the wall to park for the night. The campervans are simple yet comfortable, and sleep four guests – 2 adults + 2 children or 3 adults + 1 child. A simple dinner of meat and vegetables will be prepared by your guide and driver, before they head off to spend the evening with a local family, and you bed down in your cosy van surroundings!
Great Wall Campervan, Website
When parents think of the phrase “family friendly”, the term “liveaboard” does not often come to mind. However, the Tiger Blue was designed with families in mind, and is very suited for children, with lots of space for families to hang out together while on board. The boat sails through various regions of Indonesia including Raja Ampat and the Komodo Islands, and features four luxurious cabins sleeping 10-12 guests. There are a ton of activities for kids both on and off the boat including kite-making, crab races on the beach, wildlife-spotting, kayaking, snorkeling, kneeboarding, and there are also films and board games in the chill out area. It’s an incredibly cool experience cruising through some of Indonesia’s most remote and diverse areas, pulling into deserted coves and sailing up to isolated beaches. The boat does not have a minimum age, so bringing kids is entirely up to individual parents’ discretion. Tiger Blue says they regularly have children aged six and above, and that their crew are fantastic with kids!
Tiger Blue, Website
Leopard Safaris set up camp in two of Sri Lanka’s largest national parks, Yala and Wilpattu, and offers an authentic and fun camping experience. The tents are comfortable and comprised of two separate sections – one for sleeping, and the other for relaxing with a table and chairs. Bathroom and shower facilities are private yet very basic – the shower consists of an unheated bag of water overhead. During the day, guests head out on safari to see elephants, alligators, mongoose, birds, and of course, the elusive leopard. Back at the camp, there is a sandpit area for younger kids, photography lessons, and staff will look after children if parents want to have dinner alone. We recommend Leopard Safaris for those who are comfortable with the great outdoors, appreciate nature and love wildlife, and due to the basic nature of the camp, for children above the age of seven.
Leopard Safaris, Website
This beautiful lodge was built in a remote area of Bardia, just outside the national park. The lodge centres on an impressive main hall with very high ceilings, an area for dining, sofas for relaxing and a small library. Outside there is a large fire pit for evening bonfires where everyone gets together and socializes. The rooms are built in a traditionally Nepalese way using packed mud, which is harder to maintain, but gives the place a very authentic feel. While at Karnali you can choose between jeep, walking, elephant or river safaris on a raft. The walking safaris are quite possibly the most thrilling, as you walk through the jungle with an expert guide with 20 years of experience, searching for tigers and rhinos – an activity that is bound to thrill the little ones! On all of the safaris, guests are given a packed lunch and often bunker down around watering holes to eat and wait for the animals. Karnali Lodge also has an elephant stable with 10 of their own elephants, each with its own mahout, which the kids will absolutely love.
Karnali Lodge, Website
Norden Camp is a brand new destination located high atop the Tibetan Plateau in China’s remote Gansu Province. During the winter, the campsite is a grazing area for sheep and yaks, and transforms into 11 hectares of lush grassland ringed by snow-capped foothills during the summer months. The camp features seven pine Log Cabins and four handwoven yak Khulu Tents, but for families, we recommend the Family Cabin that is comprised of two bedrooms linked by a common living area. The best thing about Norden Camp is that it gives city dwellers the rare opportunity to experience authentic Tibetan culture, community and traditions, and also stay in extremely unique yet comfortable lodgings. It’s a fantastic way for children to get out into the great outdoors, walk through nomad pastures, enjoy communal bonfires, visit local Tibetan families, horseback ride across the plateau and even go stargazing in the evening.
Norden Camp, Website
Chamba Camp is set is a desert valley between the Kunlun Mountains and the Himalayas in one of the most remote and dramatic areas of the world, Ladakh in Northern India. Chamba Camp only operates in the warmer summer months from June to September, as the area is overcome with snow and freezing temperatures during the winter. The grounds are dotted with Maharaja-style tents that are beautifully designed and furnished with king-size beds, en-suite bathrooms, hot showers and even butler service! We especially love the private decks with stunning views looking out across the grassland and to the magnificent Thiksey Monastery beyond. The activities offered are fantastic for adventurous families and include cycling, rafting down the Indus River, camp orientation and grassland walks, mudbrick making, tree sapling planting, croquet, archery, local school visits and even trips to a donkey sanctuary that helps old and neglected stray donkeys who were rescued from the streets of Leh. This is a truly special place!
Chamba Camp, Thiksey, Website