Summer Family Travel Ideas
Most UAE residents cannot wait to travel over the summer and it’s easy to see why. The soaring summer temperatures and long school holidays are the main reasons we look at getting away to somewhere cooler and perhaps even somewhere exotic. Well, mamas look no further…here are my recommendations on where to go this summer and the adventures you can look forward to…
Top of the list for many travellers from this region, this is one country that always exceeds expectations! Crystal clear lakes, stunning mountains (some are snow-capped even in the month of August, such as the Matterhorn or Mt. Titlis) lively cities and little towns make up the best that Switzerland has to offer. One of the best ways to savour the beauty of Switzerland is to do it by train. Panoramic trains such as the Golden Pass between Interlaken and Montreux, the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Mortiz and the Gotthard Express from Lugano (Bellinzona) to Lucerne.
TOP TIP: The SWISS PASS
This pass offers travellers free travel on all public transport be it buses, trams, boats or trains. It is recommended that you purchase it before travel and usually for the number of days you will be visiting Switzerland. And it gets better! The pass also gives you free access into most of the museums, some mountain excursions such as Mount Schilthorn (setting for a 007 movie) and Mount Rigi as well as discounts on the other mountain excursions such as Mount Pilatus, Titlis, the Matterhorn and Jungfrauoch.
Recommended Itinerary: Ask anyone who has been and they will tell you that there is so much to do each time you visit Switzerland. Here’s one itinerary you could try….
Lucerne – Grindelwald– Andermatt – Lugano (Bellinzona – Locarno – Ascona)
What To Do While There: Getting around Switzerland is easy especially if you have your Swiss Pass with you.
Lucerne: Visit Engelberg and take a trip up to Mt. Titlis. Or take the funicular to Mt. Pilatus and then the cable car back down. Cruise around Lake Lucerne. Visit the wooden Chapel Bridge with flowers all along its length or enjoy a coffee at one of the many little cafes in the Old Town.
Where to stay: Luxury Hotel Schweizerhof is in a fabulous location on Lake Lucerne and the views are great, as you can imagine.
Grindelwald: Situated at the base of the Swiss Alps, Grindelwald is a small town a few minutes away by train from Interlaken.
Where to stay: Luxury Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof is conveniently located just outside the Grindelwald train station and offers some of the best views of the Alps. The hotel and hotel apartments are run by a very warm and efficient staff.
Andermatt: Former military town, Andermatt is a lovely little town that comes alive in the summer (and winter for ski season). Hike around the Oberalp Pass or just walk around the rolling hillsides around the town.
Where to stay: The Chedi Andermatt is situated three minutes walk away from the Andermatt train station. Beautifully designed with warm hues of mahogany and oak, the Chedi offers instant relaxation to her guests.
Lugano: The South Switzerland region is an Italian speaking one and is quite fascinating as the history of the towns and cities have been intertwined with the Dukes of Milan in Italy over the past centuries. Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano are simply stunning and the panoramic vistas around the historic towns of Bellinzona, Locarno and Ascona will ensure you return for more.
While there make time to drop in to Swissminiatur, a selection of curated Swiss architecture including the panoramic trains, the cathedral of Basel, Heidi Village in Maienfeld, the castles of Burgdorf and Chillon and the Federal Parliament in Bern.
Where to stay: Hotel International Au Lac is a fabulous family run hotel with the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Maria di Loreto Church right next door to it.
Taiwan is a small island nation situated east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei, the country’s capital in the north, is known for its busy night markets, Chinese Imperial art at the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101, a 509m-tall, bamboo-shaped skyscraper with an observation deck.
When one thinks of Taiwan, towering skyscrapers and colourful night markets come to mind. However, this country holds an astounding number of natural sights that are breathtaking. Taroko Gorge, Alishan Mountains and the Yushan area are just some of these must-visit destinations.
TOP TIP: Travel by the HIGH SPEED RAIL trains that connect the major cities across Taiwan.
Recommended Itinerary: Taipei – Alishan Mountains – Sun Moon Lake
TAIPEI: Best known as the home of Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building from its construction in 2004 till 2010 when the Burj Khalifa took over the title. The symbol of modern Taiwan, this tower is architecturally designed to withstand earthquakes.
Nightly street markets are a highlight in Taiwan and Shilin is one of the oldest markets, packed with street food vendors and shops selling anything from clothes and shoes to mobile accessories.
Where to stay: Mandarin Oriental or the Shangri La for a luxurious stay in Taipei.
Alishan Mountains: The beautiful central-southern area of Taiwan is where you can visit the Alishan mountain range. It is one of Taiwan’s most striking natural sights. One of the best experiences here would be the leisure farm stays such as the one at Long Yun. Little chalets set among bamboo and cedar forests with a view of the mountains in the distance.
Sun Moon Lake: Taiwan’s largest lake is also one of its most beautiful. Sun Moon Lake is located in the mountains of Nantou, centre of the island. The shape of the lake has given it the name – the western part of the lake is long and narrow like a crescent moon and to the east it is shaped round like the sun. This lake is very popular with the locals and so it is advisable to book your accommodation here as early as possible.
The aboriginal tribe of Thao live around the lake and have a special area for their religious practices on the small island of Lalu in the centre of the Sun Moon Lake.
Where to stay: Fleur de Chine Hotel and book the Japanese inspired room (Tatami) for an unforgettable experience.
Hey Mamas…why don’t you take a trip to Hercule Poirot’s country of origin this summer? There’s so much to do even if you’re not a big fan of the Belgian detective. And while in the capital city of Brussels, visit Train World, an authentic train museum or take a ride in a vintage car around the city’s old districts. Walk around La Grand Place, centre of this vibrant city or visit the iconic Atomium and while you’re there, visit the beautiful Mini-Europe.
Recommended Itinerary: Brussels – Bruges – Ghent
Brussels: Who doesn’t love some chocolate, especially while on holiday? An experience at the renowned chocolatier Pierre Marcolini is a must-do or maybe stop at Wittamer for a dash of coffee and Belgian chocolates. You could pick up gifts for friends and family from chocolatiers Neuhaus or Laurent Gerbaud.
Where to stay: Sofitel Hotel offers great accommodation options.
Bruges: Visit the charming Hansa Quarter that was an important trading centre, discover the secret gardens and beautiful bridges of Bruges canals or visit Markt and its Belfry, the city’s popular edifice where you can climb to the top of the tower. Until the 18th century this used to be the extremely busy Waterhalle, a covered warehouse where goods were loaded and unloaded along the canals that ran alongside the square. Today the canals are still there, albeit underground.
Where to stay: NH Bruges is a former monastery so for a touch of history while in this city, this is a great option.
Ghent: This city located in Flemish Belgium is quaint and steeped in history so it is well worth a trip. Visit the fiery dragon that is the mascot of Ghent and guards the historic heart of the city. Get on board with the family friendly city game with Fosfor the dragon so the children will be kept busy…and that’s always a good thing, isn’t it mamas?
Where to stay: Sandton Grand Hotel Reylof comes highly recommended.
This Balkan gem that was formerly part of Yugoslavia is on the destination must-visit list for 2018. Take the funicular up the hill to the Ljubljana Castle for a panoramic view of the old and new city. Visit the beautiful Postojna Caves and then head to the medieval town of Piran, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful on the Adriatic coastline.
Recommended Itinerary: Ljubljana – Lake Bled – Triglav National Park – Piran
Ljubljana: Capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana is a city that is steeped in history and with a beautiful medieval castle at the top of the hill in the Old Town. Walk around the ancient streets or cross the enchanting Cobbler’s Bridge and stop at the Central Market near the Town Hall.
Where to stay: Intercontinental Ljubljana is well situated near the Old Town and within walking distance of the castle.
Lake Bled: This is one of the most iconic of Slovenian destinations. The stunning Lake Bled with its own little chapel and cake shop that serves the Bled Cake. Ring the bell in this church and make a wish! The lake is surrounded by the Julian Alps, forests and in the centre of the lake is an island that is almost dreamlike. The Church of the Assumption built in 1465 and it is believed that if a groom can carry his bride up the 99 steps to the church, the couple can get married there.
Where to stay: Try the accommodation at Astoria Bled Hotel located near Lake Bled.
TOP TIP: Lake Bled photography – the best time to take pictures of the lake with the island is in the morning and from the Castle Bled up on the hill.
Piran: Known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic Sea’ this town is one of Slovenia’s best preserved historic towns with Venetian gothic architecture. There is a legendary Venetian House that was built by a rich merchant for his mistress and has the words ‘Lassa pur dir’ or ‘Let them talk’ between the windows. This was his way of showing the world he didn’t care about gossip and that she was more important to him than his reputation.
Where to stay: Hotel Piran is located near the town centre and is recommended for a great stay.