There are plenty of destinations around the world that are perfect for a family adventure but one of the best regions has to be Asia. With great weather, incredible food and diverse histories and cultures, this corner of the world is also home to some of the best family adventure holidays. From trekking in Nepal with kids and hiking in Taiwan’s Taroko National Park to climbing the steps up to Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, overnighting on a Junk boat in Vietnam and swimming with Whale Sharks in The Philippines, there are some spellbinding family holidays in Asia to enjoy. And if you fancy something a little more wintery, how about skiing in Japan? As you plan your family holidays for the new year, here are six adventures in Asia to get you started.
Family adventures in Asia
Sleep on a Junk Boat in Vietnam
Vietnam is a wonderful destination for a family adventure. Filled with colour, culture and activities galore there’s plenty to do for kids and their parents. One of the highlights of a family holiday in Vietnam is definitely sleeping on a junk, a traditional Vietnamese boat, in Ha Long Bay. According to Vietnamese legend, the area of Ha Long Bay was formed when a dragon descended from the mountains; Ha Long means Descending Dragon. Located in the northeast of the country, the area is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular travel destination famous for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands. One of the best ways to experience the area is on a traditional Junk boat. Choose a smaller boat for your family adventure and spend the days sailing between the islands, stopping off at a rural water puppet theatre along the way. Kids will love having story time under the stars on the deck of the boat and sleeping in their cabin.
Go trekking in Nepal
One of the best family holidays we’ve ever had was when we went trekking in Nepal. The kids – I only had two of them back then! – were aged four-and-a-half-years and two-years-old and while it was challenging at times, it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that we’ll remember forever. We opted to go with a family-friendly tour operator on a seven-night trek in the lower Annapurna mountains. After a night in Pokhara we started our trek, accompanied by a wonderful guide and a fabulous porter who helped to carry Tess. Overnight accommodation was in mountain lodges, which were simple but comfortable and many of them with amazing views. The days were long; we usually set off after an early breakfast and walked for a couple of hours before pausing for lunch. We then walked another four or so hours before reaching our next bed for the night. But the great thing is that you can take the trek at your own pace and stop whenever you want. We finished our trek tired but delighted – it was truly one of the best holidays we’ve ever had.
Climb Lion’s Rock in Sri Lanka
Located in the Central Province, the mythical ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock) is one of Sri Lanka’s most incredible sites. Originally built as the fortified capital for King Kassapa (477-95) after he had assassinated his father, there is little left of the original palace today but the views from the top of the rock, nearly 200 metres high, are breath-taking. Access to the top is via a series of zigzagging staircases, past detailed frescoes of over 500 semi-naked females dating back some 1600 years. A small plateau about halfway up boasts a gateway in the form of an enormous lion, which is where the name comes from. Combine a visit to Sigiriya with a longer trip exploring all that Sri Lanka has to offer; this little island is filled with family adventures whether you’re looking for culture, wildlife, or just a week soaking up the sunshine on a beautiful beach.
Hike in Taiwan’s Taroko National Park
Taiwan might not be top of your family adventure list but this small island has a big history as well as awe-inspiring landscapes, family-friendly beaches, natural hot springs, incredible local food and the bustling modern city of Taipei. One of Taiwan’s top tourist destinations is Taroko National Park, home to what many consider to be one of Asia’s most beautiful natural wonders, the 18km-long Taroko Gorge. Carved by the Liwu River, the canyon boats waterfalls and ravines as well as temples that sometimes seem to balance on a pinpoint and is really quite spectacular. You can visit by bus but the best way to truly appreciate the gorge is on foot. There are a large number of trails that run through the park, many of them suitable for families. Some of the more popular trails include Shakadang Trail, Swallow Grotto Trail and Changchun Trail. If you’re bringing little kids, make sure to bring a hiking backpack.
Swim with Whale Sharks in The Philippines
Swimming with whale sharks is an unforgettable experience. One place that you can swim with these gentle giants in Asia is Dumaguete in The Philippines. Located near Oslob village on Cebu Island, a group of whale sharks congregate year-round in a shallow bay. Local operators run boat trips out to see them and you can watch the whale sharks from the surface or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can get in the water and swim or snorkel with them. Make sure not to choose an operator that offers scuba diving with the sharks as this can be harmful to them. Even brave kids who love the ocean can jump in and swim with these magnificent creatures.
Go skiing in Japan
For a winter wonderland adventure why not head to Japan. Home to some 500 ski resorts, incredible snow and delicious food, a family ski holiday in Japan will please everyone. One of the biggest and most popular resorts is Niskeo, located in Hokkaido in the north of the country. Niskeo is a great resort for families, not least because of the excellent ski schools there. And, while the kiddos are perfecting their turns, you can explore the slopes. The ski areas don’t tend to be as big as in Europe for example but the slopes are wide and the snow plentiful. As you might imagine in Japan, skiing is very safe and controlled and anyone who breaks the rules (such as skiing too fast or out of control) will have their passes confiscated. But it’s not just the deep fluffy stuff that makes Japan such an appealing destination for a family ski holiday, rather it’s all the other things that it offers as well. Once you come off the slopes do as the locals do and soak in an Onsen, the perfect way to soothe tired limbs. And after that, head to one of the plentiful restaurants and fill up on amazing Japanese food.