1 Marvel at fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, Turkey
Almost fairy tale in every respect, Cappadocia is a geological masterpiece. The Anatolian plains are home to this magical world of towers, honeycomb hills and fairy chimneys (tall, thin spires of rock that have formed over hundreds of years). The landscape is matched by the amazing human history here with underground chambers that were once homes, and fantastic examples of Byzantine art. It’s easy to see why this area is a World Heritage Site. To fully appreciate this other-worldly place you can even stay in your own cave. In the heart of Cappadocia is the Gamirasu cave hotel, which has rooms that were once used by local priests a thousand years ago. It also contains a Byzantine Orthodox church dating from the 11th century and the kitchen, which once belonged to the monastery, is the kitchen they still use today. It’s a chance to really live as a cave dweller and see the landscape in a whole new way.
Family suites consist of 2 bedrooms and are from 215 Euros per night including breakfast gamirasu.com/hotel
2 Stargazing in Northumberland, UK
Learning about the stars and planets just got seriously fun. Kielder Observatory run regular family stargazing events where you can discover the Universe and even the youngest children can learn about becoming an astronomer. The Kielder Observatory is located in an area with some of the darkest skies in Europe. It’s actually the third largest protected Dark Sky reserve in the world. Their family star gazing nights start at 5pm and even at this early time the skies will be dark enough for you to observe planets, galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. It is the perfect place to learn about our wonderful Universe in as up close and personal detail as it’s possible to get from the ground. You might even spot a comet or two!
Family tickets from £45 kielderobservatory.org
3 Go on Safari…in Scotland
Forget the big five you’ll find in Africa, Highland Safari will take you out and about in Perthshire to spot red deer, grouse and golden eagles. Getting insider knowledge of the beautiful wildlife of the United Kingdom and seeing it in its own habitat is an experience kids of all ages will love. This is an opportunity to try to spot some of the most elusive wildlife on our shores. Younger children will learn how to identify tracks of the rare Red Squirrel in their Forest Safari trail and older children will love the Mountain Safaris where you will travel through forests, mountains and moors on private hill tracks and really have an opportunity to appreciate this beautiful wilderness. If you visit in winter you can head out in the 4WD with snow chains on ready to spot white Mountain Hare or the snowy White Ptarmigan.
From £20 adults/£10 children for a forest safari 01887 820071 highlandsafaris.net
4 Get up close and personal with volcanoes in Italy
This great multi-activity trip to Sicily will see you learning about why and how volcanoes erupt in the Volcano and Lava Museum. You will also find out how papyrus is made, get to make your own pottery and it will see you mountain biking and deep canyon hiking. But learning about volcanoes is the highlight of this tour and it won’t be restricted to the museum – you will also take part in a trek, suitable for kids, up Mount Etna – one of the most active volcanoes in the world and found on the east coast of Sicily. You will also explore this volcano’s grottos and craters along its north face – you can’t beat that for an out of the classroom experience.
£1149/adult, £1129/child for the 8 day trip including flights familiesworldwide.co.uk
5 Build a raft in Sweden
Get to really hone your woodworking skills as you build your own family timber raft and take it on a unique adventure down the River Klarälven in Sweden. This stretch of water is the oldest logging route in the country, and today they are keeping this tradition alive by helping families to build their own raft using only logs and rope, before setting sail down the river. Your timber rafting tour will take you through a beautiful rural area of Swedish forests, small villages and farmland, giving you the opportunity to stop and explore the surrounding countryside along the route. Look out for beavers and other wildlife along the way. And to complete the adventure this five day experience will include wild camping, as each night you choose a suitable spot to sleep under canvas along the river bank.
5-day tour (50km): £250/adult, £125/child 3-15 naturetravels.co.uk
6 Wild Food Foraging in Wales
Learning about the wild food we can eat and the medicinal plants that can help us is a great way to spend a day in Wales. Cwm Tawel offer outdoor courses where together with an instructor you forage around the Welsh woodland, meadows and hills. You then return to camp with your treasures and use them to cook a simple camp meal. You also learn flora identification techniques as well as tips on how to harvest in a sustainable way, and how to prepare each ingredient. There are opportunities to taste your discoveries throughout the day, as well as enjoying the final foraged meal.
Adult: £65 (including a light lunch and refreshments) Child: £45 (including a light lunch and refreshments) cwmtawel.org.uk
7 Finding fossils in Germany
A forty minute drive from Stuttgart is the pretty town of Holzmaden, famed for its enviable fossil collection dating back over 150 years. Not only can you spend time marvelling over the stunning and enormous fossils and eight dinosaur skeletons at the town’s privately run Urweltmuseum Hauff, but you can also turn fossil hunter yourself. Children and families are invited to set out to explore the nearby Kromer slate quarry in Ohmden which is a packed full of fossils waiting to be uncovered. There are new layers regularly being revealed, allowing for young fossil hunters to make their own discoveries. Turn back the clock millions of years and unearth ammonites, fish skeletons, the remains of sea lilies and belemnites. It’s a popular spot for local school trips and families can visit for a small fee.
Visit the Urweltmuseum website for more information. urweltmuseum.de/en/urweltmuseum/collecting-fossils
8 Valley of the Butterflies (Peta Loudhes), Rhodes
On the Western side of Rhodes is a tranquil valley known locally as Peta Loudhes, which is home every year to millions of tiger moths. The so-called ‘Valley of the Butterflies’ is a wonderful nature reserve filled with trails, waterfalls, rushing rivers and peaceful pools. Throughout the summer months, children will be enthralled by the sight of hundreds of thousands of moths in their natural habitat, covering trees, rocks and fauna. The valley’s paths are surrounded by century old trees, lush vegetation, and rushing water which create a magical experience, enhanced by the presence of the resting tiger moths.
Visit visitgreece.gr/en/nature/fauna/butterfly_valley_of_rhodes for times and prices
9 Storytelling, songs and trails in the French Forests
The tradition of storytelling is celebrated deep in the forests of Monts d’Arrée in Brittany (a 45 minute drive from Brest). Addes are a group which offer music and song to accompany guided rambles and walks for children and adults starting at the village of Botmeur, tucked away in the Parc Naturel Regional d’Armorique. These musical tours, with singers and a guitarist, follow nature trails and celebrate the forests and folklore around them. Led by Katell, who sings in French, English, Breton and Welsh, there is bountiful enjoyment and learning here for children of all ages. There are also storytelling walks celebrating Celtic traditions, with fantastical tales of goblins and elves, all set in the woodlands of Brittany. Older children will enjoy the gold panning walk.
Prices and tours vary through the year. Visit arree-randos.com
10 Climb aboard a Viking boat in Denmark
The best history lessons are hands on experiences and just 25 minutes by train from Copenhagen sits Roskilde. It’s an ancient city dating back to the Viking period and is unsurprisingly the home to the Viking Ship Museum. It is the only location in the world where children can get up close to Viking ships which are over 1000 years old and then set sail on reconstructed Viking ships and Nordic boats faithfully modelled on their historic counterparts. Best suited to older children and family groups, you can grab an oar and experience life as a Viking. Year round at the museum you can also get into the spirit of the experience, with the chance to dress as a Viking and see the boat builders at work in the boat yard, and during the summer months you can also try your hand at making coins.
For more information visit vikingeskibsmuseet.dk. Children aged 0-17 get free entrance to the Museum and Adult tickets are 115 Danish Krone. Boat trips are 90 Danish Krone
Nichola West is Editor of the family travel review website globalmousetravels.com