Diverse and colourful India has so much to offer in terms of family travel. But the choice of culturally rich and naturally beautiful destinations may well seem overwhelming, and having gathered various family members together for some precious quality time, you want to know that the holiday will be a blast. Let’s begin with these destinations.
The climb to the top of Monkey Temple is a pretty sweaty one (and best avoided in the sweltering midday sun) but the view is enough to render any grumpy child mid-tantrum speechless. Gazing out on this surreal panorama could turn into an hours-long activity, were it not for the other exciting places you’ll want to visit once you spot them on the horizon. The landscape looks a little like another planet; hills of ochre boulders rise up among lush green vegetation that contrasts with the bright blue sky. The village of Hampi is home to a fascinating collection of ancient sacred temples, now well-preserved ruins that can be explored over a time period of a couple of days. Get around by bike and stop off to have a swim at the local waterfall, before walking up any of the area’s dusty hills to catch a truly sublime sunset.
Offering some of India’s most spectacular scenery, Vagamon is ideal for a nature-filled family trip of pure escapism. For those unfamiliar with its misty green meadows, it’s a tiny hill station in Kerala at an altitude of 1100m above sea level. Remarkably untouched by tourism and commercialization, some of the roads are a little rough but that’s more than made up for by the sense of adventure and its natural beauty. Verdant green hues define the landscape of pine forests and waterfalls, all perfect for trekking and rock climbing. That being said, it’s also a dreamy place to enjoy a slower-paced holiday of sunsets and tranquility. So if you find it hard to please every member of the family, the diversity of Vagamon could just do the trick.
It’s hardly surprising that Mararikulam ranked so highly as a family travel destination. It’s a beach village with a paradisiacal, near-empty beach called Marari. A peaceful tropical enclave, it’s a place to completely unwind and really immerse yourself in local life. Whether that’s by indulging in Ayurvedic treatments from local specialists, tucking into phenomenal Keralan cuisine or swimming and lazing under a coconut palm, the whole family will find it hard to tear themselves away once the holiday is over.
Another historical Indian town, Mahabalipuram is a treasure trove of fascinating ancient sites. Of the many archaeological wonders worth visiting, Pancha Rathas is a monument complex featuring monolithic rock-cut temples with mesmerizingly complex carvings. The Cave Temples are sculptures carved into the rocks and Descent of the Ganges is a vast open-air rock relief. Krishna’s Butter Ball is a 250-ton boulder that balances in a gravity-defying position on a slope, proving a curious tourist attraction. Mahabalipuram is also a coastal town and its beach is well-known for surfing, though it’s also possible to swim and sunbathe if some of the family don’t fancy a surf.
For a cultural family holiday, Thanjavur will certainly deliver. The town is famous as a centre of South Indian religion, art and architecture and its long history feels incredibly vivid. Every day thousands worship at its grand Brihadishwara Temple, an imposing structure dedicated to Shiva and covered in intricate carvings. There are numerous shrines and historically significant sites to visit, plus the family-friendly, charming Siva Ganga Garden. With a mini train, temple in the middle of a pond and children playing everywhere, it’s a great place to take a break from sight-seeing.
Cherai Beach is the perfect low-key family holiday destination. A narrow strip of land between backwaters and the sea, it’s a particularly scenic stretch of tropical coastline. The golden sand is backed by rocks and dense clusters of coconut palms. It’s ultimately a place to relax but families can swim, play beach volleyball or football, rent boats or bikes and even fly kites – a popular pastime with locals. So popular in fact that there’s an annual kite-flying festival at the beginning of the year, if you’re lucky enough to catch it.