Family Travel: You can do Kathmandu

Q&A; The Independent Parent: Your Questions Answered
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Q. We have been on several walking holidays in Europe with our children, now aged 11 and 10, but now want something more challenging. Are there any travel firms that can come up with something really exciting?

Mrs M Barnes


A.It's interesting that more and more families are moving beyond the all-embracing package, and adventure specialist tour operators, having moved cautiously into the family market, are adding an exciting mix of new ventures for the year 2000.

Pioneer of the off-the-beaten-track family holidays Travelbag Adventures (01420 541007) offers three "core" destinations - Turkey, Morocco and Thailand, and is to add more holidays in Asia and Africa (probably Tanzania) for next year. The minimum age is five years, and though it modifies its normal tours - allowing more relaxation - it claims its holidays are not suitable for "spoilt brats" who need pampering. Though trips are more demanding than mainstream travel, healthy children should have no problems participating.

Turkish Activity weeks based on the friendly and as yet not over-developed resort of Kas on the stupendous Lycian coast include a boat trip to the sunken city of Kekova, a hike to Olympos and a Jeep safari to visit traditional villages in the Taurus mountains. The prices, which include excursions, some meals, flights and family-run accommodation, are approximately pounds 525 per adult, pounds 425 per child per week. The Lycian coast is well away from the recent tragic earthquake zone.

Elephant rides in the jungle, bat-caves, a brief stop in Bangkok and cooler Chiang Mai, and the tribal villages of the north are on the agenda of Travelbag's 15-day trip to Thailand, with a chance to chill out on tropical beaches at the end - at the price of around pounds 1,200 for adults, pounds 900 for kids under 12.

Mike Wynne and his wife Annie of Walks Worldwide (01332 230883) didn't see why the arrival of their daughter should be the end of their own walking trips, so they've launched a number of family walking trips to Greece and the Indian subcontinent. They're planning to expand these next year to include Morocco, the Alpujarras Mountains in Southern Spain and New Brunswick in eastern Canada. Some tours are escorted, others can be taken independently.

Mike describes his family Nepal trip as a "snip" - porters shadow each child and will carry exhausted infants if necessary. The 15-day tour includes nine days of walking in the lesser foothills of the Kathmandu Valley, staying in lodges along the way, and always within easy reach of Kathmandu in case of emergency. Cost pounds 1,550 for adults, pounds 1,050 for children up to 11, pounds 150 for infants of two and under.

One of the most exciting family treks this year is also to Nepal, taking place over the millennium. It is led by Steve Berry, managing director of Himalayan Kingdoms (0117-923 7163). He is an expert climber, expedition leader and author who is taking his own family and hopes to be joined by four or five other families.

The itinerary takes in Kathmandu, flights through the Himalayas, elephant- back trekkingand a river-boat trip. Accommodation is in four-star hotels and tented camps. The dates are 20 Dec to 3 Jan 2000, with four days of gentle trekking. The prices are pounds 2,495 for each adult, pounds 2,295 for six to 11-year-olds, and pounds 1,695 for under- sixes, including flights. A pretty spectacular way to see in the new millennium - en famille!

Q.My wife and I will be taking our four children from former marriages away together at half-term - they are aged between seven and 12, As this is our first time together, we would prefer to stay in the UK.

Name & address supplied

A. Obviously this could be a sensitive time, though such situations are becoming increasingly common - and I speak from personal experience.

I've chosen a Center Parc holiday village (0990 200200) as my first suggestion, since these offer a plethora of sports and other activities for all ages, so children can either team up or do their own thing without any pressure, whatever the weather. Even in midwinter, families can stroll among lemon groves, play tennis or shoot the rapids in the aquapark because everything is contained within a huge glass dome.

The villages are in pleasant rural surroundings; Elveden Forest in East Anglia is probably the nearest to you, where self-catering villas that sleep up to six are dotted among the trees, each with a terrace and barbecue. There are numerous restaurants on the site if you don't want to cook. Apart from arrival and departure, traffic is banned, which makes it safe for kids to cycle.

The range of activities is huge, and the quality of equipment and tuition is high, though some cost extra and charges can mount. A villa during the October half-term for the six of you for a Monday to Friday four- night break is pounds 462, a weekend of three nights pounds 338, and a full week pounds 754, all self-catering.

If you're looking for a slightly cheaper option, you might consider a self-catering cottage holiday; the cottages I have in mind are at Leigh Farm near the Teign Valley on the edge of Dartmoor, surrounded by 60 acres of fields and woods. This should appeal to younger children, especially if they're animal-mad. The owner lives in the main house with three friendly dogs and a tame sheep who thinks he's a dog. There's also a child's pony who will carry picnics, and a black-eared rabbit who loves to go for walks on a lead. Horse riding is available nearby and the coast is a short drive away. A large three-bedroomed cottage for six costs pounds 384 over half-term from Classic Cottages (01326 555555).

Send your family travel questions to S F Robinson, The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL