Ella, in the heart of Sri Lanka's high hill country, is the perfect base to spend a few days exploring tea plantations, hiking the hills and, with it's cooler, misty climes, is a fabulous escape from Sri Lanka's incessant heat.
Just getting to Ella is definitely a highlight and is a tourist attraction in itself. Catch the long, very slow but marvelously blue train from Kandy. It's rumoured to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world - and it's easy to understand why.
Surrounded by rolling verdant hills, textured by hundreds of tea plantations and lush forest, Ella is firmly on the tourist trail, which means an easy stay for families with a plenitude of good accommodation, excellent food options and a wonderful chilled out vibe.
We loved that most things to do around Ella are free! After shelling out hefty entrance fees for some of Sri Lanka's iconic sites, temples and safaris, Ella will be a welcome relief for your trip budget. We threw that extra into our bed budget indulging ourselves at the fabulous Zion View.
Here's our guide of what not to miss when visiting Ella with kids.
Putsborough Sands regular pulls in a catch of best beach awards, the latest being 'Best Beach in the UK by Trip Advisor in 2015 and 2016'.
This is one of our favourite walks since my youngest could manage it solo from the age of 3 or 4. It manages to squeeze in a bit of everything and is varied enough to grip interest entirely round the circuit - a must for my little one where walking can be tough unless it's disguised as a chase, a treasure trail, or a game. Plus it ends on the beach so they forget the walk was ever there by the time they meet the welcoming waves and the sweet taste of ice cream dissolves on their tongues.
Whilst you might want to park and flop on the beach for the day, this walk is short enough to squeeze into the morning to get the heart pumping whilst walking the dog or a good one when the sky is moody, charcoal with impending rain (we always end up at the beach cafe which is a fab place to shelter from storms).
Whilst the valley of Chamonix can be daunting with it's incredibly steep mountain terrain, there are still plenty of easy family hikes to some incredible view points.
Despite the last minute ditch by Winter to smother the valley white, the Spring sun is hotting up and all of the lower trails are now bright green & snow free. Prime for biking and hiking. The beauty of visiting in May is that it's inter-season. Whilst other ski resorts shut down, Chamonix's no ghost town in inter-season. Yes, the high altitude trails are still inaccessible and yes, the lifts are out of action until mid June, but May is the perfect month to visit to take advantage of rock bottom low season tariffs, share the streets with locals rather than tourists and explore the lower mountain trails.
I'm recovering from my recent knee op, so sadly, the trails are out of bounds for me. Today, I look back at one of the pretty amazing kid friendly trails we took in December up to Europe's longest glacier at Les Bossons. We were ripe then with anticipation for the season ahead and eagerly waiting for the first snow dump. After teaching the girls about glaciers, how they work and why they are retreating, we hiked up to the Les Bossons glacier in Chamonix to see one up close and personal.
LE BOSSON GLACIER HIKE - (LE MONT TO CHALET DU GLACIER DU BOSSON BUVETTE)
LEVEL - MODERATE, STEEP, GOOD TRAIL, UNSUITABLE FOR BUGGIES
TIME - 1 HOUR UP, LESS DOWN (PARK IN HAMLET OF LE MONT)
Glacier des Bossons is the easiest hike up to a glacier from the valley floor in Chamonix. In Summer you can even take a chairlift up to the buvette (snack restaurant) to get to this view.
The sun’s shone endlessly since we arrived in the Chamonix Mont-Blanc valley affording us breathtaking views of magnificent mountain vistas on a daily basis. Whilst December thunders towards Christmas at a rate of knots, Chamonix talk is météo dominated. Long discussions on when the high pressure sat astride Europe might change and when, imperatively, the next snow fall is likely to be, are prevalent. As the resort agitates, I’m seizing the opportunity to squeeze in some family hikes whilst the snow line remains high. Stunning spots, such as Cascade de Bèrard, won’t be accessible again once the snow falls until well into the Summer months. Minutes from the Swiss-French border Cascade de Bèrard is a magical spot and an old favourite of mine. It’s a family friendly, gentle 20 minute hike into the Aiguille Rouge nature reserve, that takes in the charming hamlet of La Poya with spectactular mountain scenery.
Proper kids backpacks are a rarity in this day and age. Surrounded by a vast array of plastic Disney emblazoned options, most kit is cheaply made rubbish which could never endure a long haul trip.
I wanted my girls, who at 3 and 6 were old enough to carry a small backpack on our 9 week trip, to contribute to lugging around our necessities and to get savvy with the cold reality of what every traveller experiences - limited capacity and what to pack. Which toys to take was their decision. They knew the size of their luggage & that they had to carry it - an important lesson for a prospective world traveller.
New Zealand with young children can be tricky if you're eager to do some serious stomping. Most trails are just too hardcore for little ones, and the landscape is often not varied enough - crucial to keep interest and banish boredom. Abel Tasman National Park perched at the northern edge of the South Island, is the smallest of NZ's national parks but brilliant for kids. Not limited to purely hiking the coastal trail, families can mix it up by catching water taxis and kayaking different sections of the 5 day trail. Surrounded by turquoise water, golden sands and verdant rain forest, four remote huts offer simple dorm accommodation. With no electricity, these huts are a real adventure for families who can get back to basics and really connect with nature, whilst having a safe option 'out' via water taxis should it all become too much.
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far