Casa Tomaren, Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Lanzarote is a brilliant destination for young kids, with attractions aplenty and funky towns set into beautiful deserty scenery that will satisfy parents’ lust for the exotic, all within a four-hour flight. It’s easy to drive around exploring otherworldly landscapes, epic beaches, seawater swimming pools, the volcanic Timanfaya national park, César Manrique’s incredible Bond villain homes and his underground caves development Jameos del Agua, with cafe, gardens, pools and auditorium. And there are dozens of easy places to eat – early. One fab place to stay is Casa Tomaren, handily in the centre of the island, consisting of eight villas around a tropical sunken garden with pool and astro turf. The big buffet breakfasts feature cakes, eggs to order and particularly delicious croissants. Its grounds have plenty to interest toddlers – buddha statues, roaming cats and cacti – and massages and yoga are available. The only hitch is the lack of baths, which may cause tears if your tot is a shower-refusenik.
• Studio villa (sleeps 2) from €113 a night, 2-bedroom villa (sleeps 4) €236, tomaren.es. Or try Lanzarote Retreats’ fab eco-friendly, self-catering hideaways on the beach at Arrieta, with a choice of cottages, yurts and villas. Travel cots or foldingbeds and baby/toddler equipment are supplied, there’s a solar-heated pool and kids’ play area, and they can help collect eggs. One week from €700, lanzaroteretreats.com
Ekies All Senses Resort, Chalkidiki, Greece
This could be the perfect retreat for stressed parents who need spoiling. For a start, it’s in lovely Greece, but there’s no need to endure a ferry journey, as it’s on the mainland, with low-cost flights to Thessaloniki, 80 minutes away. With a juice bar beside the (heated) pool, open-air spa, calm beach, treehouses, hammocks, playground, restaurants or meals on demand, and secret coves to explore by boat, it makes for a super-relaxed break.
• Doubles from €88; junior suite (sleeps 4) from €138 a night, family suite €272 (sleeps 6) B&B, open late April-October, i-escape.com
Hotel Les Orangeries, near Poitiers, France
In the heart of Lussac-les-Châteaux, and not far from Poitiers and the Futuroscope theme park, Les Orangeries is a relaxed, country-style hotel that’s great for families. Cots and high chairs are supplied, there’s a lovely swimming pool (with floats and pool toys) and it’s very tolerant at mealtimes – the restaurant is quite chi-chi, but there are often all-generational groups of French families dining. The beautiful gardens offer lots of space for children to run around, hammocks to swing on, a pétanque pitch and a covered area (open at the sides) with vintage French toys and modern rocking horses. Ask for a room at the back so you’re away from the road. The owner will conduct tours of the vast vegetable gardens and she’s lovely with children (letting them pick raspberries to eat, for example).
• Doubles from €85, breakfast extra, suite (sleeps 5) from €165, lesorangeries.fr
Casa Vicentina, Algarve, Portugal
For a back-to-nature feel, family-run Casa Vicentina near Odeceixe beach in the Algarve is perfect. Built with ecological materials, it’s in a protected park area on a natural lake next to the swimming pool and the vast grounds are full of cork and pine groves. The feel is rustic and laid-back: there’s lots of space and a playground with swings and slides. Breakfast is a plentiful buffet – and bikes are supplied free of charge so you can pop to the beach or cafes and restaurants. Accommodation is in brightly decorated rooms or larger suites complete with kitchenette.
• Rooms from €75 B&B, wonderfulland.com
Fairy Chimney Inn, Cappadocia, Turkey
Older kids will love the fairytale landscape of Cappadocia and the excitement of staying in a cave hotel. Carved out of the rock, the Fairy Chimney Inn used to be part of a cave monastery. Its rooms are beautiful and homely, with traditional decor and the odd nod to the modern world (there’s Wi-Fi and underfloor heating). Its owned by Gülcan and Andus, a chef and an anthropologist, so you’re guaranteed good food and great local insight. All rooms have terraces or courtyards overlooking the extraordinary landscape and there’s great horse riding, hot springs and hiking on the doorstep.
• Rooms from €55 B&B, plus €11 per child, fairychimney.com
Otro Mundo, Andalucía, Spain
The futuristic geodomes at Otro Mundo, a campsite in the Andalucía countryside, offer an outdoors experience with a comfy place to curl up at night (with solar-heated showers and proper beds). In the heart of the Sierra del Segura, it’s a great place for kids, with plenty to do – besides the large natural pool there are guided walks to discover cave paintings, photography courses, yoga and movie nights with films projected on to a stone wall. The two domes sit in their own plots with room for extra tents, but there’s a big communal kitchen, too, and group meals.
• Geodome (sleeps 5) from €62 a night through Canopy and Stars, canopyandstars.co.uk
Casa San Gabriel, Umbria, Italy
Casa San Gabriel is a small hilltop farmstead where three self-catering cottages (sleeping between two and six) share a swimming pool, playground and barbecue. There’s added excitement for young guests in the family of alpacas kept on site. Plus points for parents include the short journey from Perugia airport (25 minutes), the view to Assisi (a 30-minute drive away), the chance to sample the house wine and olive oil, and weekly pizza nights. There are several water, wildlife and activity parks nearby, and slightly further afield a Pinocchio theme park.
• A week at Il Fienile cottage (sleeps 4-6) costs from €650, B&B (low season only) from €95, casasangabriel.com
Castel chalets, Lac de Clarens, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Lac de Clarens has forest and cabins on one shore and dazzling white sand dotted with parasols on the other. The 25 simple chalets sleep from two to eight, have a terrace overlooking the lake, TV and Wi-Fi. There’s a floating, inflatable assault course, a climbing and zipwire trail over the water, pedalos for hire and a roped-off area for swimming. There’s also a kiosk selling frites, ice-creams and drinks. Towards the nearby town of Casteljaloux are a casino, golf course and thermal spa.
• Chalets from €260 a week, castel-chalets.com
Palazzo Guglielmo, Puglia, Italy
In the centre of Vigncastrisi, a tiny village 2km inland from the Salento coast, the delights of Palazzo Guglielmo are well hidden from the passer-by, behind an austere facade with a huge double wooden doors. Step over the threshold though and you are transported into an elegant, lush oasis with small pool, winding paths lined with fruit trees and a small outdoor play area. Breakfasts are a highlight – at least three different types of fresh cake as well as more usual fare – and the manager Mauro is very helpful and a mine of information. There are about 10 rooms but the suites are better for families – they’re huge and you can self-cater. Vigncastrisi itself is an authentic slice of southern Italian life that makes little concession to tourism and is all the more interesting for it. At night young and old congregate around the kiosk next to the hotel, where you can sit back with a €3 Aperol spitz while the kids play table football. There’s a great pizza place a few doors down – take away and bring it back to your spot by the kiosk – and several affordable, family restaurants in the village. In summer outdoor events: film screenings, theatre and the Festa dell’Orecchietta (first week of August) where the entire village comes out to enjoy the festivities. The coast here is gorgeous though beaches are mainly rocky, and the white-washed town of Otranto is about a 30-minute drive away.
• Double from £85 per night B&B, suite (sleeps 2-4) from £110 per night B&B with Essential Italy
Hotel Liotopi, Olymbiada, Halkidiki, Greece
In a lovely sandy bay, right beside the promontory where Aristotle was born 2,400 years ago, sits the small town of Olymbiada and the Hotel Liotopi. It’s not one of those places that offers all kinds of child diversions – clubs, toys, pools and so on – simply a charming, laid-back, classic family hotel. Owner Loulou is the grand presence, always appearing from the kitchen at opportune moments bearing a plate of delicious cakes or some local delicacy. Outside, beyond the garden, is the beach. You could sit on the terrace of Liotopi’s sister hotel, the Germany, run by Loulou’s brother Dmitri, and be a few feet from the children playing in the sea. Older kids can go off and explore the woods behind, or the rocky headland where Aristotle’s grave is said to be lost. The home-cooked food, incidentally, is superb.
• Seven nights for two adults and two children (in two rooms) half-board with flights from Gatwick and transfers from Thessaloniki £3,128, with Sunvil