1. Pompeii, Italy
One of the world’s best-preserved Roman towns, Pompeii is a wonderful place to take your children and show them history first-hand. Let them pour water from Roman fountains, walk in the grooves made by countless chariots passing over the cobbled streets, and jump across the slabs of the world’s oldest pedestrian crossings.
The great thing about Pompeii is that it is so accessible. Nothing is kept behind museum glass. You can touch and feel the history all around you. My children loved hearing stories of the people who would have lived here, and the chariots that would have clattered up and down the streets.
2. The Great Wall of China
There’s so much to see in China, but walking a stretch of the Great Wall has to be top of the list. Our favourite part is at Jinshanling where you can really see the magnitude of this undertaking. Gaze over the watchtowers and see how the wall climbs and dips, snaking away into the countryside beyond.
If you and the kids are feeling particularly adventurous, have a go at sliding down the Great Wall at Mutianyu. This is so much fun (if slightly fast at times!) and the kids will love it.
3. Tower of London, England
To understand the Tower of London is to understand the history of England. From the markings of prisoners on the walls of the cells, to the Crown Jewels and even the tools used to behead one of Henry VIII’s wives, this is a fascinating place to visit and spark a child's imagination.
It’s the Beefeaters (Yeoman Warders) who really bring it all to life for the kids. They know all the stories and secrets and are more than happy to recount them in a way that keeps young minds transfixed. They’ll also happily pose for photos. The photo above was taken outside Traitor’s Gate, just after the Beefeater had the kids imagine what it must have been like to have been rowed through those gates, hearing them clang shut behind you and knowing you might never leave the Tower.
A word of warning: The queue for the Crown Jewels can get long in the middle of the day. Try to come early or late, to avoid the crowds.
4. A dude ranch in Texas, USA
Horse-riding with kids is great fun at the best of times, but riding on a Dude Ranch in Texas takes it to another level. Children get so much more from the experience being able to talk and ride with real cowboys and cowgirls, and discovering their traditions first-hand.
If your kids are a little older, consider doing an overnight camp-out. Rustling up grub on an open fire and sleeping under a blanket of stars is something your kids will never forget.
5. The 'Golden Circle', Iceland
Throw out those science books (temporarily) and learn about volcanoes and geothermal activity by bringing your child to the land of ice and fire. Watch their pure delight as the geysirs in Iceland spout their boiling water high into the air.
Kids will enjoy taking a dip in a thermal pool too. The Blue Lagoon is a favourite with tourists, but take the time to seek out the ones the locals use. Some have slides and are a popular place for families to hang out – a great chance for your kids to make some new Icelandic friends.
6. Borneo, Malaysia
Seeing orang-utans in the wild is a life-affirming experience no matter your age, but visiting one of the wildlife sanctuaries rehabilitating these gentle beasts is important too.
We visited the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary where the kids not only got to see orang-utans up close, but also learn about the way their habitat is being threatened and what can be done to ensure a better future for one of our closest relatives.
7. The world's oldest pizzeria in Naples, Italy
Every kid loves pizza. It is probably the most child-friendly food in the world. It originated in Naples, and visiting one of the world’s oldest pizzerias here - eating pizza fresh from the ‘source’ - is a family excursion everyone will love.
Try the classic Margherita, invented in Naples and made using the colours of the Italian flag: tomato sauce (red), mozzarella (white) and fresh basil (green). I should warn you: Once you’ve tried pizza in Naples, you are spoiled for life. No other pizza will ever taste quite as good.
8. Uluru, Australia
Gazing upon Uluru, particularly as the sun sets and turns it a glowing pink, is a mesmerising sight and one that will fascinate your children. Learning about the unique outback wildlife and flora here is a lot of fun too.
Make sure you take one of the tours led by one of the local aboriginal rangers. They’ll regale your children with the story of the Dreamtime and the legends behind every nook and crevice of the great rock, engendering a new understanding and respect for both nature and aboriginal culture.
9. The Galapágos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapágos Islands are a wildlife lover's delight. It’s a place where the local animals stop and look right back at you rather than scuttle away. You’ll be surprised just how far your kids will be willing to walk just to get close to another iguana, crab, or blue-footed booby. On the beaches, they’ll be picking their way through families of fur seals.
It’s a wonderful lesson for kids: look after the environment and the rewards are immense. If your kids are older, consider touring the islands by boat. Not only will you get to see some of the more remote corners, but a simple snorkel opens up a whole other dimension under the sea.
10. Anne Frank's House, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The horrors of the Holocaust and the Second World War can be a difficult subject to broach with younger children, but it’s an important part of history we must never forget. Learning about Anne Frank and her story is a really good way to start to explain to children some of what happened in this period.
A trip to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is a very moving experience and one that allows kids a chance to realise that her story is very real.
11. A yurt in Mongolia
If your kids enjoy camping in forests and fields, why not try the real thing? Take your family to the vast plains of Mongolia and stay in a real yurt.
It’s an amazing opportunity to get out into the wilderness, meet with Mongolian farmers and their families, and get a glimpse into this nomadic lifestyle. The food is hearty, the welcome warm, and an adventure is always guaranteed.
11 extraordinary places every child should visit before they grow up
1. Pompeii, Italy