Tripbeat’s best winter sun destination combines unforgettable family experiences and great holiday offers. If you’re surprised it’s Africa, don’t be. It takes less than four hours to fly to Marrakesh. And when you really want unforgettable, South Africa’s Cape Town is a jet-lag free flight for kids and no other winter sun destination comes close.
Marrakesh: Africa’s easiest winter sun destination
One of the easiest winter sun destinations for family holidays this year is deeply fascinating Marrakesh. With direct flights from the UK you can be in the ancient Moroccan city in as little as three hours, 30 minutes. And as daytime temperatures of 20° in December are about average, it’s warm and sunny but definitely not too hot for exploring with kids.
This is the city for ticking ‘unforgettable experiences’ boxes by the dozen. Start with the street food stalls of Djemaa el-Fna in the early evening. This vast square at the edge of the Medina has been at the heart of Marrakesh for centuries and its intangible culture now has World Heritage status. If you want a hint of what that means keep an ear open for the traditional Berber storytellers.
What to do and see with kids in Marrakesh
- Don’t miss the after dark liveliness of Djemmaa el-Fna.
- Wander round the ancient Medina for atmosphere and souks.
- Teens will love Yves Saint-Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle.
- Hiking in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains is fun for older kids.
- Try a guided camel tour of Palmeraie oasis outside Marrakesh.
The atmospheric Medina itself is where to find the most historic souks and some of the city’s oldest buildings. You have to take older kids to see Jardin Majorelle, the legendary house and garden restored by Yves Saint-Laurent. And no matter where you are in the city, you can’t miss the Koutoubia Mosque with its snowy Atlas Mountain backdrop, but make a point of getting as close as possible to really appreciate its intricacy: the carving techniques perfected here in the 12th century were later used in Granada’s spectacular Alhambra.
Slightly milder winter weather is great for outdoor adventures too. And again, from camel tours of Palmeraie oasis to hiking in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, they all fall easily into the unforgettable category.
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Cape Town: sunny South Africa and no jet lag for kids
Direct UK flights to Cape Town take from just over 11 hours year round. Which does make this winter sun destination an adventure in travel terms. However, unlike a lot of longer haul places to visit with kids in December, the oldest city in South Africa is jet lag free. So the minute you arrive you can start having fun, and fun is something Cape Town does very well.
Since iconic Table Mountain lords it over Cape Town, you’ll want to take a closer look. Hop aboard the cable car to the top and prepare for astonishing views of the city, coast and spectacular Western Cape drama. Down on the ground, one of your first stops should be the V & A Waterfront, not least of all for the incredible Two Oceans Aquarium. Join a walking tour of the historic area, don’t miss the OZCF food market and drop in on the Museum of Contemporary African Art too.
What to see and do with kids in Cape Town
- Take the cable car to the summit of Table Mountain, go for a hike or just enjoy the views.
- Visit Two Oceans Aquarium – it’s even open on Christmas Day.
- Spend an afternoon at the Museum of Contemporary African Art.
- Catch free concerts at the V & A Waterfront.
- Take kids surfing or paddleboarding on Muizenberg Beach.
- Tour the Castle of Good Hope – the oldest colonial building in South Africa.
Then sail for Robben Island with older kids to discover the history of the infamous prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years. And don’t forget to make the most of the winter sun on the city’s amazing Atlantic beaches. You can look forward to average December temperatures of 27° in Cape Town.
Since you’re here in South African summer time, a trip to Boulders Beach is another must do. World famous for a thriving colony of noisy African Penguins, it’s in Simon’s Town, just 40 minutes drive south of Cape Town. And if you drive a little further south, you’ll arrive at the Cape of Good Hope. The tip of the Cape Peninsula, where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet, has some great walks and it’s always a winter travel trend, so make sure your phone’s charged.
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The Garden Route: a great road trip of the world your kids will love
Stretching for almost 300km along South Africa’s south west coast, the Garden Route is one of the world’s greatest – and easiest – family road trips. Self drive the route from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay and you can drop off your hire car and catch the short flight back to Cape Town.
Not only do you get sensational sea views almost all the way, parents can also look forward to excellent wine tours on-route. Ostrich farms and Cango Caves in Klein Karoo are kid magnets. Tsitsikamma National Park is the place for forest canopy tours. Teens can try kayaking on Storms River and there’s dolphin and whale watching for everyone in Plettenberg Bay.
If you want to extend the journey a little, drive from Plettenberg Bay to Port Elizabeth and visit Addo National Park: home to the Big Five as well as one of the most famous elephant reserves in the world.
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