Best for... Exploration
How far? Just a 55-minute flight, Muscat lies on the Arabian sea along the Gulf of Oman.
Why? Natural wonders, sandy beaches, friendly people, plus great resort hotels.
Family fun Explore the mountains, dunes, beaches, wadis and waterfalls. Hire a 4X4 or take an organised tour. Nomadic Adventures & Tours (www.nomadicdesertcamp.com) offers one- and two-day, family-friendly excursions to the Wahiba Sands dunes and the must-vist Wadi Bani Khalid, where you can splash around in the crystal-clear mountain pools. Oman Diving (www.omandiving.com) offers a guided tour of the spectacular Wadi Shab, with its vast rocks, palm trees and emerald-green pools. Visit Sur (150km southeast of Muscat) and take a dhow from the picturesque Ras Al Hadd bay, then check out the turtle reserve at Ras al-Jinz. In Muscat, older kids will love exploring the secret passageways of the twin forts of Al Jalali and Al-Mirani, while young ones will revel in the goat market in Nizwa.
Stay at... Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah This resort has three hotels, with Al Waha the most family-friendly. It offers a Little Turtles kids club, kids’ splash pools and a lazy river, as well as two beaches.
Best for... Culture
How far? A four-hour flight, this port city is located on the northeastern tip of Egypt.
Why? Boasting beaches and history, the Arab Capital of the Year 2010 is a ‘do-it-all’ destination.
Family fun Stroll along the 15km corniche, from where you can access one of the many pristine beaches. Stop at a Med-facing café for the must-try Alexandrian ice-cream. Walk out on Gleem pier and participate in popular local activities like fishing or kite flying. The Bibliotheca is a must-see for older kids. Explore the seven permanent museums or enjoy an IMAX science film in the Planetarium. The Qaitby Fort is also worth a trip, with spectacular views from the rooftop and great exploration within for kids; or discover gold coins relating to Napoleon on a tour of the National Museum. For family-friendly local food, head to The Fish Market, with its sea-facing windows and kitsch marine decor.
Stay at... Four Seasons at San Stefano Combining a resort and city feel, this hotel has a private beach and adjoins an 180-store mall and 10-screen cinema complex. Choose from poolside rooms or beachfront villas.
Best for... Activities
How far? Just under four hours to Larnaca and then a 90-minute drive to Paphos in the island’s southwest corner.
Why? Family-friendly Paphos offers sandy beaches, natural attractions and activities both on the water and in the nearby mountains.
Family fun Good for all ages, the Paphos Bird and Animal Park showcases exotic birds, snakes and other animals, from zebras to turtles, as well as a petting zoo. The big draw though is the Parrot Show (kids will love the basketball-playing parrot). Another one for all ages is Aphrodite Waterpark. Set in lush gardens, this sea-fronted waterpark has 10 white-knuckle waterslides, a lazy river, wave pool and one of the biggest family rafting rides in Europe, as well as a young kids’ pool/slide area. For mini explorers, The Tombs of the Kings – ancient underground tunnels and chambers – is great fun, while avid adventurers will enjoy a trip to Paphos Forest or the Troodos Mountains, an hour northeast. Here, you can hike, explore or take a Jeep Safari. For beach babies, there’s three EU blue-flagged (for cleanliness) beaches, including the quiet Faros Beach and the popular Coral Bay.
Stay at... Coral Beach Hotel & Resort Boasting a secluded 1km beach and bordering the Akamas National Park, this resort offers a kids’ pool, kids’ club and family studios with sea views.
Best for... All the family
How far? Just over three hours from Dubai, Lebanon’s capital is on the Mediterranean coast.
Why? Decent waterparks, mountain adventures and beaches will keep the kids happy.
Family fun The Corniche is a popular promenade spot and great for families – eat at the Lighthouse café literally down on the rocks of the seafront. Older ones will enjoy exploring the rugged rocks and caves found at the natural offshore rock arches of Pigeon Rocks, while young ‘uns will love the sparkling, squealing attractions of Lunapark Amusement Park, whose Ferris wheel is a perennial favourite. There are lots of great waterparks in the city. Splash Mountain, with its nine large slides (five for young kids) is ideal for tots, while Rio Lento – eight speedy slides, wave pool, paintball centre and wall climbing – is teen heaven. For some greener entertainment, hire bikes and enjoy a family cycle at Sanayeh Public Garden, or take a hike through the pine forests of Horsh Beirut. Little ones will love Yuppie Park: a large sand-filled playground, it offers wooden climbing frames, mazes and a spider climbing wall. A mountain excursion is a must in Beirut. Take a guided mountain trail with the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association or go rafting on the Assi River with experienced rafters (Sport Nature 03 678398).
Stay at... The Movenpick Hotel & Resort Beirut This ticks all the baby boxes, with a central, seafront location, kids’ pools, club and watersports. It also has one of Beirut’s prettiest beaches.
Best for... Beaches
How far? A four-hour flight away, the northern Indian sea port of Kochi sits at the end of a peninsula with a 48km coastline.
Why? Amazing beaches, stunning scenery and nature expeditions make this jungle outback a firm family favourite.
Family fun The beaches are beautiful: Fort Cochin is one of the area’s most popular and pristine, while Cherai beach is great for dolphin spotting. Head down to Marine Drive, a promenade where you can stroll, shop, dine and watch a traditional puppet show. One of the most fun ways to see Kochi is by bullock cart ride – kids even get the chance to steer. There are lots of lakes and waterfalls near the mountains where you can swim and eat lunch at picnic tables. A family day out should include the Periyar Wildllife Sanctuary in nearby Thakkaddy, where you can take an elephant safari through the jungle and a cruise in a traditional rice boat. In the evening, older kids will love the star-gazing session at the Kochi Planetarium, where they’ll learn about the strong local traditions of astronomy.
Stay at... Kumarakom Lake Resort Set in stunning gardens, with beautiful views across the lake, this resort is baby- and tot-friendly. Opt for one of the villas that lie around the meandering pool. There’s a child-friendly pool and the resort provides cots and ramps everywhere – great for pushchairs.