With the date of a certain British wedding creeping closer, we take a look at three other monarchy-ruled travel hotspots, and the regal attractions and five-star hotels they have to offer
Words Katy Gillett
Come May 19, it’s all about the wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle in the UK. TVs across the world will be tuning in to watch the much-talked-about nuptials, as our capital teems with travellers looking to get in on the celebrations. And while the UK’s royal family is one of the most famous in the world, did you know there are more than 25 other monarchies to speak of? It’s an elite network of kings, queens, sultans, emperors and emirs ruling or reigning over a total of 43 countries. And these three regal nations, in particular, offer a family-friendly holiday of a lifetime, with myriad top-notch tourist attractions and hotels fit for royalty.
Best known for Petra, the Dead Sea and for being a safe haven in a region of conflict, Jordan – which is ruled by King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, and the glamorous mum-of-four, Queen Rania of Jordan – is often overlooked as a must-visit travel destination. But it shouldn’t be. The childhood home of Kate Middleton has a lot to offer families, from historical and cultural icons to thrilling adventures and incredible nature reserves. Hot-air ballooning, diving and trekking; Dead Sea spa rituals, detox treatments and anti-cellulite mud wraps; age-old Roman forts, religious buildings and ruins. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a historian, a nature-lover and a leisure-seeker in the family – there’s something to suit everyone here.
See: For families with kids who can handle long car journeys, a trip along one of the Middle East’s most ancient roads, the King’s Highway, is a must. You can wind your way through some incredible scenery, on your way to Wadi Musa, the nearest town to the legendary archaeological Rose-Red City of Petra. The route edges across the Great Rift Valley, taking you through farmland plateaus, forested highlands, the edge of the Eastern Desert and the Gulf of Aqaba. Along the way, there are plenty of pit stops you can make, allowing you to discover secrets of ancient civilisations.
Stay: Located on King Hussein Street is the fabulous Kempinski Hotel Aqaba Red Sea. It’s a four-hour drive or quick plane ride from Jordan’s capital, Amman (then the hotel is just ten minutes from the airport), but its stunning sea and mountain views, array of watery activities, eight food and beverage outlets, spa, and kids’ club are a few reasons why it’s worth going out of your way for.
Extravagance and luxury are built in to the DNA of the world’s second-most smallest sovereign state (after Vatican City). Albert II is the reigning monarch and head of the princely house of Grimaldi (the family that has reigned the principality for more than 700 years). He’s the son of Prince Rainier III and American actress Grace Kelly (so, Hollywood royalty). You might scoff at such ostentation, but Monaco is a beautiful place, steeped in history, and actually a great travel spot for families, too. Attractions such as the Oceanographic Museum (oceano.org) are perfect for little ones, with its Turtle Island (where tortoises and turtles congregate), touch tanks and play area. There are plenty of high-end shopping opportunities, historical jaunts and family-friendly bus tours on offer too.
See: For a true taste of how the Grimaldis roll, take a trip to The Prince’s Palace (palais.mc), where The State Apartments are open to the public. It dates back to 1215 and over the centuries has been transformed into one of the most excessive and luxurious residences you’ll ever see (Louis XIV style). Get there at 11.55am (sharp) and you’ll also get to witness the traditional ritual of the Changing of the Guard (or the Carabiniers du Prince). The Palace is nestled within Monaco-Ville, and you’ll find the Jardin St Martin, Monaco’s cathedral and the tombs of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace nearby.
Stay: The Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo’s décor and design epitomises Monaco’s lavishness. It’s child-friendly, has four gastronomic destinations, and a sophisticated House of Givenchy spa. That’s our kind of place.
The nation that pioneered the concept of Gross National Happiness is surely a pretty jolly place to visit. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth “Dragon King”, is head of state and also been hailed as the “People’s King”. In terms of jaw-dropping, mountainous, foliage-strewn landscapes, Bhutan has a lot to offer. It’s all about deep-rooted traditions, adventure, spirituality and nature here. There are also colourful cultural festivals going on throughout the year. Most of all, it’s a fantastic place to open the kids’ eyes to a culture very different to their own. Just note: you’ll need visas prior to travelling here.
See: Kyichu Lhakhang is believed to be one of the oldest (and most beautiful) temples in Bhutan, located in the Paro district, in the west. The story goes that King Songsten Gampo of Tibet built it in 659 in a bid to stop a “giant ogress” from preventing the spread of Buddhism. He is said to have created 108 temples, each placed on a different part of the ogress’s body (Kyichu Lhakhang is on her left foot, we hear).
Stay: The Como Uma Paro boasts nine gorgeous villas and 20 rooms that feature traditional Balinese craftsmanship fused with stylish, contemporary design. The two-bedroom Como Villa, in particular, has an alfresco hot stone bathtub and an open-air courtyard with a fire pit.
Back on our own royal turf, the Rocco Forte Hotels, alongside Queen Elizabeth II’s second cousin, Simon Rhodes, has launched The Grand Royal Experience at Mayfair’s Brown’s Hotel and Edinburgh’s The Balmoral, from 31st May to 7th June. The truly royal affair – for groups (up to six) or individuals – offers guests exclusive access to palaces and private estates in England and Scotland. It all includes a five-night stay at Brown’s Hotel in a Classic Suite, followed by a two-night stay at The Balmoral in a Castle View Suite, all with breakfast. During this time, you’ll visit St James’ Palace, Buckingham Palace, Sandringham Estate, Windsor Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and Glamis Castle. For food, there will be lunches at Berry Bros & Rudd, York Cottage Dining Room and Chartwell, plus dinners at Brown’s Hotel, The Balmoral and Archers’ Hall.
All transportation is covered – and that includes the train ride between hotels and a private helicopter to Sandringham Estate from London.
A package fit for blue blood indeed.
Prices start from £40,000 per person;