Escape the heat and get out of the country for the weekend
Are you feeling sweaty while reading this? Does it feel as though you’ve stepped into a sauna – fully clothed – when you get into your car? Do you get flustered and more impatient than ever now it’s ludicrously hot? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably need a holiday.
Experts predict that summer temperatures in our city will reach an average of 45°C this year, and the thought of that makes us want to sit in a bath full of ice. But luckily you don’t have to take such drastic measures. We’ve searched dozens of websites and spoken to hundreds of travel agents to find interesting, easy-to-reach getaway destinations that, most importantly, have cooler temperatures than our beloved UAE. To prove it, we’ve included the lowest average temperatures possible during July for each place.
Of course, we can’t predict the weather, but if all goes to plan you could be surrounded by lush green hills, cool lakes and snow-capped peaks by next weekend. So instead of getting hot and bothered this summer, get booking!
Mount Ararat, Turkey 10°C Flight time: Five hours 35 minutes
Currency: Dhs1 = 0.44 Turkish lira
What to see: The highest mountain in Turkey scales a giddy 5,165 metres, but if you’re thinking about hiking it you need to be an expert in mountaineering – the acclimatisation is harsh and climbs are steep and fast. However, it’s possible to do a slower ascent by truck over a couple of days and stop and camp 2,100 metres up in the village of Eli.
Insider tip: Visit the Ottoman-style Ishak Pasa Palace, referred to as the ‘Taj Mahal’ of Turkey. It spans more than 7,600 sq m and sits 5km east of east of Dog˘ubeyazıt at the base of the mountain on the silk route, near the Iranian border.
How to get there: Fly direct to Istanbul with Emirates from Dhs2,744 return. www.emirates.com
Moscow, Russia 14°C Flight time: Five hours 25 minutes
Currency: Dhs1 = 8 Russian rubles
What to see: A visit to Russia’s capital is not complete without a trip to St Basil’s Cathedral, with its impressive coloured domes and patterned walls that stand out against the Soviet design around it. Red Square is also a must-see historic spot, which began as a slum in the 1400s and decades later became a site for public executions. In the 20th century it was known for military processions and today is a huge tourist attraction.
Insider tip: Stroll around the cultural area of Tverskaya Street, full of boutique shops, cafés, restaurants, coffee houses and theatres.
How to get there: Fly direct to Moscow with Aeroflot from Dhs2,244 return. www.aeroflot.ru
What to see: The area is famed for its stunning mountain ranges, breathtaking mountain passes and an abundance of nature. There’s the potential to catch a glimpse of a snow leopard or one of the rare falcons that inhabit the region.
Insider tip: Take a trip to Satpara Lake in Skardu Valley. As well as supplying water to the local village, the lake is rumoured to house a gold mine in its depths. But remember to check with your embassy for travel advice before your trip if you’re travelling to Afghanistan.
How to get there: Fly direct to Kandahar with Ariana from Dhs1,953. www.flyariana.com
Almaty, Kazakhstan 18°C Flight time: Four hours
Currency: Dhs1= 40 Kazakhstani tenge
What to see: There are incredible snow-capped mountains in the distance to the south of the city, not to mention an abundance of cultural sites in the city centre. Don’t miss the Soviet-style Kazakhstan English Language Theatre or the Presidential Palace (look out for the guards – if they’re on duty it means the palace is occupied). Take a dip in Big Almaty Lake, with intimidating looming mountains circling it – cycling around the area will make you feel as though you’re in Canada or Tibet.
Insider tip: Head to the Zelyony Bazaar, which sells fresh fruit and vegetables and home accessories: it’s a great insight into local life. Then go for a tour at the nearby Rahat chocolate factory and have your very own Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adventure.
How to get there: Fly direct from Abu Dhabi to Almaty with Air Astana from Dhs2,020 return. www.airastana.com
Himalayas, Nepal 20°C Flight time: Three hours
Currency: Dhs1 = 19.5 Nepalese rupees
What to see: From Kathmandu, head for the most popular trekking spot – the Everest region (Khumbu). Here you’ll find plenty of opportunity to go camping in cooler climes, as well as enjoy the famous Sherpa hospitality. Keep your eyes peeled to spot hidden temples and monasteries set into the picturesque landscape along the way.
Insider tip: Break up your trek with an adrenaline-boosting white-water-rafting trip. Contact www.aryataraadventure.com for more details.
How to get there: Fly direct to Kathmandu with Fly Dubai from Dhs1,300 return. www.flydubai.com
What to see: The Alborz mountains boast the highest peak in the Middle East, so will keep even the most seasoned trekker content. As well as the hiking opportunities, Alborz has a number of first-class ski resorts for people who crave that extra thrill you just can’t quite experience in Ski Dubai.
Insider tip: Trek east of Dena Mountain to find sparkling waterfalls, breathtaking scenery and a 4,190-metre summit – the higher you go, the cooler it gets. See www.irantravelingcentre.com for more on mountain tours. Just remember that women should dress modestly at all times.
How to get there: Fly direct to Tehran with Emirates from Dhs2,725. www.emirates.com
Anti-Lebanon mountains, Lebanon 27°C Flight time: Three hours 20 minutes
Currency: Dhs1 = 410 Lebanese pounds
What to see: Also known as the Eastern Lebanon mountain range, this is a popular area for skiing during the winter. Some areas of the resort can be booked for a mountain weekend getaway, so its visitors can go hiking or simply take in the cooler climate for this time of year. Try the Cedars resort for Lebanon’s highest mountain range and a dramatic natural experience. The ski area stands at an altitude of 2,066 metres above the stunning Beqaa valley, and even during low season there are enjoyable hikes as high as 3,088 metres on Mount Qornet es-Sawda. Not only does it cool down up here, but there’s the chance to see porcupine quills along the way.
Insider tip: Stay at The Cedars resort (+961 923 1611) for mesmerising hikes in the Kadisha Gorge, where you can see temple caves built into the rock face.
How to get there: Fly direct to Beirut with Middle Eastern Airlines from Dhs1,616 return. www.mea.com
Salalah, Oman 27°C Flight time: Three hours
Currency: Dhs1 = 0.1 Omani rial
What to see: The second largest city in Oman is known for being ‘the perfume capital of Arabia’ due to the abundance of frankincense trees in the mountains. A few degrees cooler than neighbouring Saudi Arabia or Yemen, it’s a great place to escape the desert heat and enjoy a more humid climate. In the neighbouring hills there’s the chance to see leopards, hyenas and coconut trees – all very unusual for this region.
Insider tip: Dip your toes in the nearby Darbat waterfalls, which boast turquoise freshwater pools and trees that provide shade from the hot midday sun.
How to get there: Fly to Salalah via Seeb with Oman Air from Dhs2,170 return. www.omanair.com
Amman, Jordan 28°C Flight time: Three hours
Currency: Dhs1 = 0.19 Jordanian dinar
What to see: Though only marginally cooler than Dubai during the summer, the Jordanian weather is more bearable and less humid, enabling you to walk around and enjoy outdoor sights. Head here for a bucketload of history and an injection of traditional Middle Eastern culture. The locals are hugely hospitable and many say ‘welcome to Jordan’ as you walk past. Make sure to indulge in delicious foods and freshly made bread from street vendors in the old part of town. Must-see sights include the Roman amphitheatre and the Ummayad Palace, which has an incredible view over the city.
Insider tip: Visit Rainbow Street, where you’ll find a bubbling art scene and café culture that comes alive at night, with shisha smokers and a packed square full of people singing and playing guitar.
How to get there: Fly direct to Amman with Fly Dubai from Dhs1,236 return. www.flydubai.com
Knuckles mountain range, Sri Lanka 29°C Flight time: Four hours
Currency: Dhs1 = 29 Sri Lankan rupees
What to see: This area is a major eco-tourism site and scenic wonderland: it’s home to indigenous communities that are more than 2,500 years old, living in villages such as Galamuduna and Kaikawala. It’s a great place for camping amid the lush forest and wildlife. Try the base camp at Knuckles Range, which offers hang gliding, rock climbing, caving, potholing and mountain biking. See www.knucklesrange.com for info.
Insider tip: Try the Ash cave trail and the Pitawala Pathana trail, where you’ll pass snaking footpaths heading past tea plantations, local farmers and fascinating indigenous villages.
How to get there: Fly direct to Colombo with Sri Lankan Airlines from Dhs2,134 return. www.srilankan.lk
Hajar Mountains, UAE 30°C Flight time: No need to fly – it’s less than an hour by road
What to see: Shave two degrees off Dubai’s lowest temperatures by hiking up one of the UAE’s peaks while marvelling at the natural distinctive rock formations and canyons en-route. Then travel by air-conditioned 4x4 to Hatta Village and visit the striking old fort heritage site.
Insider tip: Take plenty of water and a camera (for the impressive view at the summit).
How to get there: Book a tour with Arabia Horizons. Trips leave daily at 8am and cost from Dhs400 per person. www.arabiahorizons.com
Ras Al Khaimah, UAE 32°C Flight time: No need to fly – RAK is a 45-minute drive
What to see: Outside it’s as hot as Dubai, but take a trip to Iceland Water Park to help you cool down. The park’s slogan is ‘Freeze the Desert’, and once inside you can play aqua football, slide down 27 water flumes, see the Penguin Falls, meander down Snow River with its melting glaciers and tidal waterfalls, or experience the Arctic wave pool. We admit it’s more of a placebo effect than actual science cooling you down, but if it works…
Insider tip: Go later in the day (any time after 5pm), when temperatures are much cooler. The park stays open until 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
How to get there: Drive along the E311 from Dubai, take the second exit at Emirates Road towards Al Jazeera, Al Hamra/ Sharjah, then continue for 5km. Iceland Water Park will be on your right: entry is Dhs150 per person. www.icelandwaterpark.com
Go for a longer weekend Three destinations for those who don’t mind travelling overnight
Geneva, Switzerland 17°C Flight time: Seven hours
Currency: Dhs1 = 0.18 euros
What to see: Home of the famous Alps, this area is a haven for mountaineering and white-water rafting, golf and watersports on the impressive Lake Geneva. The small towns dotted around the area offer distinctive Swiss culture, delicious food and fresh air. The best way to see the region is definitely by car – book one at the airport before your trip and go mountain driving for the weekend. See www.europcar.com for more info.
Insider tip: Visit the quaint fishing town of Bougy-Villars just outside Geneva, where you can sample delicious Swiss chocolate in the cosy Chocolaterie Tristan café.
How to get there: Fly direct to Geneva with Emirates from Dhs5,906 return. www.emirates.com
The Western Ghats, India 27°C Flight time: Five hours
Currency: Dhs1= 13 Indian rupees
What to see: These verdant mountains along India’s eastern coast offer much-needed solace from Dubai’s scorching months if you scale their towering peaks – the Western Ghats offer the highest peaks and therefore the coolest temperatures. Book a hiking tour and visit Srinagar, home to the Mughal gardens, lakes and temples set against the mountainous backdrop.
Insider tip: We recommend a trip to Palakkad to see the grand Palakkad Fort, built in 1766.
How to get there: Fly direct to Thiruvananthapuram with Emirates from Dhs2,149 return. www.emirates.com
Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh 31°C Flight time: Seven hours
Currency: Dhs1= 21 Bangladeshi taka
What to see: This lush green mountain range has a number of fascinating points of interest. Head to the quieter area of Rangamati for a mixture of 50 per cent tribal to non-tribal residents, who you’ll see making local crafts and farming. Visit sights such as the Chakma King’s residence with its Buddhist shrines, and the creaky hanging bridge over the local lake.
Insider tip: Visit the red-light district in Chittagong for an insight into the city’s underbelly. It’s known as the Bangladeshi version of Bangkok.
How to get there: Fly to Chittagong via Seeb in Oman with Oman Air from Dhs4,011 return. www.omanair.com
More local summer deals Stay at the Pullman With direct access to Mall of the Emirates and Ski Dubai, you can hit the shops and the slope without leaving the comfort of the air conditioning. The hotel’s summer family package includes an overnight stay in a suite, breakfast for two adults and two children, plus free ice cream for the kids from Dhs980 per night. The offer is valid until July 31. www.pullmanhotels.com
Go diving Escape the heat by plunging beneath the sea’s surface for cooler temperatures (24-30°C) along the Musandam Peninsula, only two hours from Dubai. Sheesa Beech Dive Centre has packages from Dhs300 for two dives, and can also offer accommodation in a nearby campsite if you want to stay overnight and dive again the next day. www.sheesabeach.com
Waterpark retreat Stay at Jumeirah’s resorts in the Madinat complex and cool off for free inside the fancy air-conditioned hotels and the adjacent Wild Wadi waterpark. The summer promotion includes 30 per cent off the best rates at Al Qasr or Mina A’ Salam, including breakfast and beach access. From Dhs655 per room per night. www.jumeirah.com