Adventure, luxury and culture in the UAE and beyond
This year, Eid al-Adha is likely to fall around Thursday October 25, meaning the majority of us are in for a long weekend thanks to the public holiday. But while mooching around the pool for three days is all well and good, Time Out implores you to take advantage of the plentiful travel destinations in close proximity to Dubai. We’ve picked 24 destinations – the nearest just a short drive away, the furthest no more than five and a half hours by plane – and categorised them by the type of activities, sights and attractions you can expect to find there.
We’ve kept our eyes peeled for special Eid deals, and have given you an idea of how much your return flight will cost, listing the cheapest return flight options we could find during the Eid weekend (provisionally October 25-28), at time of going to press. Last but not least, we’ve recommended a place where you can rest your head – from budget to mid-range to high-end options. Now all you need to do is book, pack and get out of town.
Adventure holidays Kitesurfing in Cyprus Travel time Three hours 40 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs2,600 return (www.emirates.com). Why go? There’s now a designated kitesurfing beach in Larnaka, at Softades near Kiti, the first and only registered kitesurfing club in Cyprus. The beach (also called ‘The Spot’) is open to everyone, including absolute beginners, and also features a kitesurfing school (www.kitemed.com) that runs specialised courses. Where to stay Eleonora Hotel Apartments. Doubles from Dhs249 per night. www.eleonorahotelapts.com.
Rock climbing and hiking in Georgia Travel time Three hours 20 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs1,200 return (www.flydubai.com). Why go? Head out to Turtle Lake, located in the hilly outskirts of Tbilisi, which offers stunning views of the mountains and the city below. Otherwise, catch a bus to the village of Katskhi, in the western Georgian region of Imereti, and visit the Katskhi Pillar, aka Pillar of Life – a 40-metre monolith with a monastery perched on the top. Today visitors ascend via a ladder, though it’s uncertain how the monks and their building materials made the climb. Where to stay Tbilisi Marriott Hotel. Doubles from Dhs789 per night. www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/tbsmc-tbilisi-marriott-hotel.
White-water rafting in Nepal Travel time Four hours 15 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs2,000 return (www.flydubai.com).
Why go? A good Himalayan trek takes at least four days, so if you’re pushed for time, head instead for the Trishuli River, 82km from Kathmandu. October is a good time to visit Nepal because it’s the start of tourist season. Aptly named Mountain River Rafting offer packages to Trishuli and beyond.
City breaks Amusement parks and amuse-bouche in Abu Dhabi Travel time One hour by car.
Why go? If you haven’t been to Ferrari World yet, get there early and enjoy Formula Rossa, the fastest rollercoaster in the world, which reaches speeds of up to 240kph. There are also plenty of other rides and fancy car-related attractions that should appeal to petrol-heads and their kids; adult day tickets for the park start at Dhs225 (www.ferrari worldabudhabi.com). To further whet your appetite (literally), the St Regis Saadiyat Island hotel is offering a special brunch-and-stay deal.
Where to stay St Regis Saadiyat Island. Dhs1,850 per couple per night (includes bubbly brunch and accommodation). www.stregissaadiyatisland.com (02 498 8888).
Have a ball in Bucharest, Romania Travel time Five hours ten minutes. Flights from approx Dhs2,140 return (www.flydubai.com).
Why go? The Romanian capital offers an abundance of cultural and entertainment pastimes – peruse Victory Avenue or see the famous National Radio Orchestra of Romania perform in the Romanian Athenaeum. Alternatively, visit the Caru cu Bere, the city’s oldest hop-based beverage hall. Where to stay Hotel Opera. Doubles from Dhs339 per night. www.thhotels.ro/hotel-opera.
Designer stores and dining in Doha, Qatar Travel time One hour 15 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs800 return (www.qatarairways.com).
Why go? This up-and-coming city is great for Dubaians wanting the same level of luxury as their own city, but set in different environs. It offers swish boutiques, a couple of great restaurants (Gordon Ramsay at St Regis Doha and Japanese hotspot Neo’s), and plenty of high-end hotels. Where to stay W Doha is offering an ongoing deal featuring a two-night stay with Friday brunch, Saturday breakfast and lunch and late check-out. Dhs2,925 for two nights, double occupancy. www.whoteldoha.com (+974 4453 5000).
Cultural getaways A dose of culture in Sharjah Travel time 45 minutes by car.
Why go? Sharjah boasts an impressive collection of more than 20 museums, and a bustling underground arts scene. Better still, nearly all the attractions are within easy walking distance, spread around the lively Corniche area. Start at Sharjah Art Museum (www.sharjahmuseums.ae), before taking a wander around the smaller independent gallery spaces in the neighbouring Arts Area.
Roman ruins and marvellous mosques in Amman, Jordan Travel time Three hours 35 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs2,300 return (www.flydubai.com). Why go? See a stadium with a difference – the Roman amphitheatre and forum were built into the mountainside (around AD 138) during the Emperor Antoninus Pius’s rein. As well as the city’s fine Roman ruins, tourists can also visit the enormous King Abdullah I Mosque, capped with a blue mosaic dome, or the unique Abu Darweesh Mosque, which sits atop Jabal Ashrafieh (the city’s highest point).
Street markets and colonial architecture in Alexandria, Egypt Travel time Three hours 55 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs2,200 return (www.flydubai.com).
Why go? As you’ll guess from its name, Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great (in 331 BC). Visit the Graeco-Roman Museum (www.globalegyptianmuseum.org) to find out more about its classical past, or simply enjoy the city’s colonial architecture by wandering about. The bustling streets of the Turkish Quarter (Anfushi and Ras el-Tin districts) are also a must.
Where to stay Sofitel Cecil Alexandria. Doubles start at Dhs697 per night. www.sofitel.com.
Desert trips Learn falconry in Liwa Travel time Three hours by car. Why go? Explore the impressive red dunes of the UAE’s vast Empty Quarter on camelback, take a desert walk on foot or try your hand at falconry. It’s all on the outskirts of a peaceful, quiet five-star resort, so you needn’t sacrifice any home comforts, and can enjoy dinner and drinks overlooking the sprawling natural landscape as the sun sets.
Real Bedouin experiences in Ras Al Khaimah Travel time One hour 30 minutes by car.
Why go? Stay in a traditional Bedouin camp and enjoy dishes cooked the old-fashioned way at an enormous dinner. Sit around a camp fire and enjoy the scent of shisha or do some stargazing, before rising early to head out on a camel trek. Where to stay Bedouin Oasis Camp. From Dhs340 per person per night, including dinner and buffet breakfast. www.arabianincentive.com (04 266 6020).
Wander around Wadi Rum Travel time Three hours 35 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs2,300 return (www.flydubai.com).
Why go? Known as ‘the valley of the moon’, this is the largest wadi in Jordan. Wadi Rum is popular with climbers and trekkers, and has been inhabited by different civilisations since prehistoric times. Expect to see temple ruins, incredible natural sandstone and rock formations, and ancient Thamudic inscriptions. Where to stay Captain’s Desert Camp. Rooms from Dhs257 per night. www.captains-jo.com (+962 3 206 0711).
Diving trips Bob about off Bogmalo Beach in Goa, India Travel time Four hours. Flights from approx Dhs2,300 return to Thiruvananthapuram (www.emirates.com).
Why go? Known for its backwaters, beaches and exquisite food, Goa also offers good diving – especially for beginners. Goa Diving, based at Bogmalo Beach, offers Padi open-water courses for Dhs1,235. The beach is also home to plenty of restaurants and cheap accommodation (though Goa Diving offers rooms as well).
Diving in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt Travel time Approximately five hours (via Cairo). Flights from approx Dhs2,400 return (www.emirates.com). Why go? The coastal city Sharm El Sheikh has made the Red Sea one of the prime destinations for diving, thanks to the clear blue waters and abundance of marine life off the Sinai Peninsula. Out of the water, you can enjoy golden sands and bustling nightlife. Oonas Dive Club offers Padi open-water courses for around Dhs1,275 (get a discount by booking online at www.oonasdiveclub.com).
Taking a dip off a dhow in Musandam, Oman Travel time Three hours by car.
Why go? It’s an oldie, but a goodie: diving in nearby Oman is an affordable and rewarding experience for beginners and experienced divers alike. What’s more, now the weather’s cooling, it’s one of the best places to spot whale sharks (especially near Lima Rock). Al Boom Diving offers ‘Discover Scuba’ courses (with two dives) for Dhs750. Where to stay Al Boom’s package includes diving, a dhow trip and a night at the Golden Tulip in Dibba for Dhs1,200 per person. www.alboomdiving.com.
Luxury jaunts Bask in beachside beauty in Baros, the Maldives Travel time Four hours ten minutes. Flights from approx Dhs4,200 return (www.emirates.com).
Why go? Head here for serene sands, azure waters and luxury accommodation. There are beach getaways – and then there are trips to the Maldives. Granted, holidaying here isn’t the cheapest, but luckily some hotels are offering special Eid discounts for GCC residents. Where to stay Baros Maldives. From Dhs2,736 per villa per night: book four or more nights and get a free upgrade to half board or full board, plus airport transfers and daily snorkelling. Valid until Thursday November 15. www.baros.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Explore the Aegean islands, Greece Travel time Four hours 55 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs3,800 return to Athens (www.emirates.com).
Why go? The Aegean islands, a short ferry ride from Athens, offer a breathtaking escape – think whitewashed seaside towns, infinity pools and azure Mediterranean waters. Where to stay Grace Mykonos. Doubles from Dhs1,154 per night. www.mykonosgrace.com.
Good times in Muscat Travel time One hour five minutes. Flights from approx Dhs500 return (www.omanair.com). Why go? Whether it’s perusing souks in the Old Town, watching dolphins frolic off the coast or simply kicking back in one of the city’s top hotels, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in Muscat.
Where to stay Intercontinental Muscat. Doubles from Dhs659 per night (upgrade to a sea view for an extra Dhs191 per night). www.ichotelsgroup.com (+968 2 468 0000).
Family escapes Animal attractions, markets and gardens in Istanbul, Turkey Travel time Four hours 45 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs1,800 return (www.flydubai.com).
Why go? Aside from its nightlife and historical interest, the Turkish capital is also great for families. Just outside the city is the privately owned Bosphorus Zoo (www.farukyalcinzoo.com), which is worth the trip for its wide range of exotic birds and animals, gardens and kids’ playground. The city itself – buzzing and beautiful – offers an abundance of shopping and dining options and, all in all, it’s a great place for young ’uns to develop their cultural palate.
Fun with the Flipper Club in Ras Al Khaimah Travel time One hour by car.
Why go? Five-star Cove Rotana in Ras Al Khaimah is a great destination for families. As well as providing plenty of pools, beaches and a taste of the Med (the resort boasts Grecian-style villas), there’s the Flipper Club, which runs children’s activities such as painting and drawing, suitable for kids aged four to 12, as well as showing movies and offering Wii games. Where to stay The Cove Rotana. Two-bedroom private villas from Dhs4,300 for three nights. www.rotana.com/thecoverotanaresort (04 206 6000).
A real Greek getaway Travel time Four hours 55 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs3,800 return via Athens (www.emirates.com).
Why go? Head to the Halkidiki peninsular in northern Greece, which boasts sun, sea and a mind-boggling array of kids’ activities at the area’s family-focused resorts. Our pick is the Sani Resort, which offers all manner of fun including babysitting services. Where to stay Sani Resort. Rooms from Dhs707 per night. www.sani-resort.com.
Party weekends Behold buzzing Belgrade, Serbia Travel time Five hours 30 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs2,300 return (www.flydubai.com). Why go? Belgrade isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing city, but it’s a lot of fun. The bars, clubs and restaurants are perennially packed, and the prices are refreshingly low.
Live it up in Lebanon Travel time Three hours 35 minutes. Flights from approx Dhs1,700 return (www.flydubai.com).
Why go? One of the region’s best-loved party towns, and just a couple of hours from Dubai, Beirut is home to some of the best clubs in the world. We recommend famous club Music Hall for a night of cabaret-style entertainment. Also, don’t miss Blue Note – a top spot for live jazz.
Where to stay? Raouche Arjaan by Rotana. From Dhs826 per night. www.rotana.com (+961 1 781 111).
Merrymaking in Moscow Travel time Five hours five minutes. Flights from approx Dhs2,800 return (www.emirates.com). Why go? Moscow is a city that knows how to let loose, and you’ll find that many of the clubs stay open until dawn. From mega nightclubs with pounding house music to chic bar-restaurants such as Tatler Club in the Radisson Royal (which offers amazing mixed drinks), there’s something for every kind of party animal.
Where to stay Radisson Royal Moscow. From Dhs1,002 per night; book online at least 21 days in advance and you’ll get 20 percent off. Valid until Saturday December 1. www.radisson.ru (+7 495 221 5555).