Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malcives, Beirut and more top trips
Dubai’s location in the ‘centre of the globe’ puts us in an enviable position for travel, providing residents with easy access to multiple continents and holiday destinations in Asia, Europe and Africa. And it’s now even easier to get away: Dubai Airport is preparing to host an extra 19 million passengers this year in the new Emirates Concourse 3, while Flydubai, Pegasus Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates are all launching routes. To make the most of this, we’ve put together a list of 12 must-see destinations that travel experts have predicted will be hotspots for 2013, all within five hours of Dubai (so ideal for a long weekend) – with one for each month. Now grab your passport and get booking.
January Galle, Sri Lanka In Galle, the year starts with fantastic weather, yet while the annual literature festival is taking a break this year, January is still the best time to visit. Located on the south-western tip of Sri Lanka, Galle’s old town offers an insight into the country’s chequered colonial past, thanks to its well-preserved Portuguese and Dutch architecture, cobbled streets and grass-covered fort. Stay in one of the old town’s affordable but beautiful boutique hotels, such as the historic Galle Fort Hotel, a restored former gem merchant’s mansion. Galle Fort’s winding streets are also home to the city’s burgeoning dining scene – check out the Serendipity Arts Café for great coffees and pastries alongside cool decor and music, or Mama’s rooftop eatery for tasty Sri Lankan curries. For unusual souvenirs, try The Church Street Gallery for vintage Bollywood and Ceylon movie posters. From Dubai 4.30hr Also visit: The dry season runs from December to March. There is also a world music festival in March. Best for? Boutique luxury travellers. Getting there: Fly to Colombo from Sharjah with Air Arabia from Dhs1,333 return, or from Dubai with Flydubai from Dhs1,050 return. www.airarabia.com, www.flydubai.com.
February Bangladesh In February, the weather in Bangladesh is fine, mild and dry, making this an ideal destination to visit this month. Wildlife and nature enthusiasts should head to the mangrove swamps and forests of Sundarbans National Park, a vast protected area that’s constantly shifting due to tidal activity and home to the mighty Royal Bengal tiger. Srimangal is also worth a visit for its countless tea estates that paint the surrounding hills verdant green – you can discover everything there is to know about the humble leaf, then try the country’s finest cuppa for yourself. And there’s plenty more to see and do, from a trip aboard the country’s most famous paddle-wheel cruiser, The Rocket, to the crumbling ruins of Muktagacha Rajbari and the endless beaches of Cox’s Bazar. From Dubai 5.00hr
Also visit: From November to February. Best for: Pioneering adventurers who love wilderness and wildness. Getting there: Flydubai to Dhaka or Chittagong from Dhs1,800 return, or Emirates to Dhaka from Dhs1,750 return. www.flydubai.com, www.emirates.com.
March The Maldives The Maldivian weather in March is dry and sunny and although humid, there is a refreshing sea breeze. Visit the Maldives for its unspoiled white sandy beaches and uninhabited islands, such as Matheerah, for a true isolated desert-island experience. Honeymooning is big business in the Maldives so it’s ideal for a romantic getaway or for peaceful reflection and relaxation, and the destination has become more accessible financially thanks to Flydubai’s new route, which launched this month. There’s plenty to do, with fishing being the most obvious – it’s is one of the islands’ largest industries. Watersports are inevitably popular in the warm Indian Ocean, and high visibility throughout the year ensures crystal-clear water for diving and snorkelling. Some of the top attractions include Sun Island Beach, the National Museum and Hukuru Miskiiy (Old Friday Mosque), one of the oldest mosques in the Maldives, which dates back to the 12th century when Islam was first introduced to the nation. From Dubai 5.00hr
Also visit: In the dry season from November to April. November also offers street parades and parties for Victory Day on November 3, celebrating the failure of a terrorist coup, and Republic Day on November 11. Best for: A romantic getaway or a few days of peaceful reflection. Getting there: Flydubai, from Dhs1,730 return. www.flydubai.com.
April Nepal Nepali New Year celebrations take place in mid-April. There are many beautiful temples and shrines to see throughout the country, scattered across hills and valleys, and colourful prayer flags can be seen draped between the trees all over the landscape. Making the walk up hundreds of steps to Swayambhunath, otherwise known as Monkey Temple (after its residents), is a must. Nepal is home to the Himalayas and Mount Everest, and avid climbers will relish the challenge of a trek to base camp, which can be achieved in a few days. Shopping in the country is extremely reasonable, but remember to barter all the same – market vendors will always try to make a few extra dollars from tourists. Insider tip: watch out for beggars and pickpockets in downtown Kathmandu. It is also advisable to resist the temptation to hand out money (give it to a registered charity instead); if you can’t say no, give sweets or biscuits. From Dubai 4.00hr
Also visit: After monsoon season, from October to November. Best for: Adventurers on a shoestring budget. Getting there: FlyDubai, from Dhs1,737 return. www.flydubai.com.
May Beirut The Lebanese capital has had a turbulent history, yet the city is now renowned as a vibrant cultural hub. Part of its attraction is its gritty, urban feel: much of the old Parisian architecture is still peppered with bullet holes. The best time to visit is in May, when the weather is sunny yet not too hot, averaging 25°C. To make the most of it, join the locals for a stroll along the seafront: start at the Rock of Raouché (known as Pigeons’ Rock) and follow the corniche round the coast to the old Hotel St Georges, where you’ll spot the monument to fallen president Rafic Hariri. Other must-dos include sipping a cappuccino in the pavement cafés in the pretty Place de l’Etoile, followed by a bar crawl in buzzing Gemmayze, where hundreds of tiny urban-style bars sit shoulder to shoulder (we love Godot for its cool music and free Wi-Fi). Most outlets accept both Lebanese pounds and US dollars, so use whichever is most convenient. From Dubai 4.00hr Also visit: In winter, when you can ski in the mountains in the morning and hit the beach after lunch. Best for: Those who want the best of all worlds: culture, shopping and nightlife. Getting there: Flydubai, from Dhs998 return. www.flydubai.com.
June Baku With temperatures ranging from 19°C to 27°C and a low chance of rain, June is the ideal time to visit Baku: a city that will be cooler and greener than Dubai over the sticky months. However, Baku also shares a fair few similarities with our city: the Azerbaijani capital was designated an Islamic Culture Capital in 2009 and multiple exciting additions continue to sprout rapidly on its skyline, such as the unmissable Dhs1.2 billion Flame Towers. Top of your to-do list should be wandering Fountain Square, The Boulevard and the city’s Old Town, as well as sampling caviar from Taza Bazaar: it offers some of the best in the world. From Dubai 3.00hr Also visit: Skies should be mostly blue from May to October. Best for: Those after a fantastic break in a city fizzing with energy (sound familiar?). Getting there: FlyDubai, from Dhs1,195 return. www.flydubai.com.
July Tanzania Not only is July the warmest and driest time of the year in the East African nation, but it is also the best time to witness one of the planet’s most memorable events: the annual mass wildebeest migration, from the Serengeti (in Tanzania) to the Masai Mara (in Kenya). Watch as hundreds of species trample on or attack each other. The sun-blushed landscape is stunning, and there are a range of accommodation options, from basic two-man tents to vast marquees with guards stationed outside overnight (should a zebra wander out of bounds…). Remember to take binoculars, as well as your very best zoom lens. From Dubai 5.30hr
Also visit: During July, August, September or October, when rainfall is typically low and the sun remains high. Best for: Animal lovers, and those after an unforgettable cultural experience. Getting there: Emirates, from Dhs2,250 return. www.emirates.com.
August Bucharest, Romania With average temperatures topping 20˚C, the warm, pleasant weather makes August a great time of year to explore the city’s historic, cobbled streets, cafés, museums and galleries on foot. With its rich, turbulent history, Romania’s capital is a fascinating city of architectural contrasts, with austere Communist structures sitting alongside neo-classical buildings and medieval churches. A vibrant university town, the city also has thriving nightlife along with numerous cultural attractions. Climb the top of the Arch of Triumph for panoramic views of the city. Visit the Royal Palace, the neoclassical home to the Romanian royal family, which now houses the National Art Museum, and don’t miss the Lipscani District. Littered with art galleries, coffee shops and antique shops, the cobbled streets of the old town are perfect if you’re looking for a taste of historical Bucharest. From Dubai 5.00hr
Also visit: In May, for the Bucharest International Music Fest (‘Europa Fest’), where more than 300 musicians from 40 countries will be performing. Best for: Perfect for those interested in art, history and politics. Getting there: Pegasus Airlines, from Dhs1,682 return. www.flypgs.com.
September Tbilisi, Georgia The climate in Tbilisi ranges from humid and subtropical to mild and continental, although the evenings can be chilly throughout the year. In September the weather reaches a comfortable compromise between warmth and rainfall. For Dubaians wanting to visit, Flydubai has now launched a new, direct route, making this destination more accessible from the UAE. The Georgian capital is an ancient settlement, considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world, and it’s both historic and picturesque. There are many cultural sites to keep visitors occupied, including museums that showcase everything from art to puppetry. Don’t miss Tiflis Avenue (a gallery displaying the work of Georgian artists), the botanic garden, the charming art nouveau architecture of the old quarter and the ancient Narikala Fortress. The city takes its name from the hot sulphur springs, making the sulphur baths a must-do – relax in the small pools, or enjoy a massage. But watch out for negotiated prices for massages being hiked after the treatment has taken place – not a very relaxing ending. From Dubai 4.00hr
Also visit: From July to October. Best for: Culture fans who want to explore a gem before the crowds arrive. Getting there: Flydubai, from Dhs1,172 return. www.flydubai.com.
October Istanbul Falling at the tail end of the Turkish capital’s tourist season, October offers sightseeing-friendly temperatures of around 17°C – by skipping both the stifling heat and heaving crowds of the summer months, you’ll find most budget hotels eager to offer well-reduced rates. October is also a prime time for culture buffs, with the city hosting the respected Akbank Jazz Festival (the dates are yet to be decided) and the biannual Istanbul Biennial art festival (September 14- November 10). Sitting on the edge of Europe and Asia, Istanbul truly epitomises the oft-used phrase ‘where east meets west’, with Arabic traditions and glitzy globalisation dancing down the same bustling souk streets. Istanbul boasts more architectural gems than we can list, but start at the top with the Blue Mosque and go from there. We’d recommended skipping the big hotel brands and heading to the lively Sultanahmet district for cheaper accommodation and a more relaxed vibe. When you do head into the modern commercial centre, explore the side streets off Istiklal Avenue for more authentic, independent venues. And be sure to try the Bursa kebab, a local delicacy that originates from the neighbouring city of the same name. Getting to Istanbul is also easier than ever thanks to the new direct flights launched recently by Pegasus Airlines. From Dubai 5.00hr
Also visit: The weather in May is also pleasant. Best for: Couples who want more from a city break. Getting there: Pegasus Airlines, from Dhs1,300 return. www.flypgs.com.
November Sudan Sudan is an ancient, diverse nation entwined with both a rich African and Arab heritage. Though a long history of war and conflict in this region has, until now, made the country a no-go for tourists, an end to much of the discord and the separation of North and South Sudan should attract more visitors in the future. Sudan is also home to many asylum seekers from other African nations, offering plenty of opportunities to give back while visiting through volunteer work. The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation (www.valentinoachakdeng.org) offers volunteer opportunities in South Sudan, and Women for Women International (www.womenforwomen.org) operates community development programmes geared to help women in the south. Khartoum’s National Museum and nearby Tuti Island are major attractions. Caution ought to still be paid and visitors should avoid the Darfur region. Most tourists need a visa and must register upon entering the country, which most hotels are able to assist with. From Dubai 5.00hr
Also visit: The late autumn and winter months are a good time to visit, when the temperature drops and there is little rain. Best for: Adventure and charitable tourism. Getting there: Emirates, from Dhs1,340 return; Qatar Airways, from Dhs1,280. www.emirates.com, www.qatarairways.com.
December Muscat The climate in Muscat is dry and warm throughout the year, but in December, averages of 21°C make for a comfortable time to visit. This time of year also offers great clarity for viewing the mountain scenery. Set idyllically between the mountains and the sea, the Omani capital’s proximity to Dubai makes it one of the most popular and accessible destinations for a city break. Get lost in the heady sights and smells of the Mutrah market, which sells local crafts, textiles and spices; sit back and reflect in one of the city’s many outdoor cafés; or spend an afternoon wandering the winding streets of the old quarter. Also, don’t miss Muscat’s Royal Opera House and the famous Qaboos mosque: with five minarets and the impressive dome, it’s one of Oman’s most important centres of worship. From Dubai 1.00hr
Also visit: From November to April. Best for: Penny-pinched Dubai folk who want a taste of a slower pace of life. Getting there: Flydubai, from Dhs581 return. To save your carbon footprint, you can also drive to Muscat in about five hours. www.flydubai.com.
Further afield Siem Reap, Cambodia In February, Qatar Airways launches direct flights to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. From there it’s a short bus ride to Siem Reap, gateway to the country’s heritage gem, Angkor Wat – the world’s largest Hindu temple, and the largest religious monument in the world. The sprawling complex of ancient ruins is a sight not to be missed.
Lima, Peru South America continues to be a hotspot for seasoned travellers, while Peruvian cuisine gathers yet more respect across the globe. Lima is considered to be the culinary capital of the Americas: the highlight is the Mistura food festival, held in September.
Warsaw, Poland The Polish capital has been neglected by tourists for some time in favour of its prettier cousin, Krakow. However, Qatar Airways and Emirates have both launched new routes to the destination, suggesting it will be a fresh travel spot for the year ahead.
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ozan opsin Jan 29, 2013 04:58 am
Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey as written in the text.,Ankara is the capital.
Bursa kebab has the other name as iskender kebab which is more well known,and few places do this kebab as original at Bursa,