Trek in Nepal, dive in the Maldives, explore Egypt and more
Time Out Dubai staff
Want to venture outside the UAE this Eid al-Fitr? To help you take full advantage of the long weekend (Eid is likely to start on Saturday 18 or Sunday 19), Time Out has selected 27 must-see destinations, each within four hours and 35 minutes of Dubai. For each, we’ve suggested what kind of holiday you’re in for (whether it’s fun in the sun, shopping, partying or a spot of culture), as well as an indication of what weather to expect over Eid, what to do while you’re there, how much spending money you’ll need (excluding accommodation), a couple of hotel options (prices listed per cheapest double unless stated otherwise) and even some Eid bargains.
We’ve also listed return flight prices as per the website at time of going to press. So what’s stopping you? Book today!
1hr, culture, dining, shopping, spending money-Dhs300 per day Predicted high on August 19: 40°C Must do: Head to the Museum of Islamic Art: a new exhibition of Islamic glass and mosque lamps opens in August. The building is a work of art created by Chinese-American architect IM Pei, who called it his ‘masterpiece’. The Souq Waqif market is nearby, offering traditional spices, crafts and souvenirs.
If you pack one thing, it’s… A shawl for your shoulders. Doha is more conservative than Dubai, with a stricter dress code.
1.15hr, culture, party, spending money-Dhs300 per day Predicted high on August 19: 37°C Must do: Manama offers plenty of independent bars and clubs, international DJs and more, plus party brunches (all of which will resume for Eid). Try Kicks, JJ’s and Klub 360. Culturally speaking, Bahrain is the Capital of Arab Culture 2012 – check out the Pearling Trail in Muharraq.
If you pack one thing, it’s… A parasol to shield you from the heat.
Stay Bahrain Guest House in Juffair has rooms from Dhs243 (www.bahrainguesthouse.com, +973 3946 1869). Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa offers rooms from Dhs651 (www.sofitel.com, +973 1763 6363).
2.10hr, culture, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 31°C Must do: Armenia’s capital city is fairly compact, so you can amble around its main areas of interest in a couple of hours. Head to Republic Square and stroll towards Yerevan Opera Theatre and The Cascade, an unfinished Soviet project turned art museum and sculpture garden. The venue offers fantastic views of the city and Mount Ararat beyond.
If you pack thing, it’s… A pair of shorts: it can get quite hot in summer, though not quite as sweltering as Dubai.
2.10hr, culture, spending money-Dhs300 per day Predicted high on August 19: 36°C Must do: Our favourite quote about Ashgabat is that its ‘somewhere between Vegas and Pyongyang’. That says it all, especially in the context of the 15-metre gold statue of former president Turkmenbashi that rotates so it always faces the sun. However, the locals are warm and welcoming, despite the occasional bureaucratic procedure. Go with an open mind (and plenty of patience).
2.35hr, culture, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 33°C Must do: The capital of Rajasthan is an assault on the senses. From the smells of street food to the bustling markets to the vivid beauty of the Amber Fort and Floating Palace (Jal Mahal), adventurous travellers will want to spend more than one weekend here.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Hand sanitiser (not that this place is particularly dirty, but in our experience some public facilities don’t have running water).
2.40hr, culture, dining, shopping, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 32°C Must do: This thriving hub straddles the Sabarmati river and is also the site of Gandhi Ashram, the former dwellings of Mahatma Gandhi. Other cultural points of interest are the Sidi Sayed Mosque and the Bhadra Fort.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Gandhi’s autobiography: The Story of my Experiments with Truth.
2.55hr, culture, beach, spending money-Dhs300 per day Predicted high on August 19: 34°C Must do: Egypt’s second city is far less chaotic than capital Cairo and boasts more of a European vibe. Peruse the sights, such as the Citadel of Qaitbay or the Roman amphitheatre, sprawl out on Maa’moura or Montazah beaches, or wander the Montazah Royal Gardens, which feature plenty of places to picnic, as well as pools and access to some nice beaches.
If you pack one thing, it’s… The Alexandria Quartet by British writer Lawrence Durrell.
Stay: Hotel Delta has rooms from Dhs429 (+203 486 5188, sp.tecmina.com/hoteldelta). Rooms at the Sofitel Cecil Alexandria start at Dhs646 (+203/ 487 7173, www.sofitel.com).
2.55hr, culture, beach, spending money-Dhs300 per day Predicted high on August 19: 33°C Must do: If you only have time for a quick weekend break, skip the city and head to the essential stuff: Petra and the Dead Sea. There are public beaches all along the Dead Sea; have a float in the super-buoyant water and coat yourself with the rich mud before heading to Petra, one of the wonders of the world.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Your camera: you’ll need it to capture that Indiana Jones vista as you arrive into Petra.
2.55hr, culture, dining, spending money-Dhs300 per day Predicted high on August 19: 32°C Must do: Wander to Fountain Square for people-watching, eating and shopping, then walk along the scenic Boulevard and hang out in Old Town before climbing the 12th-century Maiden’s Tower. Finally, visit the faded Victorian Fantasia Hammam on Dilara Aliyeva Street for tea and jam.
If you pack one thing, it’s… A print-out of our guide to Baku on www.timeoutdubai.com. The locals are friendly, but you’ll find many of them don’t speak English.
3.10hr, culture, dining, spending money-Dhs300 per day Predicted high on August 19: 32°C Must do: Don’t miss Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s Red Fort, the Lotus Temple and the India Gate on your sightseeing list, before wandering around Connaught Place for a spot of shopping and a nightcap at Aqua in the Park Hotel.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Rehydration salts (you’re almost guaranteed to suffer a mild case of Delhi belly).
3.15hr, culture, beach, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 41°C Must do: Djibouti City is a surprisingly cosmopolitan destination, awash with Arabic and African culture, with plenty of restaurants and bars to explore. The more adventurous might want to get out of town and head to the Lac Abbé (the setting for the ‘Forbidden Zone’ in Planet of the Apes) or the salt lake Lac Assal (Africa’s lowest point). Be sure to get your visa before travelling (djibouti.visahq.com).
If you pack one thing, it’s… Lightweight khaki trousers and light, long-sleeved T-shirts: they’re comfortable, casual, and appropriate for both exploring and socialising.
Stay: Hotel la Siesta offers rooms from Dhs352 (+253 21 32 2300). Rooms at the Djibouti Palace Kempinski start at Dhs1,598 (+253 21 32 5555, www.kempinski.com/djibouti).
3.20hr, culture, dining, party, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 31°C Must do: Tbilisi is a very old town, where historical sites are mixed with a few modern developments on both sides of scenic Kura River. Don’t miss the lively nightlife, and be sure to sample the incredible food. Budding classicists will note that many Greek myths are connected with Georgia, while the city boasts quaint architecture: stroll the streets and admire the Italian-style ‘courtyard’ homes.
If you pack one thing, it’s… A good phrase book to help you decipher street signs.
Stay: Rooms at Dodo’s Homestay start at Dhs55 (+995 32 954 213, email@example.com). Hotel Ambasadori has rooms from Dhs422 (+995 32 243 9494, www.ambasadori.ge).
3.30hr, culture, beach, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 41°C Must do: This small Egyptian city acts as a hub for travellers keen to explore some incredible Egyptian and Roman relics. Visitors can see the Valley of the Kings, the temple complexes of Luxor and Karnak, the Tombs of the Nobles and the Ramesseum Temple in a single weekend.
If you pack one thing, it’s… A wide-brimmed hat to protect you from the sun (and help you to look more like a proper explorer).
Stay: The Nubian Oasis Hostel Luxor has basic rooms from Dhs25 (+20 12 369 4130). Rooms at the Sheraton Luxor Resort start from Dhs250 (+20 95 227 4544, www.sheratonluxor.com).
3.40hr, beach, party, spending money-Dhs300 per day Predicted high on August 19: 32°C Must do: As well as clean sandy beaches and a gaggle of laid-back restaurants and bars, this Cypriot resort town offers great wreck diving thanks to the misfortune of the Zenobia ferry, which sank just offshore in 1980. The sheer size and complexity of the wreck makes it a treat for novice and amateur divers alike.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Good sunscreen (the sun is somehow stronger in Cyprus than it is in Dubai).
3.50hr, culture, dining, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 37°C Must do: The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are the jewels in the Egyptian capital’s crown and need no introduction. But after you’ve marvelled at their mysterious, breathtaking presence and wondered how on earth they were constructed, there’s plenty more to keep you occupied. Head to the hugely impressive Egyptian Museum for a lesson in ancient history, then explore the less-visited, yet equally worthwhile Gayer Anderson Museum with its beautiful antiques and traditional architecture.
If you pack one thing, it’s… A copy of Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval’s The Message of The Sphinx.
4.00hr, culture, dining, party, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 22°C Must do: The Ethiopian capital is one of East Africa’s safest and most culturally intriguing cities – much of the latter can be discovered at the National Museum near the University of Addis Ababa Graduate School. The city is also a great place to get your fill of traditional food. As well as local speciality injera (spongy bread served with roasted meats), check out Ristorante Castelli on Mahatma Gandhi Street (+251 1 563580), which, according to Bob Geldof, is the best Italian restaurant in the world.
If you pack one thing, it’s… An extra layer for those chilly evenings.
4.00hr, culture, party, spending money-Dhs400 per day Predicted high on August 19: 34°C Must do: Make sure you stop off at the Soviet-style Zenkov Cathedral (the second tallest wooden building in the world). At the weekends, Kazakhs traditionally head to the Modeo mountains, so it’s worth taking the cable car to Kok-Tobe (Green Hill) for great views. There’s also the Rahat chocolate factory and the Central Asian-style Green Market, where you can sample horse meat and cockscomb – if that sort of thing takes your fancy.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Hiking gear: the Modeo Mountains are a short drive away and worth exploring.
Stay: Premier Alatau Hotel has rooms from Dhs504 (+7727 258 1111, www.alatau-hotel.kz). Rooms as the Rixos Almaty Hotel start from Dhs1,390 (+7 727 300 3300, www.rixos.com).
4.05hr, beach, party, spending money-Dhs100 per day Predicted high on August 19: 38°C Must do: It may be monsoon season at the moment, but the intermittent showers do little to dampen Goa’s charms. The former Portuguese colonial outpost, which started to lure Western hippies as far back as the ’60s, features exquisite beaches, crumbling European architecture and palate-tingling cuisine. Check out the Anjuna flea market on Wednesday (a favourite with bedraggled backpackers), or visit the 17th-century Braganca House and other colonial remnants of Chandor on the banks of the river Kushavati.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Lightweight clothes – they’ll keep you cool, and will dry quickly if it rains.
4.05hr, culture, dining, beach, spending money-Dhs100 per day Predicted high on August 19: 30°C Must do: Kerala offers beautiful beaches and a network of backwaters that can be explored by multitudinous tours tailored to tourists. The region is famous for its ceremonial dances such as the colourful Kathakali ballet and, if you’re travelling in August, you may well catch the Valiam Kali boat race, which is traditionally held on the second Saturday of the month.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Mosquito repellent: the lush vegetation attracts plenty of biting insects.
Stay: Thanneermukkom Ayurvedic Lake Resort has rooms from Dhs21 (+91 478 258 3218). The Zuri Kumarakom Kerala Resort & Spa has rooms from Dhs401 (+91 481 252 7272, www.thezurihotels.com).
4.10hr, dining, beach, spending money-Dhs400 per day Predicted high on August 19: 30°C Must do: Comprising 1,190 coral reefs formed around 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean, The Maldives is the ultimate in luxury beach getaways – all you need is your swimsuit. The only catch? All this comes at a cost, but there are Eid deals (see below) to soften the blow.
If you pack one thing it’s… Trendy swimwear. Considering this is all you’ll be wearing for most of the holiday, you may as well look your best.
4.15hr, culture, beach, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 30°C Must do: This colonial fort town is perfect for a stroll: you can escape intermittent showers in one of the many laid-back cafés within the walls. Make an effort to visit the old manor house (now the luxury Amangalla hotel) and pay a visit to the nearby coastal village of Unawatuna.
If you pack one thing it’s… Your camera (the fort and the beach make for great snaps).
4.15hr, culture, party, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 24°C Must do: Stay in the heart of Thamel to be right in the centre of the action. Hike up to Swayambhunath (also known as ‘Monkey Temple, after its primate residents) and wander beneath the strings of flags. Back in Thamel, don’t miss an authentic Nepali vegetarian curry at Four Seasons.
If you pack one thing, it’s… A torch. The government cuts off the electricity at intervals as part of its load-shedding scheme, resulting in around 10 to 12 hours a day without lights, fans etc.
Stay: Rooms at Kathmandu Guest House start at Dhs7 (+977 1 470 0632, www.ktmgh.com). Dwarika’s Hotel offers rooms from Dhs1,162 (+977 1 447 9488, www.dwarikas.com).
4.35hr, party, shopping, spending money-Dhs400 per day Predicted high on August 19: 20°C Must do: The strange (but true) fact that Donetsk was founded by Welsh businessman John Hughes in 1869 is reason enough to visit the city. It’s a pretty industrial place, but the coal money has led to the streets being washed with fancy cars, great shops and a buzzing nightlife.
4.35hr, dining, beach, spending money-Dhs200 per day Predicted high on August 19: 30°C Must do: Just a 15-minute flight from the main island of Mahe, Praslin features power-sugar beaches and crystal-clear water; many open to the public free of charge. Don’t miss Anse Lazio on Praslin, rated one of the top beaches in the world, or head over to Curieuse Island, home to 500 Aldabra giant tortoises.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Your swimsuit. No matter what you do, you’re just minutes away from a dip.
4.35hr, culture, dining, party, spending money-Dhs100 per day Predicted high on August 19: 31°C Must do: Straddling Europe and Asia, this Turkish city is an amazing hotchpotch of incongruities, the place where east truly does meet west. There’s a plethora of ancient sights to keep tourists happy: start at the iconic Sultan Ahmed Mosque (‘Blue Mosque’), and don’t miss the imposing Topkapi Palace.
If you pack one thing, it’s… Good shoes – prepare to do lots of walking.