Time Out Dubai has travel inspiration, with the best holiday ideas you should consider this year, including festivals, family and adventure
If you’ve been in a cycle of short breaks and mini getaways, treat yourself to the holiday of a lifetime this year. Will Milner has ten ideas to get you thinking…
Swim with whale sharks Who: Scuba lovers Why: We’ve had a few sightings of whale sharks in UAE waters in recent months, but they tend to be snatched views of relatively small creatures. The whale shark is actually the world’s largest fish and grows as long as 12 metres, and swimming alongside one should be close to the top of every diver’s wish list. Treat yourself to an underwater camera before going on holiday.
Where: The Maldives is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean known for white beaches and luxury resorts. Stay at the Amilla Fushi resort for total luxury. It is regarded as one of the world’s finest new boutique hotels and is on the Unesco Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll. For more information visit www.amilla.mv. When: They’re year-round residents but tend to favour the Western isles May to December. While you’re at it: Little else. This is a diver’s holiday where you see paradise above and below water level. How: Emirates flies direct to the Maldives from Dhs3,445. www.emirates.com.
Experience the Olympics Who: Sporty party people Why: The spectacle of the Olympic Games meets the glamour of the Rio Carnival for what could legitimately be the biggest celebration in the history of humankind. The atmosphere will be incredible and with days spent watching the games, your nights can be dedicated to the samba. Two doses of pure holiday gold. Where: Rio will be the capital of the world for a few weeks as sport and culture collide. Accommodation ranges from the astonishingly cheap (shared dorms for just a few dollars) to blisteringly opulent. Play it safe and look to a well-known brand name such as the Sheraton Grand Rio Resort and be within reach of major attractions. See www.starwoodhotels.com.
When: August 5-21. While you’re at it: You can’t fly to the other side of the world and not visit Copacabana Beach while you’re there. How: Emirates flies direct to Rio from Dhs7,545. www.emirates.com.
Watch the European Grand Prix Who: Motorheads Why: The travelling circus that is Formula One is surely the most globe-trotting of sports, and for 2016 Baku will join illustrious company such as Japan, Mexico, Spain and Australia as a host venue. It is a major coup and the perfect excuse to make that trip you’ve been considering. Where: Azerbaijan’s capital has been staging a minor tourism revolution in recent years. The Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel is out of town but will look familiar to UAE residents as its design borrows heavily from Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Hotel, but with a little bit of Burj Al Arab (and a Thunderbirds rocket) thrown in for good measure. See www.jumeirah.com.
When: June 19 While you’re at it: Baku’s emergence in tourism circles and attempts at modernisation belies its Soviet past, but you can still see plenty of authenticity from recent years. How: Azal flies direct to Baku from Dhs880. www.azal.az.
Ultimate motor home family road trip Who: Active families Why: Staying in a single resort can be boring for kids, and adults want stimuli on holiday as well. A motor home road trip on the West Coast of America ticks at least half a dozen vacation bucket list ideas off in one go. Where: Plan your route wisely and you will see Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, Los Angeles and San Francisco. What's more, the drive in between won’t seem tedious if you take a palatial American RV with you. Accommodation is as good as a compact hotel room and the open road is your home. Visit www.luxervrental.com for details.
When: American Independence Day, July 4, will guarantee extra razzle with your dazzle. While you’re at it: Make a list of every movie scene and landmark you recognise from your RV window. Before you know it you will reach 100. How: Emirates flies to San Francisco daily from Dhs5,995. www.emirates.com.
Have a clubbing holiday Who: Hardcore party folk Why: So many of the UAE’s nightspots boast about their “Ibiza-style atmosphere” and Balearic soundtrack. See for yourself by heading off for a couple of weeks in the self-styled clubbing capital of the world. Every night, the clubs in town host big-name DJs, and if you wander along the strip, you'll find venue after venue of head-banging beats. Where: Most of the nightlife happens around the resort of San Antonio, where young Europeans take to the streets in their thousands looking for loud music and the freedom to dance until dawn. If you’re not used to package holiday mentality, it can be a bit disconcerting, so the fishing villages and old parts of Ibiza may be a more suitable base. The Ocean Beach hotel is right in San Antonio Bay so at the heart of the clubbing, but manages to retain a boutique exclusivity that attracts soap and reality TV “stars”, and the occasional DJ to the poolside loungers. Visit www.oceanbeachhotelibiza.com.
When: Nightclubs in Dubai will close during June, making this a good time to make a special journey to the holiday home of dance music. While you’re at it: You will need to sleep in the day, but it really is worth making the trip to Ibiza Old Town to see the sites of what is actually a Unesco World Heritage site. How: KLM flies to Ibiza via Amsterdam from Dhs2,965. www.klm.com.
Go to Glastonbury Festival Who: Music lovers of all ages and tastes Why: The line-up isn’t announced yet, but does it really matter? Insiders reckon Coldplay and Adele, but don’t be surprised to see Foo Fighters, Muse, The Stone Roses or Ed Sheeran headline, either. The point is, there are hundreds of bands, DJs and more avant-garde performers in a weekend best described as a holiday camp for grown-ups. Where: Glastonbury Festival is in a farm in Somerset, England. The rural setting is at odds with the deafening festival of music that descends on it once a year, but is actually a quaint country town. In terms of accommodation, there is only one option worth considering and that is to join the tens of thousands of other tent-dwellers on a makeshift campsite. Tickets are sold out for the festival, but like every year Glasto is on, organisers are promising to resell returns and cancellations in the spring, so keep a close eye on www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk.
When: June 22-26 While you’re at it: After the festival, you have the opportunity to see parts of Britain other than the usual London or Edinburgh. Archaeological curiosity Stonehenge is not far, and Roman town Bath and trendy city Bristol are good options for new visitors to England. How: KLM flies to Bristol via Amsterdam from Dhs3,505. www.klm.com.
Visit the world’s best restaurant Who: Foodies Why: Copenhagen’s Noma is, according to many critics, the best restaurant in the world. At the very least it won Restaurant Magazine’s world title in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and it surprised many when it fell to a lowly 3rd in 2015. Chef and co-owner Rene Redzepi, however, has decided to close shop at the end of 2016, so until his next concept emerges, this is your last chance. Where: As fantastic as the meal is, the real treat is that it justifies a trip to the incredible Copenhagen. Seemingly obsessed by design and style, Denmark’s capital is a city break for urban-dwellers with a love of modernity. Check out the galleries and museums and revel in the minimalist cool at every opportunity. Like some of our other favourite European destinations, it has pretty canals dissecting the city. See Copenhagen from the water by staying on a chic houseboat. See www.copenhagenhouseboat.com.
When: There is usually a three-month waiting list for Noma and that is likely to fill up fast (it receives 20,000 requests on the one day a month it turns on reservations) so if you get a table, go then. Don’t worry – Copenhagen can be enjoyed any time. While you’re at it: If you can’t get in at Noma, one of its ex-chefs recently opened Amass and we’re pretty sure they’ll do a decent dinner, too. How: Emirates flies direct to Copenhagen from Dhs3,075. www.emirates.com.
Climb Kilimanjaro Who: Challenge seekers Why: Make no mistake, with a peak an ice-capped 5,895 metres above sea level Africa’s highest mountain is one heck of a climb. But it is more accessible than Everest and with training and planning it is one of the few legendary peaks you could top this year. Where: Gulf 4 Good arranges flights and accommodation, but you are expected to raise a minimum level of funds for good causes first. Kilimanjaro is a national park in Tanzania and has been declared a world heritage site by Unesco, with animals such as elephants, buffalo, leopards and monkeys looking up at the peak. You can’t just turn up and stroll up the mountain, but will be able to climb as part of a team with the UAE charity's fundraisers. For more information visit www.gulf4good.org.
When: The Gulf 4 Good trek is July 1-9. While you’re at it: Enjoy the scenery and reflect on the good causes you’re helping. How: Gulf 4 Good arranges flights, but if travelling independently, Qatar Airways flies to Kilimanjaro via Doha from Dhs3,235. www.qatarairways.com.
Dress up for the Venice Carnival Who: Art lovers Why: Visit Venice for the same reason millions of others have. For romance, art and the pursuit of beauty. It has a concentration of galleries and museums that would make even a Parisian swoon, but it is the city itself that is the true work of art. Fifteenth century buildings still stand and from a gondola on one of the many waterways it is hard not to start humming opera to yourself. Especially if you visit during the annual carnival, which is basically a two-week-long masked ball, with enchanting music and theatre thrown in for good measure. Where: Stay as close to the grand canals as you can get. There is a good chance you will only visit once in a lifetime, so splash a little more cash on a lavish hotel such as The Gritti Palace. Luxury and elegance the likes of which is rarely seen outside of a fairy tale princess story with history and charm to boot. Visit www.thegrittipalace.com for more information.
When: January 23-February 9. While you’re at it: Eat as much Italian food as you can. Big meals, snacks, bread, gelato, cheese and more. How: Emirates flies direct to Venice from Dhs3,435. www.emirates.com.
Discover peace through Yoga Who: Yogis Why: Your weekly yoga sessions have been going so well that you’re now comfortable with the positions and are getting real benefits from the regular practice. Take it to the next level with a full-on yoga retreat on an idyllic paradise island. Where: Local tension-busters Yogalates Bliss in Dubai is leading a retreat in Bali this summer. A tailor-made package has been made for UAE yogis at the exclusive Menjangan resort in West Bali. Part yoga hideaway, part coastal animal reserve, it is a venue seemingly designed for total relaxation and a few testing stretches. See www.themenjangan.com for information.
When: The Yogalates Bliss Bali retreat is June 11-18. More information at www.yogalatesblissindubai.com. While you’re at it: There is a comprehensive schedule of yoga to enjoy but take a break from that and see the wild monkeys in the Ubud forest. How: Emirates flies direct to Bali from Dhs2,915. www.emirates.com.
Where possible flight prices were all made on sample suggested departure dates on each airline’s own website. In other instances flight comparison websites were used and Time Out Dubai selected the cheapest option.