53 top weekend getaways

Beach huts or extreme sports on your ultimate 72-hour break

Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
Mzaar, Lebanon
Mzaar, Lebanon
Kiev, Ukraine
Kiev, Ukraine
Goa, India
Goa, India
Masirah Island, Oman
Masirah Island, Oman
Qasr Al Sarab, Liwa
Qasr Al Sarab, Liwa
Tilal Liwa Hotel
Tilal Liwa Hotel
Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa
Travel time: six to seven hours by plane

1 Bangkok, Thailand
Get the most out of this fast and frenetic city from the luxury of the Sofitel Bangkok Silom (www.sofitel.com, +66 2 238 1991), which is offering a special three-night package from Dhs859 per room for three nights.
Getting there: Emirates flies direct to Bangkok from Dhs3,320 return, including taxes. www.emirates.com.

2 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A long weekend affords you time to see the sights, including the Petronas Towers, Chinatown and the Baku Caves. Hotel-wise, the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur (www.shangri-la.com, +60 3 2032 2388) boasts lush gardens and offers rooms from Dhs539 per room per night.
Getting there: Emirates flies direct to Bangkok from Dhs2,750 return, including taxes. www.emirates.com.

Travel time: Four To Six hours by plane

3 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Addis is a hectic, bustling, but safe city – a cultural and religious melting pot of political importance: it’s the headquarters for the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The city has plenty of history (find out more at the Ethiopian National Museum), not to mention great Italian food and coffee. Stay at the Baro Hotel, Piazza (abenet@baro.com.et, +251 11 155 1447), which offers rooms from Dhs27 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Addis for Dhs1,055 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

4 Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
There’s plenty to see and do in the capital, but we suggest you head straight to Turkmenbashi’s golden statue that rotates to face the sun throughout the day. Madness. The Ak Altyn Hotel (+993 12 36 37 00), located in the centre of town, is a good bet for affordable accommodation.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Ashgabat from Dhs2,240 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

5 Astana, Kazakhstan
Marvel at bizarre, space-age buildings from the Soviet era, as well as more modern offerings from the likes of architects Kisho Kurokawa and Norman Foster. Stay at the King Hotel (www.kinghotel.kz, +7 7172 705 705) from Dhs595 per room per night.
Getting there: Air Astana flies direct from Abu Dhabi to Astana from Dhs2,620 return, including taxes. www.airastana.com.

6 Belgrade, Serbia
Stroll along Srpskih Vladara and marvel at sights including Belgrade Fortress, Knez Mihailova, Republic Square and Slavija. Stay at Hotel Srbija (www.hotelsrbija.com, +381 11 30 44 000) for around Dhs249 per room per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Belgrade from Dhs2,000 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

7 Istanbul, Turkey
The atmosphere of relaxed tolerance is so omnipresent – and the tourist sites so easily accessible – that Istanbul is always a joy to visit. And the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is simply stunning. The Sultanahmet Hotel (+9 0212 527 0239) in the Sultanahmet district offers rooms from Dhs190 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Istanbul from Dhs1,189 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

8 Kiev, Ukraine
Visit the capital of Ukraine not just for the food (chicken Kiev!), but to see one of the oldest cities in Europe, with sights such as St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery. (Also witness British actor Hugh Laurie’s surprising popularity.) Stay at the Radisson Blu Kiev (www.radissonblu.com/hotel-kiev, +38 044 492 2200) from Dhs966 per room per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Kiev from Dhs1,473 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

9 Moscow, Russia
Head to Moscow’s minus temperatures for a long weekend of history, opulence and maybe even a spot of protesting. Accommodation is expensive, so we suggest going all-out and booking into the Radisson Royal Moscow (+7495 221 5555) – one of Stalin’s Seven Sisters and a short bus ride from the Kremlin. Superior rooms start at Dhs1,459 per night.
Getting there: Emirates flies to direct to Moscow from Dhs2,330 return, including taxes. www.emirates.com.

10 Nairobi, Kenya
The spectacular Giraffe Manor (+254 205 020 888, www.giraffemanor.com) lies an hour’s drive from Nairobi airport and, as you might well guess from the name, is an old manor house-turned-luxury hotel situated slap-bang in the middle of a giraffe sanctuary. Double rooms start at Dhs1,781 per night.
Getting there: Kenya Airways flies direct to Nairobi from Dhs2,260 return, including taxes. www.kenya-airways.com.

11 Sofia, Bulgaria
The Bulgarian capital boasts wonderful history (epitomised by the beautiful Alexander Nevski Cathedral), a nearby ski resort on Mount Vitosha, the fantastic National Opera and Ballet (catch a show – it’s a must) and plenty of bars and restaurants. Check into The Metropolitan Hotel Sofia (+359 24 19 19 00, www.metropolitanhotelsofia.com), which offers double rooms from Dhs476 per night.
Getting there: Etihad flies from Abu Dhabi direct to Sofia from Dhs5,210 return, including taxes. www.etihad.com.

12 Spetses and Hydra, Greece
The islands of Spetses and Hydra can easily be reached from Athens, and both offer an idyllic Mediterranean escape. Stay at the Mistral Hotel (+30 210 968 0233), which offers rooms from Dhs585 per night, or splash out on the Orloff Hotel on Hydra, which will set you back Dhs809 per room per night (+30 210 522 6152).
Getting there: Emirates flies direct to Athens from Dhs3,250 return, including taxes. www.emirates.com.

13 The Seychelles
Raffles Praslin Seychelles (www.raffles.com/praslin, +248 429 6780) is currently offering a ‘Body & Soul Spa Getaway’ package, which includes accommodation in a villa with private plunge pool, a daily private personal training session, a 90-minute signature treatment, and daily breakfast for two in Losean Restaurant. Packages start at Dhs3,009 per night for two adults, based on a minimum three-night stay.
Getting there: Emirates flies direct to The Seychelles from Dhs3,650 return, including taxes. www.emirates.com.

14 Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
For a chilled beach break and watersports, head down south to Unawatuna Beach, near Galle. Here you’ll find the mid-range Wijaya Beach Restaurant (which serves great pizzas and seafood) and the Colonial-style Amangalla Hotel in Galle Fort – great for sundowners. Rooms at The Unawatuna Beach Resort (www.unawatunabeachresort.com, +94 91 438 4545) start at Dhs282.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Colombo from Dhs976 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

15 Yekaterinburg, Russia
Catch a show at the theatre capital of Russia and see some of the sights, including the place where the Russian Royal Family was murdered in the revolution; grim, but culturally enhancing. Stay at the centrally located Marins Park Hotel (www.sv-hotel.ru/eng/nomer), with deluxe rooms starting at Dhs300 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Yekaterinburg from Dhs2,075 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

16 Alexandria, Egypt
This stunning coastal town (Egypt’s second-largest city) has a vibe far closer to the relaxed Med lifestyle than the Middle East. Check into the centrally located Hotel Union (+20 3 480 7312), which offers budget rooms at Dhs70 a night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Alexandria from Dhs850 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

Travel time: Two to four hours by plane

17 Baku, Azerbaijan
Enjoy pleasant weather (the average temperature all year round is 14.2°C) and see sights such as Baku’s walled fortress, the Old City – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and The Maiden’s Tower (Guz Qalasi). Stay at the Park Inn Azerbaijan (www.hotels.az), which offers rooms from Dhs877 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Baku from Dhs1,032 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

18 Beirut, Lebanon
To find out what to see and do and where to stay in this hotbed of activity, see this week’s Travel feature.

19 GoA, india
The smallest state in India offers so much in the way of culture and natural beauty. During your trip, you can check out colonial Portuguese ruins, the Anjuna flea market and plenty of breathtakingly beautiful beaches, not to mention a few washed-up hippies to laugh at for good measure. Travellers can find cheap, clean accommodation by way of Villa Anjuna (+91 832 227 3443), which offers rooms from Dhs62 per night.
Getting there: Air India flies direct to Goa from Dhs1,350 return, including taxes. www.airindia.in.

20 Kathmandu, Nepal
A hub for treks and outdoor adventure, Kathmandu is often overlooked by tourists. It’s a shame, because the historic city boasts sites such as Freak Street (a notorious hippy hangout of the ’60s), the Nasal Chowk Statues and the Narangdham (Budda Neelkanth). Keep it cheap (and ‘authentic traveller’) and stay at Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel (www.ktmgh.com), which offers clean budget rooms from Dhs10 a night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Kathmandu from Dhs1,234 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

21 Kerala, India
Other than Cochin’s stunning beaches, this southern province offers an intricate network of scenic backwaters for you to explore by small boat (www.kerala-backwaters-tours.com). Rooms at Seaview Apartments in Fort Cochin (www.tripadvisor.com) start at Dhs57 per person per night.
Getting there: Air India flies direct to Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) from Dhs1,300, including taxes. www.airindia.in.

22 Mzaar, Lebanon
Bored of Ski Dubai? Then head to the slopes of Mount Lebanon for a weekend (it’s currently the best time of year for skiing). InterContinental Mzaar Mountain Resort & Spa (+961 934 0100) offers ski packages (including ski passes and rental and two drinks at the Lobby Lounge). Packages start at Dhs815 per couple.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Beirut for Dhs1,000 return. www.flydubai.com.

23 Pondicherry, India
Old colonial charms, literary references (The Life of Pi) and a great name: more than enough reasons to head to this coastal town on the Bay of Bengal. Check into the The Dune Hotel (www.thedunehotel.com), an eco resort with doubles from Dhs451 per night.
Getting there: Emirates flies direct to Chennai (the nearest airport to Pondicherry) from Dhs1,240 return, including taxes. www.emirates.com.

24 Red Sea, Djibouti
If you’re a diving fanatic, the East African country of Djibouti has great access to the Red Sea, as well as islands and beaches known for their whale sharks. Rooms at Djibouti Palace Kempinski (+253 325 555) start at Dhs1,267 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Djibouti from Dhs2,827, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

25 Tbilisi, Georgia
Nestled in the foothills of the Trialeti mountain range, this scenic city offers an action-packed weekend. Take a dip at the Sulfur Baths, scale the walls of the once-great Narikala fortress or head out to Lake Lisi. Stay at the Courtyard by Marriott (+995 32 277 9100), which offers double rooms from Dhs606 a night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Tbilisi from Dhs1,259 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

Travel time: One to two hours by plane

26 Barr Al Jissah, Muscat, Oman
The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa (+968 2477 6262), nestled in its own bay, is offering a special weekend package for GCC residents, which includes a two-night stay and buffet breakfast for two adults and two kids. The package starts at Dhs1,707 per family.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Muscat from Dhs405 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

27 Doha, Qatar
The region’s coolest hotel, the W Hotel (www.whoteldoha.com), is currently offering special ‘birthday’ rates. If you were born in 1981, your daily rate will be QAR1,981 (Dhs1,999). The package includes a W Suite and breakfast buffet for two at Market Restaurant or in-room dining.
Getting there: Qatar Airways flies direct to Doha for Dhs650 return, including taxes. www.qatarairways.com.

28 Manama, Bahrain
Head to the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa (+973 1763-6363), a secluded, scenic resort that is currently offering special room rates of Dhs828 per room per night until the end of February.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Bahrain from Dhs500 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

29 Masirah Island, Oman
This ruggedly beautiful island getaway offers the possibility of seeing loggerhead turtles nesting on the beaches, while active types can also enjoy some kite surfing. Accommodation at Masirah Island Resort (+968 2448 5020)starts at Dhs602 per room per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Muscat from Dhs405 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

30 Oman Dive Centre, Muscat, Oman
The rustic air-conditioned beach chalets at the Oman Dive Centre (www.omandivecenter.com, +968 2482 4240) are set in a peaceful cove. Divers and snorkellers can enjoy the clear, shallow waters and the abundance of sea life (we spotted a pod of dolphins a few years back). Packages start at Dhs1,600 per person.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Muscat from Dhs405 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

31 Petra, Jordan
Though inundated with tourists, this UNESCO heritage site is still worth a visit. Archaeological attractions such as The Treasury (which featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and the Urn Tomb never fail to take your breath away. Tip: step off the main paths to escape the tour parties and explore on your own. Rooms at the Petra Hotel (+962 3 21 57 393) start at Dhs441 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Amman from Dhs865 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

32 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
If you’re male and/or a married a couple (unmarried women can only enter on a business visa), you might be interested in checking out the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which offers a few surprises by way of its opulent buildings and hotels. The Ritz-Carlton (+966 1 802 8020) is currently offering a three-night suite package, which includes airport pick-up and drop-off, from Dhs4,407 per room for three nights.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Riyadh from Dhs640 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

33 The Chedi, Muscat, Oman
The Chedi (+968 2452 4400), one of the region’s most exclusive beach resorts, offers 4x4 excursions, big-game fishing, diving and more. The resort has a spectacular beachfront, swimming pools, a fine arts gallery and a fitness centre – we reckon everyone should stay here once. Rooms start at Dhs2,241 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Muscat from Dhs405 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

34 Wadi Rum, Jordan
Jordan’s biggest wadi is a major tourist attraction; you might well recognise its harsh red landscape from classic films such as Lawrence of Arabia and, um, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Head to Bedouin-style camp Bait Ali (www.baitali.com, +962 79 554 8133), which offers a range of extreme sports from quad biking to ballooning.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Amman from Dhs865 return, including taxes. www.flydubai.com.

Travel time: One to two hours by CAR

35 Ajman Kempinski
Well-appointed rooms overlook one of the best private beaches around. What’s more, the hotel boasts its own licensed bowling alley and a pretty good Italian restaurant. Rooms start at Dhs936 per night.
Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Street, Ajman, www.kempinski.com (06 714 5555).

36 Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras Al Khaimah
Hide away from the world in your very own pool villa, while watching free-roaming gazelles and Arabian oryx nearby. You can also give falconry a go on the deck, or simply mooch up to the Moon Bar roof terrace, where you can unwind peacefully under the stars. Rates from Dhs2,225 per night.
Ras Al Khaimah, www.banyantree.com (07 206 7777).

37 Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi
If you’ve ever wondered what sort of venue you can build for Dhs11 billion, this is the answer. The beach and pool areas, as well as the Anantara Spa, are outstanding, and the restaurants (such as Hakkasan) will make you feel like royalty. Book into a Coral room from Dhs1,755 per night.
Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi, www.emirates palace.com (02 690 9000).

38 Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi
Bordered by the exclusive beachfront area of Ras Al Akhdar on one side and the Corniche on the other, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is perfectly located to get the best out of the capital. Prices start at Dhs975 per night if you quote the promo code ‘weekending’.
www.jumeirah.com/enhotels-and-resorts (02 811 5888).

39 Musandam, Oman
Dive, snorkel or just sunbathe on this overnight dhow trip that sets off from Dibba every Friday at 8.30am. All meals and soft drinks are provided, as is transport from Dubai (the bus leaves Al Boom on Al Wasl Road at 6am). Prices start at Dhs1,100 for snorkellers and Dhs1,200 for divers with their own gear; add Dhs100 if you need to rent kit.
Al Boom Diving, Al Wasl Road, abdiving@emirates.net.ae (04 342 2993).

40 Qasr Al Sarab, Liwa
The five-star Anantara Desert Resort is every bit as secluded as it sounds, located in the world’s second-largest desert. It offers activities such as desert walking, falconry and camel treks, as well as relaxing in the enormous, in-room stone baths. Alternatively, enjoy a cool drink as the sun sets over the dunes. Rates from Dhs1,400 per night.
Liwa, www.qasralsarab.anantara.com (04 886 2088).

41 St Regis Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Find a state of Zen with a nine iron in your hands by heading to Abu Dhabi’s newly opened St Regis hotel on Saadiyat Island, which is currently offering a number of golf-related packages. If sport isn’t your bag, enjoy a weekend of fine dining or have a pampering session in the Iridium Spa. Rates from Dhs1,710 per night.
Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, www.stregis saadiyatisland.com (02 498 8888).

42 Tilal Liwa Hotel, Liwa
Located by the edge of the Empty Quarter desert, you can expect dune views as well as luxury amenities and restaurants. The swimming pool overlooking the sand will offer an experience nothing short of memorable. Book the Romance Package (valid until March 31) for Dhs799 per double, which includes a three-course dinner.
Liwa, Abu Dhabi Western Region, www.danathotels.com (02 894 6111).

43 Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi
A haven of spaceship-style white lacquer and boldly-hued lights, Yas Viceroy is every inch the modern five-star venue, and offers great views of the adjacent marina (not to mention the Yas Marina F1 circuit, which runs beneath the hotel). What’s more, it’s a mere five minutes from the world’s first and only Ferrari theme park (housing the world’s fastest rollercoaster). Rates from Dhs933 per room per night.
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com (02 656 0000).

44 Zighy Bay, Oman
A long-standing favourite with city-dwellers looking for a little R&R along the mountain-lined coast. With numerous wellness programmes, private pools in all villas and a ban on mobile phones in all public areas, this five-star Six Senses resort is a great place to detox. The chance to paraglide into the resort from the surrounding mountains is worth the visit alone. Rates from Dhs3,816 per night.
Zighy Bay, Musandam, www.sixsenses.com (+968 2 673 5555).

Dubai Staycations

45 Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa
This luxury resort could have been taken from the pages of 1001 Arabian Nights. Set in the middle of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, expect to step out onto your private patio (with pool) to experience breathtaking desert views, and find yourself nose to snout with the UAE’s most cherished animals, including oryx, sand foxes, gazelles and more. Rates from Dhs5,700 per room per night.
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, www.al-maha.com (04 832 9900).

46 Atlantis The Palm
Dubai’s largest hotel, which holds state at the tip of the Palm Jumeirah, offers regular deals for local residents. For Dhs2,315 per night you can enjoy a one-night stay for two people and a two-hour spa experience for two, which includes a full-body massage and scrub, scalp massage and foot massage, plus unlimited use of the Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and gym.
Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).

47 Armani Hotel Dubai
Designer Giorgio Armani’s first hotel venture happens to be located in the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa. It’s not cheap, but if you book in advance there are discounts to be had. You’ll pay from Dhs3,600 for a two-night stay (advance booking required).
Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai, dubai.armanihotels.com (04 888 3888).

48 Desert Islands Resort & Spa, Sir Bani Yas Island
Try a weekend on the wild side at Desert Islands Resort & Spa, located amid the nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island. Travel by Seawings plane from Jebel Ali for a two-night stay on Thursday and Friday nights, a wildlife drive, a massage for two, and a choice of kayaking or archery. Dhs11,770 per room, including flights (minimum two passengers).
Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi (02 801 5400, 04 883 2999).

49 Dusit Thani Dubai
Stay in a Dusit Grand Room at this Thai hotel, shaped like two hands in Thai greeting, and enjoy a set meal for two at Benjarong restaurant and bottle of bubbly, as well as a cake, plus laundry service. Dhs888 per room per night (minimum three-night stay).
Sheikh Zayed Road (04 317 4212).

50 Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Head to one (or should that be two?) of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks. The hotel is offering weekend city-break packages, including breakfast at Mosaico, free access to Wild Wadi, private beach access via a free shuttle service, and discounts on food and drinks. Prices start from Dhs975 per room per night.
Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 8500).

51 Hatta Fort Hotel
This secluded hotel, located in the heart of the Hajar Mountains, is offering an all-inclusive package for Dhs700 per person (sharing), including three meals with selected house beverages.
Hatta, www.hattafort.com (04 809 9333).

52 Park Hyatt Dubai
Feed your body and soul for a weekend at the scenic Park Hyatt, which offers guests special spa or food vouchers worth Dhs550. Prices start at Dhs1,920 per room per night.
Baniyas Road, Deira (04 602 1234).

53 The Ritz-Carlton DIFC
Not only does this package include a stay at the swanky Ritz-Carlton, but also the chance to learn a little more about the city with a trip to the bustling spice souk in the company of a local chef. The package also includes hotel credit of Dhs185 to spend in the restaurants and bars. Prices start at Dhs1,350 per room per night.
DIFC, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 372 2222).

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