From the eighth-century delights of Kiev to the ruins of Amman via the cooler climes of nearby Salalah, we’ve picked 33 escape routes for you to discover
With Eid fast approaching, tourists will start flocking to the emirate to mark the occasion. With most visitors arriving from Europe, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries, last year hotels experienced occupancy rates above a staggering 90 percent. With shops and malls scheduled to remain open for 24 hours, if you’re looking to escape the crowds and the traffic, why not make a long weekend of it or even a mini holiday. With so many exciting destinations out there, we’ve broken down the locations by the price of flights, so that you can find the right trip to suit your budget. With all of our destinations reachable in less than ten hours, you could even take an overnight trip to save your precious holiday. And, with many of the countries featured now accessible through direct flights from budget airlines, such as flydubai, it’s never been easier to explore somewhere new.
Flights less than Dhs2,000
City, Adventure, Hours of flight - 2.5
The Jordanian capital’s cultural highlights include the Citadel and the ancient ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. Be sure to visit the Balad district, with its numerous souks and for a traditional Jordanian meal, L’Auberge restaurant is the place to dine, while Cantaloupe is a popular haunt for Amman’s hip and stylish crowd.
Budget: Jordan Tower Hotel from Dhs156 per night. www.jordantoweramman.com
Blow out: Four Seasons Hotel from Dhs855 per night. www.fourseasons.com
City, Hours of flight - 3
Winning and subsequently hosting the Eurovision song contest surely helped wacky Baku’s tourism explosion in Azerbaijan, but there is enough character to pull in tourists looking beyond the kitsch. The port (on the landlocked Caspian Sea – we said it was wacky) has overcome the industrial heritage of an oil town to provide culture, history and an emerging nightlife scene.
Budget stay: Azcot Hotel from Dhs400 per night. www.azcothotel.com
Blow out: Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel, from Dhs1,000 per night. www.jumeirah.com
City, Beach, Hours of flight - 4
Famously known for its energetic nightlife (try the Jumayzeh district), along with historic ruins and beautiful scenery, Beirut is also known as ‘The Paris of The Middle East’. Zaytouna Bay near Ashrafeey eh is perfect for afternoon lunch and the Riviera Beach Club is great spot to take in a leisurely swim and refreshments.
Budget: Gefinor Rotana from Dhs514 per night, www.rotana.com
Blow out: InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut from Dhs1,079 per night. www.phoeniciabeirut.com
City, Romance, Hours of flight 5
Located on the Bosporus strait, Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital is a scintillating mixture of traditional Ottoman-style minarets and modern architecture. Highlights include the Blue Mosque and the Byzantine Hagia Sofia mosque, which is now a museum. The city is also famous for its traditional Turkish bath houses or hammams, with over 200 to choose from across the city. If you have a sweet tooth, you should sample traditional Turkish delight sweets from one of the many bazaars. For a more substantial meal, Keyf-i Mekan restaurant is a popular spot.
Budget: Hilton Garden Inn from Dhs217 per night. hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com
Blow out: Radisson Blu Beirut from Dhs912 per night. www.radissonblu.com/hotel-beirut
City, Adventure, Hours of flight - 5.5
Known as ‘The City of a Thousand Domes’, the Ukrainian capital is also one of Europe’s oldest cities. With an eighth-century monastery and warrens of underground caves and catacombs, it’s the sort of place that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dan Brown novel. As well as the orthodox churches and cathedrals, Kiev has a thriving art scene, with galleries and a healthy nightlife.
Budget: Hotel Lybid from Dhs399 per night. www.hotellybid.com.ua
Blow out: Premier Palace Hotel from Dhs1,788 per night. www.premier-palace.com
Adventure, Beach, Hours of flight - 1
With historic forts and the ancient Mutrah Souk all set against the backdrop of the Hajar mountains, Muscat is steeped in history. With excellent scuba diving, snorkelling and dolphin-watching as well as a spectacular mosque and opera house, the Omani capital is only about an hour’s flight from Dubai.
Budget: Radisson Blu Hotel from Dhs506 per night. www.radissonblu.com
Blow out: Grand Hyatt from Dhs725 per night. www.muscat.grand.hyatt.com
Adventure - Hours of flight - 4
Located in the Annapurana range of the Himalayas, the city is famous for its ancient lakes, waterfalls and gorges as well as those stunning views. Catch a boat on Phewa Lake’s placid waters and join the visitors that flock to the Barahi Temple, a pagoda in the middle of water that is one of the city’s most important monuments.
Budget stay: Hotel Mandala from Dhs75 a night. www.hotelmandala.com.np
Blow out: Hotel Barahi from Dhs257 per night. www.barahi.com
Adventure, Hours of flight - 2
Hop on a short flight, and you could be in Oman’s second city. Head to the mountains and you’ll encounter lush green plant-life, leopards, hyenas, waterfalls and you’ll also be pleased to hear that temperatures are noticeably cooler – perfect if you’re looking to escape the sweltering summer heat. No trip would be complete without a visit to the Al Husn Souk – at over 5,000 years old, it is the perfect spot to pick up Oman’s most famous export, frankincense.
Budget: Salalah Plaza Hotel from Dhs200 per night. www.facebook.com/salalahplaza
Blow out: Hilton Salalah from Dhs1,211 per night. www.hilton.com
Adventure, Romance, Beach, Foodie, Hours of flight - 4.5
Monsoons are frequent in much of Sri Lanka at this time of year, but the northwest region remains unaffected and is where you’ll find some of the island’s most beautiful scenery. Willpattu National Park is the largest in Sri Lanka and home to a variety of species, including monkeys, sloth bears and leopards. For culture, head to Anuraphapura, where you’ll find the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi tree and the Abhayagiri Dagoba – a giant structure that was once the centrepiece to a first-century monastery.
Budget: Ayubowan Guesthouse, www.ayubowan-guest-house.lakpura.com
Blow out: Ulagalla Resorts, www.ugaescapes.com
City, Hours of flight - 3.5
Straddling the steep banks of the Mtkvari river, Tbilisi has been the former Soviet state of Georgia’s capital since the fifth-century. To experience the heart of the city, head to Rustaveli Avenue, where you’ll encounter opera houses, art galleries, museums and exclusive shops and boutiques. Fans of art deco should explore the Old Town, where the maze of narrow streets offers some fine architectural examples and for an insight into the capital’s turbulent history, the National Museum of Georgia is a must.
Budget: David Sultan Hotel from Dhs367 per night. www.davidhotel.ge
Blow out: Tbilisi Marriott Hotel from Dhs973 per night. www.marriott.com
Flights less than Dhs3,000
Ho Chi Minh City
City, Adventure, Hours of flight - 7
Vietnam, inexplicably, remains one of the less-travelled areas of Asia. Beat the crowds by taking a longtail boat ride down the Mekong River and see the surrounding villages and farms in their unspoilt glory. The serenity is in stark contrast to the rapidly expanding urban sprawl of the city famed for its French colonial architecture and aromatic spice markets.
Budget: Duc Vuong Hotel from Dhs92 per night. www.ducvuonghotel.com
Blow out: Asiana Saigon from Dhs590 per night. www.ihg.com
Adventure, Hours of flight - 5
Known as the ‘safari capital of Africa’, no trip would be complete without one. For the intrepid explorer, take a trip to scale Mount Kenya, one of Africa’s most beautiful ice-capped peaks and home to leopards, elephants and buffalos. You’ll also be spoilt for choice for restaurants, but a must-try in the city is nyama choma – sliced meat served on a wooden chopping board with a choice of sides. To taste the best of this street food, head to Kenyatta Market and stop at one of the nyama choma stalls.
Budget: Pearl Palace from Dhs235 per night. www.pearlpalacehotels.kbo.co.ke
Blow out: Nairobi Serena Hotel from Dhs1,432 per night. www.serenahotels.com
City, Foodie, Hours of flight - 9
Spain’s third city has a thriving, energetic atmosphere. Head to the sleek and futuristic-looking City of Art and Sciences building, where you’ll find one of Europe’s largest aquariums, a planetarium, an Imax cinema and the opera house. Then head to the Museum of Fine Arts, to see one of the country’s most important collections, including works from Goya and El Greco, before heading to the vast Central Market to try the local produce. The city’s Bioparc is also worth a stop; a zoo which uses natural barriers as opposed to cages.
Budget: Zenit Valencia from Dhs362 per night. www.hotelzenitvalencia.zenithoteles.com
Blow out: Hotel Balneario Las Arenas from Dhs960 per night. www.hotelvalencialasarenas.com
City, Foodie, Hours of flight - 5.5
The Austrian capital is famous for its classical music, opera, art, museums and palaces. First-time visitors needn’t venture far beyond the central, pedestrian-friendly Opernring (the innermost ring road), home to the grand Hofburg Palace, the Hapsburg’s winter residence, as well as the world-famous opera house, gothic St Stephen’s Cathedral, Albertina gallery and beautiful Palmenhaus greenhouse. But it’s worth venturing further, exploring the city on foot or via its iconic red trams – and be sure to stop off for regular refuels at Vienna’s countless independent cafés serving great coffee and some of the best pastries and sweets you’ll find in Europe.
Budget: Hotel Papageno from Dhs381 per night. www.hotelpapageno.at
Blow out: Hotel Sacher from Dhs1,906 per night. www.sacher.com/hotel-sacher-vienna
City, Hours of flight - 6.5
Built on a marshland, Russia’s former capital has a fascinating and turbulent history. Former home to literary giant Fyodor Dostoevsky and the city’s namesake, Peter the Great, this metropolis also offers a world-class art museum, the Hermitage, along with temperatures which fluctuate as dramatically as St Peterburg’s past (luckily January is the coldest month). For authentic Russian food, head to the upmarket Pakin restaurant on Nevsky Prospect.
Budget: Vesta Hotel from Dhs385 per night. www.vesta-hotel.com
Blow out: Grand Hotel Europe St Petersburg from Dhs2,600 per night. www.grandhoteleurope.com
Flights more than Dhs3,000
City, Hours of flight - 6.5
Despite its turbulent past, Belgrade is buzzing, with a flourishing café culture. The bohemian quarter of Skadarlija is arguably the best place to sample local food and top sights to visit include the historic Belgrade Fortress, where you can discover the city’s history and admire breathtaking views of the famous Sava and Danube rivers and the Trg Republike – the city’s picturesque main square, where you can watch young locals socialise underneath the famous statue of Prince Michael.
Budget: Slavija Hotel Belgrade from Dhs214 per night. www.slavijahotel.com
Blow out: Hyatt Regency Belgrade from Dhs863 per night. www.belgrade.regency.hyatt.com
City, Foodie, Hours of flight - 6.5
The famously war-torn and divided German capital is steeped in history; visit the Mauer Gallerie and Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie museum for an insight into the turbulent past of East and West Berlin. For a peaceful present, head to picturesque Unter den Linden for coffee and cake, and scout out young, fresh and new venues in the hipster districts of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.
Budget: East Seven Berlin from Dhs150 per night. www.eastseven.de
Blow out: Arcotel Velvet Berlin from Dhs333 per night. www.arcotelhotels.com
City, Adventure, Hours of flight - 8
Dubbed ‘The City of Spas’, because of the numerous historic thermal baths, Rudas Baths on the western side of the Danube houses one of the oldest Turkish baths in Budapest, built in the 16th-century. With baroque architecture and historic sites, the Hungarian capital is a fascinating destination. A good starting point is Castle Hill, where you can explore famous UNESCO World Heritage sites including the baroque Royal Palace and the rococo St Matthias Church.
Budget: Orgona Panzió from Dhs11 per night. www.orgona-house.com
Blow out: Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge from Dhs587 per night. www.sofitel.com
City, Adventure, Beach, Hours of flight - 9
With its crystal-clear Atlantic waters and abundance of plant species, all complemented by the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain, nature lovers will be in for a treat as June to November is the best time for whale watching. Take the circular trip around the peninsular to Cape Point before heading back via Chapman’s Peak, where you find the best calamari in the city at the Chapman’s Peak Hotel.
Budget: Cape Town Lodge Hotel from Dhs321 per night. www.capetownlodge.co.za
Blow out: One&Only Cape Town from Dhs1,784 per night. www.oneandonlyresorts.com
City, Romance, Hours of flight - 8.5
The highlights of Morocco’s largest port city include the King Hassan II Mosque and the Mahkama du Pacha, an ornate building with Hispanic influences. For a taste of pre-French colonial Casablanca, head to the Acienne Medina, where you’ll see the remains of the city’s 18-century fortifications and at night, walk down the Corniche to experience the town’s vibrant bars and nightclubs.
Budget: Ibis Casa Voyageurs from Dhs217 per night. www.ibis.com
Blow out: Hyatt Regency from Dhs917 per night. www.casablanca.regency.hyatt.com
Adventure, Foodie, Hours of flight - 8
For most travellers, the northern Thai city is a gateway for trekking trips to visit the hill tribes, as well as the idyllic and laid back town of Pai. Whilst in Chang Mai, mount the stairs at Doi Suthep temple before sunset for spectacular views over the city. In the evenings, don’t miss the regular night bazaars taking place within the walls of the Old Town, selling hand-made crafts, food and more.
Budget: Hollanda Montri Guesthouse from Dhs53 per night. www.hollandamontri.com
Blow out: 137 Pillars House from Dhs1,021 per night. www.137pillarshouse.com
City, Romance, Hours of flight - 9
The Italian Renaissance city is one of Europe’s great centres for art. Head to the Uffizi Gallery to admire the work of the Italian Masters, including Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Giotto, then with a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, head to Ora d’Aria for a quintessentially Italian lunch, before moving to Caffè Giacosa for a drink – a historic venue owned by Roberto Cavalli.
Budget: La Dimora degli Angeli from Dhs440 per night. www.ladimoradegliangeli.com
Blow out: JK Place Firenze from Dhs1,640 per night. www.jkplace.com
City, Foodie, Hours of flight - 8
Music fans visiting the Portuguese capital will delight in the discovery of Fado, Lisbon’s answer to Parisian Chanson, which can be seen performed live at dinner cabarets in the Old Town, including the district of Mouraria. Foodies will enjoy a visit to Café Pastéis de Belém, home of the original custard tart. A day trip to the fairytale castles of Sinatra (once home to Lord Byron) is also a must.
Budget: This Is Lisbon from Dhs82 per night. www.thisislisbonhostel.com
Blow out: As Janelas Verdes from Dhs570 per night. www.asjanelasverdes.com
City, Hours of flight - 7.5
Eat at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, one of the capital’s best restaurants for an affordable but excellent taste of British food past and present (the menu is inspired by recipes dating back as far as 1390). Discerning tourists can try mixed drinks with a difference at 69 Colebrooke Row or Worship Street Whistling Shop, where the speakeasy vibe meets complex molecular mixology.
Budget: St Christopher’s Inn from Dhs100 per night. www.st-christophers.co.uk
Blow out: The Soho Hotel from Dhs2,210 per night. www.firmdalehotels.com
Travel time: two hours 30 minutes by car
Head to the Omani peninsular’s highest mountain, Jebel Harim, or visit the 16th-century Khasab castle. The beaches are also superb for scuba diving, boat cruises and even swimming with dolphins if you’re lucky.
Budget: Golden Tulip Resort Dibba from Dhs670 per night. www.goldentulipdibba.com
Blowout: Six Senses Zighy Bay from Dhs3,100 per night. www.sixsenses.com
City, Romance, Foodie, Hours of flight - 8.5
Claiming to be the purveyors of the best pizzas in the world, any gastronomes should have the affordable Neapolitan versions of the cheesy comfort food on their bucket list. A noisy, traffic-ridden and chaotic city, Naples is energetic and engaging. Head to the city’s Da Michel restaurant for an impeccable and affordable example (www.damichele.net). Other attractions include the excellent National Archaeological Museum, with its incredible collection of Greek and Roman artefacts, and the Piazza Plebiscito, the largest square in the city. And don’t forget to stop for a world class coffee on the way.
Budget: Hotel Zara from Dhs96 per night. www.hotelzara.it
Blow out: Constantinopoli 104 from Dhs670 per night. www.costantinopoli104.it
City, Romance, Hours of flight - 7
With the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc De Triomphe and Champs Elysees, Paris is truly a centre of fashion, romance, elegance and culture. For authentic steak, head to Le Relais De l’Entrecote followed by a visit to the kitsch Lido burlesque for a Parisian drink.
Budget: Hôtel Elysées from Dhs588 per night. www.hotelelyseesparis.com
Blow out: Scribe from Dhs1,359 per night. www.hotel-scribe.com
City, Hours of flight - 6
Boasting baroque architecture, a pre-gothic castle, beautiful cobbled streets and a plethora of museums and galleries, the city Kafka once called home is a bohemian melting pot. The Czech capital is also a great spot for picking up designer goods among the numerous swanky stores. Or you could simply take advantage of some of the more affordable food and shopping available.
Budget: Appia Residences Prague from Dhs511 per night. www.appiaresidencesprague.cz
Blow out: Buddha Bar Hotel Prague from Dhs1,245 per night. www.buddhabarhotelprague.com
Adventure, Beach, Romance, Hours of flight - 6
Beach fans will be hard-pressed to find a destination that rivals this archipelago of 115 idyllic Indian Ocean islands. The three main ones – Praslin, La Digue and Mahé – boast Vallée de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s said to be the original Garden of Eden, as well as lush botanical gardens, exclusive private resorts and of course pristine golden sands. Set sail on an island-hopping adventure, and don’t forget to throw in a spot of scuba diving – the abundant sea life and great visibility should make for a memorable experience.
Budget: Beau Vallon Residence from Dhs241 per night. www.beauvallonresidence.sc
Blow out: Frégate from Dhs7,060 per night. www.fregate.com
City, Foodie, Hours of flight - 9
Famous for its tea, Shanghai’s tea houses are amongst the best in the world and Tang Yun Tea House is must-visit for a good cuppa. Take a boat ride on the Huangpu River and if you’re a gastronome, you should embark on a culinary food tour, where you’ll get to sample Chinese cuisine from street-food to noodle houses (try UnTour Shanghai for food discoveries). Fans of shopping should visit The Nanjing Road, where you’ll find 600 shops and restaurants.
Budget: Hotel Carolina Xinhua Road from Dhs229. www.hotelcarolina.com.cn
Blow out: Waldorf Astoria from Dhs1,170. www.waldorfastoria3.hilton.com
City, Hours of flight - 7.5
The cosmopolitan city-state is home to several diverse cultures; head to Little India and China Town to get a taste of the town’s diverse culture and food. A visit to the Merlion statue, a symbol of national pride for Singapore, as well as fun-packed Sentosa Island, are also a must.
Budget: Footprints Hostel from Dhs64 per night. www.footprintshostel.com.sg
Blow out: Raffles Singapore from Dhs790 per night. www.raffles.com
Beach, Foodie, Hours of flight - 6
It may be a tiny Greek island, but Skiathos is home to more than 60 beaches, including the famous 40km Koukounaries Beach, which is lined with cafés and one of the island’s most popular sunbathing spots. Charter a small boat from the busy marina to check out medieval ruins of Kástro from the water, or settle in for a sunset at a classic beach taverna. If you’re feeling a little more energetic, mountain biking tours and diving trips around the island are also offered.
Budget: Aggelos Studio from Dhs378 per night, www.aggelosstudio.gr
Blow out: Skiathos Princess Hotel, from Dhs1,476 per night, www.skiathosprincess.com
City, Foodie, Hours of flight - 10
The Japanese capital is an arresting mix of old and new, with temples and shrines dating back hundreds of years sharing space with modern skyscrapers adorned with neon. Yet these clashes offer visitors an insight into the many paradoxes of modern-day Japan.
Don’t miss Tsukiji Fish Market, the biggest and busiest of its kind in the world (it will soon be relocated, so hurry), the beautiful Meiji Shrine with its giant torii gate, lively Yoyogi Park in Harajuku, Shinjuku Gyoen National Park for examples of stunning Japanese and Zen landscaping, as well as buzzing Roppongi Hills with its shops and art.
Budget: Andon Ryokan from Dhs251 per night. www.andon.co.jp
Blow out: Hotel Claska from Dhs737 per night. www.claska.com
Experienced or adventurous travellers who want a more unique experience should check out UAE-based operators Offbeatours, who offer trips to destinations such as North East India. www.offbeatours.com
Flights less than Dhs2,000
Flights less than Dhs3,000