You’ve grimaced watching your friends and their kids battle their way out of DXB along with the masses at the end of June on your third airport drop-off, then you’ve smugly driven down a quiet Sheikh Zayed Road, got a parking space right outside Spinneys in Motor City at 11am (never happens) and you’re congratulating your decision not to bed-hop with relatives for the next two months. But then we all know eight weeks off school can feel like a life sentence (ahem, sorry... “a long time”). So we thought we’d tempt you with a few mini-break ideas, should you fancy a change of scenery before the holidays are out.
In the region...
Where? Salalah, Oman.
How long to get there? Two hours to fly there.
How much? A return ticket on Flydubai (www.flydubai.com) starts from Dhs650.
How cool is it? The average temperature right now is 26˚C.
Why should you go? Escape the summer heat to the green oasis that is Salalah, a small corner of the Arabian Peninsula that catches the Indian summer monsoon from mid-June through to mid-September. Enjoy the striking mountain scenery just after the monsoon rains and long, picture-perfect white beaches that stretch for miles. It’s also a brilliant place to get your culture fix, thanks to its pre-historic archaeological sites, museum and cultural centre, as well as the Unesco World Heritage site of Ubar. Don’t miss the main traditional souq called Al Husn Souq, where you can buy frankincense and see how Omani hats are made.
Where? Jebel Shams, Oman.
How long to get there? Five hours driving time.
How much? It will take a couple of tanks of petrol.
How cool is it? The average temperature right now is 25˚C but it can drop to 19˚C.
Why should you go? Jebel Shams is Arabic for “mountain of sun” and is located in Northeastern Oman. It’s the highest mountain in the country and a popular road trip for families around the region, looking to escape the intense summer heat at ground level. Jebel Shams Resort has twenty chalets, fifteen Arabian tents, an international restaurant, and a coffee shop, and the staff can arrange tours for you to see traditional foods such as shua (bread) and mountain bee honey being made by local villagers. The scenery is spectacular and there are lots of easy, ambling walks to explore around the area.
Where? Petra and the Dead Sea, Jordan.
How long to get there? Approximately three hours and 30 minutes by plane.
How much? A return ticket on Flydubai starts from Dhs 1,318.
How cool is it? The average temperature right now is 32˚C.
Why should you go? If Petra is on your bucket list, then grab your walking shoes and head to Jordan. A three-hour car ride from Amman, you can ride a horse through the Siq and explore the hidden archaeological treasures of the Rose City. Discover tombs, temples, an impressive amphitheatre and a Roman colonnaded street. After all that, descend into the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the Earth’s surface, and float in the unusually warm and incredibly buoyant mineral-rich waters. Also smother yourself in Dead Sea mud in the world’s oldest “spa”.
Fly there in under four hours...
Where? Baku, Azerbaijan.
How long to get there? It’s a three hour flight.
How much? A return ticket on Flydubai costs Dhs1,085.
How cool is it? The average temperature right now is 27˚C.
Why should you go? More live mud volcanoes than anywhere else on Earth, ancient sites where flames spontaneously burst from underground, natural crude oil baths to bathe in, and a new museum in the shape of a rolled-up carpet. Intrigued? You should be. Situated at the crossroads of Southwest Asia and Southeastern Europe, Azerbaijan traces its roots back centuries and was the first Muslim-majority country to have operas, theatres and modern universities. Any visit or long weekend here would be one to remember, as there are Unesco-listed palaces to wander in, towers (which are also UNESCO-listed) in the walled city of Baku to spy the sights from and narrow cobbled streets crowded with cafés and carpet shops gathered around the Teze bazaar.
Where? Tbilisi, Georgia.
How long to get there? It’s approximately a three-hour and 25-minute flight.
How much? A return ticket on Flydubai costs Dhs1,635.
How cool is it? The average temperature right now is 24˚C.
Why should you go? Georgia is the perfect place to enjoy a city break and it’s just a hop, skip and a jump away. The capital Tbilisi has lots to do and see. Within this beautiful city, you can see mosques, a little canyon and a waterfall, even an ancient bath house. The whole family will be enchanted as you lose yourselves among the little, winding streets. A leisurely coffee (and a juice for the tots) will refresh you before grabbing a cable car to carry high up to the Narikala fortress. Who said you need a beach to have fun?
A little bit further...
Where? Mahé, Seychelles.
How long to get there? It’s approximately a four-hour, 40-minute flight.
How much? On Emirates (www.emirates.com), a return ticket starts from Dhs4,850.
How cool is it? The average temperature right now is 27˚C.
Why should you go? Once upon a time you dreamed of a romantic getaway to a beautiful African island in a cabana made for two. Now with babies, buggies, pre-schoolers and Trunkis in tow, enjoy the beauty of this utopia with new eyes. The white sandy beaches, azure-blue ocean, bustling markets and secluded coves all make this the perfect place to regroup with your loved ones. The Praslin National Park is home to protected giant tortoises, frigatebirds and sheath-tailed bats and would excite any little Doolittle in the making. Photography enthusiasts in the family should definitely not forget their camera!
Where? Nairobi, Kenya.
How long to get there? It’s approximately a five-hour flight.
How much? A return flight on Emirates starts from Dhs2,110.
How cool is it? The average temperature right now is 25˚C.
Why should you go? For anyone who has ever dreamed of watching the famous wildebeest migration crossing the the Masai Mara, you will know that July is the perfect month to do it. And it’s a great way to introduce your kids to one of the most awe-inspiring spectacles of nature. This is the dry season, but temperatures are low and there are plenty of safari options and lodges to choose to base your trip from. You can do a five-day tour that also takes in views of Mount Kilamanjaro and you’re guaranteed to spot the entire Big Five (officially known as lions, elephants, leopards, buffalo and rhino). It doesn’t get cooler than that...