In the UAE, we’re blessed with a really diverse range of nearby holiday destinations. The variety of Europe isn’t far away and South East Asia is also pretty close. However, when it comes to a long weekend, travellers in the region tend to stick to the same destinations. Sri Lanka and Oman are gorgeous places but today we’re going to show you what else can be reached within 4.5 hours or less – perfect for an extended weekend away. The world really is on our doorstep!
Yerevan, Armenia (approx. 3hrs with Air Arabia and Etihad from 2nd July 2014)
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is a really interesting little destination. In the Soviet era, the city underwent huge amounts of reconstruction as the architect Alexander Tamanyan was tasked with creating a ‘perfect city’. The result was a beautiful town with wide avenues that resemble Paris or Vienna. Yerevan is often known as the Pink City due to the colouration of many buildings and is a truly eclectic blend of Neo-Classical, Modern and Post-Modern architecture.
There’s plenty to see in Yerevan – make sure to have a look at the 3,000-year-old Erebuni Fortress, the Republic Square and the gloriously beautiful Opera House. There’s also lots of really nice parks to wander in as well as the Singing Fountains in front of the Art Gallery at the Republic Square. Food lovers will fall in love with Yerevan – don’t miss out on ‘lamehjun’, the Armenian take on pizza.
Sofia, Bulgaria (approx. 4.5hrs with Wizzair from Dubai World Central)
Another very classical Eastern European city, the capital of Bulgaria is renowned for its old ruins as well as, interestingly, the quality of its mineral water (the city has 7 independent mineral water springs). There are several extremely good museums relating to military history, architecture and archaeology as well as lovely, quaint cafes for excellent people watching.
Sofia is also home to some great festivals throughout the year including the Sofia Film Festival and Sofia Design Week.
Limassol, Cyprus (flights to Larnaca approx. 3hrs 45mins with Etihad/Emirates)
The second biggest town in Cyprus, Limassol is a great beach getaway as well as being home to incredible old architecture. Don’t miss the Limassol Castle and the Limassol Old Town which give a great glimpse into the past.
Sandwiched between the ancient cities of Amathus and Kourion, it’s well worth getting outside Limassol to view these sites. Try to see the Kolossi Castle as well. Beach lovers will love the Akti Olympion, a 7 kilometre beach side walking park.
Tbilisi, Georgia (approx. 3hrs 35mins with Etihad/flydubai)
The third Eastern European gem in this blog post, it’s fair to say that there’s lots of wonderful places to visit in this part of the world! Lying on the banks of the Kura River, Tbilisi is another brilliant city oozing with old Soviet charm. There’s an entire region dedicated to sulphur baths, and make sure to climb the Narikala Fortress for sublime views of the city.
The city is a shoppers paradise especially for those who love jewellery. Many travellers visit Georgia just to buy gems and jewels – the quality is notoriously high and the prices are remarkably low. There’s also great, cosy food to choose from. Make sure to dine on khinkhali (Georgian dumplings) and mtsvadi, a grilled, skewered meat.
Golden Triangle, India (flights to Delhi/Jaipur, approx. 3hrs with Emirates/Etihad/Air Arabia)
A simply incredible Indian itinerary. The Golden Triangle is a much loved tourist trail, so called due to the triangular shape formed by New Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan. It’s possible to get around by car or train and the entire circuit runs for about 1,000km.
A popular way to do the Golden Triangle is to fly to Delhi, then south to the world famous Taj Mahal at Agra. After this, head west to the desert landscapes of Rajasthan and visit the city of Jaipur. Culture, history and great food – a superb extended weekend.
Kathmandu, Nepal (approx. 4hrs with Etihad/flydubai)
Kathmandu, nestled in its namesake Kathmandu Valley, is slowly but surely becoming a holiday spot to suit all budgets. Full of gorgeous Buddhist sites, Swayambhu (one of the most sacred sites in the country) is a must-see. It’s also possible to take a Himalayan air sightseeing tour to see the world’s most famous mountain range from the air. There’s also some great trekking tours that can last 2-4 days.
There’s plenty of excellent festivals throughout the year as well as wonderful places for yoga and massage. Kathmandu is very much what you make it – if you need an active holiday or a completely rested holiday then the capital of Nepal is a great choice!
Baku, Azerbaijan (approx. 3.5hrs with flydubai)
Previously only thought of as a hub for the petrochem industry, Baku is starting to develop a really tourist friendly attitude. The Old City is a great place to explore – keep an eye out for the ancient markets and the Guz Qalasi, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site.
Baku is a great place to shop for antiques and rugs and a good public transportation system makes it easy to get around. Exhausted from shopping all day? Take a break in one of Baku’s numerous tea shops.
Zanzibar (flights to Dar es Salaam approx. 4.5hrs with Emirates/Etihad)
We can sit here and tell you the reasons to go to Zanzibar but, really, we think this picture sums it up. Bliss.
EDIT: We made a small error with flight times to Dar es Salaam – it’s about 5.5hrs, our apologies. All the more reason to go for an extra day or two!
Do you have a favourite getaway near the UAE? Let us know in the comments!