Well, you’ve survived summer (almost) so we think you deserve a break. With Eid al-Adha coming along soon (most likely August 31 to September 3) we’re sure you’re planning a getaway with friends and family. While you might dream of hanging out with the squirrels in Central Park, flying to New York for a four-day trip isn’t entirely feasible (believe us – been there, done that, suffered the strangest jet lag).
Looking closer to home, we’ve picked out 20 destination packages ideal for a short break. And to make things even easier, all 20 can be flown to directly from Dubai. Only the most foolhardy enjoy a stopover, after all…
Ethiopia’s Hidden Treasures
A country so often beset by humanitarian disasters, Ethiopia has risen again and is embracing tourism like never before. And there’s so much to see, especially in the north where this week-long voyage will take you. After an introduction to the capital, Addis Ababa, you’ll jet off to Bahir Dar and visit the Blue Nile Falls, an Instagram moment if ever we saw one.
Lake Tana and the Simien Mountains, also await, both being equally picturesque, before you drive over to the medieval town of Gondar and its 16th-century castle. The last leg of the trip is a two-day stint in Lalibela, a Unesco World Heritage Site and home of some stunning buildings carved out of the rock.
Flight time to Addis Ababa: 4hrs 15mins. From Dhs7,600 per person for seven days (international flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.tourdust.com (+44 203 733 4277).
Ghana Coastal Tour
Like the UAE, Ghana has profited from the discovery of offshore oil and this economic upswing has made it a very attractive proposition for holidaymakers. The capital, Accra, is making the most of this new-found prosperity but on this package with Responsible Travel, you will leave the buzzing city and drive down to Cape Coast, visiting the 700-year-old township Elmina nearby. Axim will be your base for the majority of the seven-day trip, and has one of Ghana’s finest beaches, but is also within striking distance of several historical and cultural points of interest, including the Nzuelzo Village on stilts in Beyin. Ghana is a hidden gem no more…
Flight time to Accra: 8hrs 5mins. From Dhs3,500 per person for seven days (flights extra). Ongoing. www.responsibletravel.com (+44 1273 823 700).
Masai Mara, Kenya
If you’ve grown tired of spotting camel and oryx (How could you? Just look at their faces) while trekking the desert in a 4×4 then perhaps it’s time you went to the birthplace of the safari, Kenya. After landing in Nairobi you’ll be whisked away to Lake Elementatia where you can marvel at flamingos and pelicans. However, the real highlight is a trip to the world-famous Masai Mara game reserve where you will pitch up at Fig Tree Camp and enjoy game walks, black-tie bush dinners and, of course, a safari.
Flight time to Nairobi: 5hrs 5mins. From Dhs3,799 per person (flights and transfers included). Aug 31-Sep 3. www.flightcentre.ae (800 11444). *Flights included
Rwandan Gorilla Safari
Having survived the horrific turbulence of the 1990s, Rwanda is rightly becoming a haven for tourists keen to see those most wonderful of primates, gorillas, in their natural habitat. This three-day break includes a full day’s gorilla safari, giving you the chance to revel in one of the world’s most sought-after experiences. All of this will take place in the extraordinary landscape of Volcanoes National Park, home to nine volcanoes, six of which are still active. You’ll also be given a guided tour around the country’s historic capital, Kigali, which has developed apace since the terrors of two decades ago.
Flight time to Kigali: 6hrs. From Dhs4,500 per person for three days (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.responsibletravel.com (+44 1273 823 700).
South Africa’s Garden Route
Fly into Cape Town and discover one of the most awe-inspiring stretches of South Africa on this four-day holiday. The Garden Route offers beautiful beaches, majestic mountains and an array of valleys and lakes, with this trip giving you the opportunity to discover the Cango Caves, Knysna Elephant Sanctuary and the Tsitsikamma National Park along the road to Port Elizabeth. A highlight for bird lovers will be your stay in Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world, where you will discover all about how these avian speedsters are farmed.
Flight time to Cape Town: 9hrs 45mins. From Dhs3,250 per person for four days (flights extra). Tour departs each Thursday from Cape Town. www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk (+44 1293 762 404).
Zambian Canoe Safari
You don’t have to own (or hire) an off-road vehicle to enjoy the wonderful wildlife of Zambia, just hop in a canoe and head down the Zambezi River. After flying in to Lusaka and driving down to Chirundu, you will begin navigating the world-famous waterway as it makes its way through the floodplains of the Mana Pools region. Adding to the sheer adventure of this safari is the fact each night you will be setting up camp on a different island. The array of fauna you will come across is simply staggering, plus the feeling of achievement at canoeing the Lower Zambezi will make this four-day holiday live even longer in the memory. Paddles up!
Flight time to Lusaka: 7hrs 10mins. From Dhs2,500 per person for four days (flights extra). Ongoing. www.responsibletravel.com (+44 1273 823 700).
This Tanzanian tourist trap is well known for its pristine white beaches and attractively azure waters. But what you might not know is that this archipelago was once governed by our neighbours, Oman. This influence is reflected in some of the architecture, as well as the hospitality, both of which you will encounter during your four-day trip. You’ll be staying at the stunning Sea Cliff Resort and Spa, where you can sample the best of Swahili cuisine. Golfers, pack your clubs as the resort has its own nine-hole course (if you can sneak a few hours away from the other half, that is). Flight time to Zanzibar: 5hrs 50mins. From Dhs3,950 per person for four days (two sharing, flights included). Until September 15. www.flightcentre.ae (800 11444).
It’s not without reason that people from Beirut are known to visit other cities and say, “It’s good, but it’s not Beirut”. Find out for yourself why their hometown is so beloved on this four-night sojourn to the Lebanese capital. Highlights include a city tour, a visit to the ruins of ancient Tyre, lunch by the harbour in ancient Byblos, a trip out to the Crusader castle of Gibelet and a guided walk and boat ride through the Hobbit-esque, underground crystal caves at Jeita. While in the capital itself, your private guide will show you the delights of the wonderful National Museum, the scenic landmark of Pigeon Rocks and the wonderfully vibrant Downtown Beirut.
Flight time to Beirut: 3hrs 55mins. From Dhs7,100 per person for four days (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.corinthiantravel.co.uk (+44 20 3583 6089).
Let’s face it, who doesn’t love pandas? They are most abundant in China’s Sichuan Province, China, so if you’re bonkers about the bears, take a trip to Chengdu. Not only does this sprawling metropolis have its own research base, it’s also within striking distance of several others, including Dujiangyan, where you can cuddle one for a Dhs1,000 donation. Apart from pandas, there are plenty of other attractions to keep you busy, with travel a doddle thanks the metro system and hugely cheap taxis. A day out at Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage, the former home of one of China’s most celebrated poets, is a must, while you must sample a local hot pot from one of the many restaurants serving it up. Go for the chilli version if you dare…
Flight time to Chengdu: 6hrs 40mins. From Dhs1,800 per person (flight only). Ongoing. www.sichuanair.com (+86 28 8888 8888).
Hong Kong City Break
This multicultural city has long been the gateway between East and West, with its heart and soul being the bustling and beautiful Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong can be a little overwhelming to start with but you’ll soon revel in its delights as you navigate its teeming pavements and bright, neon-lit streets before stopping off for some local cuisine at one of the steam-filled canteens. This deal includes a Hong Kong Big Bus Tour, an easy and comfortable way to explore the city, while if you can spare Dhs140 you can take a deluxe island tour of the city.
Flight time to Hong Kong: 8hrs 5mins. From Dhs4,400 per person for four days (flights and transfers included). Until September 15. www.flightcentre.ae (800 11444).
A holiday well worth booking extra time off for, impress your friends with your knowledge of this nation relatively untapped by Western tourists. Your nine-day voyage begins in the capital Bishkek, where you can lose yourself among the meandering stalls of the Osh Bazaar and visit the nearby mountains of the Ala Archa National Park. Then you’ll head on to the shores of Song Kul Lake to spend some time living among the local nomads, sharing their yurts and exploring the mountain landscapes on horseback. Other high points include eagle watching at Lake Issy Kul and a trek through the Jety-Orguz Canyon.
Flight time to Bishkek: 3hrs 50mins. From Dhs7,000 per person for four days (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.wildfrontierstravel.com (+44 203 930 4439).
Steeped in history and the former home of pirates and other seafarers, the so-called “Jewel of Kedah” ranks proudly among Unesco’s World Geoparks. The archipelago consists of 104 islands and you’ll be staying on the main one, which helps holidaymakers strike the perfect balance between beach laziness and rainforest exploring. You’ll be staying three nights in a premier rainforest room at The St. Regis Langkawi, a five-star luxury resort overlooking the Andaman Sea and one of the newest hotels on the island. Now, where’s our butler?
Flight time to Kuala Lumpur: 7hrs 20mins. From Dhs4,995 per person for four days (flights and transfers included). Until September 15. www.flightcentre.ae (800 11444).
With a triumvirate of tropical paradises within a few hours of Dubai it can be almost as tricky to pick one as is to decide which bikinis or trunks to pack. However, we think the generous offer from those lovely guys and girls at Sun Siyam resorts could sway you away from Mauritius or the Seychelles this Eid. There’s a whopping 50 percent off its rooms in the Maldives throughout September, plus children under 12 stay and eat for free. For a more cost-effective stay, book the Sun Aqua Vilu Reef and check in to one of its luxury family villas overlooking the sea. Sheer bliss. Flight time to Malé: 4hrs 15mins. From Dhs695 per villa, per night (flights extra). Until Sep 30. www.sunsiyam.com/resorts/vilu-reef-maldives (+960 332 5977).
It might have a name that twists on even the finest of linguists’ tongues but Thiruvananthapuram is the gateway the glorious south of India, and the coastal region of Kerala in particular. While plenty of UAE travellers hit Goa or the more northern cities, Kerala is growing in popularity and on this fully customisable trip you’ll be able to discover the very best of the south. Head to Kanyakumari where you’ll see Padmanabhapuram Palace and the Gandhi Memorial before travelling on to Madurai and picture-perfect Kodaikanal. The last few days of the holiday will be spent in Ooty and Mysore, both of which are known for their lush greenery and glorious gardens, none of which are eyesores.
Flight time to Thiruvananthapuram: 4hrs 20mins. From Dhs1,575 (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.yatra.com (+1860 200 1800).
One of Eastern Europe’s most welcoming and stunning cities, Budapest offers visitors the familiarity of the continent’s culture with a distinct Hungarian flavour. Marvel at the architecture as you take in the neo-Gothic parliament buildings and imagine yourself in days of yore as you wander the cobbled streets of the medieval neighbourhoods. A visit to the Hungarian National Gallery is a must for all art aficionados, while a climb up to the Citadel is worth it for the superb panoramic views of the city. Resting your head for three nights at the Ibis Styles Budapest City, you simply must take a dip at one of the world-famous thermal baths nearby.
Flight time: 5hrs 55mins. From Dhs4,995 per person for four days (including flights and transfers). Until Sep 15. www.flightcentre.ae (800 11444).
Perhaps Europe’s least-discovered capital city, Kiev has always gone against the grain and is now embracing tourists attracted by its historic value and charmingly eclectic architecture. The city has a wonderfully rebellious feel to it, as exemplified by its rather rowdy nightlife. But if clubbing isn’t your scene, Kiev is abundant with cafés, museums and a slew of Unesco World Heritage sites. This package includes an intriguing city tour, along with a visit to the Chernobyl museum and an underground labyrinth full of mummified remains. This is definitely not one for the faint-hearted.
Flight time: 5hrs 50mins. From Dhs1,680 per person for four days (flights extra). Ongoing. www.onthegotours.com (+44 207 371 113).
Undoubtedly one of the trendiest European destinations right now, Montenegro has both history and beauty in equal measures. This eight-day tour will show you the very best of this intriguing country, taking in highly scenic spots such as Podgorica, Budva, Tivat, Lovcen, Kotor (a Unesco World Heritage Site), Sveti Stefan, Lustica and Perast. Nature lovers will be in their element, too, with the final day of this holiday being an excursion to both Biogradska Gora and Durmitor National Parks. The perfect place for a break with friends.
Flight time: 5hrs 15mins. From Dhs4,999 per person for eight days (two sharing, flights and transfers included). Departs Sep 1. www.holidayme.com (800 454545).
Paris and Switzerland
For those of you who’ve managed to wangle some time off pre-Eid, this packed trip will be right up your street. Starting off in Paris, you’ll soon be sailing down the Seine on a river cruise and sampling some of the French capital’s haute cuisine. Disneyland Paris and a guided your of the City of Love are also on your checklist before you drive over the border to Switzerland and take in the vistas from Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe”. Another highlight for those with a head for heights is Mount Titlis, where you can ride the the world’s first revolving cable-car ride (a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience).
Flight time: 7hrs 15mins. From Dhs8,389 per person for eight nights (including flights and transfers). Dates vary. www.holidayme.com (800 454545).
The mere mention of Transylvania to most people will conjure up visions of bloodthirsty vampires but this region has more than its share of attractions to get your teeth into, as well. After spending a day in Cluj-Napoca, you will set off on a week-long voyage of discovery that will take in the Turda Salt Mine, saxon villages and more castles and fortresses than you can shake a string of garlic at. What’s more, your local guide will give you a comprehensive tour to understand the cultural heritage of Transylvania. If you’re after an educational element, try this one.
Flight time to Cluj-Napoca: 5hrs 40mins. From Dhs1,780 per person for seven days (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.rolandia.eu (+40 317 800 236).
This landlocked country in the Caucasus region is a thriving nation with some superb scenery and sites of huge historic interest. The capital since 1918, Yerevan, will be your base for this four-night getaway from www.holidayme.com. It’s one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, and is one that boasts contemporary architecture, Soviet era buildings, World War II monuments and martyrs’ memorials. Among the high spots of your holiday will be excursions to Lake Sevan and the mountain town of Tsaghkadzor, where you’ll have the chance to climb one of the peaks by rope way. The Unesco World Heritage Site of Geghard is also on the itinerary, an engineering wonder founded in the 4th Century and hewn out of the cliffs. And it’s all just a few hours away.
Flight time: 3hrs 10mins. From Dhs2,079 per person for five days (flights included). Departs Sept 2. www.holidayme.com (800 454545).