Whether you like to travel with a significant other or as a family with young, restless children, chances are that your ideal vacation involves a flight that is quick to take you to your palm-fringed island paradise or city break.
Living in a place that’s as well connected to the rest of the world as the UAE means that there’s no need to fret if you’re not a fan of long flights. Here are five destinations that are a short flights away and offer unforgettable getaways.
1. TURKEY – Otherworldly landscapes and history
Istanbul straddles both Asia and Europe and offers an interesting concoction of the old and new. On the one hand, you have the historic Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, untold stories in the underground Basilica Cistern, whirling dervishes performing mystical Sufi ceremonies, and ancient hammams. On the other hand are chatty carpet sellers in the Grand Bazaar, mischievous dondurma ice-cream sellers on Istiklal Caddesi, designer boutiques and art studios in Galata, and well-dressed locals enjoying nightlife in Beyoglu.
Venture further and the fairytale landscapes of Cappadocia await. Here, a hot-air balloon ride offers jaw-dropping views over oddly-shaped smooth rock towers, cave cities, and rock-cut churches. Stay overnight in a cave room in the family-run Koza Cave Hotel for an experience you’re unlikely to forget.
2. JORDAN – Bucket list-worthy travels
If you’re looking to be swept away by a once-in-a-lifetime experience that includes ancient Unesco World Heritage sites, desert landscapes, epic adventures, and laidback cities with some of the friendliest people in the world, don’t think twice before booking a trip to Jordan.
Amman offers plenty to keep you busy for a couple of days – the ancient Roman Theater, the Amman Citadel that includes the Temple of Hercules, the Byzantine Church and Umayyad Palace, King Abdullah Mosque with its magnificent dome and blue mosaic tiles, and the city’s many Instagram-worthy umbrella staircases.
To relax, spend a few hours floating in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, possibly with a mineral-rich mudpack on. Stay at the luxurious Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea, rise early, and walk into the Dead Sea from the hotel’s beach to find it all to yourself. The hotel spa offers several treatments using Dead Sea minerals.
No trip to Jordan would be complete without a visit to Petra, the ancient rose-colored rock-cut capital that is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Walking through the Siq, a narrow gorge with high walls, to arrive at the intricate facade of the Treasury, is the closest you might get to the feeling of time travel. To see Petra after sunset, take a Petra by Night Walking Tour.
3. CYPRUS – Gorgeous beaches and Mediterranean cuisine
If you’re craving a bit of Mediterranean sun, then head to Cyprus for picture-perfect beaches and plenty of watersports for when you need to get active on your vacation.
Whether you’re into glamorous party beaches, family-friendly beaches, secluded beaches tucked away into secret coves, or wild, rugged coastlines, Cyprus will not disappoint. There’s Makronissos Beach in Ayia Napa that is great for swimming; not far away is the white-sand Nissi Beach with family-friendly facilities; Konnos Bay with calm waters; Episkopi, where limestone cliffs and strong winds attract kitesurfers; and isolated and wild Lara Beach that is a nesting spot for turtles and offers plenty of privacy. If you’re short on time, explore the beautiful west coast and swim and snorkel on this 6-hour cruise from Paphos.
Stay at the serene and luxurious Parklane Resort and Spa in Limassol, which is set in tranquil gardens of olive, citrus and palm trees, with one indoor and three outdoor pools (including an adults-only option), a private beach, spa and many restaurants.
Away from the coastline, you’ll find charming cobbled villages where locals are engaged in crafts such as pottery; lush forest trails; ancient ruins; and Byzantine churches. A fascinating mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, Cypriot cuisine is a true feast – think light mezze, fresh seasonal produce, and succulent slow-cooked meat dishes.
4. NEPAL – Mountain views and cultural sights
While the mighty Everest might be what draws most adventurers to Nepal, this Himalayan gem has much to offer, even if you’re not into extreme adventures.
Culture and religion are an integral part of everyday life in Nepal, and what better place than the crumbling old towns to experience it all? Spend a few days exploring the Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan, all Unesco World Heritage Sites, home to temples, palaces and museums built in the red Newari architectural style. For deeply spiritual experiences, visit the Bodhanath and Swayambhunath temples, close to Kathmandu city. Stay at the boutique heritage Dwarika’s Hotel, which is set in a quiet area outside bustling Kathmandu, complete with traditional architecture and design, a swimming pool, and spa with Ayurvedic treatments.
When in Nepal, you must head into the mountains, even if it’s for a bit of soft adventure. If you’re not into hiking, take a scenic flight to see the spectacular Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks up close. The lakeside city of Pokhara offers easy access to hiking trails ranging from day trips to multi-day hikes. From kayaking and rafting to paragliding and bungee jumping, this region is an adventurer’s playground. In the south, on a safari in Chitwan National Park, expect to see rhinos, tigers and more.
5. MALDIVES – Sun, sea and pure bliss
If your idea of the perfect holiday involves hours of lying on the beach with the only “work” being the one you do on your tan, then a Maldives getaway should be on your cards this summer. Home to the most spectacular beaches on the planet, Maldives, an archipelago of around 1200 islands, promises a holiday that’s filled with the bluest waters you’ve ever seen and soft white sand, some of which actually makes its way to Dubai’s most luxurious beachfront resorts.
With each high-end luxury resort on its own private island, expect to be pampered like never before – think overwater villas, private butlers, romantic candlelit dinners on secluded beaches, private pools, and rejuvenating beachside massages. Escape from reality in an overwater villa at Soneva Jani, complete with a private pool outdoor shower, dining on the roof, and a curved slide to cool off on hot afternoons.
This is also a great place to explore the underwater world, whether it’s going snorkeling or diving in the crystal clear waters to see the vibrant marine life.