Grab your weekend carry-on and hop on board; these accessible Eid escapes are all less than 5 hours away…
Did somebody say mountain retreat? Oman’s largest city has everything you could hope for in an Eid getaway: fresh air, dramatic scenery and luxury resorts – and all just an hour’s flight from Dubai.
Flight time: 1 hour
Day one: Make Nizwa Fort your first port of call. Built in the 17th century, the presiding Imams and Walis ruled from within the striking building’s walls. Seeing the battlements, false doors, secret shafts and turrets up close reveals how the fort fended off attacks from enemies intent on taking control of Nizwa’s natural wealth.
Nearby is the East Souk, one of Nizwa’s most charming markets. If you’re there on a Friday, you’ll see locals in traditional dress descend on the souk to trade livestock.
Day two: Nizwa is home to majestic Jabal Shams, Oman’s tallest peak. The summit is off limits to hikers (that means no 3,000 metre climb, shame), but hire a 4X4 and drive to Wadi Nakhr – the Middle East’s answer to the Grand Canyon. The Balcony Walk, a trek around the rim of the spectacular wadi, takes around four hours.
When the time comes to refuel, you’ll find authentic Middle Eastern food at Bahjat Al Sham in the Aldiyar Hotel. Don’t go if you’re looking for fancy fine dining – this is unpretentious fare at a reasonable price.
Day three: It’s time to kick back – you’ve earned it. The Alila Jabal Akhdar resort, an eco-conscious retreat that appears to have been hewn from the mountain itself, is the perfect place to do it. It lies close to the Saiq Plateau, where fruits, walnuts and Oman’s famous damask roses flourish thanks to the Mediterranean climate.
If you can tear yourself away from the spectacular pool, the staff at Spa Alila are ready to pamper you from top to toe.
Dine on mezze and seafood at the resort’s Juniper restaurant, before watching your final Omani sunset from the comfort of the Rose Lounge, a suitably chilled spot for your last night in Nizwa.
Hotel: The serene and stylish Alila Jabal Akhdar feels a world away from city life.
Nestled between the majestic Al Hajar Mountains and the Indian Ocean is Muscat – a city rich in natural beauty, culture and luxury.
Flight time: 1 hour
Day one: Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque has seen its fair share of celebs lately – all quick to snap a selfie for their Instagram while touring the spectacular building. Start a new trend at Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which showcases Islamic architecture at its finest and is home to the second largest hand-woven rug in the world.
Head to Shatti Al-Qurm to see the Royal Opera House, a grand affair made up of a concert theatre, auditorium, landscaped gardens and more. Don’t leave without sampling some authentic Omani cuisine at Al Angham restaurant.
Day two: Immerse yourself in the country’s seafaring heritage at Bait Al Zubair Museum, and view galleries devoted to traditional – and beautiful – Omani dress. One of the Sultan’s distinctive palaces is just a stone’s throw away, and easy to spot thanks to the eye-catching blue and gold pillars.
After absorbing all that information, it’s time to relax at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa. After your treatment is over you can enjoy the pool and beach, or eat fresh Middle Eastern fare in Moroccan-inspired surroundings at Shahrazad.
Day three: No trip to Muscat would be complete without a visit to the Muttrah Souk, just off Muttrah corniche. A myriad of alleyways make up this maze-like souk, and as you turn each corner you’ll be met by the mingling scents of herbs and spices.
Hotel: Escape the summer heat and relax in style at The Chedi Muscat.
Colourful, vibrant Goa has something to offer culture vultures, party animals and those in search of some good old fashioned rest and relaxation.
Flight time: 3 hours
Day one: Ask around and everyone will tell you to head straight for Palolem beach, Goa’s best known sunbathing spot. But just 10 minutes down the road you’ll find the much less crowded Agonda Beach.
When night falls head to Club Cubana, a popular hangout that calls itself a ‘nightclub in the sky’ due to its prime hilltop location. By Dubai’s standards, it’s a little rough around the edges, but we think this only adds to its charm.
Day two: There are four protected areas in the state that offer beauty in abundance. The largest, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, is the best due to the large numbers of spotted deer, leopards, elephants and pythons. It’s recommended that you stay for three to four days in order to spot as many creatures as possible, but a day trip is still well worth it to see the colourful birds that populate the thick forest.
The Saturday Night Market has a vast range of stalls, a real party vibe and live music well into the night. It attracts huge crowds, so be prepared for sensory overload.
Day three: Thrill seekers keep reading (everyone else check yourselves into one of Goa’s abundant and cheap spas). Goa Jungle Adventure is the place to get your adrenalin pumping with a spot of canyoning, cliff jumping or abseiling. A reasonable level of fitness and the ability to swim are essential – those with a fear of heights need not apply.
Hotel: Blending Portuguese architecture and Goan design, the LaLiT Golf and Spa Resort is one of the region’s most lavish hotels.
Often referred to as the wild child of the Middle East, Beirut is a fast-paced, fashion-conscious city full of heritage, architecture and beauty.
Flight time: 3 hours
Day one: As the birthplace of red carpet favourite Elie Saab, Beirut has some solid style credentials, so going shopping is a must. Pay a visit to Saab’s atelier and boutique in downtown Beirut, or venture to Saifi Village. This quaint neighborhood is filled with art galleries perfect for a leisurely browse, just in case your credit card needs a break.
Having worked up a healthy appetite, head over to Casablanca, housed in a quaint Lebanese villa on the seafront at Ain el Mreisseh. The restaurant serves fresh produce, locally sourced fish and organic vegetables.
Day two: Start your day with some hearty Lebanese cuisine. Tawlet offers a tasty and authentic brunch (of the traditional, rather than Dubai variety), lovingly prepared by elderly ladies from the local community.
Next it’s time for a mini road trip to Jeita Grotto, 11 mile north of Beirut, which was once in the running to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The limestone caves, which can be explored by boat, are home to the world’s largest known stalactite.
Day three: Don’t overlook Beirut’s budding art and design scene. The Beirut Art Centre, dedicated to contemporary art in Lebanon, is a great place to start, before heading over to Art Factum Gallery. Round it off with a trip to Ayyam Gallery, home to a selection of artworks from across the Middle East.
Dine at one of the trendy restaurants at Zaitunay Bay, the city’s newest entertainment destination. It’s right on the waterfront, and a great place to watch the sunset over the marina.
Hotel: Le Gray is stylish boutique hotel in the heart of Beirut between the Mediterranean and the blue-domed al Amin mosque.
Galle, Sri Lanka
The southwest coast is your best chance of missing the monsoon weather in Sri Lanka, as the dark clouds tend to gather up north. The Dutch-built city of Galle and the surrounding countryside offers the perfect mix of cultural sights and exotic scenery.
Flight time: 4.5 hours
Day one: Visiting Galle and not going to Galle Fort would be like going to Paris and missing the Eiffel Tower. The UNESCO world heritage site, built in the 17th century by the Dutch, more than lives up to the hype.
While you’re in the area, take a stroll along the charming streets lined with shops and stock up on statement jewellery inlaid with gorgeous gemstones, or one-of-a-kind artworks.
Day two: Sri Lanka is known for laidback luxury, so scheduling in some downtime is a must. Hit the beach and spend the day horizontal, or pay a visit to one of the island’s many five star spas – the Fortress Resort & Spa is known for its signature pampering treatments.
For a romantic evening meal, reserve a table at The Fort Printers, which serves up a menu of fresh seafood and local produce in picturesque surroundings.
Day three: If you can handle the early start, this is a great place to go whale watching. The waters around the island are home to a huge pod of blue whales, as well as dolphins and other sea life.
Those who want to feel extra Zen before they return to reality are spoiled for choice on the yoga front. Galle is packed with yoga retreats, and whether you’re still perfecting the downward facing dog, or you could do a one-handed tree pose in your sleep, there’s something for all abilities.
Hotel: With two master suites plus one junior suite, 23 Palm, Sri Lanka is a beautifully-appointed Dutch colonial villa just outside Galle, ideal for families in search of a peaceful, private spot in paradise.
Scott Dunn offers seven nights at Twenty Three Palm from Dhs45,995 based on a family of four, including economy class flights from Dubai, transfers in Sri Lanka and the villa on a full-board basis.
Google the phrase “perfect romantic getaway” and a picture of the Seychelles will probably pop up on your screen. The lush landscape and myriad five star resorts have made the islands a magnet for honeymooners. The archipelago’s three most photographed islands are home to the UNESCO World Heritage site Vallée de Mai
Flight time: 4.5 hours
Day one: This is a sun worshipper’s paradise. Use your first day to make the most of the gleaming white sand and the sparkling water – a lounger, some SPF and the latest issue of EW is all you need.
If you feel like getting active, scuba diving is popular with holidaymakers on the islands. To see the best sites, including Port Launay, Marine National Park and Shark Bank, sign up to one of the regular group excursions.
Day two: Take a trip to Curieuse Island where you’ll find seriously (and we mean seriously) turquoise water. You’ll have company on Curieuse, which is home to 124 Aldabra giant tortoises, some of which roam wild around the island. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the southern part of the island, a haven for exotic flora and fauna.
Day three: Let’s be honest, nobody chooses these islands for an action-packed holiday, so let’s file day tours under “optional”. A stroll around Victoria’s century-old National Botanical Gardens is exertion enough for sleepy Seychelles life.
Hotel: Constance Lemuria’s beautiful modern villas are proof that rustic and luxurious need not be mutually exclusive.
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