Eleven awesome Eid Escapes

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With Eid al-Fitr expected to fall in mid-June (Thursday June 14), it’s the perfect time to have a little adventure abroad and experience a different culture. So we’ve rounded up 11 amazing Eid escapes for you to make the most of the long weekend.

1. Discover the pearl of Africa in Kampala, Uganda
Housing some of the tallest mountains in Africa, along with being the source of the River Nile, there are countless places to visit in Uganda. Happily, the bustling city of Kampala is the ideal base to explore the amazing sights. With markets and bargaining galore, to the waterfalls and rainforests of Jinja, there’s loads to see and do while you’re there. Feeling adventurous? You can even go white water rafting down the Nile.

What to do: Start off your journey by visiting the vibrant city of Kampala, where you can put your bartering skills to the test while picking up some trinkets at the local markets. You can also learn about the history of the Kasubi Tombs, visit the Mengo Palace with its underground prison, and catch an African drumming session at the National Theatre. Take the next day for an adventure. Experience some high-speed white water rafting along the Nile and conquer thrilling rapids, finishing off with a chilled swim amid the beautiful scenery at the end. If you’re not keen on getting soaked, you can opt for a trek in Jinja, the
town where the famous River Nile starts. Finally, round off the trip by exploring the botanical gardens of Entebbe where you’ll also learn the history of the country.

Details:
Flight is eight hours, 45 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport and cost from Dhs3,100 per person, return with Etihad.

Hotel:
Kampala Serena. Dhs1,172 (deluxe double room). June 14-17. serenahotels.com/serenakampala.

2. Educate yourself with the historical sights of Georgia
At the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Russia and the Middle East, lies Georgia. And there’s a special Eid trip with Musafir to try this month. Your trip covers hearty breakfasts and gives you the option of taking in the days by yourself or going on tours to Kakheti or Mtskheta. But you’ll first be exploring Tbilisi, with its sulphur baths, mosques and Glass Bridge of Peace. The place is full of ancient stone towers and villages, along with medieval-like old buildings and museums. Staying at the Cron Palace hotel, which is well-known for its top spa and outstanding views of the city, you’ll be experiencing Georgia at its best. While it may be rich in culture and history, don’t be fooled by the country’s old style as the city has a modern vibe, too. Food is delicious and wallet-friendly, with Georgia’s signature dish of chicken dumplings along with pimento cheese sure to please. With temperatures going as low as 18°C, you may want to bring a jacket. It may not actually be cold, but it could be a shock to the system when coming from the searing heat of the UAE.

What to do: Prepare for a jam-packed trip, as you’ll be seeing a load of what the country has to offer. Take it gently on the first day, with some exploration around Tbilisi, including Rustaveli Avenue, Liberty Square and the stunning Glass Bridge of Peace, which stretches 150m across Kura River and is designed to look like a marine animal. It’s then off to Kakheti or Mtskheta (or neither, if you want a day to yourself). The former is a mountainous province where you can soak up the natural wonders, while in Mtskheta, the former capital of Georgia, you can walk along the ancient streets towards the stunning Aragvi river. There is also an ancient fortress just outside the city.

Details: Flight time is three hours, 30 minutes from Sharjah with Air Arabia. Flights are included in the package.

Hotel:
Cron Palace. Dhs2,699 per person (twin room), Dhs3,299 (single room). Prices include fligths. June 14-18 musafir.com.

3. Enjoy a mix of cultures in Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Located in the South of Vietnam along the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is a fast-growing tourist destination known for its long, sweeping beaches, rich coral reefs, fresh seafood, pearl farms, and dense, tropical rainforest. Made up of 28 islands, most of which are uninhabited, expect unspoilt beaches to enjoy. You can get there by flying to Bangkok and getting a connection. Brand-new hotel Dusit Princess Moonrise Beach Resort overlooks the stunning Bai Truong beach, AKA Long Beach, which stretches for 20km along the coast. Half the island is a protected national park, too, so expect plenty of beautiful plants, flowers and wildlife close to the hotel.

What to do: Guests can easily arrange to visit popular local attractions such as Phu Quoc National Park (part of the Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve, which takes up around 50 percent of the island), the secluded Bai Sao beach, the quirky Dinh Cau night market featuring fresh seafood and plenty of shopping and various historical landmarks. Although, if you fancy just chilling at the hotel, that’s possible too, and the cuisine is worth a try, with the kitchens serving Thai and Vietnamese dishes that puts a spin on street food favourites from both countries. Or, just laze around in the hotel’s infinity pool. The choice is yours.

Details: Flights from Dhs2,900 (per person, return) to Bangkok with Etihad. Flight time, six hours, 50 minutes. Bangkok to Phu Quoc is a one hour, 45 minute flight. From Dhs887 per person return.

Hotel: From Dhs402 per night. July 14-18. dusit.com/dusitprincess/moonrisebeachresort.

4. Experience the land of fire in Baku, Azerbaijan
Maybe the last place you want to go to escape the sizzling heat of Abu Dhabi is a place labelled the “Land of Fire”, but temperatures in June are in the pleasant mid-twenties in Baku. Being the capital and biggest city in Azerbaijan, Baku is a beautiful place to explore. It sits right along the Caspian Sea, and is filled with plenty of high peaks for the trekkers out there, including the great Caucasus Mountains. Take a stroll just outside the city limits and you’ll find mud volcanoes, along with rural villages. If you’re looking for a place that blends ancient historical attractions, stunning 21st century buildings and lush greenery, Baku is the place for you.

What to do: Azerbaijan puts on a big festival for Eid, celebrating it with roasted lamb and giving meals to the community, so make sure you tag along for the festivities over the long weekend. Aside from that, you can visit Fountain Square and the Maiden’s Tower, believed to date back to the 12th century. There’s also the chance to see mountain village Xinaluq, offering stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding Caucasus mountains.

Details: Flight time, three hours, 15 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport with Etihad. Flights from Dhs2,073 return.

Hotel: Fairmont Baku Flame Towers. From Dhs555 per night for a twin deluxe room or a deluxe king room with city view or sea view between June 14-18. fairmont.com/baku.



5. Explore the wondrous sights of Jordan
Taking a trip to Jordan for a long Eid weekend is an exceptional idea. It is one of the Middle East’s most historic countries with so many beautiful sights to explore. Get ready to make some memories as you check out thousand-year-old ruins of Roman architecture throughout Amman, the capital of Jordan, and the lost city of Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
You’ll come back from this Eid trip with a wealth of history under your belt and with a bunch of selfies floating in the Dead Sea.

What to do: This trip can be planned from beginning to end quite easily, so no need to worry about floundering once you touch down. Start off by exploring the historically rich ruins in the largest city in Jordan on day one, full of Roman monuments and collapsed buildings to rummage around. The next day, put a large tick on the list of wonders of the world to see, as you’ll get to delve into Petra, the ancient Nabatean city, known for its tombs and temples carved into pink sandstone cliffs. Lastly, go to discover the lowest point on earth on the shore of the Dead Sea, the perfect place to whip out a book to read while you float along the surface.

Details: Flight time, three hours, 10 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport with Etihad. Flights from Dhs1,593 per person.

Hotel: Amman Marriott Hotel. From Dhs461 per night for a king sized room or a two double bed room. June 14-17. marriott.com/hotels/travel/ammjr-amman-marriott-hotel.



6. Get on track with some elephants in Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka
What better way to celebrate Eid abroad than with some elephants in Sri Lanka? As soon as you land on the island an incredible adventure begins. Head to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage to hang out with the friendly beasts before going on to the historic (and frankly bizarre) city of Kandy. Sri Lanka is steeped in culture and here you’ll find places showcasing everything from the traditional dance routines of Kandyan dancing to fire walking (again, the shows are bizarre but worth checking out). You’ll fly in and out of Colombo, which is worth looking around for an afternoon.

What to do: Feast your eyes on the huge yet gentle creatures at the elephant orphanage, where you’ll be able to watch the caretakers feed, bathe and play with the beauties. The place is a breeding ground for wild Asian elephants that opened in 1975 to house abandoned and wounded animals, and today has the world’s largest herd of captive elephants. Afterwards, stroll around the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kandy to see some beautiful greenery (watch out for the staff trying to get tips for pointing you in the direction of monkeys and bats), and head to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a centuries-old place hidden atop a massive rock. It’s not one for anyone with a fear of heights. Galle is another place to check out, the former Dutch stronghold has plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to visit. We recommend using a travel company to book an itinery for you, complete with hotels and a driver.

Details: Flight time is four hours, 35 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport. Return flights with Etihad are around  Dhs1,600.

Hotel:
Take a look at srilankandreams.com who can tailor-make a holiday for you.



7. Head south of the equator to tropical Seminyak, Bali
Brimming with beautiful vegetation and greenery, Bali is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. There are plenty of sandy beaches to chill out on, too. This Indonesian island isn’t all about sun, sand and scrumptious street eats, though, as tucked away in the southern end of the country are luxurious resorts, high-end shopping and spas that are guaranteed to help you unwind. Seminyak is one of the most popular tourist spots in Indonesia, and after recently being refurbished, the Seminyak Beach Resort & Spa has some great deals on stays. If you book for four nights you’ll get a fifth night free, including breakfast and afternoon tea. You’ll also get a transfer to or from the airport.

What to do: You may not want to leave the resort, with its spacious pool area featuring an infinity pool to watch the sunset in. If you love food, then try the Balinese dishes in the either the Sanje or Santan restaurants, and you can relax at the luxurious Kahyangan Spa. If you do happen to venture out, the resort is located next to some of Bali’s top destinations, including aquapark Waterbom Bali and Bali Zoo, which is home to more than 350 types of animals and tropical birds. Feeling even more adventurous? Head towards the historic site of Uluwatu, perched right on a cliff in the Bukit peninsula, or meet the monkeys at the Ubud Monkey Forest. You’ll have to fly out of Dubai for a direct flight. It may be a bit of a journey and very expensive, but it will be worth it. We hope.

Details:
Flights from Dhs1,400 (per person, return) with Emirates from Dubai International Airport. Flight times are around nine hours.

Hotel:
Seminyak beach Resort & Spa. Dhs2,986 per night for a one-bedroom ocean pool villa. June 14-19. theseminyak.com.



8. See a different side of Arabia in Salalah, Oman
When we think of Oman, Muscat immediately comes to most people’s minds, purely because of its lush mountains by the sea and in the deserts. But what about the country’s second largest (and most fun to say) city, Salalah? If you love fruit and veg, including coconuts and bananas, it’s a top place to visit seeing as the region’s temperatures are perfect for growing them. Eid couldn’t be more of a perfect time to go and see some of the beautiful sights.

What to do: Check out the Al Husn Souk which is spread over a number of different alleyways and is filled with small shops and stalls selling clothing, food and frankinsense (lots of it). If you haven’t had enough of it, head to the nearby Frankincense Land Museum, which will will give you quite a few more exotic scents, along with stories of the city’s maritime history and role in the spice trade. If you’re aching for a bit of rain, stay a little longer and you may catch a glimpse of the Khareef, the regions’s monsoon that turns the area green with foliage.

Details: Flight time is three hours and 55 minutes (via Muscat) with Etihad from Abu Dhabi International Airport. Return flights are around Dhs1,470 per person.

Hotel: Salalah Rotana Resort. Dhs786 for a twin or king classic room. June 14-17. rotana.com/Salalah-Rotana-Hotel‎



9 Snap a picture of the tropical island of Zanzibar
For picture-perfect views, Zanibar is the one. In this exclusive Eid dnata travel deal, holidaymakers will stay at the five-star Sea Cliff Resort and Spa, tucked away in the Northern-West coast of Zanzibar. You’ll have to fly out of Dubai, but that extra 90 minutes will be worth it. The resort is enclosed in a sea of emerald green palm trees, and is perched right along the Indian Ocean. And the Sea Cliff resort offers its guests the only golf course on the island. There is also the Mali Spa, complimentary horse riding on the beach and bikes for people to explore their surroundings at their leisure. Just 25 minutes from the hotel is the historically rich Stone Town and plenty of fishing villages along the golden beaches. The deal includes a Garden Room that opens out to the hotel’s tropical gardens, along with daily breakfast and dinner for three nights and a night for free.

What to do: Head over to Stone Town, the older part of Zanzibar, and take a stroll through the winding alleyways of the area to embrace the historical culture of the place. From its elaborately carved and huge Zanzibar doors to discovering the local food bazaars such as the sprawling Darajani Market, you could walk around the town for days. If you make your way to Prison Island, not only will you find a chilling history, but giant tortoises (win-win, then). There are also fruit plantations to try freshly picked treats. Or, just chill on the beach.

Details: Flight time, five hours. 50 minutes from Dubai International Airport with flydubai. Flights are included in the package.

Hotel: Dhs3,645 (per person, flights included). June 14-18. dnatatravel.com (800 36282).



10 Soak up the sun on a private island in Baros, Maldives
Picture this: walking along the white sands of a peaceful island back to your villa, and diving into beautifully clear blue sea. Hop on a plane for a mere four hours and head to the Maldives and it could be a reality. With its sprawling aquatic life and stunning scenery of the big blue sea, this is a perfect Eid escape for beach lovers, especially with Baros having a special offer. The deal includes a stay at either the beach villa or the overwater villa, with a daily breakfast of your choice and dinner in Lime restaurant.

What to do: It may be a small island, but you’ll find plenty to do, aside from soaking up the sun on the beach. Try your hand at a fishing by twilight experience, where you can catch your own dinner and learn the traditional Maldivian method of fishing using nothing but your hands and a line. The package also includes a guided nature walk and a marine biology presentation to learn about the fish. Leave time for plenty of snorkelling, too.

Details: Return flights from Dhs2,447 with Oman Air from Abu Dhabi International Airport. Flight time is four hours and 25 minutes.

Hotel: Dhs3,669 (per night beach villa), Dhs5,509 (per night overwater villa). June 14-20. www.baros.com.




11. Take a break in Phuket
Thailand’s largest island has a rugged coastline lined by craggy rocks and golden, sandy beaches. While it’s hard to avoid the tourist traps, there are chances to get off the beaten track and see more traditional Thai ways of life. Phuket Old Town is a top place to visit for that side of things, but if parties and tanning is more your thing you’ll want to stick to the beaches. Fresh seafood is abundant, there are incredibly friendly people and you’ll have the time of your life. Direct flights from Abu Dhabi make this an island escape to book up now, too.

What to do: Head to Khoa Sok National Park for a taste of jungle life. You’ll get a chance to sail slowly around rivers, watch elephants cooling off and stop over in a treehouse if that takes your fancy. Phang Nga Bay is one of the most stunning sights in all of the world, as your boat weaves through azure waters you’ll be faced with huge rocks thrusting out in front of you. Stop off at a couple of islands to swim with colourful fish. Be sure to check out as much of the lcoal food as you can, and don’t be scared of trying things from street vendors, even if you’re not sure what they are. Prices are super cheap compared to the UAE. There are loads of places to stay, catering for all kinds of budgets, but we recommend the quirky Alphabeto Resort. It has a swimming pool, garden pub and restaurant and just 22 striking rooms and eight villas. While you’re not right on a beach, Rawai beach is just a five minute drive away (you can walk it if you like). You can also book excursions through the resort to see elephants, go quad biking, surfing, horse riding and kayaking.

Details: Flight time is six hours, 55 minutes with Bangkok Air from Abu Dhabi International Airport. Return flights are around Dhs3,535.

Hotel: Alphabeto Resort. Dhs735, June 14-18. alphabetoresort.com.

By Darragh Murphy
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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