Well, loyal readers, you’ve survived summer (almost) so we think you deserve a break. With Eid al-Adha coming along soon (most likely August 31-September 3) we’re sure you’re planning a getaway with friends and family. We’ve picked out 20 incredible destinations that you can get to pretty painlessly from Abu Dhabi. There are some brilliant deals to be had here to experience a holiday like never before...
Beach and Bush Safari, Kenya
Go deep into the wild for an incredible African adventure. Intrepid travellers will fly into Mombasa before exploring Kenya’s awe-inspiring animal diversity in style, with an unforgettable week-long experience including day and night safaris with a trained driver, plus a two night stay in a luxury safari-tent with a full board meal plan. When you are not out on the open road spotting wildlife, you can unwind in the Severin Sea Lodge, a tropical paradise of calm and relaxation. Embark on a journey of incredible beauty and diverse wildlife that will linger long in the memory. This is going on safari in style.
From Dhs4,995 per person (rate based on two adults travelling together). Flights and transfers included. Until Oct 31, www.flightcentre.ae (800 11444).
Ethiopia’s Hidden Treasures
The African country 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 flying into Addis Ababa, you’ll get an introduction to the capital city before jetting off to Bahir Dar to 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.
From Dhs7,600 per person (international flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.tourdust.com (+44 203 733 4277). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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. After jetting into Kotoka Airport in Accra, you will get a glimpse of the capital’s, Accra, new-found prosperity. But on this package with Responsible Travel, you will leave this 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…
From Dhs3,500 per person (flights extra). Ongoing. www.responsibletravel.com (+44 1273 823 700). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
Rwandan Gorilla Safari
Having survived the horrific turbulence of the 1990s, Rwanda is rightly becoming a great escape for tourists keen to see those most wonderful of primates, gorillas, in their natural habitat. After arriving at Kigali Airport, 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.
From Dhs4,500 per person (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.responsibletravel.com (+44 1273 823 700). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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.
From Dhs3,250 per person (flights extra). Tour departs each Thursday from Cape Town. www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk (+44 1293 762 404). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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, where 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 that each night you will be setting up camp each night 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!
From Dhs2,500 per person (flights extra). Ongoing. www.responsibletravel.com (+44 1273 823 700). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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 beautiful Mbuyuni Beach Village where you can sample the best of Swahili cuisine while enjoying the ultimate unwind in this little pocket of paradise.
From Dhs3,600 per person ( flights and airport transfers included). Until September 30. 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 with Corinthian Travel. Highlights include a city tour, the classical ruins of ancient Tyre, lunch by the harbour in ancient Byblos, 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 bustling Downtown Beirut.
From Dhs7,100 per person (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.corinthiantravel.co.uk (+44 20 3583 6089). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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 trip to Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage, the former home of one of China’s most celebrated poets, is an absolute must.
From Dhs2,620 per person (flight only). Ongoing. www.sichuanair.com (+86 28 8888 8888). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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. This is a destination not to be missed.
From Dhs5,350 per person (flights and transfers included). Until September 30. www.flightcentre.ae (800 11444).
Another 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.
From Dhs7,000 per person (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.wildfrontierstravel.com (+44 203 930 4439). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
With a triumvirate of tropical paradises within a few hours of Abu Dhabi 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 by offering a whopping 50 percent off its rooms in the Maldives throughout September, plus children under 12 stay, play 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 turquoise waters. Sheer bliss.
From Dhs695 per villa, per night (flights extra). Until Sept 30. www.sunsiyam.com/resorts/vilu-reef-maldives (+960 332 5977). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
Enjoy a taste of the exotic while living it up in five-star luxury. The majestic Malaysian state of Penang offers a host of unforgettable experiences in one brilliant package. Whether you want to savour fantastic flavours in what is known as the foodie capital of the country, go on a culture trail in an area designated a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site or relax in the splendid surroundings of a lavish resort, you can do it all here. The glorious Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Penang resort will be your beautiful base for a holiday to remember.
From Dhs5,600 per person (flights and transfers included). Until September 30. www.flightcentre.ae (800 11444). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
It might have a name that twists on even the finest linguist’s tongue but Thiruvananthapuram is the gateway to 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 see the very best of the south. Fly into Trivandrum Airport before 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, none of which are eyesores.
From Dhs1,174 (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. If you decide to rest your head at the Ibis Styles Budapest City, you simply must take a dip at one of the world-famous thermal baths nearby.
Return flights from Dhs3,450 per person Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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 archictecture. 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.
From Dhs1,680 per person (flights extra). Ongoing. www.onthegotours.com (+44 207 371 113). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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 spots such as the capital Podgorica (where you can fly to for the start of your holiday), which is home to a host of cultural attractions such as the Montonegrin National Theatre and the Marko Miljanov Museum and Kotor (a scenic coastal town which has seen a surge in tourism since being named a Unesco World Heritage Site). 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. All in all, it’s the perfect place for a break with family and friends.
Return flights from Dhs3,000. Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
For those of you who’ve managed to wangle some time off pre-Eid, this trip will be right up your street. Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world you’ll soon be feeling the love when sailing down the Seine on an enchanting river cruise. Your French connection wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the capital’s haute cuisine. If you have the kids in tow (or even if you are just a big kid yourself) go on a wonderful adventure at Disneyland Paris. You can even take in a guided tour of this most cosmopolitan of cities so you don’t miss out on a single Parisian pleasure.
Return flights from Dhs4,190. Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
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. After flying in to spend your first 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 created by the mixture of nationalities.
From Dhs1,780 per person (flights extra, transfers included). Ongoing. www.rolandia.eu (+40 317 800 236). Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.
This landlocked country in the Caucasus region is a thriving nation with some superb scenery and some sites of huge historic interest. You will land at Zvartnots International Airport, 12km west of the capital, Yerevan, which will be your base for this four-night getaway. It is a city 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.
Return flights from Dhs2,590. Fly from Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways.