1. Ko Kut, Thailand
Thailand is a well-worn destination – Bangkok’s bustling waterways and city life, Phuket’s laidback beaches and nightlife and Chiang Mai’s ancient temples stacked beautiful in the mountains all make our travel bucket lists. But it’s time to venture beyond these tried-and-tested cities. When it comes to travel, the veteran tourist destination still has aces up its sleeves, such as Ko Kut. The scenic Thai district lays claim to being the least populated destination in the land of smiles, which should leave those of us seeking sanctuaries of peace and quiet on their vacations with wide grins. Scattered with fishing villages, coconut groves and hidden waterfalls, this eastern-most island combines the best of powdery beaches and forested mountains.
The Soneva Kiri resort has a special Eid and summer offer from August 1-31 that lets you stay for four days and pay for just three days in one of the resort’s many villas including a complimentary trip to the Ao Salad fishing village and surrounding mangrove forest as well as the Klong Chao. It also includes half-board meal for all guests, a free cooking class for you to master delicious Thai recipes, and free stay and meals for kids under 12 years. Two bedroom villas from Dh3,298 per night; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Beirut, Lebanon
Time both stands still and moves at hurtling speed in Beirut depending on which parts of the Lebanese capital you decide to spend exploring – neo-classical French buildings dot this Paris of the Middle East, as do blue-domed Ottoman mosques. Strolls through Souk El Tayeb’s old-world Ottoman markets and Rue Gourard’s narrow streets packed with restaurants will take you down historic lanes that chart the city’s transition from a 5,000-year-old Phoenician town to a French colony – and a modern hub of art, culture, cuisine and nightlife perfect for 21st-century flaneurs.
Beirut isn’t called the Paris of the Middle East for nothing, and a trip will cost you much less than a trip to the French capital but with all the cultural impact – the Sursock Museum is a treasure-trove of modern art and the National Museum boasts a repertoire of archaeological artefacts. But we suggest booking the Phoenicia Hotel Eid Al Adha package that draws in all of Beirut’s cultural strengths into a two-night package – it includes a bespoke art tour of the hotel’s Fine Art collection by an in-house expert, a fine-dining dinner experience for two at the in-house Italian eatery Rossini and airport transfers. Package costs Dh4,775. Call 009611 36 9100 or email@example.com.
3. Salalah, Oman
What sets Salalah apart from other GCC cities is the veil of monsoon it dons. While the rest of the Middle East braces itself for a scorching summer, this second-largest Omani city is a mountainous respite steeped in rain-kissed mists and rich culture, combining romance and generous helpings of history in the form of historical forts and archaeological sites.
Add to that the convenient distance it’s located at from the UAE – not to mention the on-arrival visa options – and the destination effortlessly fast-tracks itself to the top of our getaway list.
Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara is ensuring travellers take advantage of Salalah’s weather with their Let it Rain offer. It slashes down villa accommodation prices by 25 per cent, throws in a daily buffet for two, a la carte dinner for two at an in-house restaurant of your choice – and an additional 25 per cent off on spa treatments. Trust us, after strolls around the Museum of the Land of Frankincense or the Al Husn Palace or hiking out to one of the city’s many crystal-clear freshwater wadis and waterfalls, you’ll want to unwind with a relaxing massage. From Dh1,717, until September 7.
4. Manama, Bahrain
Oman might always be every UAE resident’s port of call for a quick getaway within the GCC but the small island nation of Bahrain deserves every bit of our attention – and our holidays. The cosmopolitan Gulf state, known for its pearling history, is an oyster of new experiences, world-class dining, art and shopping.
That’s not to take away from its historical merits. Monuments such as the Qalat Al Bahrain (ruins of a 16th-century Portuguese fort), the 15th-century Arad Fort and the mystical remains of the 11th-century Khamis Mosque, and the Bahrain Pearling Trail inscribed in the Unesco World Heritage List, stand shoulder to shoulder with their 21st-century counterparts – such as the Lost Paradise of Dilmun Waterpark, various skyscrapers and an annual Grand Prix championship.
Like its name ‘two seas’ suggests, Bahrain’s duality makes it a fascinating destination. The Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay is an ideal location to chill out in – located in the island of Bahrain Bay, the plush hotel combines a city getaway’s glamour with the secluded tranquillity of a private beach. Book a two-night minimum stay over Eid with the Bahrain Getaway offer and enjoy a 20 per cent discount on room rates. Details at fourseasons.com/bahrain/.
5. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is perhaps the lesser-known of its Silk Route counterparts in central Asia, which makes it a doubly enigmatic destination to discover. Its landlocked geography has been strategic to it becoming a receptacle of various cultures and traditions that stumbled its way to the former Soviet nation via the Silk Route and wove themselves into the country’s cultural fabric. Overrun with the Tian Shan mountain range, Kyrgyzstan’s landscape is marked by gorges and summits dotted with freshwater lakes, earning it the moniker of Central Asia’s Switzerland. But where Swiss scenery feels like a manicured paradise, Kyrgyzstan is a wild, wild country, rugged and arresting in its beauty.
UAE-based Nirvana tours and travels have curated a package to Kyrgyzstan that will give you a whirlwind tour of the country from the capital Bishkek, to the grasslands of steppes that is home to nomadic tribes, yaks and yurts. The three-nights’ offer includes accommodation in a five-star hotel, return economy class air ticket, private tours to the juniper-clad Ala Archa gorge dotted with glaciers, tour of the Kegeti gorge, Alamedin valley, horse-riding and folklore shows. From Dh4,950 per person; travel period lasts from August 9-12. Call 02 304 333.
6. London, England
London’s popularity with UAE’s vacationers is everlasting. The British capital is a summer favourite for myriad reasons, right from Oxford street’s retail and shopping escapes, Southbank’s view of the Thames, street performances, the city’s acres of royal parks – a sight for sore eyes – Leicester square’s thrumming West End theatres, or Brick Lane’s markets and street food stalls, London is a cultural and entertainment tour de force.
The Sheraton Grand London Park Lane has a GCC offer running over the summer that lets visitors from the UAE check in to the statuesque art deco hotel’s rooms for Dh1,850 per night. Located in the iconic Mayfair district, it is at walkable distance from the royal parks, Buckingham Palace, Westminster and other tourist spots. The offer is inclusive of a range of ‘home comforts’, such as tailored room amenities including dates, hummus, maamoul cake, baklava and exotic juices and fruits. Until August 30; visit marriott.com.
7. County Cavan, Ireland
The Emerald Isle’s allure is hard to resist all year long, but more so in the summer when its rolling green hills and bucolic woodlands come alive. Called the Lakeland County, Cavan is rife with 365 lakes – one for each day of the year. But if it’s an Eid holiday trip that you’re gunning for then you can squeeze in the best sights and scenes of Cavan, including its mesmerising Gaelic history, with a glamping holiday that will allow you to explore its bogs, woodlands, drumlin hills and brooks and walking trails in style and luxury; the great outdoors needn’t be a grubby experience.
The Virginia Park Lodge perched on the edge of County Cavan’s Deerpark forest is offering guests a glamping experience that allows them to stay in handcrafted luxury in Shepard’s huts complete with mod cons like a dining area, plush bed, wifi and stove fridge. Hugged by Lough Ramor (a lake) on one side, the forest is dotted with walking paths, stone bridges and a boat house. Guests will be handed a hamper brimming with rustic dishes and locally sourced produce they can refuel on after long forest hikes. From Dh370 per person per night on a sharing basis. Call 00353 49 854 6100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. Yerevan, Armenia
While its neighbours Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan have been in the limelight for a while, Armenia is rising up the ranks and becoming a top contender for a Eurasian trip. It’s not just continents that Armenia straddles – the nation’s duality extends to its buildings, cultures and lifestyle that in any other place might feel like a contradiction but here are a harmonious mishmash.
With an amazing history – Armenia has witnessed human settlement dating back to 90,000BC – the capital Yerevan is one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities and harbours the remains of every dynasty and culture that it has assimilated. This is seen in everything from Persian influences in traditional Armenian carpets on Aram street, to the strains of Russian reverence for ballet that reverberate in the Armenian National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet and Stanislavski Russian Theatre.
Musafir.com has a three-day package to Armenia that will help you discover Yerevan and beyond through its many world heritage sites and monasteries. It includes half-day city tour of Yerevan, tour of the Geghard monastery, excursions to the spa town of Tsahkadzor, trip to Lake Sevan, Sevanavank church and visits to the village of Haghartsin famous for its lake and monastery. The deal also includes airport transfers. From Dh2,899, visit musafir.com.