Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

12 last-minute getaways within four hours of the UAE

Make the most of the final weekend of spring break with a quick escape to one of these destinations

After a couple of days of bright blue skies hinted at the end of the dusty weather we saw throughout March, the country was bathed in rain clouds again this morning. While that might be good news for some people, it could have others regretting their decision not to travel for the holidays. But it's not too late to remedy this. The UAE's location makes it handily placed even for a short trip away, with many destinations within a four-hour flight radius. Here are a few destinations that would make an ideal last-minute escape...

Tbilisi, Georgia

Just a short hop from Dubai, flydubai has direct flights to Tbilisi that leave at 7pm on Wednesday this week and return on Saturday – giving you three nights in the Georgian capital before schools start back. Spring has sprung in the Caucasus country, making now one of the best times to visit; expect pleasant daily temperatures of around 20 degrees, perfect for meandering Meidan Square. Take a cable car across to Turtle Lake or keep little ones happy with a trip to Mtatsminda Park, Georgia’s equivalent to Disneyland.

Flights on these dates start from Dh1,407 with flydubai and the flight time is 3 hours 30 minutes.

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Depart from Dubai at 9.55pm on Wednesday and land in the Uzbekistan capital at 2.30am on Thursday morning, and you'll have the whole weekend to discover what was once a major stop on the Silk Road. Tashkent is a fascinating time warp of a city that blends sandy expanses, outer lying lakes and mountain surrounds. Walk through the country's past at The History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan in the heart of the capital, or feast on classic Uzbek food like manty dumplings and vegetable-stuffed hanuns. The Chorsu Bazaar in the Old Town has its roots in the Silk Road glory days and is a fascinating place to trawl for ceramics, needlework, silk work and paintings.

Emirates flights start from Dh1,934 and the journey takes 3 hours 35 minutes.

Muscat, Oman

For a super quick escape, Muscat is a good pick. Fly out after work on Thursday at 9.35pm with Etihad and return on Saturday at 2pm, just in time for the new term. While you might not escape the unstable weather that we’re having at the moment, a change of scenery is always a good idea. Just 15 minutes from the airport, the relatively newly opened Kempinski Muscat in Al Mouj is a good pick for families and couples alike. Nestled on the northerly coast, you can spend the day at Zale Beach Club or head into town to soak up the vibe at Mutrah. For something a bit different, head to the Royal Opera House to book tickets for the world premiere of the Ring Dove Story ballet which is showing on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Tickets start at Dh145.

Fly with Etihad from Abu Dhabi with return flights starting at Dh1,667 and a flight time of 1 hour 15 minutes.

Amman, Jordan

The Jordanian capital is a good pick for cooler climes, sightseeing galore and even a float in the Dead Sea. Royal Jordanian flies out on Wednesday at 9.35pm, getting you into the capital just before midnight. That leaves you with three days to get to know the city. Head to Rainbow Street on Thursday when the pre-weekend buzz fuses with plenty of great places to eat, drink and people-watch. Take a day trip to the Dead Sea on Friday, just an hour from Amman, where temperatures look set to be a sunny 30 degrees. Elsewhere, head to the ancient ruins at Al Qala’a or take in contemporary art at Jabal Al Weibdeh.

The 3 hour 30 minute flight with Royal Jordanian costs from Dh1,959.

Salalah, Oman

Factor in an early rise on Thursday morning to catch the 1.40am flight from Dubai to Salalah and you can enjoy three days in the coastal Omani town, catching a flight back at 8.30pm on Saturday evening. Springtime in Salalah means the perfect weather for boat trips, beach lounging and mountain trekking. It’s also frankincense season, so visit Wadi Dawkah park where the aromatic resin's trees bloom. After visiting this Unesco World heritage site, take a buggy tour around the stony desert village then find out more at the Museum of the Land of Frankincense. Salalah is also home to more than 20 species of whales and dolphins, and April is a great time for a dolphin-watching boat tour departing from Juweira harbour. The Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara is a good place to stay if unwinding is a priority. Check into a private villa complete with your own pool opening directly out on to a palm fringed beach.

Flydubai fares on these dates start from Dh665; the flight takes just under 2 hours.

Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan’s capital is sprawling, so you certainly won’t see it all on a weekend visit but it’s definitely worth a trip, especially given that it’s only three hours from home. Fly direct with Flydubai leaving Wednesday evening at 7pm and returning on Saturday at 6.30pm. Once there, expect Parisian-style boulevards and Caspian coastlines with fantastic seafood as well as amazing architecture such as the huge Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, one of the last projects that the late Zaha Hadid worked on. Baku’s centre is a World Heritage Site that boasts a wealth history, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower. Elsewhere, check out the mud volcanoes in Gobustan National Park – it's worth the bumpy ride to see these unique natural phenomena.

Flydubai flights on these dates start at Dh3,236 and take 2 hours 50 mins.

Dushanbe, Tajikistan

If mountains are your draw, then Tajikistan has you at hello — more than 90 per cent of the country is upland and April is one of the best times to visit with temperatures in the mid-twenties. Fly from Dubai on Wednesday evening at 10.10pm and return on Saturday night. In Dushanbe, expect leafy boulevards, pockets of manicured greenery and pastel-coloured buildings that are quite a contrast to the rest of the country’s wilderness. Rudaki Park offers animated fountains, statues and monuments and the National Museum of Tajikistan gets good reviews, although the Ethnography Museum next door is ranked even better. Eating is another adventure, with the cuisine a fusion of Arabic, Middle Eastern, Chinese and international influences. Highly recommended is Chaykhona Rokhat, a tea house built back in 1958 when the country was still part of the Soviet Union. Nurek Dam, about an hour from the capital, is the world’s second-tallest man-made dam and a popular picnic spot.

Fares start at Dh1,512 with Somon Air and the journey takes 3 hours 30 minutes.

Bahrain

While it’s not worlds apart from the UAE, mix things up by grabbing a couple of nights in Bahrain, flying out on Thursday at 7.10pm with Gulf Air and returning to Dubai at 7.20pm on Saturday. The tiny kingdom is easily traversed in two nights, and at this time of year the weather is a few degrees cooler than it is here. Visit Qal’at al-Bahrain (the Bahrain Fort), shop at the Manama Souq or take a boat trip out to Jarada – a tiny island off the coast where pristine beaches await. A fun day out can be had at Al Dar Islands, with beach huts, chalets, food stalls and water sports. For petrol heads, Bahrain International Circuit is worth a visit and if nature is your thing, you might consider the drive out to the Tree of Life. Located at Bahrain’s highest point, the tree is green year-round despite its hot and dry desert climate with no known water source. Bed-down at The Merchant House, Bahrain’s first five-star boutique hotel in the heart of Manama’s old town.

Fares for this Gulf Air flight start at Dh935 for the 1 hour 15-minute journey.

Yerevan, Armenia

Nicknamed the pink city, Mount Ararat acts as the gorgeous backdrop for the capital of Armenia, a city that’s just a three-hour flight from Dubai. Travel with flydubai on Wednesday at 7.25pm and return in the very early hours of Sunday morning. The centrepiece of this city is Republic Square, and the handily located Hyatt Place Yerevan is a good place to base yourself if you want to be close to all the action. Indulge in culture at the National Gallery, home to the world’s largest collection of Armenian art, or take a trip to the History Museum of Armenia to find out more about a country that has one of the world’s most chequered stories. The best views of the city are waiting at the top of the giant limestone stairway known as the Great Cascade. One of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, another bonus in Yerevan is that prices here are seriously cheap – meaning you can feast like a king without blowing your budget.

Flights with flydubai start at Dh2,667 with a flight time of 3 hours 10 minutes.

Mumbai, India

India’s busiest city is one of the world’s most vibrant and just three hours from the UAE. Fly with Etihad from Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening at 10pm and come back Saturday at 6pm. Summers in Mumbai get super hot, so go now to make the most of springtime temperatures. As the birthplace of Bollywood, catching a movie is a must – as is a visit to the Taj Mahal Palace, the second-most photographed monument in all of India. The Gateway of India is a great place to soak in the city’s atmosphere or get a bird’s-eye view of Mumbai’s iconic skyline from Malabar Hill. After years of being closed to the public, the Royal Opera House in the south of the city has been fully restored and is well worth a visit.

Fares start at Dh1,856 with Etihad and the flight time is 3 hours 15 mins.

Delhi, India

When India’s capital is just a three-hour flight away, it makes sense to visit even if it’s just for a short break. Fly with Air Arabia from Sharjah on Wednesday evening and you’ll have three full days to explore the hub of the subcontinent, enough to at least scratch the surface. Flying into New Delhi, check into The Roseate. Eight acres of beautiful gardens, an organic farm and gorgeous flowing architecture make it a sanctuary from the city buzz. A trip to Old Delhi is a must to see the mighty Red Fort and Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque. Humayun’s Tomb, the five-storey Qutub Minar and the iconic India Gate are also must-dos.

Fares for the 3 hour 15 minute flight start from Dhs1,878 with Air Arabia.

Beirut, Lebanon

The Lebanese capital is just over three hours away and beckons for a weekend of fantastic food, downtown vibes and seaside afternoons that roll easily into late evenings. Middle East Airlines and Etihad have a flight combination departing Abu Dhabi on Wednesday at 8.45pm, landing in Beirut at 11pm and bringing you back at 6.55pm on Saturday. Base yourself in Hamra for a sense of bustle without the obvious tourist vibes of nearby Raouche – you’ll still be in walking distance from the famous Pigeon Rocks. This weekend’s weather is tipped to be around 23 degrees, perfect if you fancy a springtime hike. The Baskinta Literary Trail, part of the Lebanon Mountain Trail, is just an hour’s drive from the capital and offers a 24-kilometre hike along 22 landmarks related to some of the country’s famous poets and novelists

Flights from Abu Dhabi with Middle East Airlines and Etihad cost from Dhs1,410. The journey takes 3 hours, 15 minutes.

Updated: April 8, 2019 04:00 PM

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