15 holiday destinations within four hours of Dubai and Abu Dhabi – short breaks
Looking to book a quick getaway? Get inspired with these destinations that are just a short flight away
The UAE is perfectly located for those who love to travel: as well as being within easy reach of many much-loved travel spots like India's Mumbai and Lebanon's Beirut, there are also plenty of less-discovered destinations that are just a quick flight away.
And as airlines continue to add more flight services to and from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, the list of places perfect for a quick getaway continues to grow. Here are a few destinations that would make an ideal last-minute escape...
1. Kannur, India
If you've already covered the Kerala backwaters and want something more, fly direct to Kannur in the north of the state. Located about 80 kilometres north of Kozhikode, Kannur was once the hub of the spice trade. Colonial Portuguese, Dutch and British influences are evident across the city, and sites worth a visit include St Angelo and Tellicherry forts.
Still very much off the beaten tourist trail, travellers can hike through forests to discover pristine waterfalls, lounge on uncrowded beaches and check in at unpretentious guesthouses and family-run hotels.
GoAir flies direct to Kannur from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi and flights take around four hours.
2. Sochi, Russia
Known for hosting the Russian Winter Olympics, and for its yearly participation in the Formula 1 Grand Prix each year, Russia's Sochi is worth exploring. Visit in winter for epic alpine conditions and slopes suitable for snow activities of every level. If you go in spring or summer, you can expect bright days with pleasant temperatures where the ski-lifts are turned into sightseeing cable cars that transport visitors up and down the mountainous region.
Beach lovers can take a dip in the Black Sea and shoppers will find plenty to keep them busy in the city centre.
Flydubai flies direct to Sochi from Dubai with a flight time of 3 hours 55 minutes.
3. Cairo, Egypt
Dripping in history, Cairo is a city that you could spend weeks exploring. But if you've only got time for a short break, its proximity to the UAE makes it a worthy pick for a few days of discovery. As well as checking out the must-sees like the Pyramids of Giza and the artefact-filled Egyptian Museum, you should also schedule time to tour the art galleries, shop in the old Khan el Khalili Bazaar and cruise down the Nile. The recently opened bent pyramids, just south of the capital, are also worth checking out.
Fly with EgpytAir, Air Arabia, Etihad or Gulf Air, the flight time is less than four hours.
4. Tbilisi, Georgia
Just a short hop from Dubai, Flydubai has plenty of direct flights to Tbilisi and the journey will take less than four hours. The Georgian capital has centuries-old ruins, beautiful botanical gardens and a bustling street-life. The Caucasus country sees summer averages of 30 degrees Celsius and crisp cold winters where temperatures fall to single digits. Meander around Meidan Square, take a cable car across to Turtle Lake or keep little ones happy with a trip to Mtatsminda Park, the Georgian equivalent of Disneyland.
Fly with Flydubai, flights take 3 hours 30 minutes.
5. Tashkent, Uzbekistan
The Uzbekistan capital is an ideal spot for a weekend escape. 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 fly direct from Dubai with a flight time of 3 hours 35 minutes.
6. Muscat, Oman
For a super quick escape, and a well-worn favourite with UAE residents, Muscat is a good pick. It's so close you can fly out after work on Thursday and be back home by Saturday afternoon. Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, head to the harbor to check out Al Jalali Fort or book tickets to see a show at the Royal Opera House. If you're craving ocean vibes, make for the northerly coast where you can spend the day at Zale Beach Club or take a trip to the old town to soak up the vibe at Mutrah.
Fly with Etihad from Abu Dhabi with a flight time of 1 hour 15 minutes.
7. Amman, Jordan
The Jordanian capital is a good pick for cooler climes, sightseeing galore and even a float in the Dead Sea. Three days is a good amount of time to get to know the city making it ideal for a long weekend. Head to Rainbow Street on a Thursday night 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. If you've got more time to play with include sightseeing trips to the ancient ruins at Al Qala’a or take in contemporary art at Jabal Al Weibdeh, then head down south to visit the Dana Biosphere, the country's largest nature reserve.
Flights with Royal Jordanian take 3 hours 30 minutes.
8. Salalah, Oman
Another classic choice for a quick getaway is Salalah where you can enjoy scenic boat trips, beach lounging or mountain trekking. Visit in April for frankincense season or go from July to September for the cooler climes of Khareef season thanks to the tail end of the African monsoon blowing across the capital of the Dhofar province. The waters around Salalah are also home to more than 20 species of whales and dolphins and there are regular wildlife-spotting cruises departing from Juweira harbour.
If you want to drive, here are our dos and don'ts when taking a road trip to Salalah from the UAE.
Flights with Flydubai take less than 2 hours.
9. 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 short trip, especially given that it’s only three hours from home. Expect Parisian-style boulevards and Caspian coastlines with fantastic seafood as well as amazing architecture such as the huge Heydar Aliyev Centre, one of the last projects that the late architect 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 fly direct to Baku from Dubai, flight time is 2 hours 50 mins.
10. Dushanbe, Tajikistan
If mountains are your draw, then Tajikistan has you at hello — more than 90 per cent of the country is upland. 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.
Fly from Dubai with Somon Air, the journey takes 3 hours 30 minutes.
While it’s not worlds apart from the UAE, a change of scenery is always worthwhile so mix things up by grabbing a short break in Bahrain.The tiny kingdom is easily traversed in a couple of days. Visit Qal’at al-Bahrain (the Bahrain Fort), shop at the Manama Souq or take a boat trip out to Jarada – a small 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.
Gulf Air and Etihad fly to Bahrain from Abu Dhabi, flights last 1 hour and 5 minutes.
12. 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. 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.
From Dubai with Flydubai, the flight time is 3 hours 10 minutes.
13. Mumbai, India
India’s busiest city is one of the world’s most vibrant and just three hours from the UAE. Summers in Mumbai get super hot, so try to travel in spring, autumn or winter. As the birthplace of Bollywood, catching a movie is a must – as is a visit to The Gateway of India overlooking the Arabian ocean and a great place to soak in the city’s frentic atmosphere. If you want a bird’s-eye view of Mumbai’s iconic skyline, take in a sunset from Malabar Hill. Finally, 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.
Various airlines fly from Dubai and Abu Dhabi including Etihad, GoAir and Air India. The flight time is around 3 hours.
14. Delhi, India
When India’s capital is so close, it makes sense to visit even if it’s just for a short break. You can fly with Air Arabia from Sharjah in just over three hours. Top of the list should for sightseeing should be 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. Explore the old Bazaar's, feast on Indian food and simply soak up the buzz of one of the country's most colourful and chaotic cities. And when it all gets too much, escape to Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi to breathe in the relative tranquility.
From Sharjah, it's a 3 hour 15 minute flight with Air Arabia to Delhi.
15. Beirut, Lebanon
The Lebanese capital is less than four hours away and beckons for holiday filled with fantastic food, downtown vibes and seaside afternoons that roll easily into late evenings. A good idea is to base yourself in Hamra for a sense of bustle but without the obvious tourist vibes of nearby Raouche – you’ll still be in walking distance from the famous Pigeons Rock. The weather is delicious year round thanks to its Mediterranean climate so expect long warm summers and shorter cool winters, where you're likely to see plenty rainfall. 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, perfect if you want to get a spot of trekking into a short escape.
Fly from Dubai, Sharjah or Abu Dhabi with various airlines including Middle East Airlines, Emirates, Gulf Air and Etihad. The journey takes less than four hours.
Updated: July 30, 2019 10:01 AM