x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Cool places to cool off this summer

Clare Dight takes her pick of the best places to cool your heels and finds some great discounts on interesting locations to boot.

Lizard Island in Australia Courtesy Lizard Island
Lizard Island in Australia Courtesy Lizard Island

Luxury Down Under

Summer is the low season in Australia and it's a good opportunity to enjoy the continent's wonderful wildlife from the comfort of one of its magnificent, five-star eco-lodges. You can stay four nights and pay for three at Southern Ocean Lodge (www.southernoceanlodge.com.au) on Kangaroo Island. The lodge is set on a clifftop at Hanson Bay on the island's south-west coast and takes full advantage of the view with panoramic glass walls, a spa and kitchen serving up some of Australia's best artisanal produce (and this in a country fastidious about its food). Known for surfing, bushwalks and snorkelling - not to mention, sand duning - Kangaroo Island, just off the coast near Adelaide, provides welcome evidence of a slower pace of life and the beauty of the natural world. The package costs from 2,970 Australian dollars (Dh10,537) per person, based on two people sharing, including a $50 (Dh176) spa voucher and $50 (Dh176) experience voucher, and is valid for stays until September 30.

It's about 10 degrees warmer up on the northern coast where tourists flock to see another of Australia's natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef. You can stay five nights for the price of four on mountainous Lizard Island, which has been blessed with 24 soft, white sandy beaches, 1,000 hectares of national park and coral reefs renowned for snorkelling and diving. The package at Lizard Island Resort, one of Australia's most exclusive, costs £4,503 (Dh25,298) for a double room, a saving of £545 (Dh3,062) per person, full board, and is valid for stays until July 31. The short flight to the resort from Cairns, 240 kilometres away, costs £534 (Dh2,988) return.

For further information, visit www.coxandkings.co.uk

Go on location

Not to be outdone, Emirates Holiday is offering a number of memorable family trips over the summer including a "Harry Potter" self-drive tour through some of Scotland's best-known countryside that lent the films so much atmosphere. Highlights include: a trip on the Jacobite Steam Train, better known as the Hogwarts Express, across Glenfinnan Viaduct; Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness; two-nights in Edinburgh and a trip over the border to Alnwick Castle, more popularly known among Potter fans as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The seven-day tour costs from Dh5,095 per adult and Dh4,345 per child on a twin-sharing basis in four-star hotels with breakfast, car hire, a return second-class train journey on the Jacobite Steam Train, economy-class airfares to Glasgow and taxes. And the weather? The summer months are usually kind but expect some rain.

Offer valid until October 25. For more information, visit www.emiratesholidays.com or call 800 5252

Try a Serengeti safari

East Africa is becoming more popular as a holiday destination from the UAE thanks to the increased frequency of flights. Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com) recently announced that it is to commence direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Nairobi from July 1, flying three times per week, from 43,585 Kenyan shillings (Dh1,879) return, including taxes - a discounted rate of 10 per cent. From June to October, the annual wildebeest migration takes place with thousands of animals travelling across the Serengeti into the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Join Dragoman on its 17-day, East African Family Adventure between Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, exploring two of the world's great game reserves, the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. Highlights include time spent in and around the foothills of Kilimanjaro, hiking in the cooler Usambara Mountains, relaxing on the lovely beaches of the Indian Ocean, south of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and a visit to the spice island of Zanzibar. The trip costs US$2,935 (Dh10,780)per person and includes transport in soft-sided safari trucks, full-board accommodation in three- and four-star hotels or campsites, and is suitable for children aged 5 and upwards. Book at www.dragoman.com.

Tanzania is driest and coolest from June to September and guided-tour specialist Bales Worldwide is offering a £400 (Dh2,250) discount on its eight-day Serengeti safari, exploring the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Trips depart on various dates throughout the summer and cost £1,745 (Dh9,803) per person (with the discount), including full-board accommodation in plush safari lodges, game drives, land and air transfers and the services of a guide, but not international flights. Tours depart from Nairobi, Kenya, with an internal flight to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and return to Nairobi via Arusha.

For more information, visit www.balesworldwide.com or call 00 44 844 488 1191

On the slopes of Everest

What better time to contemplate a trip to Mount Everest than the 60th anniversary year of the first ascent by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay? There's 15 per cent off a 16-day Everest base camp trek in Nepal, run by specialist trekking and climbing operator Ace the Himalaya, on departures until the end of June. After exploring the sights of Kathmandu (turn to Weekend page 13 for more about Nepal's capital), the adventure proper starts with a mountain flight to Lukla and a trek up the Dudh Kosi Valley, surrounded by the peaks of Thamserku and Kusum Kanguru. From there, it's a steep ascent to Namche Bazaar, capital of the Kumbu Sherpas, and more spectacular mountain views before a rest day to acclimatise with optional walks in the area. Highlights on the trek to Everest base camp and KalaPatthar at 5,555 metres include Tengboche, with its panoramic views, the sight of Everest up close, the Lhotse-Nuptse Wall, Ama Dablam and Kantega. This trip requires a high level of fitness; the more adventurous have the option of returning over the Cho La pass to the Gokyo valley, and then ascending Gokyo Ri. Or if you are really fit, you can attempt the summit of Island peak. The trek costs £1,065 (Dh5,983) per person (without the discount), including four-nights in a three-star hotel in Kathmandu with breakfast and guided tours, full board accommodation during the 12-day mountain trek, some equipment, English speaking guides, luggage porters, air transfers and taxes, but not international flights.

For more information, visit www.acethehimalaya.com. To claim the discount, book through www.responsibletravel.com

Country hop through Asia

Tour operator G Adventures also has a number of multi-country tours that allow you to traverse great swathes of Asia with the help of a tour guide on a small-group trip without breaking the bank. One such is its two week "Colours of Asia" tour from Singapore to Bangkok. You'll land in Singapore before crossing into Indonesia and exploring the port city of Melaka; hi-tech Kuala Lumpur with the landmark Petronas Towers is the next stop -from there, explore the cooler Cameron Highlands, a region known for its tea plantations, for a rainforest expedition. Penang and colonial Georgetown, a foodie's paradise, are also on the itinerary along with the coastal resorts of Langkawi, before you cross the border into Thailand on day 10 for lazy days on the beaches of Krabi and an overnight train ride to the capital Bangkok. The tour costs US$1,699 (Dh6,240) with accommodation in guest houses on a bed and breakfast basis (allow around $400 [Dh1,469] for other meals), land transfers, and the services of a tour guide, but not international flights.

Tours depart fortnightly throughout the summer; book online at www.gadventures.com

Saddle up in Mongolia

Summer is an altogether more hospitable time to visit the landscape made famous by horseman and warrior Genghis Khan. Horsemanship is still very much part of life in Mongolia, the world's most sparsely populated country, and this eight-day trip based in Terelji National Park, setting out from the capital Ulanbataar, requires that you share some of Khan's equestrian skills and a willingness to live like a nomad, taking part in daily tasks and sharing a very different sort of life with your local neighbours. Experiences include riding, archery, garment making - even milking cows and steering an oxcart are on the itinerary. The "holiday" costs US$765 (Dh2,809) per person, including a saving of 15 per cent on selected summer departures, with five-nights' accommodation in a traditional yurt, two nights' basic hotel accommodation with most meals, land transfers and the services of a tour guide, but not international flights.

For further information, visit www.gadventures.com

Paradise for less

Package deals are often a good way of curtailing costs and this summer is no exception, as the larger airlines have brokered some good deals with their hotel suppliers. If you can be flexible on dates and destinations, you'll find the combined price of accommodation and return economy flights are on a par with the cost of the airfare alone. The trick is to be decisive and book early. Etihad Holidays have a number of good offers on sale to the ever-popular "paradise" resorts in the Seychelles and the Maldives. It's southwestern monsoon season in the Maldives with strong winds and some rain but an amicable temperature of around 30°Celsius. In contrast, July and August are the driest months in the Seychelles and moderately warm at around 28° to 30°, but they're also the busiest thanks to the school holidays. Plump instead for June and the Kempinski Resort Baie Lazare on a three-night break with a complimentary upgrade to a beachside room and return economy flights from Dh4,425 per person based on two people sharing, including taxes. The hotel sits in a sheltered bay only 20 minutes from the airport. One child under 12 can share their parents' room and enjoy a complimentary breakfast on stays until the end of July.

Alternatively, check into the five-star Kurumba Maldives, a private island resort, 10 minutes by speedboat from Malé international airport for four nights from Dh4,585 per person, based on two people sharing. Two children under 12 can share their parents' room and enjoy a complimentary breakfast on stays until the end of July.

Offers are valid for travel until August 31; book by June 30. Call Etihad Holidays on 800 23 24 for bookings and further information

Not forgetting South America

Thanks to the ever-expanding networks of local carriers, South America should be on every curious UAE-based resident's radar. As Brazil readies itself for the World Cup next year, stealing much of the limelight, look further afield to Peru, home to the Inca Empire, the Andes, Amazonian rainforest and ceviche, that raw fish dish "cooked" in citrus juices that's long been having a moment. Away from the humid rainforest regions, June to August is the dry season and, as you climb into the Andes, conditions become temperate with cold night-time temperatures. Among Peru's many must-sees is Cusco, a city overrun by tourists thanks to its history as the centre of the 15th-century Incan Empire, and the usual starting point for an excursion to Machu Picchu. It's popularity makes the need for refuge even more pressing; check into El Mercado, a new boutique hotel near Plaza de Armas, on the site of an old food market. The stylish 32-room hotel is owned by Mountain Lodges of Peru (www.mountainlodgesofperu.com), an adventure tour operator, that organises lodge-to-lodge treks from Cusco to Machu Picchu.

Until July 31, a double room at El Mercado costs from US$160 (Dh588) per night, including breakfast and taxes, and from $190 (Dh698) per night thereafter. Book at www.elmercadohotel.com

From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh

If time is short, Intrepid Travel's 10-day tour of the highlights of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Vietnam Express Southbound, offers enough variety, both in peace and at a pace, to bring you home feeling refreshed. It's monsoon season over the summer there; expect humid days with temperatures in the low 30s with welcome daily downpours. Your journey starts in Hanoi and takes in beautiful Halong Bay, Hue, the former Imperial capital, the pretty port of Hoi An, and commercial Ho Chi Minh City. Expect great scenery, French colonial architecture, tasty street food, armies of mopeds and chaos for pedestrians, brightly coloured temples and a striking disparity between rich and poor. The tour costs US$1,083 (Dh3,978) per person, including some meals, accommodation in two- or three-star hotels, an overnight sleeper train, one night on a boat in Halong Bay and the services of a tour leader, but not international flights.

There is a 10 per cent discount on dates departing before August 31, if you book before June 15 at www.intrepidtravel.com

From glaciers to hotsprings

Exodus's 14-day Iceland Walking Explorer tour is for hiking enthusiasts and takes in the diversity of that country's unique landscape. You'll be buffeted by fresh air and the elements from Skaftafell National Park, where glacial tongues from the huge Vatnajokull ice cap reach almost to the sea, to the mountains of the eastern fjords, Lake Myvatn area, with its craters, lavafields and hotsprings and, finally, Kerlingarfjoll volcano in the central highlands before the impressive Hofsjokull ice cap. Accommodation is at fixed campsites and the itinerary is flexible to allow for unpredictable weather. With a number of hours walking or hiking per day, the trip is rated moderate for fitness. Average summer temperatures in the capital Reykjavik are 14° with 42 to 56 millimetres of rain per month on average, but days are often sunny and bright. The walking tour costs £2,099 (Dh11,818) per person, land only and departs on August 31.

To book visit www.exodus.co.uk

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