x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

From Kathmandu to X'ian

The journey will take you through the grandeur of the Himalayan mountains and the sweeping vistas of the Tibetan Plateau, and ends in Xi'an, home to the awe-inspiring Terracotta Army.

The Ottoman-era Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world.
The Ottoman-era Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world.

"This is a tough trip and should only be attempted by people who are prepared for cold, discomfort and itinerary alterations." It's not the most inviting of descriptions, but those hardy and adventurous enough to take the 30-day road trip from Kathmandu in Nepal to X'ian in China will be richly rewarded by the scenery and attractions it takes in. Organised by Dragoman, a UK-based tour operator that specialises in overland group trips aboard custom-fitted 10-wheeler trucks, the journey will take you through the grandeur of the Himalayan mountains and the sweeping vistas of the Tibetan Plateau, often referred to as the "roof of the world", and ends in Xi'an, home to the awe-inspiring Terracotta Army.

Along the way there are visits to several Tibetan monasteries; an overnight stay at the Mt Everest base camp; a three-day stop to explore Lhasa; a visit to the saline Qinghai Lake, China's largest; and to the giant Buddha carved into a cliff face at Bingling Si in Gansu province. Accommodation on the trip ranges from starred hotels to guesthouses to camping. Dragoman (www.dragoman.com; 0044 1728 861133) is offering a 50 per cent discount on the tour leaving Kathmandu on July 15, which now costs $1,425 (Dh5,234), plus a $500 (Dh1,836) kitty that does not cover meals in hotels.

The Dubai-based low-cost carrier flydubai has started taking bookings for its new routes to Assiut in Egypt and to Istanbul, Turkey, which will launch in May and June respectively. Flights from Dubai to Assiut, the largest town in Upper Egypt, will start on May 24 and are priced from $95 (Dh350) one-way, including taxes and with extras optional. Flights will operate on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. The flights to Istanbul begin on June 17 and offer a low-cost option to visit one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2010. Flights from Dubai start from $122 (Dh450) one-way, including taxes, and will operate five days a week (www.flydubai.com; 04 301 0800).

Ever taken a break and then started wishing you could linger on as your departure date neared? Al Maha Desert Resort in Dubai has made the decision easier with its "Extended Experience" offer, which offers guests half rate on the second night in every two nights stayed at the resort.

Set in an oasis that is part of a private wildlife reserve, the resort offers fantastic desert views from its secluded suites, each with its own pool and sundeck. Under the special offer, a two-night stay in a Bedouin suite, including all meals and taxes, starts from Dh2,944 per night in April and Dh2,209 per night in May. The rate also includes two nature-based activities per night's stay, with guests able to choose from falconry, guided nature walks, desert drives, horse riding, camel treks and archery. The offer runs until May 31 and is open only to residents of the UAE. See www.al-maha.com or call 04 303 4222.

We've heard of bath butlers and shopping concierges, but now the luxury Le Richemond hotel in Geneva is offering guests the services of a watch butler. The complimentary service, which the hotel says is a world first, is to help prospective buyers to choose from among the finely crafted luxury timepieces Switzerland is famous for.

The role of watch butler is played by Pierre Jacques of the well-known luxury watch boutique Les Ambassadeurs. Guests can consult him either privately at the hotel or on a specially arranged visit to Les Ambassadeurs. Most of the brands available are manufactured in or around Geneva and, for added interest, the watch butler can arrange private visits to the workshops of brands such as Vacheron Constantin, Roger Dubuis and Franck Muller.

Rooms at Le Richemond start at $454 (Dh1,666). See www.roccofortecollection.com or call the UAE toll-free number 8000 650592.