Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Last-minute National Day breaks: 17 destinations within five hours of Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Looking for a last-minute trip for the upcoming long weekend? Here are 17 short break suggestions that are all less than five hours from the UAE

With National Day just around the corner, many of us are now looking forward to enjoying a five-day holiday from Friday, November 29 until Tuesday, December 3. If you're thinking about booking a last-minute getaway, there are plenty of places to choose from thanks to the UAE's location within easy reach of many much-loved travel spots.

From firm favourites like the Maldives and neighbouring Oman, to plenty of less-discovered destinations that are just a quick flight away, we've rounded up a host of holiday hotspots where flight times from the UAE are less than five hours making them a good idea for a 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 Thalassery 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. Economy fares start from Dh2,052 over the National Day holidays and a stay in Krishna Beach Resort, which is ranked highly on TripAdvisor, starts from Dh334 per room, per night.

2. 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. With a flight time of just under four hours, it won't be long before you're checking out the must-sees like the Pyramids of Giza and the artefact-filled Egyptian Museum. Be sure to schedule time to tour the art galleries, shop in the old Khan el Khalili Bazaar and cruise down the Nile. The bent pyramids, just south of the capital, are also worth checking out.

Cleartrip Holidays have a trip leaving on Friday, November 29 from Dubai with FlyDubai including three nights in the Movenpick Cairo, a Nile River cruise and various sightseeing tours from Dh2,399, with breakfast and airport transfers.

3. Tbilisi, Georgia

Just a short hop from Dubai, Flydubai has plenty of direct flights to Tbilisi and the journey takes 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.

Find out where to eat, sleep and shop in Tbilisi here.

Book with AirArabia Holidays departing Sharjah on Thursday November 28, spending four nights at the Epic Hotel. Rates from Dh2,616 per person, including transfers and breakfast.

4. Muscat, Oman

For a super quick escape, and a well-worn favourite with UAE residents, Muscat is a good pick. Visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, head to the harbour 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 Salam Air from Abu Dhabi. The flight takes 1 hour 15 minutes and fares start from Dh621 departing Sunday, December 1 and returning Tuesday, December 3. The Hilton Garden Inn Muscat has rooms from Dh420 or stay at The Kempinski from Dh706.

5. Amman, Jordan

The Jordanian capital is a good pick for cooler climes, sightseeing galore and a visit to the Dead Sea. Three days is a good amount of time to get to know the city making it ideal for a long weekend escape. 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.

Book via Vacations by Marriott and you'll get a return flight from Dubai with Royal Jordanian departing on Friday, November 29 plus three nights at W Amman from Dh3,263 per person.

6. 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.

December brings temperatures in the mid to high twenties. For nature enthusiasts, 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.

Book with Oman Air Holidays and fly from Abu Dhabi on Friday, November 29. Prices start from Dh3,656 inclusive of four nights at the Millennium Resort Salalah.

7. 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 less than 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.

Read our luxury guide to Baku here.

Holidays by Flydubai depart Dubai for Baku on Friday, November 29, returning on Tuesday, December 3 with three nights at the Premier Hotel. Prices start from Dh3,777 per person.

8. 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 Fly Dubai and Somon Air, the journey takes 3 hours 30 minutes. Flights depart Thursday, November 28 and return Monday, December 2 with fares from Dh1,595. Four nights at the five-star Hilton Dushanbe start from Dh1,663.

9. Bahrain

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. You can also explore Muharraq, one of 66 cities included in Unesco's most recent list of creative cities around the world. It was designated for its efforts in design.

Travel with Etihad Holidays from Abu Dhabi on Friday, November 29 and spend three nights at The Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence & Spa from Dh1,978 per person.

10. Yerevan, Armenia

Nicknamed the pink city, Mount Ararat acts as the gorgeous backdrop for the capital of Armenia, a city that’s just over a three-hour flight from Dubai. The centrepiece of this city is Republic Square where you can 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 a 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.

Holidays by Flydubai have a trip leaving Dubai on Friday, November 29 and staying four nights at the four-star Europa Hotel, just 10 minutes from Republic Square. Prices from Dh3,545 per person, including breakfast.

11. 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 frenetic 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.

Fly from Dubai with Air India, flight duration is three hours and prices start from Dh1,089. Check in at the legendary Taj Mahal Palace where promotional rates on National Day weekend start from Dh1,249 per room, per night.

12. 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 bazaars, 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 tranquillity.

From Abu Dhabi, it's a 3 hour 20 minute flight with Air Arabia to Delhi, return flights from Dh1,107 departing on Friday, November 29 and returning Tuesday, December 3.

13. Mahe, Seychelles

About four and a half hours from Dubai, the Seychelles is an island escape that offers a little bit of everything. From pristine boulder strewn beaches and amazing marine life to virgin jungles and some of the world's most fascinating wildlife, you'll find all of this on this island kingdom. Mahe is the biggest and most developed island and it's also the most convenient for visitors on a short break, you'll fly right onto the island and can drive around it in less than three hours. If you do want something a bit more remote, take the 20-minute flight from Male to Praslin or La Digue where you'll be rewarded with incredible sunsets and fascinating feats of nature.

Book with Emirates Holidays to leave Dubai on Friday, November 29, flying directly to Mahe for five nights at the four-star Coral Strand Smart Choice Hotel in Victoria. Prices are from Dh5,707 per person including breakfast.

14. Colombo, Sri Lanka

A little over four hours from the UAE, Sri Lanka is a long-time favourite for those seeking a quick getaway and it's not hard to see why. The teardrop country has beaches, elephants, jungles, mountains, lakes and more. Tourism visas are currently free of charge, an initiative put in place by authorities in an effort to rebuild tourism after it declined following several explosions in and around Colombo in April this year. The Sri Lankan Authorities have since stepped up security across the island and declared the country safe for visitors. While you'll probably fly into Colombo which is worth spending a day or two in, you'll want to head out of the capital for the best beaches, whale spotting, tea-plantations and more.

Book with HolidayME to travel from Dubai on November 28 with Flydubai. You'll spend one night at the Jetwing Hotel at Negombo Beach, one night at Amaya Hills in Kandy and two nights in the hill city of Nuwara Eliya. Prices from Dh2,399 per person including selected meals and sightseeing.

15. Kathmandu, Nepal

If you're in the mood for a more wintry escape, then Nepal is a good pick for a short escape this National Day especially given that December marks the beginning of Kathmandu winter season. This valley-steeped capital city is one of the world's most sensory places where colour, chaos and congestion combine in bucket loads. Expect endless traffic-filled alleyways, irritating salesmen and medieval temples at every turn. But stay a while, and you'll discover a fondness for its people, the delicious momos, the chaos of Thamel and the sprawling Chandragiri hills where you can get amazing views of Mount Everest on a clear day. Flight time is just over four hours.

Book with Holidays by Flydubai to depart Dubai on Friday, November 29. You'll spend four nights at the four-star Aria Boutique Hotel and Spa in Kahtmandu's Thamel. Prices from Dh2,238 per person.

16. Male, Maldives

For many, a trip to the Maldives is the stuff of dream holidays and honeymoon trips. Thankfully, we're only a four hour flight from the idyllic islands making a last-minute short break to the archipelago more achievable.Think over water villas, some of the best marine life on the planet and laid back beach vibes wherever you go. When it comes to budget, where you stay very much dictates how much you'll spend, with some of the more spectacular resorts having reservation rates to match. That said, it's not impossible to do these paradise islands on a budget.

Holiday Factory have trips leaving Dubai with Gulf Air on November 28 including four nights at Lonuveli hotel. Prices start from Dh2,999 per person including transfers and daily speed boat transfers to Luxury Cinnamon Dhonveli resort with access to all resort facilities. Green tax is excluded and there are supplements for families or single travellers.

17. Istanbul, Turkey

With an historically important location, Istanbul lies at the crossheads of two continents. Here, just five hours from the UAE, you can absorb over 2,500 years of history, culture, and traditions and enjoy fantastic food, amazing landmarks and views worth travelling for. Visit Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and go shopping at the Grand Bazaar. A cruise on the Bosphorus is one of the city's most interesting methods of soaking in the vibe.

Holiday Factory has deals to Istanbul from Dubai with prices from Dh2,899 per person. Trips depart Dubai on Thursday, November 28 and return Monday, December 2 inclusive of four nights at the three star Budo Hotel plus hotel transfers.

Updated: November 4, 2019 02:24 PM

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