Ramadan is here and temperatures are starting to rise in the UAE. So with the Eid holidays coming up, what better time than now to plan your next getaway?
To give you some inspiration, we’ve put together this essential list of five cool getaways just a stone’s throw (and a short flight) away from the Emirates.
Hajjar Mountains, Oman
If you’re looking for somewhere nearby to escape the summer heat, look no further that Oman. High up in the Hajjar Mountain range, temperatures are often a cool 10-15 degrees lower than elsewhere in the country. While luxurious hotels like the Alila and Anantara are perfect for a romantic weekend getaway, the treacherous climbing trails cut into the rock also offer plenty for the more adventurous traveller. On Jebel Shams, check out the panoramic views from atop the ‘Grand Canyon’, and on Jebel Akhdar, go and explore the old villages cut into the side of the rocky mountain.
The Hajjar mountains are around two hour’s drive from Muscat and you’ll need a 4WD to drive all the way up, although most hotels offer transfers from the villages in the foothills. If you can stand the heat, tie in a trip to nearby Nizwa – the goat market on Friday mornings is a unique experience and Nizwa souq is one if the best places in Oman for buying traditional products and crafts.
The Hajjar Mountains in 3 words: serene, cool, dramatic
Dubai-Muscat flight time: 1 hour
With regular, reasonably-priced flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi that take just a few hours, India is a popular destination for expats and locals alike – and if you’re looking for colour, culture and noise then there’s nowhere quite like Rajasthan.
Start your trip in Jaipur, where you can take in the history and culture of the Pink City by exploring the City Palace and the Amber Fort. It’s also a fantastic city for shopping, particularly for textiles and jewellery. Next, head to the beautiful Blue City of Jodhpur, whose winding streets and colourful buildings resemble Morocco’s medinas. Wake up early and climb up the steep, winding streets all the way to the Mehrangarh Fort– it’s well worth the trek to the top for the incredible views! After the chaos of Jaipur and Jodhpur, travel onto Udaipur, the City of Lakes – the perfect place to wind down after a hectic few days of travelling.
You can travel around Rajasthan relatively easily by train, although depending on the journey it can be just as fast and not much more expensive to hire a driver. A particularly enjoyable car journey is the route from Jodhpur to Udaipur, with roads winding through the jungle up into the hills. For a more detailed guide to travelling in Rajasthan, click here.
Rajasthan in 3 words: colourful, chaotic, mesmerising
Dubai-Jaipur flight time: 3 hours
Tea country, Sri Lanka
If you’ve ever considered taking a trip to Sri Lanka, you may know that the summer isn’t an ideal time to visit. The exception to this rule, however, are the iconic, lush ‘tea hills’, where temperatures remain lower than elsewhere in the country. Here, colonial-style hotels surrounded by vast, green plantations make for the perfect retreat from the hot Gulf summer.
Up in the southern hills you’ll find a completely different side to Sri Lanka to the white beaches and tropical jungle you may be expecting. Fly into Colombo and catch a train to Kandy – the train itself is part of the experience, with incredible views over the rolling green hills, plantations and sleepy villages.
Sri Lankan Tea Country in 3 words: tranquil, green, enchanting
Dubai-Colombo flight time: 4.5 hours
Ramadan can be an intense time, particularly for expats who don’t partake in fasting. So if you’re looking to unwind and let your hair down this summer then Beirut is where you need to be.
With hot weather and a relaxed, seaside vibe, this city – nicknamed the Paris of the East – truly comes alive during the summer months. The nights are for letting your hair down at the city’s plethora of restaurants, cocktail bars and nightclubs, while the days are either spent in recovery mode or at rooftop pool parties looking out across the Mediterranean.
Beirut in 3 words: laid back, gregarious
Dubai-Beirut flight time: 4 hours
If you’re looking to disconnect completely from civilisation, this sleepy Indian Ocean island is the place for you. This unique paradise island plays host to a fusion of African, Arabic and European influences thanks to its rich history and culture.
For the culture vultures, wandering the streets of the old Stone Town is like walking into a time warp, with donkeys plodding through the winding alleyways past mosques and intricately carved wooden doors. And with its seemingly unending white beaches, crystal clear waters and sleepy seaside towns, Zanzibar is the perfect place to bury your head in the sand and relax.
Zanzibar in 3 words: sleepy, sandy, inimitable
Dubai-Zanzibar flight time: 6 hours
Laura Cretney is a traveller, writer and entrepreneur based in Oman. She manages the Middle East travel, culture and politics blog, Pink Jinn, which seeks to share uplifting stories from the region and promote cross-cultural engagement.