If you happen to be like us and are counting on the Eid Al Adha break to plan that long overdue summer break, then you’re in luck. Gulf News tabloid! has put together a list of nine destinations that fit the bill for all tastes — from the ideal island getaway to that adventure road-trip that you have planned since high school.
Read on and start packing:
The ancient city of Kyoto continues to remain a top draw during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival when a carpet of pink and white comes into bloom for endless Insta-worthy moments. However, the blossoms aren’t Kyoto’s only draw.
Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, is celebrated in Kyoto on August 7 and perfectly timed for this year’s Eid Al Adha getaway. Tanabata celebrates the legend of two astrological lovers — Hikoboshi (the Altair star) and Orihime (the Vega star) who are separated by the Milky Way or ‘river of the heavens’. Once a year they are allowed to meet, and this is celebrated by hanging a small paper with our wishes written on it, which are tied to Tanabata bamboo branches. The branches are displayed throughout the city and in mid-August during the Obon-festival, they are ceremoniously burnt at the famous Gozan no Okuribi bonfire.
Kyoto celebrates the festival over a 10-day period with a number of events designed around the theme of ‘wishes’. The events include visual installations of Tanabata, lightshows, family-fun activities and festive food stalls.
Must do: Participate in the Tanabata festival like a local by wearing traditional yukata or a summer kimono.
Details: Emirates flies direct to Osaka, the closest airport to Kyoto. One way flight time averages nine hours outbound and 10 hours inbound to Dubai. The Eid fare is approximately Dh5,500. Philippine Airlines and China Southern Airlines also fly to Osaka with stopovers.
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
There are 101 reasons to love Sunny Beach, the least of it is hidden in its name. The sunshine city is nestled along the eastern coastline of Bulgaria, hugging the Black Sea — almost across from Georgia’s Batumi beyond the lapping waves.
Like any coastal city, be it Playa Del Carmen in Mexico’s Maya Riviera or tiny towns peppered down Portugal’s Algarve province, the party here never stops.
During the day, you will find most sun worshippers spread out on the lounges of the beachside resorts potted down Sunny Beach. By night, the Flower Street receives its onslaught of revellers looking to have a fun evening.
Must do: If time permits from the nightlife, do take time out to drive (or grab a bus) down south 15 minutes to visit Nessebar, a Unesco World Heritage Site that is a delight to explore on foot as you stroll down the 3,000 year old cobblestone paths. The former Greek colony has some beautiful architecture that are a must visit.
Details: While Varna would be the closest airport, in terms of connectivity from Dubai, capital city Sophia is your best bet. Flydubai and Emirates fly direct (according to the Wizz Air website, it will resume flights from DWC to Sophia in September), with Eid fares starting at Dh3,500. Take note, the carriers may not fly daily.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina may be looked over by its more popular neighbour Croatia, largely thanks to a certain television show — ‘Game of Thrones’ — but the country comes with its own rich history.
After years of political turmoil, the tourism push has commenced only very recently so it can appear a little rough around the edges. But that only just adds to its overall charm.
Capital city Sarajevo is a tiny enclave and can be largely explored on foot. The violent history of the country is never forgotten with its many landmarks paying tribute in a hundred different ways to its fallen comrades. Architectural influences of the Roman and the Ottoman empires are still visible even today.
The highlight of a visit to this Balkan state are attractions such as Jablanicko Lake, Kravice Waterfalls and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Mostar.
Must do: One of the best known landmarks in Mostar is the Old Bridge, which was destroyed by Croatian armed forces on November 9, 1993. At the end of the Bosnian War, the bridge was rebuilt between 2001 and 2004 from the original stone that was salvaged from the bottom of the river. The country also has a tiny coastline of about 13 miles along the Adriatic Sea.
Details: Air Arabia flies direct to Sarajevo from Sharjah. Flight time is approximately five hours and 20 minutes. Eid airfare is approximately Dh2,495. Flydubai and Emirates also fly direct.
Monsoon season is upon Oman and there is no better season to visit the coastal city of Salalah when the Khareef turns the valleys lush and green.
There are beautiful beaches to explore across the Salalah coastline, but a personal favourite is the Marneef Cave and its many blow holes. The Khareef or monsoon also signal the season of high tides and that’s when this place turns magical with water gushing out in force.
Must do: For those looking for a spot of silly fun, visit the Salalah Anti-Gravity Point where cars allegedly travel up a hill while in neutral. Is it legit, you ask? Why not try it out for yourself.
Details: Etihad Airways has launched special flights to Salalah from Abu Dhabi in time of the Khareef season. Other airlines that fly direct from UAE include Air Airabia from Sharjah, along with flydubai and Emirates from Dubai. Eid airfares start at Dh1,100.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
The land of temples and rich heritage, Siem Reap is truly a delight for those who like holidays with a dash of culture. Naturally, Siem Reap is synonymous with Angkor Wat and no visit is complete without visiting the ancient Hindu temple complex. Pro tip: sign up for the sunrise tour. Yes, it does get crowded but if you manage to blag that perfect spot, prop up a GoPro or smartphone on a tripod and set up a time-lapse. As the first rays hit the complex, Angkor Wat lights up in all its glory.
Must See: Aside from Angkor Wat, there are a multitude of other temples to visit. It can get a tad boring and hot so we recommend visiting two other complexes before taking in the Siem Reap nightlife: the Ta Prohm complex with its towering trees that shot to international fame after Angelia Jolie’s Lara Croft swung from behind them in ‘Tomb Raider’; the other is Angkor Thom’s Bayon temple with its 216 gargantuan smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara.
Details: There’s no direct flight from UAE, but China Southern Airlines and Bangkok Air have connecting flights. Eid airfares start at Dh3,615.
You will probably have to pay top dollar to get a foot in last-minute but if you do happen to strike lucky then nothing can beat the beauty of seeing Mother Nature perform as the Great Migration gets underway with a multitude of river crossings at the Mara River.
Aside from the wildebeest migration in Serengeti, this is also an opportune time to see the African Big Five — the elephant, the black rhino, the lion, the leopard and the buffalo.
Do visit the Lake Manyara National Park, an hour’s ride from the Ngorongoro Crater, where game includes elephants, buffaloes and wildebeest along with giraffe, zebra, waterbucks, warthogs and impalas.
Must do: If luck is on your side, stay at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater or on the Rift Valley Escarpment. These lodges are expensive, especially with last-minute bookings, but have incredible views and easy access to the crater.
Details: The closest airport is Kilimanjaro and both flydubai and Emirates fly direct with Eid prices start at Dh3,600. The fight time one-way is approximately six hours. One stop options include flying with Ethiopian Air, via Addis Ababa, starting at Dh2,445.
Cape Town, South Africa
Winter well and truly sets into Cape Town during August, with the wind picking up and the rain clouds hanging overhead. But if you ask us, this lends another kind of charm to this South African city.
No trip to Cape Town is complete without a visit to the iconic Table Mountain, along with a hike up to the Lion’s Head and a trip to Robben Island, where the late Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life in prison during apartheid.
With South Africa now offering visa-free entry for citizens of UAE and Saudi Arabia, the access is only gotten easier. Over Eid Al Adha, One&Only Cape Town has launched its ‘Adventure Package’ experience, where guests can hike to the top of the Lion’s Head and paddle through the lush blue waters of the Atlantic when booking a minimum four-night stay at the resort.
Must-do: Do not miss a walk down Boulders Beach where you come face to face with thousands of African Penguins that live there. It’s also a great place to spend the day on the beaches of False Bay.
Details: South African airlines flies direct to Cape Town with the flight time approximately nine hours and 30 minutes. The round-trip airfare is Dh4,365 over Eid. Ethiopian Air and Kenya Airways offer cheaper flight options with a single stopover.
Nothing quite spells a vacation like an island getaway and what better than the tropical hideaway of Seychelles. August spells winter across Seychelles and is considered the driest month of the year, which simply means a balmy mid-twenties and a cool breeze as the sun sets.
The archipelago attracts thousands of tourists every year due to its crystal-clear waters, especially its three main islands — Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. During August, it is ideal to stay on the north side of the island. If your travels take you to North Mahe’s Beau Vallon district, be prepared for diving deep into the waters with plenty of scuba and snorkelling options.
We also recommend spending time in Victoria, the capital of Seychelles. Take a cruise to Sainte Anne Marine National Park and explore the rich history of the city including the Natural History Museum, Victoria Botanical Gardens and more.
Must do: If the great outdoors beckon, then hit the Copolia Trail on Mahe Island that takes you up a e granite hill with jaw-dropping views of the island and the sparkling waters of the Indian Ocean.
Details: Tajawal is offering a four-night and five-day holiday package that includes flights, hotels and private transfers starting from Dh6,025 per person, subject to availability. Emirates flies direct to Mahe from Dubai, with Eid airfares starting at Dh4,225 with a four hour, 30 minutes flight time. Etihad Airways also flies direct from Abu Dhabi.
Leh and Ladakh
If there is ever a season to take that road-trip across Ladakh, then this is it. With the snow melted across Rohtang Pass, fly into Manali and hire a car to embark on this journey of a lifetime into Ladakh.
Take the time in Leh for your body to acclimatise while you spend afternoons strolling through the Tibetan refugee market for trinkets.
Sites to behold in Ladakh include Nubra Valley, the Morai Plains and the Pangog Tso salt water lake. But if you ask us, it is the beauty of Zanskar Valley that will take your breath away with majestic views of the Himalayan range and the tributaries of the Zanskar River that are excellent for white river rafting.
Must-do: If your travels lead you to the Changthang region of Ladakh, learn more about the lore of the Pagal Nala (translates to the mad stream), which is known to freeze over during the winter months but it is a dangerous crossing during the rains.
Details: There is no direct international flight to Leh. The easiest way is to fly via Delhi. SpiceJet has a return flight approximating Dh3,200 during Eid, with a stopover in Delhi on the return.