Athens, Cyprus, Doha, Jordan and more holiday inspiration
Time Out Bahrain staff
As the Holy Month comes to an end we’ll all be looking forward to the Eid holiday and, with the dates likely to fall around August 7 onwards, a five-day weekend is on the cards, just right for a mini break. We’ve come up with ten short-hop destinations, all within around seven hours direct flight from the kingdom.
Abu Dhabi, UAE It’s a near neighbour but we shouldn’t let familiarity breed contempt as Abu Dhabi has loads to offer for a short break. Push the boat out and spend a few days on Sir Bani Yas island, a natural island located 250km southwest of the UAE capital. Originally home to Arabia’s largest wildlife reserve established in 1971 by the late ruler and founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the island has benefitted from decades of intensive conservation work and ecological investment and it’s now home to thousands of large free-roaming animals and several million trees and plants. Accomodation-wise there’s the seriously gorgeous Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara where you’ll find activities such as adventure safaris, kayaking, mountain biking, archery, hiking and snorkelling. Or check out the equally fab Anantara Al Yamm Villa Resort which is brand spanking new. (desertislands.anantara.com).
If desert islands aren’t your thing, Abu Dhabi still has plenty to offer from a gentle stroll along the 8km waterfront to a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque which looks like something from Arabian Nights shimmering white in the desert heat.
Getting there Gulf Air flies direct, 1hr 10mins, from BD92. (www.gulfair.com).
Athens, Greece The Greek capital is one of the world’s oldest cities with recorded history going back almost 3,500 years and some seriously famous historic sites to be explored, most notably the Parthenon, the Temple of goddess Athena, and the surrounding Acropolis of Athens which dates back to the fifth century BC (open daily 8am-7pm, entry BD5.900) . Make sure to visit the Plaka area, at the foot of the Acropolis, which is full of restaurants, bars, interesting little shops and historical sites. And check out Metaxourgeio which has developed into an artsy area in recent years and centres on the large Advi Square where you’ll often find live performances underway and artists doing their thing in the open air. If you fancy a boat trip out to one of the islands - Aegina, Angistri, Poros and Hydra are easily close enough for a day trip - then take the Metro out of Athens to Pireaus and you will find boats sailing regularly to all the islands.
Getting there Gulf Air flies direct to Athens, 7hr 15mins, from BD395 (www.gulfair.com). A range of accommodation options is available from backpacker hostels to the AVA Hotel in the Plaka, Trip Advisor’s number one in the city. (9 - 11 Lyssikratous Street, Plaka, Athens 10558, Greece +30 21 0325 9000 www.avahotel.gr)
Cyprus This little island, birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, is a real gem which has something for everyone from beaches and history to mountains and championship golf courses – Ahprodite Hills is perhaps the best known (www.aphroditehills.com +357 26 818 700) but we like the sound of The Secret Valley Golf Course which is one of the cheapest around and in a fab location (Petra tou Romiou, Kouklia, Cyprus, +357 26 274 000 www.cyprusgolf.com)
If history and culture are more your thing, ten of the island’s churches are on the Unesco World Heritage List with their countless examples of Byzantine art and there are museums and small galleries galore.
For nightlife and water sports head to Aya Napa where all the beaches are blue-flagged for their cleanliness.
Getting there Gulf Air flies direct to Larnaca, 3hr 30mins, from BD330, (www.gulfair.com).The choice of accommodation is wide ranging from budget to five star. Our colleagues at Time Out Cyprus are particularly fond of the Amathus Beach Hotel (8042 Poseidon Avenue, Paphos, +357 26 883 300 www.amathuspaphos.com), not cheap but very, very cheerful.
Doha Our nearest neighbour and soon to be home to the sporting madness that is the football world cup. But there’s a lot more to Doha than soccer. Take a stroll round the stunning IM Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art, which has been described as ‘works of art within a work of art’. Check out Time Out Doha’s Restaurant of the Year, Market by Jean-Gorges at the W Hotel, which, if you’ve got the budget, would also be our recommendation for one of the coolest places to stay (whoteldoha.com) and make sure you take in a visit to the new old souq or Souq Waqif, as it’s known. Here you will find everything from antiques (both real and fake) to pictures and photos of old Qatar, herbs, spices and incense and coffee shops where you can drink your fill, lounging on a cushion, for a few hundred fils. Be warned though if, like us, you are tender of heart, stay well away from the animal section, much like our own Isa Town Market, it’s a soul destroying experience. For more on what to do in Doha visit www.timeoutdoha.com. Getting there Gulf Air flies direct, 45mins, from BD74 (www.gulfair.com). Our first choice of a place to bed down would be The W but if you’re seeking a budget option, we’ve heard good things about Le Mirage at Sharq however it fills up quickly (www.explore-qatar.com).
Dubai Want to go skiing in the desert, jump out of a plane over The Palm, have dinner on a floating donut on the creek or watch fountains dance? Then Dubai is the place for you. It has all of the above and much, much more. Our sister publication Time Out Dubai is your essential guide to anything and everything that’s happening in the city as well as the most up-to-date hotel deals and discounts.
Jordan There’s so much to say about Jordan, it really shouldn’t qualify as a short break but, being so close, five days is plenty of time to take in at least some of the amazing sites this country has to offer. No stay in Jordan would be complete without a trip to Petra, the ancient Nabatean city carved into the sheer rock face – take comfortable shoes, it’s quite a walk but well worth it entry is BD26. After the rigours of that trek you’ll be ready for some rest, move on to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 400m below sea level, for a dip, or rather float, in the super-salty, mineral-rich waters – one of the few places in the world where it’s not only acceptable but positively encouraged to cover yourself from head to foot in mud.
Getting there Gulf Air flies direct to Amman, 2hr 25mins, from BD298 (www.gulfair.com). Amman to Petra is about two hours travelling time, a local taxi will cost around BD37 for a round trip, cheaper if you decide to go one way and stay overnight. Petra to the Dead Sea is around two and a half hours, there are buses and local taxis available for this journey too. There’s a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets, we like the Marriott Jordan Valley at the Dead Sea and Petra Marriott Hotel at Wadi Moussa (www.marriott.com).
London, England Now that all the hullaballoo of the Olympics has settled down you can take a trip to London without meeting most of the rest of the world there, though, to be fair, the English capital’s still quite a draw and one of our favourite cities in the world. Take a trip on the London Eye for a panoramic view over the city, you can enjoy a glass of grape and a selection of tapas on the journey from BD23 (www.londoneye.com). Take in a West End show – we’d highly recommend Les Miserable at the Queen’s Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue (www.lesmis.com/uk), yes we know everyone’s seen the film but we reckon you can’t beat the real thing live on stage. For further nightlife do the tourist thing and take a stroll around Covent Garden or visit one of the capital’s mega clubs and for day time you can’t beat a boat trip down the Thames (if the sun’s shining) and a visit to Windsor Castle (www.windsor.gov.uk).
Getting there Gulf Air flies direct, 6hr 35mins, from BD547 (www.gulfair.com). Accommodation’s a mixed bag from the downright cheap and nasty to the ridiculously expensive. We like Fifty Four Boutique Hotel with its Egyptian cotton sheets and great location next to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington (54 Queens Gate, SW7 www.fiftyfourboutiquehotel.co.uk), rooms are from BD75.
Muscat, Oman If you live in the Gulf there is absolutely no excuse for not visiting Muscat at least once. In our view it is absolutely the best of Arabian hospitality, culture and charm coupled with the stunning scenery of the Hajar Mountains. Added to that, its coastline sits on the Arabian Sea which joins the Indian Ocean so you’ll know you’re looking at some proper waves in season and great diving. Check out the Sultan Qaboos Mosque with its breathtaking interiors then journey 15 minutes into Muscat and take a trip round the souq. Be warned though, leave plenty of time, last time we visited we were there four hours and still hadn’t managed to see everything, break up your browsing with a stop at the tea and coffee stall at the northern edge where you can buy a fresh coconut and drink the milk. For dining get a taxi to take you the 45km out to Sifah, a developing resort where Al Sammak restaurant, part of the Sifawy Boutique Hotel, is directly on the beach serving wonderful fresh seafood, the setting is stunning as the sun goes down. (www.sifawyhotel.com).
Paris, France It’s the City of Light and the city of love so, if you’re in the mood for romance, this could be the place. But Paris is also great for sightseeing, think the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, browsing through flea markets – the most famous is the one at Port de Clignancourt, known as Les Puces (The Fleas) – and, throughout August for the Cinéma au Clare de Lune, movies under the moonlight in which classics of French cinema are projected free at night in the city’s parks, taking place at Montmartre, the Place des Vosges, Parc Montsouris, the Trocadero Gardens and the Square René-Cassin. Finish your evening with dinner at Le Sergent Recruter on the Ile St Louis which gets a five-star thumbs up from our colleagues at Time Out Paris.
If you’re a Doors fan, don’t forget to stop by Pere Lachaise cemetery to pay your respects to the late great Jim Morrison, who’s buried there.
Getting there Gulf Air flies direct, 6hr 50mins, from BD469 (www.gulfair.com). If we were going we’d stay at the Five Hotel in the 5th Arrondissement, a small but perfectly-formed designer affair that’s created rather a buzz internationally (www.thefivehotel.com) with rooms from BD100).
Sri Lanka Known as ‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, Sri Lanka lives up to its name with stunning wildlife and vegetation. Elephants, temples, tropical forests and, of course, the reputation of being ‘the land of smiling people’. Get out of the capital Colombo and head to the Northern Province to Wilpattu National Park where, aside from elephants, you might just be lucky enough to see elusive leopards hanging out. There are also the historical ruins at Kuwenis Castle dating back to 543BC and a swimming beach at the fishing hamlet of Palanguthurai. You can take your own equipment and camp in Wilpattu or join a luxury tented safari with Noel at Leopard Safaris (www.leopardsafaris.com).
Getting there Sri Lankan Airlines flies direct to Colombo, 5hr 10mins, from BD158. Wilpattu is 180km north of Colombo and there is local transport or you can hire a driver very reasonably.