Back to school blues? Itchy feet after a week? Rosy Moorhead scours the internet for the best deals to the most exciting places for all the family
Time Out Bahrain staff
Athens, Greece Fly: Qatar Airways – approximately 5 hours, depending on connection time in Doha Stay: London Hotel 3*, Glyfada Pay: From BD1,046 - 2 adults + 2 children, flights, 6 nights + breakfast Why go: Mild winters and hot summers, an absolute glut of history and culture, stunning scenery and a great nightlife – and all of this just a few short hours away. Not to mention you’ll get good value for your money at the moment due to the economic situation there. Add to all this the city’s spotless parks and streets, new motorways and metro and all signs handily in English, and you’ve got yourself the perfect family holiday destination. Get up to Filopappos Hill if you can, for one of the most spectacular views of the whole city. Don’t miss: The Acropolis, Europe’s most famous archaeological monument, dating from the 5th century BC, slap bang in the centre of Athens. Soak up the history, marvel at the architecture, then check out the valuable artefacts housed in the on-site museum.
Go Barca mad
Barcelona, Spain Fly: Turkish Airlines – 7hr55, connect in Istanbul Stay: Exp by Holiday Inn Molins 3*, Molins de Rei 7 nights + breakfast Pay: BD1,134 - 2 adults + 2 children, flights, 7 nights + breakfast Why go: If you’ve had enough of the ubiquitous sands and greys of the Middle East, visually stunning Barcelona will reawaken your senses. Galleries, architecture, Catalan cuisine, music and dancing, this city has it all. For kids, there’s the Zoo, the Aquarium, the Planetarium, beaches, swimming pools and numerous parks, foremost of which is Guell Park, with its structures, dragon fountain and mysterious paths and passageways to explore. Also stop by the Magic Fountain of Montjuic for its spectacular displays of colour, light, motion, music and water acrobatics. Don’t miss: Casa Batllo, one of Antoni Gaudi’s most celebrated and inspired creations, on Passeig de Gracia. The artist transformed the building’s facade into an undulating surface of polychrome circles of ceramics and broken fragments of glass, and the magic continues inside, too.
Cairo, Egypt Fly: Egypt Air – direct 3hr20 Stay: Horizon Pyramids hotel 4*, Giza 7 nights + breakfast Pay: From BD701 - 2 adults + 2 children, flights, 7 nights + breakfast Why go: It should have started cooling down a bit here come half-term break, and its proximity to Bahrain makes it an absolute must as a holiday destination. This place is all about the Great Pyramids, of course, and guided tour companies abound, offering to show you around Cheops, the oldest of the Seven Wonders, the Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, and take you down the Nile. Try Ramses Tours (www.ramsestours.com) for one of the best recommended. An indoor must-visit for everyone is the Museum of Antiquities, displaying 5000 years’ worth of wonders, not least those of King Tut. Don’t miss: Saqqara Pyramids, about 45 minutes south of Cairo if you can get there, are less commercial, and therefore quieter, than those at Giza, not to mention also being older. A highlight here are the tombs, many of which remain unexcavated.
Bargain of the month!
Cochin, Kerala, India Fly: Emirates – 5hr10, connect in Dubai Stay: Park Central Hotel 3*, Ernakulan district 7 nights + breakfast Pay: From BD692 - 2 adults + 2 children, flights, 7 nights + breakfast Why go: Verdant scenery, sunset strolls, sampling fresh fish from seaside vendors, boat rides among the islands, stunning beaches, traditional dances, 16th century Portuguese churches and forts, spice markets, palaces... do we need to go on? This is the perfect place to get your fill of peace and beauty, all practically on your doorstep. Don’t miss: Matancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century for the Maharaja of Kochi, it now houses ancient paintings and murals of Hindu mythology, as well as a number of small temples.
Winter sports wonder
Faraya-Mzaar, Lebanon Fly: Gulf Air – direct 2hr45 Stay: InterContinental Mzaar Lebanon 5*, Kfardebian 5 nights (breakfast not included) Pay: BD1,288 - 2 adults + 1 child, flights, 5 nights (breakfast not included) Why go: Although a small ski resort by European standards, this is ideal for those of us left outdoor-sports-starved here in Bahrain as it’s such a short flight away and then only about an hour outside Beirut. There are limited eating options outside the hotels, but this place is all about the daytime. Ski passes average $50 per day per adult, $40 per child – contact your hotel for details. Finish off with a couple of days in Beirut and you’ve got yourself a lovely little break. Don’t miss: The kids’ Snow Garden, a ski school designed to familiarise children aged 3-7 with snow and winter sports. This park also features slides, swings and seesaws.
Feast of the Far East
Hong Kong Fly: Emirates – 9hr15, connect in Dubai Stay: Marriott Hong Kong SkyCity Hotel 4*, near airport Pay: From BD1,549 - 2 adults + 2 children, flights, 7 nights (breakfast not included) Why go: If the Gulf just can’t sate your desire for endless shop- ping and big-city bustle and nightlife, you’d best head to Hong Kong. Dine on dim sum, take a double decker bus along a neon valley, take a harbour cruise, head up to Victoria Peak to take in the views of lush green mountains and skyscrapered horizons, then relax on the beach. Spend one day on Lantau Island, the next at Hong Kong Disneyland or Ocean Park. But, be warned, a break in this place will not be easy on the wallet. Don’t miss: Big Buddha, accessible by cable car or bus (on which you get a tour of Lantau thrown in) taking in beautiful coves, beaches, mountains and forests, this is a remarkable sight in itself, but also has a museum, a monastery and shopping village. Get there early to beat the crowds.
Straddle the continents
Istanbul, Turkey Fly: Turkish Airlines – direct 4hr20 Stay: Atlantis Hotel 3*, Sultanahmet neighbourhood 7 nights + breakfast Pay: From BD932 - 2 adults + 2 children, flights, 7 nights + breakfast Why go: A heady mix of the ancient and the modern, of European and Asian, Istanbul offers bustling bazaars, mosques, churches, aromas of incense and spice, shopping, restaurants and nightlife, cruises along the Bosphorous, museums and fortresses. Don’t miss: The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), beautiful, impressive and serene, and the Hagia Sophia church and museum (Ayasofia), the crown jewel of the city.
Maldives Fly: Qatar Airways – 5hr25, connect in Doha Stay: Meeru Island Resort 4*, Meerufenfushi - 6 nights full board Pay: BD1,932 -2 adults + 2 children, flights, 6 nights full board Why go: Sun, sea, sand, scenery and serenity all the way! Pristine white beaches, crystal clear waters and five star service and accommodation, the North Male Atoll is the ultimate beach holiday, and it’s only a few short hours away. What are you waiting for? If you can drag yourself up off your sun lounger for just a few hours, there’s also plenty to see: the local markets, the Old Friday Mosque, the National Museum, the wreckage of the old Victory, whale submarine trips for non-divers and scuba-diving galore. Don’t miss: Snorkelling – swim with sharks, stingray, eels, octopus, lobster, and any other exotic, colourful sealife you can think of. Check with your resort for the packages/sessions they have on offer.
Mombasa, Kenya Fly: Ethiopian Airlines – 6hr45, 8hr45 with connection in Addis Ababa Stay: Serena Beach Hotel & Spa 4*, near Bamburi Beach 7 nights half board Pay: From BD1,968 - 2 adults + 2 children, flights, 7 nights half board Why go: Kenya’s second-largest city has something for everyone: Arab, Indian and European influences, wildlife, safaris, beaches, scuba, biking, forts and museums. Don’t miss: Haller Park, where you can see crocodiles, hippos, tortoises, monkeys, antelope, fish and snakes, and make sure you get on the overhead walkways when it’s time for the kids to hand-feed the giraffes. Great stuff.
Seychelles Fly: Qatar Airways – 5hr40, 6hr15 with connection in Doha Stay: Le Meridien Barbarons 4*, Mahe Island Pay: BD2,077 - 2 adults + 2 children, flights, 6 nights + breakfast Why go: Mahe is the Seychelles’ largest and main island and home to the capital, Victoria, but retains its idyllic beauty in the form of its gorgeous beaches, spectacular mountain ranges and varied plant life. Do: Grand Anse Beach, Le Jardin du Roi Spice Garden, Victoria Botanical Gardens Don’t miss: The Botanical Gardens at Victoria where you can spend a few hours strolling amongst the lush flora and fauna, look out for the giant tortoises. For further details about these deals and many more, log onto www.expedia.com