As if there wasn’t enough to do in Bahrain already, the island happens to be perfectly placed for travel. After all, which other place offers the chance to escape to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and central Asia in three to four hours? Tellingly, almost 9 million air passengers passed through Bahrain International Airport in 2010, with more slated to travel through once the expansion is complete. Inspired by our status as a premiere travel hub, we’ve put together a list of 12 great escapes (a destination for every month of the year), which includes adventures with giraffes, snorkelling, mountain climbing, luxury holidays, and world heritage sites.
We guarantee you’ve never thought of some of them! All prices and deals were correct at the time of going to press – for more cheap flights or to tailor your journey, check out our fave holiday planning sites, www.orbitz.com, www.expedia.com or www.hipmonk.com. All you need to do now is pick a destination and get packing.
Travel time: Three to five hours by plane
1 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Addis is a hectic but safe city – a cultural and religious melting pot of political importance: it’s the headquarters for the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The city has plenty of history (find out more at the Ethiopian National Museum), not to mention great Italian food and coffee. Stay at the Baro Hotel, Piazza (email@example.com) with rooms from BD3 per night.
Getting there: Gulf Air flies Addis direct for BD181 return.
2 Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
There’s plenty to see and do in the capital, but we suggest you head straight to Turkmenbashi’s golden statue that rotates to face the sun throughout the day. Madness. The Ak Altyn Hotel (+993 12 36 37 00), located in the centre of town, is a good bet for affordable accommodation.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies to Ashgabat via Dubai from BD290 return.
Travel time: Up to four hours by plane
3 Istanbul, Turkey
The atmosphere of relaxed tolerance is so omnipresent – and the tourist sites so easily accessible – that Istanbul is always a joy to visit. And the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is simply stunning. The Sultanahmet Hotel (+9 0212 527 0239) in the Sultanahmet district offers rooms from BD19 per night.
Getting there: Gulf Air flies direct to Istanbul from BD212 return, including taxes.
4 Nairobi, Kenya
The spectacular Giraffe Manor (+254 205 020 888, www.giraffemanor.com) lies an hour’s drive from Nairobi airport and, as you might well guess from the name, is an old manor- house-turned-luxury-hotel situated in the middle of a giraffe sanctuary. You might even get the opportunity to feed these gentle giants from your window! Double rooms start at BD178 per night.
Getting there: Gulf Air flies direct to Nairobi from BD199 return.
5 Sofia, Bulgaria
The Bulgarian capital boasts wonderful history (epitomised by the beautiful Alexander Nevski Cathedral), a nearby ski resort on Mount Vitosha, the fantastic National Opera and Ballet (catch a show – it’s a must) and plenty of bars and restaurants. Check into The Metropolitan Hotel Sofia (www.metropolitanhotelsofia.com), which offers double rooms from BD47.5 per night.
Getting there: Qatar Airways flies direct to Sofia from BD367 return.
6 Baku, Azerbaijan
Enjoy pleasant weather (the average temperature all year round is 14.2°C) and see Baku’s walled fortress, the Old City – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and The Maiden’s Tower (Guz Qalasi). Stay at the Park Inn Azerbaijan (www.hotels.az), which offers rooms from BD87 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies to Baku via Dubai from BD184 return.
7 Kathmandu, Nepal
A hub for treks and outdoor adventure, Kathmandu is often overlooked by tourists. It’s a shame, because the historic city boasts sites such as Freak Street (a notorious hippy hangout of the ’60s), the Nasal Chowk Statues and the Narangdham (Budda Neelkanth). Keep it cheap (and ‘authentic traveller’) and stay at Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel (www.ktmgh.com), which offers clean budget rooms from BD1 a night!
Getting there: Gulf Air flies to direct to Kathmandu from BD215 return.
8 Mzaar, Lebanon
Head to the slopes of Mount Lebanon for a weekend (it’s just the end of the ski season). InterContinental Mzaar Mountain Resort & Spa (+961 934 0100) offers ski packages (including ski passes and rental and two drinks at the Lobby Lounge). Packages start at BD81 per couple.
Getting there: Bahrain Air flies direct to Beirut for BD166 return.
9 Tbilisi, Georgia
Nestled in the foothills of the Trialeti mountain range, this scenic city offers an action-packed weekend. Take a dip at the Sulfur Baths, scale the walls of the once-great Narikala fortress or head out to Lake Lisi. Stay at the Courtyard by Marriott (+995 32 277 9100), which offers double rooms from BD60 a night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies to Tbilisi via Dubai from BD148 return.
Travel time: One to two hours by plane
10 Oman dive centre, Muscat, Oman
The rustic beach chalets at the Oman Dive Centre (www.omandivecenter.com) are set in a peaceful cove. Divers and snorkellers can enjoy the clear, shallow waters and the abundance of sea life (we spotted a pod of dolphins). Packages start at BD160 per person.
Getting there: Gulf Air flies to Muscat via Bahrain from BD130 return.
11 Petra, jordan
Though inundated with tourists, this UNESCO heritage site is still worth a visit. Archaeological attractions such as The Treasury (which featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and the Urn Tomb never fail to take your breath away. Rooms at the Petra Hotel (+962 3 21 57 393) start at BD44 per night.
Getting there: Bahrain Air flies to Amman from BD138return.
12 The chedi, Muscat, Oman
The Chedi (+968 2452 4400), one of the region’s most exclusive beach resorts, offers 4x4 trips, big-game fishing, diving and more. The resort has a spectacular beachfront, swimming pools and a fine arts gallery– we reckon everyone should stay here once as it’s a really unforgettable place. Rooms start at BD224 per night.
Getting there: Gulf Air flies direct to Muscat from BD84 return.