The Jordanian Red Sea resort city of Aqaba is undergoing something of a luxury hotel boom at the moment, with Jumeirah, Hyatt and Westin all readying to open properties there. With the heat of the summer dissipated, lying down with a good book on a sunbed becomes a pleasure again, but for those wanting something a little more energetic, it’s also a good time to head inland to the the World Heritage-listed rock city of Petra.
Mazada Tours runs an exclusive, private one day tour to Petra from Aqaba for US$495 (Dh1,817). This includes horseback riding through the “Ciq” (canyon), plus prime viewings of the Pink Stone Treasury and Roman Theatre.
FlyDubai launched direct flights from Dubai to Aqaba in June. Returns cost from Dh945. The Al Manara, A Luxury Collection Hotel is one of the most impressive new openings, with five dining options ranging from Moroccan to seafood and a desert mirage fantasy castle look. A prestige suite with lagoon view, and butler service costs from 805 dinars (Dh4,170).
It’s springtime in Australia’s south-western corner, and that means the landscape erupts with millions of spectacular wildflowers that can be seen nowhere else on earth. The blooms can be used as an excuse to loop together the South West’s natural wonders – such as the giant, multicoloured Wave Rock formation at Hyden, white sand beaches that kangaroos frolic on in Esperance, giant karri tree forests around Pemberton, and the hulking great granite outcrops and boulders of the Stirling Range.
Luxury Outback Tours (luxuryoutbacktours.com.au) runs a seven day 4WD wildflower tour around the south-west for from AU$4,597 (Dh12,697) per person. It heads down vibrant flower-surrounded outback roads and dirt tracks that most visitors wouldn’t contemplate.
Etihad and Emirates fly direct to Perth from Abu Dhabi, with returns costing from Dh4,895. While in Perth, the most prestigious address is COMO The Treasury (comohotels.com/thetreasury), which has revitalised handsome old government buildings, with luxurious but calmly minimalist rooms and an extensive art collection. Doubles cost from AU$536 (Dh1,512) per night. The Wildflower restaurant on-site is regarded as one of the best in the country, and specialises in using indigenous ingredients.
October falls between the two main trade wind seasons in the Seychelles, which makes it an ideal month for hopping between the Indian Ocean islands. And each island offers something a little different.
Dramatic Desroches rises 3,000 metres out of the sea, surrounded by 50 nautical miles of reef for snorkelers to explore and a wealth of marine life. Praslin, meanwhile, is the second largest in the group and comes with the thickly-forested, lushly green Vallée de Mai UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Coco de Mer – the world’s heaviest nut – can be found growing here.
Neighbouring La Digue is the one with the personality – it’s exquisitely laid back, protected from the ocean by a reef, and has dozens of gigantic pink granite boulders lining the coast.
The absolute star, however, is Aldabra, the world’s second largest atoll, where the inner lagoon brims with sea turtles, eagle rays and enormous shoals of dish. Birdwatchers can check out the great frigatebirds and boobies, but the most famous inhabitants are the giant Aldabra tortoises.
Etihad and Emirates fly direct to the Seychelles from Abu Dhabi for from Dh2,935. Top end cruise line Silversea (silversea.com) offers an 11 day cruise around the Seychelles, including all four islands mentioned above, for from £8,280 (Dh42,606) per person.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia tentatively opened itself up to tourists – both Muslim and non-Muslim – earlier in the year, and that’s somewhat reflected in Riyadh’s spate of new hotels. Usually regarded as a place of business, Riyadh is putting major efforts into cultivating a cultural scene. A good example of this is the Alāan Artspace, a contemporary gallery and restaurant that plays host to Saudi artists and designers, both new and extablished. The Naila Art Gallery, meanwhile, pulls in work by international artists.
More conventional cultural heavyweights include the National Museum, where the country’s story is told through eight artefact-packed halls, and the 18 metre adobe towers of the 19th century Al-Masmak Fortress.
FlyDubai, Etihad and Emirates fly direct from Dubai to Riyadh for from Dh1,685 return including taxes. Of the new hotels, the Nobu is the most exciting. An offshoot of the world-renowned Nobu restaurants, and with the Kingdom’s first Nobu dining experience on site, the 23-story glass-panelled skyscraper offers spacious rooms with tasteful Japanese design and custom-made fabrics with Japan-meets-Saudi motifs.
Just after the monsoon season, when the rains have stopped but the landscape is lushly green and the seas are warm, November is about as good as it gets in Goa.
The beach-heavy state has a different feel from the rest of Indian – partly due to its long-standing reputation as a hippy favourite, and partly due to the Portuguese colonial influence.
The Portuguese influence is most keenly felt around Panaji, where many of the handsome old buildings still stand, and traditional Goan dishes such as the vindaloo curry are served up in atmospheric old restaurants.
The south of the state is generally quieter than the north, with Palolem Beach being the best spot to hire a kayak and go paddling with the dolphins at sunset. The waterways are made for exploring by yacht – Boat Goa hires them out for from 16,000 rupees (Dh902) an hour. And inland around Ponda, it’s possible to visit spice farms such as Sahakari to learn about how the region’s notorious spices are cultivated.
Jet Airways offers direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Goa for from Dh1,273. The Le Meridien in Calangute opened last year, with games rooms and ultra-comfy beds amongst the most appealing facets. Junior suites cost from 13,822 rupees (Dh780) a night.
November is something of a sweet spot for Florida – warm and dry at the end of the hurricane season, and before the massive Christmas influx of tourists and snowbird semi-permanent residents arrives from the northern states.
Orlando, in the centre of the state, is synonymous with Disney, and the giant Walt Disneyworld (disneyworld.disney.go.com) offers a gazillion rides, spectaculars and experiences over several theme parks. VIP tours are available, that include customisable itinerary planning to take in as much as possible, prime viewing spots for shows and fast track entrance to rides. This costs between $425 and US$600 (Dh2,202) per hour.
Disneyworld is designed to be a holiday in itself, but it’s just over an hour’s drive to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Here, the $175 (Dh643), five hour Astronaut Training Experience includes a mission simulation, a microgravity experience and trying out the machines real astronauts train on.
Emirates flies direct to Orlando from Dubai, with returns costing from Dh5,265. The Four Seasons Resort is part of the Disneyworld complex, and comes with waterslides and a lazy river for the kids, plus an adults-only pool, spa and sprawling golf course for the grown ups. Family rooms suitable for two adults and two children cost from US$759 (Dh2,786).
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