As an increasing number of flight routes across the Middle East have been opening up, plenty of unique cities and off-the-beaten-track locales have been available to visit. It’s never been easier to take a break and explore new cultures. Here are some of our favourite places that only take a short time to travel to from the Arab World.
The Cascade Complex, Yerevan, Armenia
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia is a vibrant, historic city, situated in the southwest of the country. It’s a favourite destination of the Kardashians too, who are part Armenian and stay at the fabulous Hotel Alexander while in town. We recommend booking this spot – it’s by far the best hotel in the capital – with a five-star spa (Alexander Spa by Anne Semonin), and a rooftop dining eatery called Italiano Ristorante which offers a delectable menu and panoramic views of the city. It’s a great place to spend a long weekend at just 3 hours and 10 minutes from Dubai International Airport, with fresh mild temperatures during the autumn months. Start your trip by exploring Republic Square, the heart of Yerevan, surrounded by beautiful government buildings and a large musical fountain. It’s a great place to take in the city’s architecture and atmosphere. Also, be sure to take in the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (commonly known as the Matenadaran). This museum houses a vast collection of ancient Armenian manuscripts and is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Pay your respects at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial, and take in some of the city’s culture at the Cafesjian Center for the Arts and History Museum of Armenia.
Bodrum is known as Turkey’s answer to the rivieras of Europe. The country’s rich, famous and beautiful flock here during the summer months. However, one of the region’s best-kept secrets is that Autumn is when the coast really sings. During the post-summer months, there are fewer tourists, there’s also better access to facilities and the temperatures drop to palatable 28C degree highs in October. For enjoying the sun and the sea, popular places include Bodrum Beach, Gumbet Beach, and Bitez Beach. In the evening take a stroll around Bodrum Marina, where you can enjoy people-watching, sumptuous luxurious yachts and a bite to eat at one of the port-side restaurants. The coastline is spoilt for choice when it comes to luxury hotels. Considered one of the best in the region is the Amanruya, a property by Aman. Nestled in the hills which are covered in olive groves and cypress trees, the hotel has panoramic views of the nearby seascape and surrounding greenery. Highlights include the property’s tranquil pools and private pebble beach. Don’t leave Bodrum without indulging in local Turkish cuisine. Recommended dishes include traditional dishes such as kebabs, mezes (appetizers), and baklava, and don’t forget to taste Turkish tea or coffee. Another must-try is a relaxing traditional Turkish Hammam spa experience, which are available across most leading hotels in the area.
There are plenty of places across both the Turkish and Greek areas of Cyprus that are popular with tourists, however, the island also has many lesser-known hidden away delights for the discerning luxury traveller. Top of our list is the picturesque village of Latchi, known for its natural beauty and relaxed atmosphere. The village is surrounded by the Akamas Peninsula, which is a protected nature reserve known for its rugged hills, lush forests, and beautiful coastline. Meanwhile, crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea lap its shores, making it a popular spot for swimming and water activities. It is also home to a charming fishing harbour and a modern marina, where you can take leisurely strolls along the waterfront or rent a private yacht to explore the coastline. The five-star Anassa property situated close to the village is a hideaway paradise and the perfect place to stay when visiting the coastline. While staying at the property be sure to visit the award-winning Thalassa Spa, which offers up a sumptuous mix of skin treatments, relaxing massages and five-star facilities. All restaurants at the hotel use locally sourced ingredients (including the island’s famed honey). Enjoy a candlelit dinner on the sunken open-air terrace at Basiliko or head to Helios for fine dining, live classical music and incredible sea views.
Island hopping in the Greek Isles is at the top of many travellers’ wishlist, and it’s easier than you may think to plan a trip from the Middle East. Athens is just over four hours from Dubai with direct routes to many of the country’s island hubs from the Greek capital. The country has over 6,000 islands, but some deserve your attention more than others. Santorini is often a popular pick with travellers. The island is famous for its stunning sunsets, white-washed buildings, crystal-clear waters, and a top pick for honeymooners and romantic getaways. If you choose to visit, don’t miss the towns of Fira and Oia. One of the most Instagrammed destinations of the summer – Mykonos – is also much-loved by the jetset crowd. The Greek island is best known for its vibrant nightlife, beautiful beaches, and charming old town. Meanwhile, the island of Rhodes is a great option for history lovers, it’s home to well-preserved medieval towns and ancient ruins. Be sure to take in the Acropolis of Lindos while visiting the island. Finally, Crete is worth adding to any Greek island exploration it’s by far the largest Greek island and offers a mix of beautiful beaches, historical sites like the Palace of Knossos, and picturesque villages like Chania and Rethymno.
Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, has its own charm when it comes to luxury travel experiences. While it might not be as well-known as some other European destinations, it offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modern amenities for those seeking the finer things in life. The city is home to several delightful luxury properties including Sense Hotel Sofia, Arena di Serdica Residence Hotel, and the Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Luxury Collection Hotel, to name a few. Plan a private tour of Sofia’s rich historical and cultural landmarks (must-visit sites include Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Boyana Church, and the National Palace of Culture). For a taste of Bulgaria’s incredible artistic heritage, be sure to plan a visit to the National Gallery, Sofia City Art Gallery, or the Museum of Contemporary Art. Culture buffs will also want to check the schedule for performances at the fabulous Sofia Opera and Ballet or the National Palace of Culture.
Bulgarian cuisine has a mix of influences, with grilled meats, yoghurt and fermented foods all playing big. There are plenty are top eateries across the city, including recommended spots Niko’las 0/360 and Cosmos Restaurant / Космос. Sofia also has a vibrant nightlife scene, spend an evening at a rooftop bar with a view like Sense Rooftop Bar & Restaurant or the Crystal Garden.