Culture in Colombo
While Sri Lanka’s bustling capital is often seen purely as a gateway to other areas across the island, for those with only a couple of days to spare, Colombo makes for a fascinating destination in itself. A burgeoning arts and culture scene is attracting a growing number of artsy restaurants-cum-galleries to the city, such as the frangipani-filled Barefoot Café – where you can munch on fresh lime-juice-and-calamari pasta while browsing a host of handcrafted toys, clothes and accessories – and the elegant Gallery Café, which features regular art exhibitions. Tap further into Colombo’s cultural side with a visit to the serene Gangaramaya temple, or take a step back in time with a trip to Ape Gama – a replica of the villages of yesteryear featuring traditional folk crafts. In cosmopolitan Colombo, the food is another highlight; fragrant, fruity curries and fresh seafood straight from the boat grace menus across the city. And for those after a bit of chilled-out coastal living, the sands of Negombo and Mount Lavinia beaches are a short drive away.
Need to know: A return flight from Dubai to Colombo starts from around Dh1,400 with Sri Lanka Airlines. Stay at the OZO Colombo hotel (Dh440 per night), which has a rooftop pool and comfortable rooms. See www.ozohotels.com/colombo.
History in Armenia
One of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, more than holds its own against the regional mini-break hotspots. At three hours from Dubai, it’s also ideal for a long weekend. The capital offers a dynamic cultural scene with numerous theatres, galleries, music halls, museums and monuments – from the crumbling Erebuni fortress, built in 782BC, to the Soviet-style Mother Armenia statue – to take in. It’s also a good base for other destinations in Armenia – such as the ninth-century Tatev monastery, the ancient pagan Garni Temple, Mount Aragats, or the rugged and beautiful northern highlands around Lake Sevan – all just a day trip away.
Need to know: Aeroflot flies from Dubai to Yerevan for around Dh2,000 return. The boutique, four-star Bass Hotel starts from Dh254 per night. See www.bass.am.
World wonders in Cairo
At four hours by air from Dubai, Cairo is well worth taking the time to explore, not just for the pyramids but also the bustling bazaars, fascinating museums, ancient history and lively modern culture. A four-day trip with Egypt Uncovered takes in all of this and more. Explore the three main pyramids at Giza, the Sphinx and the pyramids at Saqqara with the aid of a trained Egyptologist and take in the huge collection of Pharaonic relics, including the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb at the Egyptian Museum. There’s also a dinner cruise down the Nile built into the itinerary, among other activities.
Need to know: The four-day Cairo City Break with Egypt Uncovered costs from Dh1,145 per person and includes accommodation, transport in Egypt, breakfast and one dinner.
Trekking in Ethiopia
Part of the Ethiopian highlands, the Simien mountains are a World Heritage Site and one of the region’s most beautiful environments. The wild, rugged landscape is best explored on foot with one of the local tour groups. Simien Trek offers hiking holidays of varying lengths, including a two-day tour that takes in the historic sites of Gondar, with its ancient castles. Guests spend the night camping in the Simien wilderness or staying at a comfortable lodge before a three-hour hike to Jinibar Waterfalls the following morning past troupes of the exotic local Gelada monkeys.
Need to know: The two-day trip with Simien Trek costs Dh1,653 for two and includes transfers in Ethiopia, entrance fees, a guide, scout, mules for luggage, a cook, food, tent and mattresses. For more information visit www.simientrek.com.
Fun for the family in Turkey
Ideal for families with small children, the Aska Lara Resort in Antalya offers a wide array of facilities for kids, including the Wet’n Wild park. The aqua adventure destination features waterslides, a climbing wall, kids’ clubs, a themed mining tunnel, a mini disco and an allotment where they can learn all about growing vegetables. Adults, meanwhile, can enjoy Antalya’s beautiful climate and several hotel swimming pools by day before dining in one of the excellent on-site restaurants.
Need to know: Turkish Airlines flies direct to Antalya from Dubai from Dh2,400. Seasonal price for the Aska Lara Resort can be found at www.thomascook.com/holidays/turkey.
Wearable technology such as the new Apple Watch and Google Glass is expected to have a major impact on the travel sector in 2015, as hotels and airlines launch smart watch apps that act as room keys and boarding passes.
Flights of fancy
Larger windows, more headroom, infinity mood lighting and the comfiest economy seat on the market are just some of the features promised to passengers who board Virgin Atlantic’s new Dreamliner aircraft. A new flagship plane for the company’s fleet, the sleek Dreamliner is also 21 per cent more fuel efficient than other aircraft of a similar size.
Creating pre-mories for the UAE
The UAE’s first video guide mobile application, Travall, aims to change the way tourists and residents in the UAE review and book various activities. Users can check accommodation, dining, venues, clubs, and clinics by watching 30- or 60-second videos, but they can also film their own 15-second VideoReview – a first of its kind in the UAE. Download Travall free from the App Store or Google Play for all iOS and Android users.