16 incredible escapes

We’re four months into the year and by now, you’re probably itching for a break. Melanie Smith has 16 amazing itineraries for a short holiday on a budget Discuss this article

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6 days, 5 nights
Complete the “Golden Triangle” in India

Take in the impressive sights of India’s “Golden Triangle” of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Spend day one getting acquainted with the bustling metropolis that is Delhi with a visit to such monuments as the stunning India Gate, President House and Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Then head out to Agra to see the impressive Red Fort and take in the majestic beauty of the Taj Mahal, the incredible mausoleum built as a symbol of Emperor Shah Jehan’s devotion to his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal. On day four, explore the sights of Jaipur, or the “Pink City”, as it’s known, for its buildings made of pink sandstone. Take a snapshot of the Hawa Mahal and City palaces, as well as the Albert Hall, modelled on the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Head back to Delhi on day five and be sure to experience the city’s delicious cuisine, with its diversity of spices and flavours. Karim’s (+91 11 2250 6311) is one of Delhi’s most famous restaurants. It has been serving dishes up since 1913, including such local favourites as the mutton burra kebabs and a legendary tandoori chicken. On day six, head home, belly full, head culturally enriched.
From QR958 return to Delhi. Four hours. www.goindigo.in.

Marvel at the landscape of Azerbaijan

The landscape of this mountainous country, with its rocky roads, mud volcanoes and waterfalls that seemingly appear out of nowhere, is magnificent. On day one, explore Azerbaijan’s bustling capital city. Gaze over the Caspian Sea with a stroll through Baku Boulevard and visit the vibrant Fountain Square. On day two, check out the famous bubbling mud volcanoes of Gobustan, which feel otherworldly. You should also take in the city’s modern architecture at the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, designed by the late Zaha Hadid, and the ancient, with a trip to the monuments of Ateshgah, which is more than five centuries old. Let the day come to a dramatic end as you watch the natural phenomenon of Yanar Dagh, a natural gas fire that blazes continually and shoots three metres up into the air. On day three, sit by the tranquil turquoise waters of Nohur Lake in Gabala, snap the views from Mount Tufandag and be mesmerised by the waterfall of Yeddi Gozel, before heading back to Baku on day five. Do check out the capital city’s culinary and nightlife scenes. Sahil Restaurant (www.sahil-dining.az) serves up some authentic Azerbaijani food. Try the ghuru kingal – a kind of deconstructed minced meat dumpling – and lots more authentic eats.
From QR2,349 return to Baku. Two hours 50 minutes. www.qatarairways.com.

5 days, 4 nights
Relax in Zanzibar

If you’re in desperate need of some real rest and relaxation, away from the hustle and bustle of Doha, Zanzibar could be just the ticket. The Tanzanian island will feel like a tropical retreat as you relax and take stock in your secluded hotel. Bask in the sun on the idyllic white sandy beaches and swim in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. When you’re ready to start moving, be sure to visit the Unesco World Heritage Site that is Stone Town. It’s more than 200 years old and is the cultural hub of the island. Explore the narrow alleyways and labyrinthine streets. Get a snapshot of Zanzibar’s history with a visit to Livingstone’s House, where British explorer Dr David Livingstone lived before commencing his last journey into the interior of Africa. The Peace Memorial Museum has sections on archaeology, early trade, slavery, palaces, mosques, sultans and explorers, too. Zanzibar is perfect for a lazy sojourn if all you need is to recharge and feel refreshed.
QR3,740 return to Zanzibar. Six hours. www.qatarairways.com.

See the majestic Himalayas in Nepal

Your head will literally be in the clouds on this inspiring five-day adventure in the Himalayas. On the first day, explore Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu and take in the beauty that surrounds you. Then reflect on it all over a delicious and authentic Tibetan meal at Utse Restaurant – one of the oldest and finest in the city – set in Utse Hotel (www.utsehotel.com). On day two, make the accent by car to the magnificent Pokhara, a place of incredible natural beauty, 900 metres above sea level, and the gateway to the popular Annapurna Circuit. Take in the stunning panorama of the sprawling Phewa Lake and the Himalayan peaks including Machapuchare, the “fish tail”. It’s well worth spending a night in Pokhara, since there are plenty of affordable options – Hotel Blossom, for example, overlooking Phewa Lake, costs from just QR51 per night. On day three, head out before dawn to see the sun rise at Sarangkot hill, the most popular viewing point in Pokhara. It offers magnificent views over Mount Machapuchare, Mount Dhaulagiri and the rest of the Annapurna massif. Then return to Kathmandu, having experienced a great introduction to the Himalayas. It might even inspire you to scale Mount Everest yourself. You never know.
From QR1,510 to Kathmandu. Four hours 45 minutes. www.himalaya-airlines.com.

Snorkel in the Seychelles
Embark on a fun-packed five-day trip to the Seychelles, where you’ll get to kick back, chill and see the beauty that the islands have to offer. Spend the first two days relaxing in Mahe, giving you time to muster the enthusiasm to explore. Go trekking, spend time on the pristine beaches, and explore beneath the crystal clear waters while snorkelling. On day four, check out the Seychelles’ capital city Victoria and visit the covered market, where you’ll be able to pick up colourful sarongs and local herbs and spices, and see a huge variety of fresh fish from parrotfish to barracuda. Leave the stress of your normal life behind or just let the Indian Ocean wash them away.
From QR3,400 return to Mahe. Five hours 35 minutes. www.qatarairways.com.

Have a wildlife adventure in Sri Lanka

If you still haven’t made the short hop over to Sri Lanka yet, this is the perfect time. Head to Pinnawala to visit elephant orphanage, the ever-popular, must-see tourist attraction. Watch the baby animals being bottle-fed and larking around in the water at bath time. On day two, head east to see the Unesco World Heritage Site that is Kandy. Visit the lush, colourful Peradeniya Botanical Garden, drive around Kandy Lake, shop the bazaar for arts and crafts and visit the gemstones museum. On day three, head out to Nuwara Eliya to visit a tea plantation and enjoy a fresh cup of pure Ceylon. Explore the capital, Colombo, on day four, where you’ll get to haggle in the souks and take in some impressive monuments, before departing on day five. The perfect introduction to the beautiful island.
From QR1,325 return to Colombo. Four hours 50 minutes. www.srilankan.com.

Go on safari in Kenya

This adventure will be a trip of a lifetime. Begin your exploration of Kenya in its capital city, Nairobi, where you should spend the night. Taste some fabulous cuisine – the traditional nyama choma (roasted meat) should not be missed, and for one of the most authentic experiences, try it at Kenyatta Market. On day two, your adventure into the wild will begin. Go on an organised tour into the world-renowned Masai Mara. There are plenty of tour operators that can organise trips, such as Africa Travel Resource (www.africatravelresource.com), which can also organise overnight stays. On the way, be sure to stop off at the Great Rift Valley Viewpoint to take a few snaps of the immense scenery. On day three, go on a full day’s game drive, where you’ll get to see the “big five” – lions, leopards, rhinos elephants and buffalos, as well as wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, cheetahs, spotted hyenas and more. You could also visit a local Masai village to experience authentic food and to learn about the people’s way of life. On day four, visit Lake Naivasha, a freshwater lake and the highest in the Rift Valley at 1,884 metres above sea level. Pink flamingos and hippos can be spotted here, against a stunning mountainous backdrop. Lastly, on day five, visit the spectacular Thompson’s Falls. This is a fascinating trip where you’ll get to truly appreciate nature in all of its natural glory.
From QR2,088 return to Nairobi. Five hours 55 minutes. www.qatarairways.com.

Island-hop in Greece

Indulge your high school fascination with Greek Mythology on a trip to the ancient city of Athens. See the ruins of this 3,000-year-old city, and marvel at the Panathenaic Stadium where the first-ever Olympic Games were held. And don’t leave out the monumental Acropolis. There’s also The National Garden, Hadrian’s Arc and the New Museum to see, as well as Old Parliament and Constitution Square. Athens also offers a great chance to sample some of the country’s delightful cuisine. Stop off at Spondi (www.spondi.gr), near the Panathenaic Stadium, to enjoy its two Michelin-starred Greek cuisine. On day two, start your three days of island hopping. Your first stop should be the magical Mykonos. Visit the island’s traditional, white-washed villages, bask in its laid-back vibe on the white sandy beaches by day and revel in its buzzing St. Tropez-meets-Ibiza nightlife scene later. Paradise Beach is one of the most famous spots and home to the ever-popular Cavo Paradiso (www.cavoparadiso.gr). It’s a top club for a party, or for more chilled vibes, try Caprice (www.capriceofmykonos.com), set in Little Venice, one of Mykonos Town’s most picturesque spots. On day three, head to the Turkish territory of Kusadasi and Patmos, both filled with ancient monuments to explore. Day four will take you to Greece’s largest island, Crete, where you’ll get to sunbathe on the stunning beaches, wander through the Cretan countryside and explore the history of the island’s ancient civilisation. After Crete, stop off in the legendary Santorini, famous for its multi-coloured cliffs, stunning panoramas, romantic sunsets and volcanic sand beaches. The ultimate short break if you ask us.
From QR3,450 return to Athens. Five hours. www.qatarairways.com.

4 days, 3 nights
Explore Istanbul in Turkey

Turkey’s capital city is great for a quick stop to take in some breathtaking city sights. Head to the iconic Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the “blue mosque”) as well as the Ottoman Topkapı Palace. And then dine at the top-notch Khorasani Restaurant (+90 212 519 5959) for some of the city’s most authentic kebabs, or head to the trendy Beyoğlu district for an altogether more lively experience at Krependeki Imroz (+90 212 249 9073). You’ll get a delicious meal of fresh mezze, fish and grills as part of a fixed menu, which includes beverages for added value.
From QR1,114 return to Istanbul. Four hours 25 minutes. www.flypgs.com/en.

Live in the lap of luxury in Amman
Experience the vibrancy and overall coolness of Jordan’s capital city. Stay in the luxurious five-star Grand Hyatt Amman from QR770 per night including breakfast. While here, check out the city’s ancient sights, including the Citadel and Roman amphitheatre, and stop off in the shops and market stalls nearby to snap up some great souvenirs. If you like jewellery, you can barter for silver adorned with semi-precious stones, and get a very good price. There are some great bars and restaurants to check out along Rainbow Street, too, as well as in Downtown. Hashem (+962 6463 6440) in the area boasts some of the city’s best and most authentic Jordanian cuisine. Be sure to try the falafel, hummus and foul, which the locals come here for in their droves. Simply because they are a dream.
From QR1,772 return to Amman. Two hours, 40 minutes. www.rj.com.

Marvel at the mountains of Armenia

Visit the country’s many ancient buildings and fortresses. Begin in the “pink city” of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, known as such because its buildings are made of volcanic rocks naturally coloured pink. Spend the morning at leisure exploring the historic city and Unesco World Heritage Site monuments and then check out the History Museum of Armenia and the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial – a powerful monument paying tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Next head to Republic Square and the Opera House for a spot of culture. Spend day two in the serenity of the picturesque Lake Sevan. Elevated 1,900 metres above sea level, it’s one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world (though, we’re not sure that means you should sit and gulp from it). Then treat yourself in the “Little Switzerland” of Armenia that is Dilijan, the country’s spa town. It’s the ultimate place for a relaxed pampering, so be sure to book yourself in.
From QR2,890 return to Yerevan. Three hours. www.qatarairways.com.

Meander through the streets of Moscow in Russia

A visit to Russia’s majestic capital city will fill you with awe. From the colourful, ornate buildings to the food served in its restaurants, Moscow is a truly dazzling city to discover. On a four-day adventure you’ll get to see many of the famous buildings, including Red Square and the The Kremlin. You can also take in the city’s older monuments as well as the Matryoshka Doll Museum to discover the artistry that’s a symbol of Russia (and great for souvenirs). Also check out the completely underground, three storey Okhotny Ryad mall for a shopping experience with a difference.
From QR3,760 return to Moscow. Five hours 10 minutes. www.qatarairways.com.

Revive in the Maldives

If all you want is to rest in an idyllic, picturesque location in four-star luxury, check into the Smartline Eriyadu in North Male Atoll for around QR989 per room, per night for a truly luxurious option, or Guraidho Equity Beach Inn for around QR135 per room, per night if you’re after a more affordable option. The picturesque setting, in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean offers the perfect backdrop to just drift away. Snorkelling is highly recommended here, too, since visibility is at its best in these crystal clear waters. It’s a no-brainer for revival.
From QR2,681 return to Male. Five hours. www.qatarairways.com.

Try watersports and more in Jordan

Discover this coastal city in Jordan with flights, airport transfers, breakfast and city tours included. On day one, settle into your hotel, relax and take in your new surroundings. On day two, take a taxi into the city to explore the markets. Since there are plenty of resorts offering watersports here, you can also try your hand at windsurfing, snorkelling or evening diving at the stunning Yamanieh coral reef. A trip to the Aqaba Fort and archaeology museum is also well worth it. On day three, head out to the mighty Petra. The “Red-Rose City” is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and you’ll get a full introduction to the ancient Nabatean civilisation that carved this stunning city into the rocks. Snap the recognisable Al Khazneh or The Treasury – famously the portrayed in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade – among other sites in this spectacular, must-see location. See you there.
From QR1,772 return to Amman. Two hours, 40 minutes. www.rj.com.

Walk the stunning beaches of Tangalle in Sri Lanka
This is one for if you really want to experience tropical beach perfection for an uninterrupted few days few days. Spend three nights in sheer luxury at the five-star Anantara Peace Haven (www.tangalle.anantara.com) from around QR684 per night, and while here, visit Tangalle Beach, with its turquoise waters, palm trees and expansive stretch of white sand. Experience the most breathtaking sunset (or even sunrise) imaginable from this pristine, picture-perfect spot. The memories of this trip will last you a lifetime.
From QR1,245 return to Colombo. Four hours 50 minutes. www.srilankan.com.

3 days, 2 nights
Discover history in Tbilisi

Tbilisi is a cultural wonder. It offers a charming mix of the old and the new, and with two nights and three days here, you can pack in some serious exploration of the city’s rich history. On day one, just roam around and take in the stunning architecture, exquisite cuisine and lush landscapes. On your second day visit the Old Town of Tbilisi, home to many ancient buildings and monuments. Then make the ascent to Narikala Fortress, a 4th century Persian citadel, where you’ll get to enjoy breathtaking, panoramic views of the city from up high, and the Kura River, as it winds through. Meander through Freedom Square – where Georgia gained its independence – and visit the huge park that lies on the other side of the Mtkvari River. This trip will give you a great overview of the old city and whet your appetite for what more Georgia has to offer.
From QR2,850 return to Tbilisi. Three hours 10 minutes. www.qatarairways.com.

Prices are based on a sample date starting from April 16, 2018.

By Melanie Smith
Time Out Doha,

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