As if there wasn’t enough to do in Doha already, the city happens to be perfectly placed for travel. After all, which other city offers the chance to escape to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and central Asia in three to four hours? Tellingly, more than 12 million air passengers passed through Doha International Airport last year, with more slated to travel through once the new airport is finally 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, snorkling, 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 Team TODO fav 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: Four to six 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) with rooms from QR27 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies Addis via Dubai for QR1,348 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 QR2,889 return.
Travel time: Two 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 QR190 per night.
Getting there: Turkish Airlines flies direct to Istanbul from QR2,170 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. Double rooms start at QR1,781 per night.
Getting there: Qatar Airways flies direct to Nairobi from QR3,810 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 QR476 per night.
Getting there: Qatar Airways flies direct to Sofia from QR3,670 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 QR877 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies to Baku via Dubai from QR1,841 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 QR10 a night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies to Kathmandu via Dubai from QR1,580 return.
8 Mzaar, Lebanon
Head to the slopes of Mount Lebanon for a weekend (it’s currently the best time of year for skiing). 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 QR815 per couple.
Getting there: Gulf Air flies to Beirut via Bahrain for QR1,828 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 QR606 a night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies to Tbilisi via Dubai from QR1,484 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 QR1,600 per person.
Getting there: Gulf Air flies to Muscat via Bahrain from QR1,303 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 QR441 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies direct to Amman from QR865 return.
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. Rooms start at QR2,241 per night.
Getting there: Fly Dubai flies to Muscat via Dubai from QR1086 return.