If you’ve ever put together a towering stack of documents (sometimes detailed enough to chronicle your life story) in preparation for a tourist visa application, you know it takes weeks on end just to plan a trip. But sometimes, the best memories are those created when you travel on impulse. Give it a try over the five-day Eid weekend that kicks off on Friday, August 9 – there’s a surprising number of countries that offer visa on arrival to UAE residents. Which of these six strikes your fancy?
Praslin, the Seychelles
If Nature with a Side of Surreal Sounds Appealing
Why you should visit: Alongside picture-postcard landscapes and countless activities, towering granite boulders, 200-year-old Aldabra giant tortoises, and Coco de Mer nuts reminiscent of a woman’s nether regions add a sense of surrealism to your tropical getaway.
Where you should stay: Booking in at Raffles Seychelles is a no-brainer. Located hillside on the northeastern tip of Praslin island, this all-villa resort is a spectacle of beauty all on its own, but Mother Nature was particularly generous with its vicinity. You’ll love the ‘extras’ that come with a stay at this property – think: killer Creole cuisine, open-air treatment pavilions at the spa, the largest swimming pool in the Seychelles, and easy access to Anse Lazio, which consistently ranks in the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world
Travel time: It takes four hours, 35 minutes to fly to Mahé, after which you can take a sea ferry, a shuttle plane, a private boat, or even a helicopter to the resort.
If You're All Loved Up
Why you should visit: White-sand beaches, turquoise-blue waters, spectacular sunsets, and some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever dine on collectively set the tone for a truly romantic getaway.
Where you should stay: While there’s no shortage of uber-luxurious resorts across the archipelago, Vakkaru Maldives gets our vote for its homely feel. A little more boutique-y in nature (read: plenty of personality), it lies within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll and offers easy access to Hanifaru Bay, which has found fame for its hefty, charismatic population of manta rays. You’ll also love how seamlessly the property blends with its tropical surroundings; vakkaru means ‘coconut wood’ in Dhivehi, so this towering symbol of the Maldives is celebrated at every turn – refreshing mocktails, décor elements, and spa treatments included.
Travel time: It takes just over four hours to fly to Malé, after which you’ll need another 30 minutes to reach the resort by seaplane.
If You're Craving a Total Time Out
Why you should visit: Considering Georgia shares a border with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey, you’ll experience an intersection of diverse cultures alongside remote mountain villages, mysterious cave cities, and majestic ancient churches.
Where you should stay: Most UAE residents make the mistake of only exploring the capital city of Tbilisi, but for R&R at its finest, make your way further north to Rooms Hotels Kazbegi. Between the 30-foot heated pool, high-end seasonal fare, sweeping terrace, and an inviting library, this could just be the most relaxing trip you’ll take this year. Oh, and let’s not forget those killer views of the Caucasus Mountains…
Travel time: It takes three hours, 30 minutes to fly to Tbilisi, after which you’ll need another three hours to reach the hotel via taxi or minibus.
If You're an Adrenaline Junkie
Why you should visit: Bungee jumping, paragliding, ziplining, hiking, boating, mountain biking, white-water rafting, and even ultralight flying – it’s no wonder that Pokhara has been dubbed the “adventure capital of Nepal”.
Where you should stay: With some of the world’s highest mountains residing in this small South Asian country, you’re practically guaranteed nature at your doorstep. The Fishtail Lodge, however, has an advantage over others due to its unique location on a peninsula across Fewa Lake. Guests are transported to and from the resort in shuttle-floats or boats and, with the reflection of Annapurna and Mount Machhapuchhre in the lake, you’ll feel a sense of tranquility like never before.
Travel time: It takes four hours, 20 minutes to fly to Kathmandu, after which you’ll need another 25 minutes to reach Pokhara by a domestic flight.
If You're a Big-City Girl
Why you should visit: Affordable good food, mild weather, a futuristic-looking cultural institution designed by Zaha Hadid, Fountain Square and its countless boutiques and cafés, and a rapidly evolving skyline that contrasts beautifully against the Old City means there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Where you should stay: With the recent surge in hotels in Baku, finding your dream accommodation shouldn’t be an issue, regardless of what your definition of the word “luxury” is. To place yourself in the city’s most vibrant area, book in at the Fairmont Baku. Not only is the five-star hotel located in the iconic Flame Towers, but it also boasts the city’s most impressive outdoor pool and a two-storey spa. Don’t miss the LED light show that illuminates the three curvy edifices every evening while you’re there.
Travel time: It takes two hours, 55 minutes to fly to Baku.
If You're a Bona Fide History Buff
Why you should visit: An ancient city, a 19th century fort, a 60-hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site, wonderfully chaotic souks, and a museum showcasing the city’s incredible maritime heritage and historical frankincense legacy make for a wonderful combination catering to history buffs.
Where you should stay: Hands down, the Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara. You’ll tour all the aforementioned historical attractions – and so much more – with your very own “Salalah Guru”, a creative term used for the resort’s renowned experts on all things Salalah. Expect to be offered everything from insights into Omani culture to insider tips on where to buy traditional souvenirs, only to end your days of sightseeing in the lap of absolute luxury.
Travel time: It takes one hour, 55 minutes to fly to Salalah.