Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dubai - A holiday with a difference

There's more to Dubai than skyscrapers and luxury hotels, says local travel agent Mark Haughton of Escape Worldwide. The city also acts as a hub for destinations across the Indian Ocean and beyond.

Dubai is one of the Middle East's most dynamic cities, and one that has seen more change in the last decade or so than anywhere else on the planet. Major construction projects, including offshore islands, the famous man-made 'palms', huge shopping centres and even the world's tallest building – the 829-metre-high Burj Khalifa -  have turned Dubai from a fairly small town in to one of the world's most visited cities.
It's a great place to start a holiday, with water parks, beaches, museums and superb shopping in the form of the historic souqs as well as the more modern outlets, with the likes of the Dubai Mall, three times the size of our own Westfield Stratford City. Spend a few days exploring the city, or a little longer to take in the beach too, before moving on.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai

It's then a case of deciding where you want to head to after a stay in Dubai, and the choice couldn't be wider. In less than 30 years the airline of Dubai, Emirates, has built up a network that links the city to over 120 destinations across the world, many lending themselves perfectly to a holiday combining Dubai with beach resorts, bustling cities and more. As the Emirates network is so comprehensive, holidays that combine Dubai with other places tend to be extremely flexible, so you can suit your own timescale.

The islands of the Indian Ocean are very well served by Emirates from Dubai, with regular connections to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The beautiful islands of the Maldives offer one of the most popular combinations with Dubai, twinning its quality hotels and renowned service with pure indulgent escapism, where there's nothing to do but relax. From the moment your flight from Dubai arrives at the airport you'll be straight into the island's way of life – there can't be many airports where the runway is right on the beach.

If you're looking for something more than just beaches to complete your holiday, then Sri Lanka is a superb option. Away from the coast, the island's interior is crammed with interest, including the ancient cities of the north, the cultural heartland of Kandy in the centre and the beautiful mountain scenery and tea plantations further south. Spend a few days exploring with your own car and driver – a flexible and great value way to go at your own pace.

One of the newest routes from Dubai is to the Thai beach resort of Phuket. Holidays to Thailand have always been flexible, so why not combine Dubai and Phuket with a few nights in the chaotic capital Bangkok, or in the northern countryside around Chiang Mai, before finishing off on the beach in the south of the country.

Dubai is a great place for a holiday, but combine the city with other destinations and it's easy to turn a great holiday into the trip of a lifetime.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays