Abu Dhabi

A destination brimming with diversity, Abu Dhabi is fast becoming one of the Middle East’s most exciting holiday destinations. From desert adventure to a sparkling coast of beaches and islands, not only will you find contrast in the terrain but also in the people, traditions and heritage.

As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, modern day Abu Dhabi takes influence from its humble beginnings and as such has cultivated a truly fascinating culture in a place that has been a crossroads for millennia.  Whether you’re an adventure addict or luxury lover, you’re going to be spoilt for choice in Abu Dhabi.


 

Top 10 things to do in Abu Dhabi

The capital of the United Arab Emirates is having a moment. From stopover city to popular holiday destination in its own right, Abu Dhabi has been transformed into a city full of cultural, culinary and architectural wonders.  Whether stopping for a few nights or lingering a little longer, here are some of the best ways to experience Abu Dhabi:

1. View masterpieces at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Opened in late 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a billion dollar cultural collaboration with the Louvre in Paris and is considered a must-visit for art lovers. Featuring painting, sculpture, ceramics and furniture from the Louvre’s earliest collections, this museum gives visitors a chance to enjoy a slice of France while in the Middle East.

2. Enjoy a beachfront BBQ at Emirates Palace

A landmark hotel that is hard to miss, the opulent Emirates Palace is well worth a visit to admire the sprawling landscaped gardens that surround the property. Home to many top-rated restaurants, a beachfront dinner at BBQ Al Qasr is an unforgettable experience.

3. Go for a sunset beach stroll

Strolling along the Corniche Beach waterfront as the sun sets is a relaxing way to wind down in the early evening when temperatures are more pleasant.

4. Try a cooking class

Take home the rich culinary traditions of the region with a cooking class at Spice Spoons. Starting in a local market, the cooking class moves to the kitchen where an expert chef shares the secrets to making authentic Arabian-style dishes.

5. Stock up on contemporary art

Buying unique works of art made by local artists ensures you’ll come home with a one-of-a-kind souvenir. As an emerging destination for contemporary art, the Abu Dhabi Art Hub and Warehouse421 are great places to learn more or start your collection.

6. Step back in time on a Pearl Journey

Set sail on a traditional dhow to learn about pearling from local hosts. An important industry in these parts for hundreds of years, taking a Pearl Journey tour includes learning about how pearls are found, spotting seabirds in mangrove systems and enjoying Arabian snacks.

7. Take in panoramic views at the Observation Deck at 300

Found at the top of the Jumeirah Hotel, this observation deck is a top spot to see Abu Dhabi from a different perspective. Order a mocktail or pot of tea at the onsite boutique café to go with the incredible views.

8. Marvel at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Costing an astounding 2 billion dirhams to construct, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an unmissable architectural feat. Wear long pants and pack a scarf or shawl to join the popular Sunset Tour led by a local guide. Featuring white marble domes, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers, the world’s largest hand knotted carpet and reflective pools of immense beauty, this mosque will delight visitors with an appreciation for superior craftsmanship.

9. Visit the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

There’s no better place to learn about falconry than at the award-winning Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Part-museum, part-rehabilitation centre, a pre-booked tour of this facility will reveal free-flying falcons and fascinating insight into the place falcons hold within Emirati culture and society.

10. Melt away stress with a luxe spa treatment

Flying creates tension, so relax weary muscles with a treatment at the Anantara Spa. The signature hammam experience combines sauna and steam sessions with massage and exfoliation, borrowing elements from Turkish spa culture to create the ultimate indulgence for tired travellers.

Interlaken

Renowned for its scenery, Interlaken is set between two glassy lakes and surrounded by the majestic Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Made accessible by the Bernese Oberland Railway in 1890 and the Jungfrau Railway – which boasts Europe’s highest railway station at 3454 metres – in 1912, the city fast became popular with travellers searching for beautiful landscapes and a new playground for winter spots. Just like Queenstown in New Zealand, it serves as a hub for adventure year-round, but it is most outstanding during the cooler months, when the landscape becomes a winter wonderland, and you can go ice-skating in the city. Soak up the beauty of the location on a historic paddle steamer cruising the waters of Lake Thun or Lake Brienz, before setting off into the Bernese Oberland.

Culture

Learn about day-to-day life in Interlaken over a home cooked meal with a local. The city’s ‘dinner at home’ program unites travellers with residents who are happy to share a taste of local hospitality and a typical Swiss meal. And what could be more Swiss than chocolate? Join a chocolatier class for a day and uncover the secrets of making this artisanal product at the Grand Café Restaurant Schuh.

A lesser-known craft, but one for which the region is famed, is woodcarving. The town of Brienz, which sits on the Lake Brienz, a 20-minute drive from Interlaken, offers an excellent museum dedicated to the art. Another attraction worthy of a visit is the Alphorn factory, in the pretty nearby village of Habkern. Here you’ll have the chance to learn how these legendary instruments, which resemble an exaggerated animal horn, are created and played.

Adventure

As well as being a destination worthy of exploration in its own right, Interlaken is linked with over 45 mountain railways, cable cars, chair lifts and ski lifts. If you enjoy hiking, lace up your boots and explore its network of walking trails. Keep your eyes peeled for marmots and chamois, as well as paragliders soaring through the sky above. Cycling is popular too, and it’s possible to hire bikes (even electric ones) or join a guided tour.

Although the mountains are endlessly splendid, there’s an exciting world to uncover underground, too. Explore a kilometre of stalagmite, cavernous halls and waterfalls in the limestone St Beatus Caves, situated near Lake Thun.

Imagine sliding across fresh powder on a cross-country ski session in winter, or taking your pick of the 200 kilometres of pistes nearby. For those wishing to explore the snowy landscape without being strapped to skis winter walking trails weave through the region.

Leisure

In the warmer months, cool off at the pool at Bönigen Lido, on the shore of Lake Brienz, and take a rowing boat out on the water. For something even more relaxing, indulging in some pampering is a great way to refresh you for the remainder of your trip. The Victoria Jungfrau Spa in Interlaken is considered one of the most beautiful facilities of its kind in Switzerland, and a treatment here will leave you feeling as fresh as the mountain air.

If you enjoy a day on the green, imagine what it’s like to swing a club with some of the world’s most famous mountains looking on. Experience just that at an 18-hole golf course at Weissenau Nature Reserve on Lake Thun.

Enter the world of James Bond at the rotating restaurant of Piz Gloria on the summit of Schilthorn, about an hour-and-a-half away from the city. It was here scenes from the 1969 Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were shot.

Lucerne

Your first glimpse of Lucerne might just make you swoon. With quaint buildings set around the glacial blue waters of Reuss river and beautiful mountains standing guard nearby, Lucerne is easily one of the most beautiful little cities in Europe – if not the world. The gabled Chapel Bridge snaking across the river is considered the oldest covered wooden bridge on the continent, and seeing it lit up at night with reflections shimmering on the water below is particularly charming. Churches and town squares lined with frescoed houses stud the city, and amid the old buildings the architecture of the Culture and Convention Centre stands out as a highlight. The city is also a gateway into central Switzerland, and from here it’s easy to venture off into the mountains or on a steamship cruise on Lake Lucerne. The only problem is, you’ll be so enamoured by this enchanting city you may never want to leave.

Culture

A wonderful way to learn about ancient Swiss history is to cross the famed Chapel Bridge. It was originally built in the 14th century, and the illustrated panelling added to it in the 1600s depicts scenes from the city’s past and biographies of its patron saints.

Switzerland is known for its timepieces, so it’s no surprise that the oldest clock in town is a celebrated attraction. Built in the 16th century on Musegg Wall, part of the old rampart walls that were erected several centuries earlier, the clock chimes every hour with one unusual quality – it rings exactly one minute before all the rest.

Step back in time at the Glacier Garden, where you’ll view potholes from the last Ice Age and fossils dating back 20 million. For something more modern, search out the country’s most popular museum, the Swiss Museum of Transport. Among trains, planes and automobiles it houses a satellite and other space objects.

When you peer up at the mountains surrounding Lucerne you can almost hear elegant string music floating through the air. Such a romantic place calls for an engaged arts scene, and festivals, many dedicated to classical music, take place throughout the year. Imagine perusing little shopping stalls down by the lake while listening to live music, before fireworks blaze through the night sky. Many concerts also take place at the prestigious Culture and Convention Centre, known as KKL Lucerne, and the chance to witness a world-class performance should not be missed.

Adventure

Water has been a vital component of Lucerne’s past, for it was once a small fishing village. Take to the lake on a charming old paddle steamer and learn about the way the city has relied on water as a food source, means of transportation and recreation.

Hiking trails abound in the region, as do fun activities taking place on ice and snow. Climb aboard a train and zip to Engelberg, less than an hour away. From here, ride the world’s first rotating cable car to the top of the Titlis Mountain and glide over a glacier in the Ice Flyer Chairlift.

The world’s steepest cogwheel railway departs from the town of Alpnachstad, near Lucerne. Ride it up to Pilatus, where you can see 73 alpine peaks on a clear day, and pick up the pace with tobogganing – even in the summer

Cuisine

It may be tucked in the centre of Switzerland, but Lucerne’s restaurants offer excellent international cuisine. That’s not to say they don’t do local food superbly as well. At the weekend, treat yourself to a Swiss-style high-tea at the neo-classic Palace Luzern, or take a gourmet boat cruise on the lake and enjoy raclette while looking out at the mountains.

If you feel the great peaks calling you, make a trip up to the rotating restaurant at Stanserhorn for lunch amid the grandeur of the Alps. At 1900 metres above sea level it offers views over 100 kilometres of the alpine range, 10 stunning lakes and an alpine-flower reserve.

Aegean & Turquoise Coast

Some of the country’s most impressive ruins are near the west coast of the country, known as the Aegean, allowing travellers to experience the best of both worlds. There are great resort towns, like Kusadasi and Izmir, buzzing with restaurants, cafes and bars, but just a short drive away are the outstanding ruins of Ephesus and Pergamon. Cruises to the Greek islands depart from Kusadasi.

Nearby are the natural white terraces of Pamukkale. At the top is the thermal spa of Hieropolis, where visitors can still swim in the mineral waters of Cleopatra’s Poolamongh collapsed marble columns just below the surface.

In the north of the Aegean it’s hard not to be overcome by emotion visiting the memorials to Australian and New Zealand soldiers on the former battlefields of Gallipoli. There’s a presentation centre at the town of Canakkale, but the vast area is dotted with monuments to the soldiers who fell here.

Close to Gallipoli is another historic site, although this one is far older. Troy was once thought to be a mythical city. Now you can see the excavated walls of the city, once breeched by the wooden Trojan horse (or so the story goes) and walk the ancient ruins.

Continue further down south to the Turquoise Coast, the southwesternmost region of Turkey. Spanning more than a thousand kilometres, this Turkish jewel offers Mediterranean delights in spades.

The beautiful city of Antalya is considered a stepping-stone into the Turkish Riviera, but it’s worth staying a few nights to take in the beautiful views of the harbour and the surrounding mountains, as well as visiting its bazaars and museums. For something quieter, the port town of Marmaris offers great wine, fresh food and excellent sailing.

Enjoy the sun on your skin and the fresh sea air while on a multi-day gulet trip. Imagine whiling away hours on deck, stopping at small islands and picturesque inlets with irresistible azure waters, as well as coral reefs to snorkel.

Sapphire waters may be the main draw-card for the Turquoise Coast, but the rugged mountain ranges that melt down toward the sea form a picture-perfect backdrop.

Gallipoli

It’s been over a century since the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli during WWI, but these former battlefields remain a significant historic site. On 25 April, Anzac Day, Australian and New Zealand travellers flock to these shores for the dawn service, though a journey here is just as stirring during quieter times. Almost 50,000 Australians fought at Gallipoli, and Anzac Cove, where many of them landed, is just one of the many historic spots to visit along the Anzac Walk – a two-kilometre route of rugged, scrub-covered land that was occupied by the troopers back in 1915. Stop at the Lone Pine Memorial, which marks one of the bloodiest battles of the campaign, and at the solemn site called Johnston’s Jolly, where 42,000 Turkish soldiers descended on Anzac trench lines.

London & Central England

England’s heart, also known as the Midlands, is rich with Anglo-Saxon history, quaint villages and institutions with impressive scholarly clout. Bookworms, intellectuals and anyone with an interest in history will find themselves cerebrally engaged on a trip through this region, as will those who simply love looking at picturesque English hamlets. But first, you’ve got to coax yourself to leave the enthralling city of London.

Sit in a traditional pub with a foamy pint and a classic paperback in the medieval town of Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare took his first breath. Venture to the ‘city of dreaming spires’, otherwise known as Oxford, where Oscar Wilde studied, and follow in the footsteps of Isaac Newton as you walk the beautiful grounds of Cambridge. It’s impossible not to feel inspired by the bright minds filling these centres of learning.

If it’s British architecture that interests you, you’ll find many grand houses and great stone castles rising from manicured estates around the region. One of the most impressive is Lincoln Castle, a medieval fortress sitting on grounds that have been occupied since Roman times. In its later life it served as a prison and it has been immortalised on film and television, most notably in Downton Abbey. A three-kilometre Roman wall encircles Chester, the gateway to Northern Wales. While you’re here be sure to stop by the ancient Amphitheatre – the largest in Britain and shop in the boutiques that squeeze into the timber-clad double storey buildings of Chester Rows.

Perhaps the most English region of all is the Cotswolds. The region spans six counties, and its limestone hills and quaint hamlets with houses made of stone remain ever enchanting. The small village of Castle Combe belongs in the pages of a picture book, and you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time while wandering past original facades in the medieval wool village of Lacock.

Once you’ve had your fill of villages and rustic town life, make for London where endless experiences await every type of traveller. Get sky-high views from the London Eye and plan your attack – will you start with delicious food markets, cruise down the River Thames or spend an afternoon with the impressive wax figures at Madame Tussauds? Then consider the West End shows and all those galleries and streets steeped in history, and begging to be explored. You might just find yourself booking a return trip.

South East England

With rolling countryside, castles and spectacular white cliffs, the southeast of England is every bit as alluring as other regions, yet it remains somewhat of a secret. Enjoy a leisurely pace of travel, taking in the scenery, without the crowds you might find on the busier tourist trails.

Kent, ‘the Garden of England’, is a must for anyone with a green thumb, or those who love to be around nature. There’s nothing more rejuvenating than a day spent picking ripe fruit in an orchard or wandering through a maze in castle parkland. It’s beautiful year-round, but spring, when the English countryside bursts into life and hills are flushed with bluebells, is truly spectacular. While in this county, stop by the city of Canterbury, which was once a site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. Take a moment for reflection under the soaring roof of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed cathedral and place your feet on the exact spot where Thomas Becket, the archbishop, met his end in 1170 with a sword wielded by a knight of the royal family. Paddle a boat along the River Stour and explore the city at a languid pace, while keeping your eyes peeled for historic gems as you go.

Even if you’ve heard very little about the southeast of England, you’ll no doubt recognise the striking cliffs of Dover. They’re all the more astonishing in real life. Amble above the marble-white walls and feel the salty sea spray fresh on your face during a boat trip to see them from the water. For something even more special, don a hard hat and head below, into the World War II tunnels that have recently opened for tours.

This region doesn’t just offer a feast for the eyes and mind – your palate will be satisfied too. Sample delicious local wines and ciders in the Biddenden Vineyards, and slurp down salty plump oysters in Whistable, known for its annual oyster festival.

Life here is so different to the intoxicating rush of London, yet it’s little over an hour’s drive away. So why not discover the spoils of the southeast? You won’t even have to share.

South West England

SOUTHWESTENGLAND+info_mapHead down into the rugged southwest of England and you’ll find a landscape dotted with fishing villages, secret coves and beautiful beaches. There’s no better way to explore this region than on a road trip, with plenty of stops for wandering through towns, national parks and along windswept coasts.

Take to the dramatic coastline of Cornwall on foot or by bicycle, and breathe deeply from the salty sea air as you work up a hunger for the region’s hearty fare. Once you’ve got a roaring appetite, dig into traditional Cornish pasties and be sure to indulge in afternoon tea with scones and lashings of heavenly clotted cream. This close to water you can expect superb seafood too, and there’s nothing quite like watching moody clouds roll over the Channel as you tuck into a meal at a restaurant on Plymouth Harbour. You’ll find delicious local drinks to sample in the southwest. The world’s first true English tea is grown in Cornwall and in Somerset there’s no better way to round out a day of exploration than with a bubbly glass of local cider.

Thrust yourself way back in time on a trip to marvel the geology in Dartmoor National Park, where the incredible granite tors formed 280 million years ago. Move a little closer to the current era and watch the sun rise over Stonehenge, while imagining what life was like back when these ancient stones were first placed in the earth. Progress to Roman times with a visit to the historic Roman Baths in the aptly named city of Bath, and watch steam rise from the emerald spring water while picturing yourself sinking into its warm embrace.

While in Bath, Pride and Prejudice fans can discover the world that Jane Austen inhabited at the Jane Austen Centre. Legends, of the historic type – as well as rock and roll – abound in Glastonbury, which forms the spiritual heart of England. The Glastonbury Abbey is the earliest Christian monastic site in the country and said to be the final resting place of King Arthur. Follow folklore across the water, to the island of St Michael’s Mount; the fabled home of Cornish giant Cormoran. At low tide it’s possible to stroll to this little isle, which is topped by a fairy-tale castle, or arrive by boat when the ocean laps at the rocky shores.

Once you’ve appeased your spiritual side, tap into your creative one, as you delve to the very south-western tip of the country, where you’ll find creative communities thriving in little fishing towns, like that of St Ives. With scores of fine cuisine, outstanding nature and creative culture, there’s no surprise the southwest is the most visited region in England.

Northern England

England’s north may have cool days and precious few daylight hours, but there’s a warmth and romance to its astonishingly beautiful landscape that is unmatched around the country. Intriguing cities await exploration here, too, some with histories dating back over a millennium, and others with more modern tales to tell. Take, for example, Manchester, which led the world into an era of mechanisation and changed life on this planet forever.

Travel further north and you’ll uncover the Lake District, an area of whimsical beauty that has tugged at the hearts of poets and artists for centuries past. Here, industry couldn’t be further from mind. As you amble through lakeside villages, stroll pretty shores and row the waters of Windermere, England’s longest lake, you’re sure to feel the district’s lure creep into your veins. Don’t worry, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats all felt it too.

You’ll find passion of a different kind in York, which still bears the mark of its former life as the capital of Viking territory, when men were more interested in fighting like machines than ploughing fields or painting pictures. There’s no better place to learn about the Viking Era than during an afternoon at the Jorvik Viking Centre, which is set to open its doors again in 2017, after extensive renovations, and which brings to life history from a thousand years ago. Take time to simply explore the streets and admire the medieval walls and churches as well.

The little fishing town of Whitby, on the country’s northeast coast may be unassuming, but its importance should not be underestimated. It was here Captain Cook boarded his ship and set sail for the shores of Australia, and it also dishes up some of England’s best fish and chips. Further up the coast you’ll find Newcastle, which is awash with cultural attractions, like the BALTIC gallery for modern art lovers, great restaurants, bars and pubs.

Another type of revolution came from the north of England too – a musical one. The Beatles, possibly England’s most famous clan after the Royal Family, hark from Liverpool in the northwest. Discover the childhood homes of the Fab Four and uncover the places that inspired them before they became international superstars. Feeling motivated? Perhaps it’s time to get in touch with your creative side on an extended sabbatical in England’s north.

Other Greek Islands

Cruise through pristine water and discover the charm of Greece’s many beautiful isles. With divine beaches and delicious gastronomy, your daily dilemma will be deciding whether you want to sip Ouzo by a port or dive into the sapphire water of the Aegean…again.

Each island brims with unique personality, while guaranteeing friendly locals, picturesque villages and, of course, outstanding views. These lesser visited islands, like Amorgos, are perfect if you’re keen for adventure, with rocky terrain for hikers and ideal spots for diving. Find seductive beaches on Syros and Skiathos, while islands like Kefalonia, Corfu, Skopelos and Folegandros provide heavenly scenery for nature lovers. Those wanting to delve into Greece’s ancient past will find sanctuary on Crete, Rhodes, Kos and Samos – the perfect playgrounds for history fanatics. With over 200 inhabited islands at your disposal, the hardest part of your trip will be choosing where to go.

Looking for Santorini, Mykonos or Naxos?

Read more about these popular islands here.