Wondering what the most popular destinations are for UAE residents this year? Leading travel search site and app Skyscanner, is sharing some of the biggest YoY exit increases over Eid along with best rates for those looking for a last-minute getaway deal.
Full of European and Communist style architecture, Sofia is a fest for the eyes. It also boasts stunning scenery and is fast becoming a hot skiing destination. Relatively unvisited by tourists, Sofia remains an unspoiled yet cosmopolitan city. Museums, galleries, fine art and fine dining can all be found. It is also very green with huge areas of parkland and stunning hiking trails up mighty Mount Vitosha just on the doorstep.
Bulgarian food is a delight with bakeries the popular choice for delicious snacks. Katma is another local delicacy, a giant pancake that can be sweet or savoury. Prices in Sofia are very reasonable and eating out won’t bust the budget. Cafes are more widespread now and there is a vibrant nightlife in the city. Sofia is still that rare thing; a city, not a tourist trap and a chance to immerse yourself in real Bulgarian culture.
Direct flights to Sofia from Dubai are 5h15 and start at AED 2,006
Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is one of Eastern Europe’s oldest cities and had an earlier golden age as the capital of the Kievan Rus, the first Ukrainian state. Following years under Soviet rule, today it is Ukraine’s most cosmopolitan city, offering multi-ethnic restaurants not found in the rest of the country and was a center in the Orange Revolution of 2004. Amazing sights like the Pecherska Lavra (cave monasteries), Chernobyl Museum, commemorating the nuclear tragedy, and 11th Century St Sofia’s cathedral offer glimpses into the little known Ukrainian history.
It’s not advisable to drink the tap water, but street food is fine and often delicious, whether it’s ice cream or Kvas, a brewed bread drink. A vaguely wild atmosphere persists, evidenced for example in the practice of hailing regular cars and haggling for a price rather than waiting for a scarce taxi. The winters are long and dark, but summer is green and fruitful, fitting for a city regaining its place as a European capital.
Direct flights to Kiev from Dubai are 5h43 and start at AED 2,555
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herezgovina
Sarajevo is an enchanting, cosmopolitan and inspiring city, with friendly locals and little crime. The city centre is very tourist friendly and utterly charming, with a wealth of architecture, history, scenery and hearty home cooked fare to feast on. Sarajevo’s old town is filled with cobbled streets, mosques and quirky little shops. Sebilj Fountain serves as the city’s main symbol, with Markale Market Place, a wonderful area to browse, close by. Sarajevo’s surrounding hills offer magnificent views over the city while at night, the scene of twinkling lights from the houses that climb up into the hills, is breath-taking.
Vrelo Bosne, the beginning of the Bosna River offers walks in beautiful surroundings where you can spend the day picnicking and taking in this gorgeous, laid back city. The picturesque Old Town (Baščaršija) is home to beautiful Ottoman-style buildings and cosy cafés, making it the ideal place for a spot of people watching. Make sure to try ćevapi while you sit, a kind of minced meat on flatbread.
Direct flights to Sarajevo from Dubai are 5h48 and start at AED 3,060
Initially, the chaos of Cairo might be startling but once used to the noise of traffic and hawkers, you begin to embrace Cairo’s charms. Underneath the dense urban shell lies a city of ancient mosques, Coptic churches, Citadels and Arab settlements. After wandering the colourful, crowded streets, escape the throngs with a sail along the Nile on traditional Feluccas and glide effortlessly through the city.
A stop at the Four Seasons Hotel adds lavish luxury, with food, drinks and music, to the experience. Immerse yourself in Egyptian artefacts, haggle for beautiful bargains in the bazaars or puff leisurely on a sheesha while gazing out onto city life. A trip west will take you to Giza to see the famous pyramids. End the day with a feast of Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Western or Asian food and watch the sunset over mystical Cairo.
Direct flights to Cairo from Dubai are 3h40 and start at AED 2,886
Armenia’s capital city is a heaven for culture vultures. It might be a small city, but it definitely punches above its weight in terms of art galleries, museums, theatres, and marvellous examples of early Soviet architecture. With a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of café culture, it’s definitely a destination worth adding to your travel wish list.
Yerevan is a wonderful capital city, with more than a hint of the Mediterranean about it. The locals enjoy a relaxing pace of life, chilling out in cafes in the park and cruising along the boulevards in their fancy cars. There’s plenty of culture, with loads of art galleries, theatres, and excellent bars where you can catch some live music. The city also makes a great base for getting out and discovering the rest of the country. Pay a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Geghard Monastery, which is partially carved out of the nearby mountain.
Direct flights to Yerevan from Dubai are 3h10 and start at AED 3,631