It is no secret that Dubai’s geographic location is pretty strategic when it comes to being close to some of the world’s most beautiful travel destinations. For those like me who loathe long plane rides, I prepared a short list of off the beaten path places that I think are worth and can be explored — based on personal experience or word of mouth alone — during a weekend or over the course of a couple of days due to their proximity to Dubai which reduces the time that is lost flying.
All these destinations are served by Flydubai in direct or almost direct flights (meaning a short taxi/bus ride after your flight to get to the destination).
You can also follow my travels on Instagram (@gmr83).
1. Kolsai Lake, Kazakhstan: Looking at the picture below, one would think that this is Canada or Austria, but apparently this is how pretty Kolsai Lake is! The lake is an excellent place for camping and hiking although it is dwarfed by its neighbor, Issyk Lake. More Kazakh camping sites can be found in this guide. Flydubai flies to Almaty Airport, the closest airport to the lakes. Flight time: 4:05 hours
2. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: According to Wikitravel, Ashgabat “has been designed, at the cost of billions of dollars, to show the world about the glories and accomplishments of the Turkmen. The city looks like none other on Earth – a thoroughly artificial collection of white marble buildings across a long, dry valley. At sunrise or sunset, there’s a beauty to this uniform, outsized ambition, as if the set of a science-fiction film suddenly became an actual human settlement.” Sign me up! Flight time: 2:30 hours
3. Odessa, Ukraine: Also called the “Pearl of the Black Sea” and known for its beaches and beautiful 19th-century architecture, including the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater. Flight time: 5:30 hours (but you make it up on the way back due to time difference ☺)
4. Wadi Mujeeb, Jordan: Sure Petra and Wadi Rum are astonishing but why not venture a bit further and see this! Flydubai flies to Amman Airport. Flight time: 3:35 hours
5. Krasnodar, Russia: This is as off the beaten path as it can get! But Krasnodar is one the most important historical and cultural centers of Southern Russian and the Northern Caucasus region, which means lots of museums and beautiful architecture, which complements the beautiful nature. Flight time: 4:20 hours
6. Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti: One of the world’s prime spots for scuba diving and whale shark watching (and swimming – perfectly safe as they have a knack for seafood, not humans). It is also home to the world’s second lowest point – Lake Assal. Check out this CNN article so you can enjoy the whale shark experience responsibly. Flight time: 4:05 hours
7. Matara, Sri Lanka: One of my favorite places in Sri Lanka, which remains off the tourist radar of many people who visit the country! Read my Sri Lanka guide for more things to do in Sri Lanka if you have the time. Flight time: 4:30 hours (Note: Flydubai also flies to Mattala Airport which is closer to Matara than Colombo but flight time will be longer).
8. Kazbegi, Georgia: My favorite place in Georgia, located up high in the mountains but with a relatively mild weather. Read my Georgia guide on what else you should see if you have more than a few days. Flight time: 3:30 hours
9. Salalah, Oman: A magical place located to the south of Oman. In fact, it is so magical that you would be in disbelief that this place actually exists within such close proximity of the scorching desert dunes of the UAE. Read my guide here on things to do and see in Salalah. Flight time: 2:00 hours
10. Beirut, Lebanon: Doesn’t really need an introduction but for the uninitiated, Beirut was once known as the Paris of the Middle East, and while its Paris days are behind it, the city maintains a lot of charm, nature, nightlife, and FOOD! Flight time: 4:30 hours
11. Maldives: Needs no introduction really. A place like no other, and only a couple of hours from the UAE. Flight time: 4:30 hours
You can follow me on Instagram (@gmr83) for more pictures of my travels.