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Produced in Dubai Production City

Is the Great Barrier Reef still all that? We take the plunge to find out

Beauty and the beach in timewarp


Joy glide

On a slow boat down the mighty Mekong

Are we there yet? All your questions answered as we foolproof your next family adventure

Welcome note

People who've been bitten by the travel bug often describe it as a bit like falling in love. And with holidays inspiring us to live for the moment, be more adventurous, and discover new passions, it's easy to understand why.

Managing Editor Faye Bartle

With Valentine's Day putting a big red heart in the middle of the month, we've rounded up a selection of romantic escapes (page 17) to whisk your loved one away on, while many of our featured staycations (page 66) highlight special experiences for couples. Whether you're travelling à deux, flying solo or have the whole family in tow, you'll find plenty of inspiration inside these pages. With half term here and summer on the horizon, we're honing in on the latter with our 10-page cover feature (page 24) guiding you towards the perfect family holiday. So if it's a European city break without the crowds, an educational journey or a magical Disney escape that gets the thumbs up, at least you won't be short of ideas. We've also got a heads-up on four places that are trending right now (page 8), while we break down the best way to spend a long weekend in Lisbon on page 60.

Content Writer Habiba Azab

Happy travels, Faye Bartle

Managing Director Victoria Thatcher Editorial Director John Thatcher General Manager David Wade


Art Director Kerri Bennett

Find out how you can win a three-night stay at Avani+ Samui in Thailand on p79

Senior Designer Hiral Kapadia Senior Advertising Manager Mia Cachero


In Finland there are more saunas than there are cars. Indeed, Finns consider saunas a weekly necessity, p10


Known as the Portuguese blues, fado originated in the streets of Alfama in the 19th century, and you can still enjoy it today, p60


The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living organism, visible from space, p44


Crete was home to Europe’s first literate civilisation, the Bronze Age Minoans, and today is scattered with their crumbling legacy, p50


Even Michelin-stared maestro Alain Ducasse feels lost in translation sometimes. He tells us how his work feeds his travel experiences on p18

Production Manager Muthu Kumar INSPIRED BY

Photography credits: Getty Images and Phocal Media Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from HOT Media Publishing is strictly prohibited. All prices mentioned are correct at time of press but may change. HOT Media Publishing does not accept liability for omissions or errors in World Traveller. Tel: 00971 4 364 2876 Fax: 00971 4 369 7494

COVER IMAGE Getty Images

Find us at… ONLINE FACEBOOK @worldtravellermagazine INSTAGRAM @dnataworldtraveller TWITTER @WT_Magazine 3

Singita Ebony Lodge, South Africa

Contents February 2019



regulars 8





This month's go-to places include the seaside city of Helsinki and, closer to home, captivating Jordan

New openings; Alain Ducasse talks global tastes; and why you should make a Pointe of visiting Palm Jumeirah's new hotspot

Passport? check; tickets? check; travel insurance? Um... It's often overlooked, but is travel insurance essential? We ask the experts

The planning of your family holiday starts now: we serve up options aplenty, from once-in-a-lifetime trips to magic moments

It's home to what is the most Instagrammed restaurant in London, but we have another very good reason to book The Bloomsbury











Andrew Eames boards a slow boat down the Mekong to visit Luang Prabang, the old royal capital of Laos

It's the largest living thing on Earth and visible from space, but does the Great Barrier Reef amaze up close?

A family reunion in offthe-beaten-track Crete sees Dana Facaros find peace in a place that time forgot













weekends 58


Dubai's ever-changing hub of creativity continues to thrive





Join us on a whirlwind tour of Portugal's coastal capital

Already in need of a break? We have four more good reasons to book a weekend escape

It's time we sent you packing. Choose your next adventure from our exclusive offers






Emily Williams, dnata Travel’s resident globetrotter, reveals the places that are trending this month


A city with a lot of buzz about it right now, in Copenhagen you can experience tasty Danish street food (including the popular open sandwich or ‘smørrebrød’), get an up-close look at famous Danish designs, and learn about one of the oldest monarchies in the world. The evenings can get pretty cold at this time of year, giving you the perfect excuse to try out CopenHot, a waterfront sauna with great city views.

HIGHLIGHTS 1 Dine at the new Noma (named the World's Best Restaurant four times over), which now has an urban farm and follows a three-season kitchen. 2 Head to Tivoli Gardens, where the snow falls through February, transforming it into a winter wonderland. 3 Stay warm by ducking into Kunsthal Charlottenborg, one of Northern Europe's largest exhibition spaces for contemporary art.




Don’t miss the chance to experience Goa, India’s popular beach destination, during its peak season, which typically runs from November to February. From relaxing yoga retreats to beach shacks serving the freshest seafood, it has a truly laid-back vibe, yet you’ll also find some of the best of India’s nightlife. Visit Anjuna Market for some excellent thrift shopping and hike through the jungle to marvel at Goa’s tallest waterfall, Dudhsagar Falls.

HIGHLIGHTS 1 Head to Palolem Beach to dance the night away at a silent disco. 2 Get your flippers on and check out the best scuba diving spots, such as Grande Island. 3 Snap some pics of the heart-shaped lake, a natural phenomenon, at Bogmalo. 9


Did you know that in Finland there are more saunas than there are cars? Indeed, Finns consider saunas a weekly necessity and you'll find them everywhere. For excellent views 0f this pocket-sized city and a glimpse of its past, take a boat to the UNESCO-listed Suomenlinna – an 18th-century sea fortress and nature spot spread across six linked islands. What’s more, Fly Dubai now offers direct flights to Helsinki from the UAE.

HIGHLIGHTS 1 Strap on your skis as there are almost 200km of well-kept trails around the capital. You can rent your kit from Paloheinä Recreational Center. 2 Embrace the slow food movement by dining on vegan, locally-sourced food – LOOP and Nolla are both excellent. 3 Explore the two large national parks of Sipoonkorpi and Nuuksio, both a short bus-journey away from the city centre.




Embrace the glorious weather we’re experiencing in the Middle East by staying closer to home. In Jordan, you can discover the impressive sights of the ancient city of Petra and the protected desert wilderness of Wadi Rum. Here, the Full of Stars luxury camping experience sets you up in a ‘bubble’ tent for the chance to observe the clearest desert night sky. With its red sands and mountainous landscape, it’s probably the closest you can get to camping on Mars.

HIGHLIGHTS 1 Tuck into a traditional meal prepared by local chefs at Petra Kitchen within Wadi Musa. 2 Take a hike to the shrine of the prophet Aaron. Situated 1,350m above sea level, it’s the highest point in Petra. 3 Follow in the footsteps of Cleopatra and experience the mineral-rich mud of the Dead Sea from Amman Touristic Beach. 11

JOURNEY INTO THE SPIRIT OF ARABIA. Relax and unwind as you breathe in the mystical charm of the Rub’ Al Khali. Discover unparalleled desert luxury and cultural passion just 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi. Trek the footsteps of the Bedouin and create a thousand timeless moments in a luxury desert oasis. To book your stay, call +971 (0) 2 895 8700 or email


Globetrotter FEBRUARY

Be informed, be inspired, be there

COLOUR ME HAPPY From its zero-waste food, which draws on hydroponic fruit and vegetables from the on-site farm, to its interiors that showcase the work of local artisans, SALT of Palmar offers you a window to unvarnished, vibrant Mauritius. The 59-key resort, on the east coast of the island, is the debut opening for the newly launched hotel brand SALT. The riadlike building, on the fringe of Palmar beach, has been carefully repurposed in a collaboration between local Mauritian architect Jean-Franรงois Adam and French artist Camille Walala, to bring the natural environment to the fore and allow the location's natural colours to shine. World Traveller 13

GLOBETROTTER Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens

Well and good


Get there before the rest 1



GREECE Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens Now taking reservations for arrivals beginning 29 March, 2019, this glamorous property on the Athenian Riviera – just 30 minutes from both the Acropolis and the airport – is your ticket to the perfect Greek beach holiday with no less than three private beaches, three pools, and eight dining spots.

ABU DHABI Abu Dhabi EDITION You can watch the boats bobbing in the water at this recently-opened waterfront hotel in the downtown district of Al Bateen Marina. With guestrooms and serviced residences, it's good for longer stays, with three signature restaurants including Market by Tom Aikens, two swimming pools and a luxurious spa.

VIETNAM Anantara Quy Nhon Villas Journey to this untouched destination to see the raw beauty of the Vietnamese coastline. This beachfront hideaway, set amid tropical gardens, has just 26 private pool villas (each serviced by a dedicated host), with castaway style dining experiences, a secluded Anantara spa and tours by local guides.

Combine a love for travel with giving your wellbeing a boost with these fun spa pursuits on our radar… At Cheval Blanc Courchevel (pictured), you can ski down to the Russian Banya at the foot of the slopes for a traditional Northern latitudes style spa experience. The dry-heat sauna reaches temperatures of 90˚C, so you can sweat it out before braving a backto-basics toning session by rolling around in the soft snow. Turn the weather on its head by jetting to the Dominican Republic to stay at the newlyopened Impressive Resorts & Spa in Punta Cana where you can have a massage on the beach and relax in a Turkish bath. Body treatments and facials will keep you looking and feeling your best.

GET TRAVEL APPY Did you know that the Google Translate app now recognises 13 new languages through your smartphone's camera, including support for Nepali, Thai, and Vietnamese? Simply snap a picture and the app will figure it out for you by processing any translatable text. 14 World Traveller



Standing tall in the heart of Dubai Marina, featuring incomparable panoramic views of the city, combine the best of all worlds with luxurious accommodation, three contemporary dining destinations and a blissful caravanserai-inspired, Saray Spa.


STRAIGHT TO THE HEART Want to whisk your sweetheart away? Get set to fall in love with these heart melting hideaways....

ISLAND You can’t go wrong with the Maldives’ mix of powder soft sand, sparkling sea and swaying coconut trees. Revel in the air of exclusivity at Velaa Private Island, which is designed to let its exotic setting shine. We rate the Romantic Pool Residence (pictured) – an ultra-private one-bedroom villa with a Jacuzzi, gazebo on the jetty (for dining à deux) and a private spa treatment room. It's only accessible by boat. Alternatively, the adultsonly, all-inclusive Hurawalhi Island Resort provides the perfect excuse to focus on the two of you. Dine at the world’s largest undersea restaurant and book a professional photo session for a lasting memory of your trip. Grand View Junior Suite, Palazzo Manfredi

CITY If a European city break is more your style, jet off to Rome where Palazzo Manfredi delivers views of the Colosseum and Ludus Magnus (the gymnasium once used by Roman gladiators) from a selection of its suites, including its three new Grand View Junior Suites. This 17th century palace also boasts a Michelin stared restaurant, Aroma. Alternatively, brush up on your French in the City of Love with a stay at Mandarin Oriental Paris. Be inspired by sweeping views of the city – Eiffel Tower included – from the Panoramic Suite. 17


ON OUR RADAR Leading a vegan lifestyle just got even easier thanks to Hilton Bankside’s Vegan Suite, which invites guests to veg out in its Vegan Society approved room, which is almost entirely plant-based, from the furniture to the bedding and, of course, the snacks. If you're a fan of Le Gray in Beirut, you'll be pleased to know that Campbell Gray Hotels has opened its first property in the GCC, The

TRAVELS WITH ALAIN DUCASSE The celebrated chef oversees more than 30 restaurants around the globe, including his latest venue, miX by Alain Ducasse, in Dubai. He shares how his work feeds his travel experiences and vice versa

Merchant House, Manama, Bahrain. Travelling nourishes me both spiritually and creatively, and allows me to gain a better understanding of different cuisines. And while it would not be my philosophy to try to move towards something like sushi and sashimi, as we could never achieve exactly what is served in Japan, I appreciate the aesthetical aspect and elegant presentation of this type of food, and elements could be integrated in how we perceive a dish. The first time I went to Japan I didn't understand the place. Everything puzzled me and I was lost in translation. At the same time, I grew fascinated with the country, which is why I keep on going back. We have an outpost of Rech in Hong Kong so I have spent quite a bit of time there too. The place has a great dynamic – especially in terms of its food scene – and it’s a place that I would like to explore more. Around 15 years ago, there were only five to 10 well-known chefs there, whereas now there are 18

dozens of internationally renowned chefs to discover. Lima is also a very interesting place to me, as local chefs are rediscovering the richness of ingredients sourced from the land and sea, which so far has been underexploited. I grew up on a farm in the Landes region in southwestern France. It’s not far from wild mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, so it has a wealth of produce. Local people came to us to buy everything from vegetables to poultry, geese, duck and rabbit, and we created meals for the local community. I’ve been interested in the flavours of the Middle East for a long time and this has definitely been an influence in terms of the food you will taste at miX in Dubai. Indeed, it is a major food trend in general. miX by Alain Ducasse at Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai is the chef’s first restaurant in the UAE and the largest in his restaurant group.

Located alongside the vibrant Bab el-Bahrain Souk, it's ideally placed Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons for you to immerse yourself in local Bahraini life, and to get a real feel for the culture. Paying homage to past patron and pop icon David Bowie, the new Ziggy's Bar at

Hotel Café Royal in London, serves drinks inspired by his life and music against a backdrop of curated photography. Bowie held the retirement party for his alter ego Ziggy Stardust at Café Royal in the 1970s. As part of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision, Saudi Arabia has launched a new west coast resort destination, The Red Sea Project, which will team natural islands and coastline with dormant volcanos, a nature reserve and nearby ancient ruins.



A MEAL WITH A VIEW Dubai's latest dining destination, The Pointe on Palm Jumeirah, beckons hungry holidaymakers with its cool line-up of eateries and stunning view of Atlantis, The Palm FITZROY This European-inspired bistro touts an à la carte menu featuring the likes of steak tartare, bouillabaisse, grilled entrecôte and confit duck leg. It's good for lunch or dinner, but the venue really comes into its own at dusk. Why we rate it: The outdoor terrace is a romantic setting, with its flame heaters creating a cosy ambience and tables directly overlooking the water.

This image: The view from Chicago Meatpackers Inset: Chicken roulade at Fitzroy

SEAFOOD KITCHEN Serving up beautifully presented food and Balearic Island vibes, this market-style concept treats seafood fans to delicate dishes such as snapper ceviche, as well as crowd-pleasing platters of clams, mussels, soft-shell crab, prawns and chargrilled, locallysourced fish. Why we rate it: Downstairs is familyfriendly while upstairs has a more glamorous, lounge style ambience, with ladies’ nights taking place on Thursdays. ENA Think you know authentic Greek food? We recommend you sit down to a meal at Ena before you answer that question. It's the brainchild of owner Lena P, Maniatis, whose vision for back to basics Greek food is brought to life by chef Alexandros Pavlopoulos Sperxos – all with a modern twist. Why we rate it: Most of the ingredients are sourced from small farms in Greece – the feta from Kalavrita features in a number of must-try dishes. AMIRA'S DELI This family-friendly deli brings European café culture to life, with a delicious selection of dishes to suit all ages.

Why we rate it: The portions are large and each dish has an interesting stamp, like the chicken waffle cones stuffed with cheesy chicken popcorn. PALAPA This Mexican eatery is a party for the taste buds. Try the classic ceviche followed by the tacos short ribs and nachos festin marino (nachos with prawns, squid, mussels, guacamole and sea sauce). Why we rate it: The combination of the vibrant food, décor and entertainment makes eating here far from boring.

This image: Sushi crêpe at Amira's Deli 19


The Knowledge HOW TO...

Get to grips with travel insurance Peace of mind is worth its weight in gold. Claire Ryan, head of travel and personal insurance at AIG UAE and AIG MEA Limited, answers common questions about travel insurance What are the main benefits I should expect from a travel insurance policy? Depending on the level of coverage you choose, it may offer you protection in case of travel inconvenience, such as trip cancellation, flight delay or lost luggage. More importantly, you may choose a plan covering emergency medical expenses, which can be very expensive in most situations.

Taking out travel insurance is like getting international health insurance too, right? Travel insurance covers you against emergency medical expenses, which means surgical and hospital treatment if you become ill or injured during your trip. However, medical treatment required due to a preexisting medical condition that you knew about at the time of taking out your insurance would, in most cases, not be covered.

If I buy my holiday on my credit card, I’m offered some protection. Do I need an extra policy on top? Credit card insurance coverage is generally limited, and all travel bookings must be completely purchased using the respective card. You must check your policy schedule from the issuing bank to understand if all your needs are covered. In most cases, the limits are quite low so, for example, travelling to the US where medical costs are very expensive would most likely require you to purchase a more comprehensive travel insurance plan. 20

How can I ensure the cancellation policy covers all? The travel insurance cancellation policy will not cover you for all reasons. It will cover you for the travel and accommodation costs, transfers, excursions and, in some cases, even the visa costs, but only if the cancellation is unavoidable and due to a set list of reasons, such as an illness that prevents you from travelling, or the death of a relative. What it won't cover you for, in most cases, is you choosing not to travel.

I need coverage for my entire family, from our baby to our elderly grandparents who are joining us on our trip. Can I cover everyone with one policy? The family travel insurance policy usually covers husband, wife and children. However, you may opt for a group travel insurance where you can add as many additional persons as

required, including extended family and friends. You need to also check the age limitations, as in some travel insurance policies, the elderly have different rates or benefit limitations.

I travel a lot. Is it worth getting a multi-trip policy even if I’m yet to book all my trips for the year? Absolutely. An annual multi-trip insurance will work out more cost effective if you’re a frequent traveller. Additionally, people tend to book their travel insurance after they’ve bought their flights and accommodation. But if you have a yearly policy, for example, the trip cancellation benefit is on-going and you are covered from the moment you book even the first sector of your flight. dnata Travel partners with AIG to provide travel insurance. To find out more, email

Discover a Revolutionary Beauty Line! Renew for the journey ahead.

We have something new and exciting for you. Behold the mind-blowing, anti-aging and hydrating facial treatments by an innovative Korean product line, which uses Diamonds. Yes, you read that right! Diamonds are known for their ability to deliver ingredients to the deepest layers of your skin. Want to know the best part? You get to go home with your own box of exquisite products after each treatment. For more information or to make a booking please call +971 4 414 6754.

JW Marriott Marquis Dubai | Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, PO Box 121000, Dubai, UAE |


5 reasons families will love Jumeirah Mina A’Salam General manager Azar Saliba shines a light on the familyfriendly allure of this established hotel at the heart of Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai


There’s room for everyone

We have 128 sets of interconnecting rooms at the hotel, giving families plenty of space to spread out in and stay connected. All of our rooms and suites can fit up to two adults and two children, but if your kids are aged 12 or over then we recommend you opt for interconnecting rooms so you all get a great night’s sleep.


You’ll never be bored

With more than 30 rides and slides to thrill you, from the relaxing lazy river to the terrifying Jumeirah Sceirah (which propels you to speeds of 80 km/h), Wild Wadi Waterpark* has enough to keep you amused for hours on end – and all guests staying at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam receive complimentary access for the duration of their stay. It’s a fantastic benefit of staying with us. When you’re done splashing around, you can explore our beautiful private beach and take part in the many watersports available, from kayaking to stand-up paddleboarding. In addition, Sinbad’s Kids Club is a dream world for children with a climbing wall, play areas and pools, as well as activities such as face painting and crafts. It’s open daily from 8am-8pm.


Dining here is fun

In Arabic, Madinat means city – and staying here is like being in a city within a city. In this respect we are very lucky as guests have access to over 40 different restaurants, bars and cafés, serving everything from Greek and Chinese to Mexican. As well as being able to choose from all different types of cuisines, parents can relax in the knowledge that there’s a dedicated children’s menu available at 22

HeartSuite Reef,master in the Great Barrier Reef Royal bedroom


Wild Wadi Waterpark

all venues throughout the resort. Plus, if your child has a food allergy or sensitivity, having around 150 chefs working here gives the luxury of being able to make you anything you want. If they need a little extra entertainment, iPads and colouring books are available at all our dining spots. Your days doesn't have to end once the little ones are in bed. Our in-house babysitting service (bookable upon request) means you can head out for a romantic supper while your children are well looked after by our trained childcare professionals.


*Opening 8 February.

You don’t have to sweat the small stuff

We know that travelling with small children can be a challenge and parents are often worried about forgetting an essential item, such as the bottle steriliser, or whether they’ve packed enough diapers. It’s extremely common to be caught short on holiday, but we can get hold of pretty much anything you need, from putting a steriliser in the room, to delivering a fresh supply of nappies, and whipping up some puréed fruits and vegetables in the kitchen for younger babies who are weaning.

The view from the pool is hard to beat


There's lots for little travellers to discover

Staying with us can be educational, too. With its Arabian-style architecture, the resort is sure to spark your child's imagination. You can immerse them in old world Arabia with a trip to Souk Madinat Jumeirah where they can browse the stands, barrows and stalls offering a mix of mementoes and choose a keepsake to take home. Plus, you can fuel a budding passion for the arts by catching a show at Madinat Theatre. To find out more, call +971 4 366 8888 or visit

MUST-HAVE EXPERIENCES Don’t miss these memory makers at Mina A'Salam… Sit down to brunch. Our Friday brunch provides three-and-a-half hours of delicious food and top entertainment at Hanaaya and Tortuga. Those under 12 years old go free. Feed the turtles. The turtle lagoon at neighbouring Jumeirah Al Naseem is where sick and injured sea turtles are nursed back to health. Learn more about it at the feeding sessions on Wednesdays at 11am. Ride an abra. See the resort from the water by taking an abra tour of the Madinat Jumeirah waterways.

Tune ceviche, Tortuga 23

The Family Holiday Half term's here and (whisper it quietly) summer's on the horizon. If you've yet to book your next trip, we’re here to help. So whether you seek the adventure of a lifetime or somewhere simply perfect for a staycation, we have all the answers




My family and I love wildlife and an African safari has always been on my bucket list. However, I’ve always thought of it as an adult-only adventure. Are there any safari lodges that cater to young kids? Lewa House, Kenya Lewa House is a family home, and you’ll feel that by staying in one of its beautiful thatched-roof family cottages. There’s also plenty to occupy aside from game drives, like freshwater crab hunts and visits to a maasai village.

Samara Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Singita Ebony Lodge, South Africa

Children of all ages are warmly welcomed here and are exceptionally well-catered to. Tailored for under 12s, the Samara Kids' Programme features 'outdoor classroom' bush excursions, indigenous rock painting and storytelling by the fire.

Singita Ebony Lodge is a jawdroppingly beautiful colonial style lodge that leaves no stone unturned when it comes to spoiling families. Custom activities for young guests include astronomy, animal tracking and mountain biking, while Singita’s socially responsible ethos will keep them grounded with a visit to the Justicia community village.

My kids are pre-school age. Which European cities are best enjoyed out of school holidays to avoid the crowds?


VENICE Summer in Venice can be downright unpleasant but the first half of May has fewer tourists and less traffic on the canals. After a wallet-emptying gondola ride, climb to the balcony of St Mark's Basilica, then let ’em loose to chase pigeons in the piazza below.



DUBROVNIK Cruise ships descend on Dubrovnik in peak season, which peters off around the end of September. Beat the crowds by checking the cruise ship arrival schedule ( and explore the walled city by entering via the Ulica Svetog Dominika gate.


BARCELONA February is chilly, but the Santa Eulàlia festival in Barcelona is terrific for mini travellers, with street parades featuring fantasy characters like gegants (the giants), and toddlerfriendly fun aplenty, from human-tower building through to puppetry.

Opposite: Singita Ebony Lodge This page: Rome's Colosseum

My kids are in secondary school and I’d like to take them somewhere that proves educational. Which destinations do you suggest? Snowmobiling, glacier hiking, volcanoes – Iceland has all the big-ticket adventures for outdoorsy teens and they’ll learn a thing or two about the might of Mother Nature, in particular, Iceland’s geothermal energy (fun fact: it actually powers the city of Reykjavik). There’s the monumental landscapes, steaming geysers and thundering waterfalls of the Golden Circle, and Krísuvík’s famous Blue Lagoon, but elsewhere, Hveragerði’s geothermal park is a hoot. They’ll never forget bathing in natural outdoor hot springs. Pizza and gelato aside, Italy overflows with culture, especially in Rome, but immersing the kids in history doesn’t have to be dull. Brandishing swords and shields, and donning helmets and armour, the two-hour Roman Gladiator School sessions run by Gruppo Storico Romano are wildly fun (even for the grumpiest of teens) and include a guided tour of the Colosseum arena and Museum of Gladiators. Mexico is another enriching destination to expand young minds. Touch down in Mexico City to take in museums, eat tostadas and watch a Lucha Libre wrestling match. On your way to the Caribbean shores of the Yucatan Peninsula, stop at Palenque. Staying in the jungle and exploring ancient Mayan temples by day, listening to howler monkeys call from the treetops at night – you’ll need to bribe your kids to leave. 27


We always head to our home country for the summer holidays but this year we want a big family adventure. What do you recommend? WHY NOT... HIT THE ROAD ACROSS CALIFORNIA Pacific Coast Highway 1 is the stuff of legend for a reason. With rugged beaches, frolicking sea lions, epic views and equally epic sights (like the iconic Bixby Bridge), driving the Pacific coastline – the kids blasting the stereo and singing at the top of their lungs – will be a road-trip your kids will talk about for years to come, particularly if you've driven it in a classic Airstream.

Opposite: Walt Disney World Resort This page, from top: Joshua Tree National Park, California; Wild Wadi Waterpark

WHY NOT.. GO ISLAND HOPPING IN FANTASTIC FIJI With 330 islands, crazy-clear water and unspoilt white-sand beaches, not to mention wonderful resorts with awardwinning kids’ clubs, Fiji is outstanding for island-hopping and there’s an added bonus: Fijians are among the friendliest people on earth. In between swimming and gallivanting on beaches searching for starfish, your babes will become best friends with local kids before you have the chance to say “Bula”.

WHY NOT... TAKE TO THE HIGH SEAS FOR A CRUISE Kids will go mad for the floating playgrounds operated by Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Disney, with ginormous slides, ice skating rinks and fun-filled youth programmes aplenty, but for something more intrepid, try a Lindblad Expedition. In partnership with National Geographic, these expedition-style voyages venture to wild destinations like the Galápagos islands or Alaska, with kids’ programmes overseen by certified educators and naturalists.

I fancy a family staycation for half term but want a room that also offers privacy for my husband and I. Where should I book? Recently reopened after a substantial refurbishment, Jumeirah Beach Hotel's polished rooms can accommodate two adults and two children aged under 12 in one king size and one twin bed respectively. But if it's privacy you seek then each of the 'Ocean' rooms can be booked with an interconnecting room next door. With complimentary access to Wild Wadi for the duration of your stay thrown in, chances are you 28

won't be seeing much of your children, regardless. At JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai – the world's tallest fivestar hotel, an accolade your kids will love – two Deluxe rooms can be booked to interconnect, or one attached to a more spacious suite. Staying next to Ski Dubai is also likely to rack up the brownie points, and Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates offers two Deluxe room types that can interconnect.



Meeting Mickey and Co at Walt Disney World Resort With four theme parks and two water parks, the wishlist topping Walt Disney World Resort is purpose built for enrapturing children. No matter their age, the wonderful world of Disney has undoubtedly waved its magical wand over your kids at some point, and there's plenty of reasons to plan a trip this year – not least for the hotly anticipated late 2019 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Meanwhile, the outstanding Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is ready to roll out its magic carpet for guests from May through September. As part of special packages timed to coincide with the cinema release of the live-action Aladdin, the resort will also offer Arabia-inspired drinks, dishes and spa treatments. Better still, its spectacular Royal Suite can be expanded to fit nine bedrooms, so no family member misses out. 29


My kids have (very) healthy appetites and I’m worried about running up a huge hotel bill. Where are some allinclusive options? Top billing here would have to go to the wonderful Furaveri Island Resort & Spa in the Maldives. Food and drink prices in the Maldives can test any budget, which is what makes Furaveri's all-inclusive option so attractive if you're travelling here with kids. All meals and non-alcoholic drinks (as well as selected alcoholic) are offered, with the choice of cuisines equally generous – everything from Italian through to Thai. A trip to Dubai's two-hotel JA The Resort may take you no time at all, but its secluded spot by the sea makes it feel every bit like a mini holiday. Book a minimum three-night stay and you can go allinclusive, which covers the day's three main meals as well as snacks and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). What's more, kids aged under 12 are free.

I like the idea of our family travelling by train (it sounds less stressful than a road trip). What are some of the best railway journeys? If your kids are spellbound by all things Harry Potter, you'll earn a bucket-load of brownie points by boarding The Jacobite, a steam train which operates across Scotland's scenic Highlands. That's because the Jacobite is best known as the Hogwarts Express, the role it played in the film series. An adventure of a different kind can be had onboard the day-train Belmond Hiram Bingham, which snakes its way up Peru's Machu Picchu. Catering well to families, there's live music in the observation car and the threecourse menu you'll enjoy can be adapted to please any fussy little eater. Once at Machu Picchu, a private guide will whisk you to the best spots of the Citadel for a truly memorable experience.



bottom: Furaveri Island Resort & Spa; eyes on the countryside during a train journey This page: Liwa Oasis


Seeing natural wonders It’s not just parents who need a break. Kids too, can get overloaded with the excessive 'noise' from modern life, whether it’s pressure from exams or overexposure to technology, which is why whisking them away to nature is always a good idea. But why not take it even further, and take them to see one of the world’s big-ticket natural wonders? Whether it’s watching the sun rise over enormous dunes in the Liwa Oasis, listening to their voices echo across the Grand Canyon, or feeling the spray from Niagara Falls on their skin, witnessing such tremendous natural beauty up close will thrill them in a way an iPad never will. 31


As a family I’d like to make our travels more meaningful. In what ways can we give back on our travels? Eat at local restaurants Dining at a local eatery is a win-win: it helps to support community business and it gives children an insight into a destination’s culture and traditions. They won’t get a plastic toy with their meal, but they probably won’t ever forget that time they ate rice with their hands! Purchase souvenirs from artists at local markets Market hauls may never replace the Lego, but buying that handmade ukulele, the beaded necklace threaded by a local tribeswoman, or the animal shaped from discarded flip-flops found on the beach not only helps support artisans whose livelihoods depend on tourism, it will create a lasting memory of the trip to take home. Hire a local tour guide Whether it’s tracking down the best gelateria or the nearest bathroom, a guide’s expertise and knowledge can prove invaluable. The job supports them financially, though many are just as interested in learning about your family and your culture – so say yes if they invite you over to meet their family.

Famous for golf it may be, but Scotland's Gleneagles is swiftly making a name for itself as an idyllic family retreat. Dating to 1924, this historic hotel is forward thinking when it comes to planning kids' activities. Working on the premise that 'whatever an adult can do, a child can do too', kids can drive a mini Land Rover, train a gundog, try their hand at fishing and falconry or even own a pony for a day (just hope that all that mucking out will put them off making the deal permanent). The great outdoors also provides a fitting 32

playground at Constance Ephelia in Seychelles, where budding Tarzans can swing from tree to tree on a zip line. Culinary skills can also be sharpened through cooking classes, alongside a programme of other fun workshops. That's also very much the case at LUX* Belle Mare in Mauritius, home to an outdoor culinary school, tennis coaching, adventure trips around the island and local language and dance classes. In the unlikely event of having time to fill, the resort's unique cakedecorating bar summons sticky fingers.

Words by Michelle Wranik-Hicks

My kids like nothing more than a hotel kids’ club, but which ones go above and beyond to really engage them?

Opposite, from top to bottom: shopping for souvenirs at a local market; flying on the zip-line at Constance Ephelia This page: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort


Stepping into snow in Lapland The magical Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland (near the Arctic Circle), is like stepping into the pages of a storybook. Besides meeting the big man himself, your wide-eyed kids can attend elf school or visit the post office where elves sift through a reported half a million letters sent to Santa each year. If you’re lucky, your family might even get the chance to witness the spectacular light show (perhaps through the roof of a glass igloo), the Aurora Borealis, the natural phenomenon colouring the sky approximately 200 nights a year. Add to that reindeer sleigh rides, a snowmobiling adventure, and meeting adorable Siberian huskies, and you can safely notch it up as one of those extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime experiences they’ll probably tell their grandkids about one day. 33


Follow your heart Whether you want to make a grand gesture or keep things low key, there are plenty of ways to ramp up the romance at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort


Sample the outback inspired menu at Bushman’s


he most romantic time of the year, Valentine’s Day (on 14 February) provides all the motivation you need to treat the object of your affection to something extra special. And if you’re in the mood to pull out all the stops, how does a sun-drenched holiday sound? Crafted by Anantara’s biggest softies, this vacation package will send you off on a storybook style adventure, starting with a two-night stay in a Pool Beach Villa, with 100 red roses delivered to your door and an evening onboard a private luxury yacht with a chef, sommelier and waiter on hand to serve you a five-course dinner of caviar, sushi and seafood paired with your favourite drink. Each morning you’ll wake up to a bubbly breakfast and, on the last day, you’ll be whisked away to the airport in a limo to hop on an Emirates flight headed to the Indian Ocean where you’ll spend a further two nights at Anantara Kihavah Maldives in a Beach Pool Villa soaking up the rays.

Be pampered in the hammam

If you prefer to dial it down a little, foodies will find all they need to make the heart sing at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort’s restaurants – each of which is putting on a special spread. For those craving privacy, the best option is dining under the stars at a table on the beach overlooking Palm Jumeirah. The intimate Flavours of the Ocean by Dining by Design experience includes a five-course menu and is limited to just eight couples. If Asian food floats your love boat head to Mekong, which will be transformed into a flower-filled venue complete with mood lighting. Or keep it casual at Bushman’s where you can tuck into a three-course outback inspired menu of authentic Australian fare on the outdoor billabong terrace. If you’re loved one deserves some expert pampering, Anantara Spa is offering couples’ journeys that invite you to unwind with a treatment by the sea, sit down to lunch at The Beach House and spend some quality time together thanks to the all-day pass to the resort’s sparkling pools and beach. To find out more, call +971 4 567 8999 or visit

Unwind in a Pool Beach Villa

Kick-start the detox process in the hammam

Dip a toe in the resort's sparkling pools

Kick-start the detox process in the hammam 35

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Postcards Stories from journeys far and wide 37

XXXXXXXXXXXXX These pages: A fisherman sets his traditional net

Luang Prabang, the old royal capital of Laos, is still easier to reach by water than road. On a slow boat down the gilded Mekong, Andrew Eames finds the Southeast Asia of old





This page, clockwise from above: A tuk tuk speeds through the streets of Luang Prabang; woman dressed in traditional costume; coconut pancakes on street stall

Credit: Andrew Eames/The Sunday Times Travel Magazine/News Licensing

here was nothing to set Boat Can Sway apart when I first glimpsed her that morning, among the river vessels jammed in herringbone formation against the bank at Huay Xai on the Lao-Thai border. She was slender, just 35 metres long, and locally crafted, like the cluster around her, with rosewood planking above water, steel hull below. Just another boat on the mighty Mekong, waiting to do business. The unique appeal would be apparent once we were on board, for our two-day voyage to Luang Prabang: we had not one but three captains, an embarrassment of comfy chairs for the passenger count (18) and the promise of a cosy halfway house: a sedate river-view hotel for the night. (Our boat was too bijou-boutique for cabins.) We also had a chef, it became clear, as we stole back from our mooring and the smell of lunch wafted by. A fishy appetiser — tender white tilapia, steamed with dill — emerged from the galley as we nosed out into the channel. By the time I’d turned my attention to the beef curry, lightly fragranced with lime leaves, the sour taste of officialdom I’d experienced early that morning was disappearing as fast as the morning thrum of Huay Xai town. But it had sure been an inauspicious start... The Mekong is the Amazon of Southeast Asia, passing through six countries en route to the sea, and the stretch we were following forms part of Laos’s international border — I’d had to cross east from Thailand that morning to catch the boat. Despite its name, there had been nothing remotely amiable about the Friendship Bridge: the echoingly empty Lao immigration counters were inch-deep in a confetti of dead mayflies. Changing money at the bank, I got $100 worth of Lao kip, yet my paperwork stated I’d only changed $90. When I pointed this out, the teller just shrugged. Those $10 were his now. Still, here I was, out on the sunlit water, blending into the forgotten world of one of Asia’s greatest rivers. The day was sultry, but the boat’s

movement brought a fresh breeze rifling through the saloon. It was wonderful being here: a plate of pineapple and lychees appeared before me. Between here and now and Luang Prabang were two days of delicious grazing as a tapestry of forest, fishing villages and limestone mountains unravelled slowly either side. I had long dreamt of making this trip. More than once, on previous holidays in Thailand, I’d reached the banks of the Mekong. But I had never crossed it. Cruising has colonised its lower reaches, hundreds of kilometres downriver from Huay Xai, where it becomes sufficiently wide for big, all-inclusive boats. But they held little appeal for me: after years seeing Thai sophistication, I wanted the Southeast Asia I’d found so enthralling in my backpacker days. Laos, I knew, was a country still immersed in the old ways. If I could tap into its river life, perhaps I’d recapture fond memories of Southeast Asia as it used to be. This upper stretch of the Mekong is still wild and unspoilt — too treacherous for big cruisers. People will tell you it is the best way to reach the former royal capital of Laos, one of Asia’s most enchanting backwaters. In fact, it is one of the very few places in the world more accessible by water than by road. There could be no more authentic way to arrive than aboard a typical river boat, the very reason it exists. On the Boat Can Sway, to be precise. That wasn’t, I confess, the boat’s real name. A notice up by the captain’s perch in the bows warned that, because of the rapids, the ‘boat can sway’, but the first words were partially obscured. Whatever, it sounded far sassier than Pakou III, and more descriptive. The water levels at this early stage in the Mekong’s journey are as volatile as a teenager. In the rainy season the silt-rich floods rise to fertilise a broad hopscotch of village vegetable patches, but then the river skinnies down and rocks rear from the water like scales on a dragon’s back. That afternoon, standing on the front deck, we could see this was going to be an exhilarating ride. The teenage dragon bared its teeth and started to seethe and


writhe. The danger was less the rocks we could see, more those concealed just below the surface. At times it was like white-water rafting, and you knew things were tricky when the captain’s brow furrowed, the boat quivered, and he asked everyone on the front deck to sit down. We weren’t alone in riding the rapids. Every now and then a highly painted apparition, barely more than a surfboard, came screeching by, noisy as a race circuit, half a dozen passengers sitting erect before a truck engine mounted on the stern. They could get you to Luang Prabang in six hours, explained Sanh, our onboard guide. Attempt that journey by road, and it would take you 13. I settled back in Boat Can Sway, more contented than ever. In quieter moments we saw fishermen, out on the water in slender canoes, working and nets in the backwater eddies of what is officially the largest freshwater fishery in the world. Their dream, said Sanh, was of catching a Mekong catfish, at up to 300kg the largest freshwater fish in existence, but rare. How a fisherman could expect to land something six times his bodyweight in a dugout made for one, he never explained. For us passengers, that first day passed in a blur of eating, snoozing, waving at the fishermen and village children, and getting to know each other. It was a sort of river-borne house party and I found myself swapping stories with an English couple, Simon and Angela, who’d come all the way to Laos overland. It was an adventure that had included a train trip through Russia, where Angela had slipped on ice and broken her arm. Together, we chatted with a posh British banker, on board with his Thai wife and their striking children. She lived in Bangkok, while he remained in 41




London, which sounded intriguing, although I didn’t ask further. Fleeting insights into other people’s lives are most fascinating when you accept you’ll never know the full story. In turn, we passengers stirred interest among the people of the riverbanks. In its more indolent sections the flow wound past sandy embankments and bays, where swimming children stopped to stare and wave. Mooring at a beach, we spent an hour with a boy desperate to show us how he trapped crickets for the family’s dinner using a long bamboo pole. I don’t think we’d have met him if we’d been on a five-star luxury river cruise, or a bus. He even led us up the sandy embankment to his hill-tribe village, where every house was perched on stilts above spare timbers stacked underneath for when the family needed to up sticks and relocate to better land. Hydropower dams are under construction along the Mekong, and one is planned downriver of that boy’s village, at a settlement called Pak Beng, where we broke our journey at the end of that first day. The Luang Say lodge was a mahoganyrich construction with a fabulous view down over rushes whirring with cicadas to the Mekong sliding by. It was elegant, open to the evening airs and the sounds of gibbons calling. Simple in design, it was also vulnerable, as we discovered after dark, when a thunderstorm menacing the hills decided to pounce, driving billowing clouds of rain through the restaurant. Next day dawned bright and clear, the overnight storm having cleared the haze created by the slash-and-burn practice that dominates agriculture here. Some 70% of the Lao landscape is forest and mountains, and in the sharp light the burnt hillsides bristled like an elephant’s hide, their receding shoulders purpled as if they’d been in a fight, some bruises still livid with flame. After a breakfast of fried eggs and mango sticky rice, the baritone of Boat Can Sway’s engine summoned us back to the water’s edge. This time the

river seemed more gentle, its teenage convulsions less frequent, and the captain relaxed sufficiently to allow the Thai/English couple’s children to take turns with the wheel. Much later that day, as the sun was burnishing the river bronze, we finally sighted Luang Prabang, raised high on a finger-like peninsula between the Mekong and its tributary the Nam Khan. I stood transfixed by the curved roofs of its many temples peeking above the riverside acacias. Boat Can Sway performed a final pirouette, fond farewells were said, and we dispersed into the next stage of our lives. After tranquil time on a boat it felt strange to be back among thronging humankind; strange, too, to be decanted into a place that felt so much like a spiritual remnant of old Southeast Asia, suspended in time. But I couldn’t have been happier. It reminded me of Thailand’s popular northern city, Chiang Mai, when I first arrived there some 40 years ago. Then, it was a place of novice monks and young travellers wide-eyed with wonder. Laid out by French planners in the late 19th century, when Laos was part of French Indochina, Luang Prabang displayed a fusion of styles. I wandered thoroughfares lined with Chinese-style shophouses and colonial villas, their courtyards fragranced with frangipani. Shutters were the kind you’d see in a Provençal village, married with filigree ironwork eaves created by artisans from Vietnam. Some of these heritage buildings have been adapted to create exquisite little hotels, some are coffee shops, some art galleries or massage parlours. The presence of the Mekong, and sometimes the Nam Khan, at the end of every street added a sense of calm wellbeing, with cars pretty much absent. Boats, rickshaws and bicycles proved the best way of getting around. Renting two wheels I was in a blur of nostalgic bliss, visiting sights. The 16thcentury Wat Xieng Thong, built for Lao royalty on the tip of the peninsula, was a stunner, containing a riot of depictions, in gold leaf, of the Ramayana stories — the Indian epic later adapted by the Lao people — and a tree of life


mosaic embedded with emeralds and lapis lazuli on the back wall. Each morning, just before dawn, came the city’s cultural highlight, as orange-robed temple monks emerged in silent single file onto the street, to receive alms from local women. The age-old ritual was over by the time the sun had risen and breakfast beckoned. I passed French-influenced bakeries and courtyard restaurants, while eating avocado baguettes and yellow-duck noodle soup, mesmerised by the slow waltz of boats out on the water. Late in the day I’d joined the crowds heading up the 328 steps to sit under the pagoda on the top of Phu Si hill and watch the departing sun run its fingers lovingly across the goldpainted gable ends of the temples, before saying farewell from behind the misty rills of forested hills. After that came the night market, arrayed with fishermen’s trousers, lanterns, and jewellery fashioned from the scrap metal of war — a sombre reminder that the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the hotly contested Vietcong supply line in the Vietnam War, mostly ran through Laos. Finally, each evening, came the difficult decision of where, and what, to eat. It was all very enchanting, and I could almost think, as I sat at a little bistro sipping a drink while waiting for my order of shrimp bisque, that it was untouched by modern life — but modern life always has the last laugh. My time ran out, and I had to leave — this time via Luang Prabang’s front door, on a jet plane.

Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call +971 4 316 6666 or visit 43



Reef encounter

She’s a beauty — no wonder the Great Barrier Reef tops so many travellers’ bucket lists.But is the view from below as ‘great’ as it used to be? Andrew Eames takes the plunge GOLDEN GLOW

Diwali (7 November) is one of 45



ob was sitting on the upper deck of a pontoon moored to Agincourt Reef. A solitary figure, absorbed in his newspaper, he was every inch the authentic Aussie, complete with hat, shorts, and an unflinching certainty to his world view. Our eyes met, so I remarked that it wasn’t the most peaceful place to read, on a deck awash with families in flippers launching themselves into the water in a flailing mass of arms and legs. ‘I guess not,’ he grinned. Bob, it turned out, had recently retired after a lifetime in the unrelenting glare of Australia’s Red Centre, and he thought the green tropical north was brilliant, the Great Barrier Reef its Crown Jewels. ‘All that wonderful stuff going on down there.’ He surveyed the water proprietorially. ‘You been in?’ I had. I said I’d seen a clownfish family. That had been good. The Nemos had been doing their whole flustery house-proud thing, darting around the fronds of their anemone. And there’d been loads of giant clams, shellfish the size of fridge-freezers with velvety mantles that looked like debauched hotel double beds. ‘Plus there’s a huge grouper that hangs under the pontoon, called Susie. As big as a barn door.’ But I didn’t want to admit that I’d hoped for more. That the fish density had been thin, and the corals themselves disappointingly... well, beige. I suspected that wasn’t what Bob would have wanted to hear. I love anything to do with the sea, so the Great Barrier Reef — one of the seven wonders of the natural world — had long been on my bucket list. This is, after all, the world’s largest living organism, visible from space, comprising 2,900 reefs, 900 islands, 300 coral cays and 1,625 species of fish, many of them in magnificently weird shapes and extraordinary colours. I’m lucky enough to have done a bit of diving — and a lot of snorkelling — in some incredible places, but to my mind the sheer scale of the GBR had always kept it a league apart. But the more I heard about its magical, myriad life forms, threatened by years of heatwaves and tropical storms, it became something I simply had to see 46


— before I really did kick that bucket. So I’d come with a mix of hope — and fear. And to get a handle on the huge breadth of the thing I’d set myself something of a personal target: I wanted to see the Great Eight, which is the Barrier Reef’s equivalent of an African safari’s Big Five. These eight iconic, spectacular creatures have recently been selected by the Marine Park Authority as representative of the sheer diversity to be found on the Reef. They’re a mix of generic and specific, with turtles, sharks, whales and rays on the list, along with clownfish, Maori wrasse, giant clams and potato cod. I only had a few days, but was resolved to tick them off — after all, it might be my only chance. Spending a day out on that doubledecker pontoon at Agincourt was my first, and inexpensive, eyeful of the

undersea. Quicksilver’s giant catamaran — seats for 400 — had gobbled up the 65km commute from the rainforestwrapped mainland, and by the time we returned to Port Douglas in late afternoon I’d been on a discovery snorkel with a marine biologist and a ride in a semi-submersible, but I’d only got clownfish and giant clams ticked off my list. So I needed to go deeper. Literally. Next day, brandishing my PADI scuba certificate, I headed out again. I’m not an experienced diver, but fortunately there is nothing testing about the warm, aquarium-like waters of the Reef, particularly as I was buddied up with a Scottish oil-rig diver used to the ‘scuzzy’ (his word) North Sea. Jim’s eyes were like saucers as we descended among bizarrely long trumpetfish, which were taking it in turns to do headstands above the boulder coral. Below them was a shoal of fingersized bright yellow goatfish, rising in unison out of a coral cauliflower, like fluorescent midges out of heather. Despite this increased access, though, after two dives and one snorkel I’d only chalked up one further sighting: the Maori wrasse, a labrador-sized fish that evolution had face-painted in purple and green. A hump-headed pair had mooched nonchalantly around the coral stack, pretending to look very cerebral — the Forrest Gumps of the Barrier Reef.

Opposite: Oriental sweetlips swim in the sun-pierced ocean This page: Sunset over the heritage listed Port Douglas wharf 47

With three down and five to go I needed to up my game. I was sad to leave Port Douglas, which has a laidback, bohemian vibe, its streets lined with sweet-smelling frangipani and lavender-flowered jacaranda. It is almost exclusively a purpose-built holiday resort, with its reef-andrainforest double act, and its main drag split between the outfitters who organise trips during the day, and the terraced restaurants and bars who fuel the trippers into the balmy night. Cairns, 68km south, turned out to be altogether more substantial. It had history — 150 years of it, starting with a gold rush that brought dozens of different nationalities to what was then an isolated shanty town. Today there are backpackers from Europe wandering along its seafront esplanade and day-trippers off the cruise ships nibbling on crocodile satay in its boardwalk restaurants. From here I headed offshore again, this time on a propeller aircraft that skimmed out over batik-effect spangles of turquoise and gold, streaked with rust and rimmed with silver surf. My destination was an island with history longer than Cairns, because back in 1770 Captain James Cook had landed here during a voyage that nearly ended in disaster when his boat went aground. Lizard Island has since become a great deal more hospitable, occupied as it is on one flank by a marine research station, and on its most sheltered side by a luxurious barefoot retreat for honeymooners and CEOs. The resort’s 40 suites and villas are carefully landscaped into lawns shaded by seagrape trees and pandanus palms behind a couple of the island’s 24 whitesand beaches, where they are presided over by a sumptuous restaurant open to evening breezes soughing through the casuarina trees. Most importantly, for my purposes, it had dive boats and snorkel boats, access to special sites and stacks of local knowledge, and was prepared to assemble these assets to suit a guest’s whims. Especially a guest with a shopping list of fish to see. First, the turtles. Easy: no boat required, they said, and that afternoon, biologist Ben took me over to the research station (which has been 48


responsible for parts of Blue Planet) and pointed to the shallows. I felt like a cameraman as I slid into the water ahead of a green sea turtle grazing on the seagrass. As it sauntered past, I noted a couple of remoras, or suckerfish, on either side, so that from the rear it looked as if it was packing pistols. Next morning, I clambered aboard one of the resort’s dive boats to head to the outer reef, with high hopes of seeing my remaining four: whales, rays, sharks and potato cod. An hour later we were at a site called the Cod Hole, having seen a minke whale unsheathe itself from the water in the distance en route. Not a particularly breathtaking sight — minkes are not large — but it was undeniably a whale, doing what whales do. As for the potato cod, I was pleased to find them pretty much queuing up. The Lizard Island dive team has permission to feed certain fish, and we descended into the transparent waters to find a bruiser of a fish with Winston Churchill lips and big black splodges along its flanks, ready and waiting. This, apparently, was Brian, and we’d been warned not to pet him, even though he bumped into us like a friendly dog. We’d also been warned about sharks, and it wasn’t long before the divemaster drew our attention to a sleek shape, circling half out of sight. It was a grey reef shark, being proper sharky — but more scared of us than we were of it, the divemaster said afterwards. Shortly after, a whitetip reef shark appeared, immobile on the sandy bottom. Big, but only threatening at night. After just 24 hours on Lizard Island I’d notched up four more of my Great

Eight, although it had taken all the resources (and expense) of a far-flung, five-star resort to get them. And while my quest was nearly complete, I still felt a bit disappointed — for all the coral and fish I saw, the world’s largest reef should have so much more. Fortunately, there was a bonus moment yet to come on my last evening on Lizard Island, on a last-minute solo snorkel at Anchor Bay, an easy walk from my veranda. The sun disappears in a hurry here, as if it has something important to do in another hemisphere, and I hadn’t allowed myself a lot of time. But suddenly there were colours, and fish, among candelabras of flamehued fire coral and fields of staghorn coral with fresh-growing tips of blue. I spotted an orange-spine unicornfish, a cloud of yellow-tailed fusiliers, and a titan triggerfish, seemingly unaware of the yellow lipstick smeared all over its face. And, yes. Finally a ray — a fleeting glimpse, a small one the size of a dinner plate, but the moment I caught sight of the last item on my list, I also glimpsed another form, circling. It’s one thing sharing the water with a shark when you’re with an experienced divemaster, but quite another when you’re alone and the light is noticeably dimming. I didn’t linger. On my last morning I was up early to meet the sunrise on the top of Cook’s Look, the island’s highest point, where the captain himself had climbed in search of a way out of the reef. Today it is also the only place you can get a mobile-phone signal, so I took a selfie on the top and WhatsApped it to my family, and then watched the rising sun throw my shadow across the turquoise sea. Almost instantly my phone buzzed back at me from the other side of the world. ‘How is the Great Barrier Reef?’ my daughter wanted to know. It was a big question, and one that needed a pithy answer — especially if I wanted to get back down in time for breakfast — so I tapped out four words that I thought summed it up: ‘Endangered, but still beautiful.’

Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call +971 4 316 6666 or visit

Credit: Andrew Eames/The Sunday Times Travel Magazine / News Licensing


This page: Soft, colourful corals around Lizard Island 49

XXXXXXXXXXXXX This page: A traditional Greek salad Right: The view over Chora Sfakion town



Seeking serenity in high-season Crete? Dana Facaros finds the crowd-free, timewarp beauty beyond the island’s brochure beach resorts 51




specks (Cyclades, Dodecanese), Crete feels like a fully-fledged country. In an hour you can roll from Greek island to Tuscany to Switzerland. Birthplace of Zeus, it is as old as time, home to Europe’s first literate civilisation, the Bronze Age Minoans, and scattered with their crumbling legacy. On Crete, it takes more than clouds to stop play. As it happened, the sun was returning wanly as we drove into Fodele village, warming the valley we passed through to reach it, lush with orange, lemon and mandarin groves. We parked, sat and drank, shaded by an olive tree, a gnarly thing with leafy branches. Only a sign beside it reminded us we were not just in the back of beyond but in the arty heart of things. Fodele, it read, was the birthplace in 1541 of Doménikos Theotokópoulos, aka El Greco, the artist who matured, in Venice, Rome, Madrid and finally Toledo, into a singular force of nature. Strolling, we found his birthplace, now a museum, and gawped at reproductions of his strange, visionary works, so defiantly unlike any other of the Spanish Renaissance age. ‘I have to say he could only have been a Cretan’, said Despina. ‘He wasn’t afraid to be different.’ Cretans are famously fearless. When Nazi paratroopers invaded and occupied the island, men and women, young and old, fought them with scythes, butcher’s knives and rocks, even their bare hands. After the war, Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Zorba the Greek), charged by the UN to report on Axis atrocities, found the Nazis had destroyed more than 100 Cretan villages. One of the most infamous, Anogia, was our next stop, in the mountains above Fodele. We drove past clustered homes and olive groves, beeping sleeping dogs off the road and overtaking, much to our delight, a granny in black riding side-saddle on a donkey, who smiled and waved while engrossed in a mobile-

phone chat. Slowly — ominously? — the landscape grew savage. A golden eagle hovered in the blue-black sky. Bells jangled as a herd of goats skipped off the road. The goatherd — mustachioed, clad in black shirt and tall boots — nodded with the noble bearing of a Homeric hero. Far off loomed Crete’s highest peak, Psiloritis: ancient Ida, sacred to Zeus. Anogia greeted us, immaculately whitewashed, its photogenic square filled with café tables and wonky chairs. It was hard to believe this was its fourth incarnation. The Turks destroyed it twice. Nazis razed it in reprisal for harbouring members of the Cretan Resistance who had abducted the German General, Kreipe. After the war, the widows of Anogia’s fighters turned to needlework to survive. Even today houses are draped in vivid woven bags and tablecloths. We lunched at a little taverna called Aetos, on tender lamb ofto, redolent of fresh mountain air and wild herbs, slowcooked, shepherd-style, from the heat off charcoal embers. It tingled the tastebuds, but the overriding sensory takeaway from Anogia was for the ears and eyes: in a tiny museum we found the works of a folk artist nicknamed Grylios (‘bulging eyes’), who started sculpting and painting naïf, heartfelt scenes of the village at the age of 68. While we took them in, tunes fluttered from a lyraki, a three-stringed violin played by Giorgios, his son. The road back to Heraklion had more in store: at Tylissos, we savoured the solitude of half an hour, late afternoon, among three ancient villas built by the Minoan people in the 16th-14th centuries BC. As with so many archaeological sites beyond the main tourist circuit here, we had the moment all to ourselves. A breeze wooed eerily in the pines as we ran our fingers over the warmed stones, channelling the long-haired Minoans in their colourful kilts. ‘Like Bronze Age hippies,’ I said to Despina,

Credit: Dana Facaros/The Sunday Times Travel Magazine / News Licensing

n the village we sat sipping iced coffees, the ubiquitous frothy, bitter, refreshing taste of a Greek summer. Around us worry beads clacked; ducks quacked; and villagers doing their morning shopping stopped for a chat in the dappled shade of an olive tree. In the tiny main square of Fodele, we were only an hour away from the coast and Crete’s hulking capital, Heraklion, but it felt as if we’d travelled back light years. Don’t get me wrong. Like everyone who’s holidayed here, I love Crete for its coast. Every time I’ve visited my cousin Despina over the years, we’ve lazed the hours (days, weeks) away on the quieter shores that unravel east and west of Heraklion, where Despina teaches English at a local school. I’ve always left with a deep tan and sunny memories, of wiggling our toes in warm sands and giggling over family anecdotes as the rays dry our swimsuits, while her architect husband, Theo, steps out in a suit and takes care of business. But I was so glad we’d made the journey, this time off the beaten track, inland to the Crete that time forgot. Not solely because of the peace, the quiet and those caffeine hits, but because it showed me how much there is in Crete to see beyond the big brochure resorts. I love Heraklion — the poster city for the whole island — as much as the other sun-seeking thousands who fly in for the bargain summer hotels of Agios Nikolaos, or the five-star resorts around the holiday town of Elounda, on the Gulf of Mirabello, a couple of hours’ drive east. But this time, my annual date with Despina was to take a different tack. The two of us had spent the morning on the beach at Fodele. Theo was absent, working in Sitia, a port town a long drive away, towards the easternmost tip of Crete. We were gossiping and bronzing as usual, when clouds brought a sudden grey to the day, hanging over the mountains that sweep down to the sands. Despina sat up and took off her shades, gesturing towards the family pick-up truck parked nearby. ‘That might be it for a while. Fancy a drive?’ Did I? Motoring in Crete is always travel heaven: the peaks, the twistedlicorice byways, the olive groves glinting to the horizons. Unlike Greece’s smaller


This page, clockwise from above: Shepherding a herd of goats on a country road; the Venetian Walls in Heraklion; a woman sits side-saddle on a donkey; wooden louver window shutters in Crete's common blue, a typical feature of local houses

GOLDEN GLOW Diwali (7 November) is one of 53


lost in her remoted-eyed trance. Returning to Heraklion was a shock to the system. Tour buses growled at traffic lights. Bars rang with chattery European languages — the high-spirited voices of crowds gearing up for the night. But the fading apricot light lent a kind of aura. Despina, having stopped to buy oranges, took me on to the Venetian Walls, then up the steps to the bastion where Nikos Kazantzakis, one of the most celebrated Greek writers of recent times, was buried. Despina arranged the oranges around his tomb. ‘He requested fruit instead of flowers,’ she explained, then translated his famous epitaph. ‘“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free”.’ Something about this special day had liberated me, too — the elements, the savage scenery, the real people with classic customs. The raw remoteness had made me want more. So it was serendipity when we opened Despina’s front door to find Theo home a day early.

These pages: The old Venetian harbour in Rethymnon


He’d had to leave his car in Sitia due to an electric-cable failure, and hitch a lift back home with a colleague. It would be ready the next day, but Despina was too busy to fetch it. So was he. Me? Next morning I was on a bus heading east, with a quick stop at Agios Nikolaos. As smells of coffee and oil from its bus station faded, I felt bliss. The highway snaked around the coast, the bays glinting like shields far below in the silver light. The Gulf of Mirabello veered from arid late-summer peaks to isles caught between sea and sky in shades from pale turquoise to cobalt. The conductor checked my ticket. ‘What a beautiful day to ride the bus,’ he exclaimed. He was a cheery soul in his 60s, with a sweet smile and twinkling eyes. ‘A beautiful day indeed!’ I chimed in. He regarded me curiously: ‘Where are you from?’ (Translation: I can tell you’re Greek, but a bit dodgy). ‘My father’s from Ikaria.’

This response always gets a knowing look. Ikarians have a reputation for being slightly bonkers, although he was clearly undeterred. ‘And what are you doing in these parts?’ Running an errand for my cousin, Despina, I told him, whereupon his eyes grew wide. ‘Despina is the name of my mother, my wife and my daughter. I am Nikos. You must dine with us while you are in Sitia!’ I dialled home to Heraklion and told my cousin. She asked to have a word with Nikos, who was thrilled to speak to yet another Despina. When he passed the phone back to me, she said, ‘He sounds lovely. Find a hotel and stay a couple of days. Theo can do without a car for a bit.’ In Sitia I found the best of both worlds — the simplicity of a mountain village, and the buzz of a real Greek beach town, by the clear waters of the Aegean. A string of tavernas curled around a waterfront parade studded with fat


palms, and cafes sighed with poignant Cretan music played by musicians who wandered from one to the other. I found a hotel and, looking out from my window as the evening turned purple with nightfall, saw lamps like pearls, flickering and showing the way to town. It was steeped in the feel of ‘Old Greece’. At a dusty newsstand I found books still priced in drachmas. I inhaled the special, unmistakable scent, a mix of freshly ground coffee, cinnamon and oregano, wafting from the grocers’ shops in the alleys. There was the happy hubbub of Greek families carving up fish at lamplit tables by the quay. Carefree children pedalled about in the warm air, as elderly folk watched them, and the world, pass by. What good fortune, finding myself alone with a car and a free diary for a day or two. I motored east to Vai, an extraordinary strand studded with a thick grove of palm trees — the largest in Europe — grown, says legend, from

dates discarded by Arab pirates. I pootled up to Itanos, a cove as tiny as a bite from a biscuit, for a swim in waters of glass, overlooked by the remains of an ancient site. And when my phone rang, and Nikos insisted on honouring his invitation the next night, I felt as good as anointed. At the end of a pitted lane just beyond Sitia, his rosy-cheeked wife (Despina), opened the front door of their generator-powered cottage, and welcomed me like a long lost relative. We dined on Cretan bruschetta (dakos), tzatziki and stuffed tomatoes. I couldn’t drive back to Sitia, so they made a bed for me on the sofa. And there I slept the sweetest sleep, coiled in the heart of this real, tourist-free, homely Crete.


Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call +971 4 316 6666 or visit 55

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Weekends Staycations and short-haul escapes

Š Ibrahim Albeshari @ialbeshari

LOVE IS IN THE AIR Dubai is famous for its masterful man-made feats, and the new Love Lake in Al Qudra certainly has the wow factor. Unveiled by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the two interlocking heartshaped lakes are luring curious travellers due to their mystery and beauty. As if it wasn't swoonworthy enough, trees have been planted beside the water to spell out the word 'love'. 57


Reasons to go back to…

ALSERKAL AVENUE Check out the wave of creative happenings at this thriving arts and culture hub, where homegrown concepts rub shoulders with international gallery outposts Book a hands-on lesson. The two commissioned works that adorn the roofs of Alserkal Avenue – When Did You Arrive and When Will You Return – speak volumes about the hub’s ability to lure you back. The community events offer a chance to explore your talents, like the two-hour weekly workshops on drawing techniques at thejamjar. Taking place on Tuesdays from 5 February. View the new art exhibits. Jasmine, soil and Aleppo soap-inspired visual artist Sara Naim in her solo exhibition Building Blocks, at The Third Line until 27 February. Marking the Syrian artist’s second outing at the gallery, the magnified cellular structures of her subjects, mounted on wood and plexiglass, reveal their stunning complexity. There are plenty more to galleries to discover besides. Photo courtesy of Alserkal Avenue

Gulf Photo Plus


Snap to it. The 15th annual edition of Gulf Photo Plus’ Photo Week, taking place from 4-8 February, has exhibitions and workshops by leading photographers, as well as free talks and sessions. The headline exhibition, hosted at Concrete, shines a light on seven photographers from the Arab world, including Hicham Gardaf whose Intersections project explores urban development in Morocco.

For the record. It's not strictly new, but we think The Flip Side, Dubai's only independent record shop, will be your jam. It carries music from around the world and has a cool line-up of events hosted by local music buffs. There are also documentaries and talks on music in the region, making it an educational experience. Wild flavours. Even the eateries here are creative. Refuel at Wild & The Moon with an energy ball (sprouted raw walnuts, almonds and raw cocoa sweetened with dates) prepared by the vegan chefs, accompanied by a colourful tumeric latte. Your passport to the Middle East's first fully bookable travel inspiration website

Extend your journey with World Traveller magazine by heading online to read more inspirational and exclusive travel content and take advantage of upto-the-minute hotel and holiday features

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long weekend



With vintage trams and vibrant street life, the sun-drenched Portuguese capital is an Instagrammer's dream


This page: The Bica Funicular Opposite from top: BelĂŠm Tower; Altis BelĂŠm Hotel and Spa


Spread across seven steep hillsides that overlook the Tagus River, Lisbon lays on centuries of history and a mild, Mediterranean climate despite its Atlantic-facing location. Famous for its yellow trams, intricate azulejos (hand-painted tiles) and delicious pasteis de nata

Lisbon is a stylish city, so it's no surprise it has good-looking hotels to match. On the grand Avenida da Liberdade, Valverde Hotel has 25 rooms kitted out with rich colours and mid-century modern furniture. Downstairs, there’s a buzzy Mediterranean restaurant and a leafy courtyard that hosts regular fado and jazz performances. Housed in a former palace below the mediaeval St George's Castle, Santiago De Alfama is another boutique beauty. There are 19 calm, neutral and stylish rooms, many with freestanding baths, and a restaurant serving seasonally-led Portuguese cuisine. Meanwhile, in a 15thcentury palace attached to the castle walls, the intimate 10-suite Palácio Belmonte is a favourite of the fashion and film set. The art-filled hotel features thousands of antique blue-and-white

(custard tarts), visitors will also find cool cultural spaces and an exciting food scene. Although hilly, the Portuguese capital is quite compact so you can walk to most places in the city centre. Above the 18th-century Baixa (downtown) area, Chiado is the cultural heart of the city with boutique-lined lanes, theatres and museums. Heading north, the oncesleepy Príncipe Real district is now awash with trendy restaurants and independent shops. Rising into the hills to the east is Alfama, the intriguing old Moorish quarter, while picturesque Belém, on the western edge of the city, is where Portuguese explorers set sail during the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s also home to the World Heritagelisted Monastery of Jerónimos and Tower of Belém. Our Lisbon guide offers a curated list of the best things to see and do, and the hippest places to eat and shop, not to mention the best hotels to bed down. So, let’s start exploring…

top tables Lisbon's inventive chefs make the most of the country’s incredible bounty


Find the perfect place to stay in the Portuguese capital Portuguese tiles as well as a black marble infinity pool. At the other end of the scale, the Corinthia Hotel is the city’s largest five-star abode. Overlooking a magnificent 18th-century aqueduct, there are 518 plush rooms and a fabulous spa featuring

13 treatment rooms. Down by the river, the glass-walled Altis Belém Hotel and Spa draws style-conscious travellers with its slick design, monochromatic interiors and Michelin-starred restaurant. Soak up the sun beside the rooftop pool and be pampered in the award-winning spa.

BELCANTO This two Michelinstarred restaurant in Chiado is helmed by José Avillez, who combines respect for local ingredients with a playful touch. LEOPOLD In the Palácio Belmonte hotel, chef Tiago Feio creates delicate dishes that fuse local ingredients with Asian flavours. Open for dinner Wednesdays to Sundays. CANTINA PERUANA With a laidback bohemian vibe and dishes made for sharing, Peruvian chef Diego Muñoz brings a bit of Lima to Lisbon. Be sure to order the tuna tiradito and wok-fried seafood. 61

retail therapy Looking to take home an authentic slice of the city? Check out these top shops Embaixada In the heart of the Príncipe Real district, this boutique shopping gallery is housed in a 19th-century Moorishstyle palace, complete with a grand staircase and courtyard. There are around 20 stores specialising in fashion and design from local brands, including madeto-measure tailoring at UOY and organic skincare from Organii Cosmética. Luís Onofre For statement heels and luxury handbags handcrafted in Portugal, stop by Luís Onofre’s flagship store on Avenida da Liberdade (aka Lisbon’s Champs-Élysées). Spread across two floors, you’ll find the latest women’s and men’s collections from Portugal’s premier shoe designer, whose celeb fans include Michelle Obama and Naomi Watts. A Vida Portuguesa This old-style emporium (pictured) stocks Portuguese-made products from small independent brands, including stationery, toiletries and homewares (don’t miss the iconic Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage leaf ceramics). There are four locations in Lisbon, including the flagship store in a former perfume factory in Chiado. 62

CULTURE FIX Hit hard by the global financial crisis, Lisbon is undergoing a creative renaissance with new cultural landmarks and vibrant street art. Start your gallery trawl in Belém at Museu Coleção Berardo (, the city’s most acclaimed contemporary art space. Housed in the minimalist Belém Cultural Centre, the gallery displays an impressive private collection of abstract, surrealist and pop art, from Picasso through to Warhol and Portugal's own Paula Rego. Continue along the riverfront to the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (maat. pt). Opened in 2016, this eye-catching cultural space is covered in 15,000 white tiles and capped with a rooftop terrace. Inside, you’ll find contemporary works across four sunken galleries. Keep walking east to LX

Factory (, a cluster of once-derelict warehouses beneath the 25 April suspension bridge that is now Lisbon’s coolest creative district. Browse the colourful collection of art spaces, boutiques and cafés, then check out the street art murals that adorn the old factory walls. Jump on a tram heading downtown and visit the Museu do Design e da Moda (mude. pt), a wonderful fashion and design museum housed in former bank in Baixa. Celebrating the connection between modern design and

contemporary fashion, explore the vast collection of contemporary furniture from iconic names such as Philippe Starck and vintage couture from the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Yves St Laurent. Finish up at the Jeanne Bucher Jaeger Gallery (jeannebucherjaeger. com) in nearby Chiado, the first international outpost of the Parisian gallery, which exhibits works by lesser-known contemporary artists such as André Bauchant and Michael Biberstein. street art and graffiti.


Known as the Portuguese blues, fado originated in the streets of Alfama in the 19th century. Mournful folk ballads feature a lone singer accompanied by a Portuguese 12-string guitar and overflow with the feeling of saudade – a yearning for something lost. Stop by the engaging Fado Museum ( in Alfama to learn about the history of fado and listen to its most celebrated artists. Next, skip the touristy tavernas and catch a live performance at local favourite Tasca do Jaime, a tiny restaurant in Graça (get there early or book a table).

LONG WEEKEND Opposite page, from top: Museu do Design e da Moda © Luísa Ferreira; A Vida Portuguesa; Fado Museum, photo courtesy of Visit Lisboa This page from top: The red rooftops of Miradouro das Portas do Sol, the gardens at Fronteira Palace


Lisbon’s many miradouros (viewpoints) offer picture-perfect views of the city

MIRADOURO DAS PORTAS DO SOL The city’s most famous vantage point offers unbeatable views over Alfama’s red rooftops. Head here for sunset, stopping first at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, just a minute’s walk away, to admire its historic azulejos. MIRADOURO DO RECOLHIMENTO Walk along the ramparts of the 11th-century St. George’s Castle for fabulous views of the city all the way to the Tagus. Then seek out the Miradouro do Recolhimento, an olive-shaded square within the castle walls, for more dreamy views minus the crowds. MIRADOURO DA SENHORA DO MONTE Take the rickety yellow Tram 28 to the Graça neighbourhood and then stroll to this lesser-known miradouro. It’s one of Lisbon’s highest lookouts, boasting panoramic views of St. George’s Castle and the Bairro Alto and Baixa districts.

insider tips

Words: Lara Brunt

Filipa Valente, founder of Taste of Lisboa Food Tours (tasteoflisboa. com), shares her favourite hometown haunts: The famous Tram 28 route finishes in the Campo de Ourique neighbourhood, but many tourists don't explore this relaxed residential neighbourhood. It’s full of trendy and traditional restaurants where locals hang out, as well as the Campo de Ourique Market ( which is packed with gourmet food stalls. Don’t leave without tasting a pastel de nata (custard tart) at Manteigaria ( in Chiado where you can watch the bakers at work. And definitely try our seafood – I love Ramiro ( in Downtown and Nune's Real Marisqueira ( in Belém. Bring your appetite!


Introduced to the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in the Middle Ages, azulejos (handpainted tiles) adorn many palaces, buildings and metro stations around Lisbon. Explore 500 years of tile trends at the National Tile Museum (museudoazulejo., housed in a splendid 16thcentury convent, and join a guided tour of Fronteira Palace ( in the Benfica area, known for its antique azulejos in both the palace and gardens. Check out the geometric-patterned tiles in the Parque and Sant’Anna (santanna. Restauradores metro, Portugal’s stations, and stop by oldest ceramic factory,

to join a tile-painting workshop or buy some azulejos to ship home. 63


Dreamy resort hotels 3 WAYS TO EXPERIENCE ABU DHABI...

Get washed up at these blissful island hideaways

Š Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort


Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort. Home to mangroves, dolphins and Hawksbill turtles, the castaway-style Saadiyat Island is brimming with nature. And if sustainability is top of mind, this new kid on the block (the property opened in November 2018), will win you over with its efforts to cut plastic usage. Overlooking the sparkling waters and protected sand dunes, it's an idyllic place to unwind, with three infinity pools to splash around in, sunrise yoga sessions and bicycles available so you can explore at your own pace. Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara. Fuel your adventurous side at Sir Bani Yas Island, a protected wildlife sanctuary located just off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Home to free-roaming animals, including the endangered Arabian oryx, its blend of wild luxury will make you



feel far removed from the mainland. The resort itself is nestled on the north shore between a lagoon and the sea, with rooms and suites overlooking the Gulf. There are plenty of ways to discover the island's bounty, from family wildlife drives to exploring the ancient ruins and rock formations on horseback. Zaya Nurai Island. This boutique island resort, just 10 minutes by boat from Saadiyat Island, has accommodation to suit all types of travellers, from the bijou one-bedroom Beach Villas to the familyfriendly six-bedroom Beach Estates, which each boast a private stretch of sand. Be pampered in an oceanview spa treatment room and take part in tai chi overlooking the gardens. Dining options stretch from modern Mexican to sushi, with private dining serving up the romance.


One Destination


Enjoy an ideal staycation for the entire family and enjoy a world of luxury and comfort at any of our two beachfront hotels, JA Palm Tree Court or JA Beach Hotel conveniently located only 15 minutes away from Dubai. Relax by one of the 4 pools and on the 800m private beach or experience the thrill of over 30 exciting activities such as horse riding, golf, water sports and many more.

For bookings or more information, please call +971 4 814 5400 or email



Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa A seaside idyll sitting pretty on Kuwait's glittering coast

THE ROOMS At Jumeirah's crown jewel in Kuwait City, the living spaces deliver comfort and class – as one has come to expect from this trusted brand. Heritage is honoured alongside luxury in each of the 316 rooms and suites, 79 residential suites and 12 private villas. Check into a 'home away from home' with a three-bedroom villa, or reside like royalty in a majestic Royal Suite (with its own butler, no less).

THE FOOD Eight international restaurants please every palate, such as sumptuous cuts at Pepper Steakhouse and delectable Italian fare at Olio, to cultural recipes from Kuwati cuisine at Arabesque. In this month of love, the Romantic Stay Package ensures a daily three-course set dinner for two at the acclaimed seafood enclave Salt – with decorated cakes to further sweeten the occasion.

THE ACTIVITIES Two main attractions are lauded in the hotel's very name – the beach, and the award-winning Talise spa. Located in seclusion on the shore of the Arabian Gulf, this hotel's two swimming pools, array of leisure pursuits and 200m of private sand will tempt you into the outdoors. The spa boasts 17 treatment rooms and a menu of wellness treats, including a must-try healing stint in the Himalayan Salt Room.

To find out more, call +965 2226 9600 or visit 66



Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa Let this rustic Arabian oasis charm its way into your travel plans ROOMS & SUITES Designed in harmony with the surroundings, you'll feel at one with the dunes inside these abodes – from the Superior Room with its desert or courtyard views, to the Deluxe Suite, which fits families of four and has a terrace with a seating area ideal for gazing at those golden sunsets. The Junior Suites are decorated with rare, handcrafted Arabian furnishings.

THE FOOD Enjoy a traditional meal under a blanket of stars at the open-air Al Hadheerah restaurant, which recreates a One Thousand and One Nights style setting, for an evening of vibrant dining and entertainment. Plus, the whole family can indulge at The Garden Brunch, which takes place every Friday at Al Forsan restaurant, offering an extensive buffet and lots of kids' entertainment.

THE ACTIVITIES Those with a feel for adventure can take a four-wheel-drive into the desert to watch the sun set while whizzing across the sands (60 mins for 6 people). You'll even get a close-up look at protected indigenous wildlife such as desert gazelle and Arabian oryx. Bring your heart rate back to normal at Satori Spa, which offers tip-to-toe pampering packages for men and women.

To find out more, call +971 4 809 6100 or visit 68

EXPERIENCE 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS AT AL HADHEERAH Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa presents Al Hadheerah, its spectacular desert entertainment and authentic food. Explore the sights, sounds and tastes of Arabia at an authentic desert venue amidst the rolling dunes. Feast under the stars, and enjoy a night of entertainment, live music, belly dancing, traditional instruments and exclusively on Thursday & Fridays a ďŹ reworks display will light the sky. BAB AL SHAMS DESERT RESORT & SPA Dubai,United Arab Emirates T:+971 4 809 6194, alhadheerah





Dukes Dubai With its Palm Jumeirah address and distinct British character, Dukes Dubai reigns supreme THE ROOMS Offering the best of British hospitality in the UAE, Dukes Dubai has all the ingredients for a fun-filled holiday. Cosy up in a luxurious guestroom or stay for longer in a tastefully furnished hotel apartment – Arabian Gulf views included. This month’s Suite Moments Valentine’s Day package treats romantics to a dreamy set-up in a Dukes Deluxe Suite, and private dining on the beach.

THE FOOD Tuck into hearty classics with a twist at Great British Restaurant (GBR) or taste a North Indian palette of flavours at Khyber. Just be sure to keep Friday afternoons free for the Dukesy Family Brunch, which takes place at West 14th Steakhouse from 1pm-4pm. Grab a seat al fresco and tuck into tasty food from the live cooking stations while the children get stuck into the self-serve buffet.

THE ACTIVITIES Make the most of the private beach access and bask in the winter sun before taking a refreshing dip in the infinity pool and setting sail in a pool float along the lazy river for some wet and wild fun. Unwind with a yoga class by the indoor pool while the little ones run off steam at Dukesy Kids Club (for ages five to 12), which invites them to get creative with cooking classes, arts and crafts and more.

To find out more, call +971 4 455 1111 or visit 70



JW Marriott Marquis Dubai Rise to the top at the world's tallest five-star hotel ROOMS & SUITES This lofty hotel has ample space to welcome guests. Its 1,608 guestrooms and suites have luxurious finishings – think marble bathrooms with rain showers and oversized tubs – and views of the glittering skyline or Dubai Water Canal. Families can book a suite and spread out in two separate living and sleeping areas. Room service is available around the clock.

THE FOOD There are 15 award-winning restaurants and bars at the property, each serving memorable meals. Fans of delicious steak will want to head straight to Prime68, while Positano is the place to feast on handmade pasta and pizza. For something a bit different, try Japanese restaurant Izakaya – the resident Wasabi Girl (she has green hair) will prepare fresh wasabi at your table.

THE ACTIVITIES The hotel is close to many top attractions, but there are lots of perks that'll tempt you to linger for longer at the property. Take a dip in the sparkling outdoor swimming pool or, for a spot of pampering, head to Saray Spa, which is home to the UAE's only Dead Sea floatation pool. Try the Saray Golden Hammam, which includes a decadent skin massage using 24-karat gold.

To find out more, call +971 4 414 3000 or visit 72

Inspiration. Expertly crafted. Comprising two iconic towers, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is centrally located beside the Dubai Water Canal and offers a spectrum of facilities and services for a seamless experience. The hotel features: 1,608 Luxurious Guest Rooms and Suites, Over 15 Award-Winning Restaurants and Lounges, Saray Spa featuring Traditional Hammams, A Dead Sea Floatation Pool and 17 Treatment Rooms, State-of-the-Art Health Club and Fitness facilities, 8,000 sqm of spectacular Meeting Spaces.

JW MarriottÂŽ MarquisÂŽ Hotel Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, PO Box 121000, Dubai, UAE | T +971.4.414.0000 |



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Includes: Stay 5 nights in a Standard Room and return airport transfers. Valid from: Now until 31 March 2019.






Includes: Stay 3 nights in a Deluxe Room with breakfast daily and return airport transfers. Offer: 15% discount on room rate. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019.

Includes: Stay 3 nights at the 4* Clarion Hotel with breakfast daily and return airport transfers. Offer: 20% discount on room rate. Valid from: Now until 31 March 2019.

3 nights starting from USD745 per person

The Royal at Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

3 nights starting from USD505 per person



3 nights starting from USD1150 per person

Includes: Stay 3 nights in a Sanctuary Pool Villa with breakfast daily, return airport transfers and return boat transfers. Offer: 25% discount on room rate. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019.


The Datai, Langkawi Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa


3 nights starting from USD530 per person

Includes: Stay 3 nights in a Superior Room with breakfast daily and return airport transfers. Offer: 15% discount on room rate. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019.



4 nights starting from USD810 per person The Biltmore Hotel, Tbilisi Westin Mauritius

Includes: Stay 4 nights in a Deluxe Room with breakfast and dinner daily and return airport transfers. Offer: 55% discount on room rate. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019.



3 nights starting from USD1110 per person

The Langham London

Includes: Stay 3 nights in a Canopy Deluxe Room with breakfast daily and return airport transfers. Offer: 20% discount on room rate. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019. 75



HYATT REGENCY DUBAI 1 night starting from USD120 per person Special offer: 2 children under 12 years stay free, guaranteed sea view room. Includes: Stay in a King/ Twin Room with breakfast and return airport transfers. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019. TAJ HOTEL DUBAI 1 night starting from USD167 per person Special offer: 30% discount on room rate, complimentary shuttle to The Dubai Mall. Includes: Stay in a Luxury Room with breakfast and return airport transfers. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019. ATLANTIS, THE PALM 1 night starting from USD345 per person Special offer: 40% discount on room rate, complimentary upgrade to Platinum Half Board. Includes: Stay in an Ocean King Room with breakfast and dinner, and return airport transfers. Valid from: Now until 4 April 2019. AL RAHA BEACH HOTEL, ABU DHABI 1 night starting from USD110 per person Special offer: 1 child under 12 years stays free. Includes: Stay in a Superior Room with breakfast and return airport transfers. Valid from: Now until 28 February 2019. YAS HOTEL, ABU DHABI 1 night starting from USD190 per person How to book


Special offer: Complimentary general admission to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, or Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi – one park per one-night stay. Includes: Stay in a Marina Room with breakfast and return airport transfers. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019.

Taj Hotel Dubai


FOUR SEASONS BAHRAIN BAY 3 nights starting from USD715 per person Special offer: Complimentary third night with every two consecutive paid nights in a suite, 10% spa discount, complimentary return water taxi for 2 adults and 2 children per night. Includes: Stay in an Executive Suite with breakfast and return airport transfers. Valid from: Now until 28 February 2019.

Hyatt Regency Dubai Atlantis, The Palm


GRAND MILLENNIUM MUSCAT 2 nights starting from USD280 per person Special offer: Special rate. Includes: Stay in a Classic Room with breakfast and return airport transfers. Valid from: Now until 30 April 2019.


Yas Hotel, Abu Dhabi

THE BOULEVARD ARJAAN BY ROTANA 3 nights starting from USD 275 per person Special offer: Complimentary room upgrade from Classic to Premium Studio. Includes: Stay in a Premium Studio with breakfast and return airport transfers. Stay validity: Now until 30 April 2019. By calling dnata on +971 4 316 6666

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THROUGH THE LENS Sandbank at Fushifaru, Maldives "As soon as our speedboat pulled up to this sandbank in the Maldives, I knew I wanted a drone shot of myself by the water. My companion asked how, as a modestly dressed woman wearing a hijab, I'd pull it off. Her scepticism made me even more determined and this was the result. I never look at wearing the hijab or dressing modestly as something of an obstacle. It’s such a natural and integral part of my life, like a limb – I need it but it doesn’t define me. In fact, it’s empowering to be recognised for your inner self rather than appearance. It never stopped me from doing what I love."

Dubai-based travel and food blogger, Sukaina Rajabali, loves to travel to "eat new food, meet new people and discover different cultures". @sukainarajabali;

EMAIL US YOUR BEST TRAVEL PHOTOS in high-res jpeg format, along with the stories behind them to habiba@hotmediapublishing. com and you may end up being featured on this page



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A 3-night stay at AVANI+ Samui Chill on a tropical island escape at this leading resort in Koh Samui, Thailand, where you can watch the sun set from your balcony, unwind with a blissful spa treatment and taste contemporary local food on the beachfront. Kayaking in the nearby mangroves, and cruising the back streets on a bicycle are just some of the ways to explore. The prize includes three nights' accommodation in a deluxe room with breakfast for two. Terms & conditions apply. Visit

THE HOT LIST Let our travel news and round-ups, available exclusively on our digital channels, inspire your next trip…


A glimpse of Jumeirah Mina A'Salam. Check out our video, which highlights familyfriendly must-dos.


Rides to brave at Wild Wadi Waterpark. Would you hurl yourself down our five top rides and slides?


Bucket list trips. Our countdown of 100 must-have travel experiences is still going strong. 79


Suite dreams Our monthly finish with a flourish, delving into a suite that has a character and style all of its own

Luxury Studio Suite The Bloomsbury, London

Were we to issue an award for London's bestdressed hotel room, The Bloomsbury would claim the honour with ease. In what is itself a beautiful and historic red-brick building (one modelled on Queen Mary's doll house), Michaelis Boyd's (Soho House Group) vintage-style upholstery complements statement wallpaper and parquet floors in a suite that could very well define 'homely'. And if you think this is stylish, wait until you see the restaurant and lounges...


Ronald Codrai © Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi

‫ أبوظبي‬- ‫رونالد كودراي © دائرة الثقافة والسياحة‬

ABU DHABI’S LEGACY AND HISTORY. Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most significant building in Abu Dhabi. It includes the city’s first permanent structure, a coral and sea stone watch tower built to protect the settlement of Abu Dhabi established on the island in the 1760s. Qasr Al Hosn became home to the ruling family, a seat of government, and it now stands as our nation’s living monument, telling the story of Abu Dhabi and its people.

Book your experience at


Inspiration. Expertly crafted. Comprising two iconic towers, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, the world’s tallest 5-star hotel, is centrally located beside the Dubai Water Canal and offers a spectrum of facilities and services for a seamless experience. The hotel features: 1,608 luxurious guest rooms and suites, over 15 award-winning restaurants and lounges, Saray Spa featuring traditional hammams, a Dead Sea Floatation Pool and 17 treatment rooms, state-of-the-art health club and fitness facilities, as well as 8,000 sqm of spectacular meeting spaces.

JW Marriott® Marquis® Hotel Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, PO Box 121000, Dubai, UAE | T +971.4.414.0000 |

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World Traveller - February'19