After an African safari or Southeast Asian adventure, you might be looking for a few days to unwind prior to returning to the real world. Having visited both Dubai and the Maldives on my recent honeymoon, I can’t recommend these enough as perfect additions. Whether you’re looking for the best of a big city or some time on a pristine beach, you can’t go wrong with either.
Located along the Persian Gulf and known as the ‘Port City,’ Dubai is one of the seven United Arab Emirates, which officially united to form the UAE in 1971. Despite its recent creation, you would never know how ‘young’ the country is based on its history and current infrastructure. Its capital city, Abu Dhabi, with its oil reserves, quickly became the economic hub of the UAE while Dubai instead focused on a different enterprise: tourism. Fast forward 50 years and the city is now home to one of the largest airlines in the world, the tallest skyscraper on earth, the Burj Al Arab (commonly referred to as the world’s only seven-star hotel), a handful of man-made luxurious islands, and celebrity chef restaurants.
During our time in Dubai, we stayed at the beautiful Oberoi Hotel, which offered modern amenities, incredible views and an easy location from which to explore the city.
One stop that is a must in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa. Towering 163 stories above the city, this is the perfect place to take in city and catch a bird’s eye view of the famous Palm Jumeirah. Booking the SKY experience grants you access to not only the 124th and 125th floors, but also the 148th (the highest floor with an observation deck). Try to align your tour with the sunset so that you can watch it from the base of the building and then go to the higher floors to watch it again! Afterwards, treat yourself to dinner at At.Mosphere, located on the 123rd floor of the Burj Khalifa. This high-end restaurant is guaranteed to impress and is the definition of dinner with a view.
Another must-do is an Old Dubai Tour, which takes you through the history of the city. After crossing Dubai Creek via Abra (a traditional wooden boat), endless opportunities await. You can visit the spice and gold souks or one of the first townships to enjoy customary Arabic coffee. Check out the Dubai Museum, and stop by the Sheikh’s Palace, or take a walk along the beach to see the Burj Al Arab. Regardless of which sites you decide to visit, this is a fantastic way to learn about and experience the architecture of Dubai.
For fellow animal lovers, the Penguin Encounter at Ski Dubai (located in Mall of the Emirates) should be on the top of your list. You will not only learn about Gentoo and King penguins, but also meet them in person, giving them a hug if you would like! The best part about this program is your admission ticket goes directly toward penguin conservation.
You’ll also find plenty of desert adventures as the Arabian Desert is just a 40-minute drive from the city. Here you can participate in activities like sand boarding, hot air ballooning, 4×4 dune buggy rides, and even falconry experiences.
If you’re looking for a beach getaway following your adventures in Africa or Southeast Asia, the Maldives fits the bill. Located in the Indian Ocean, this string of 1,190 islands is the ultimate paradise with luxurious resorts, picturesque overwater villas, and some of the best beaches in the world.
We chose to stay at Vakkaru Maldives for our time here and it was the ultimate retreat. This luxury resort is its own private island with beachfront and over water villas, sports fields, 5-star restaurants, endless water sports and excursions, and a spa – needless to say we never wanted to leave.
Home to the only international airport in the country, you’ll land in the capital city of Malé. From here you will continue via boat or seaplane, depending on the distance to your resort. The seaplane flight is surreal, as you look down over these pristine islands dotting the water. I did not know a place so picture-perfect could even exist.
No matter which atoll you visit, the Maldives is perfect for relaxing on the beach and enjoying the spas. But this island sanctuary also offers an array of water sports to keep you as busy as you would like. The country is well known for its large manta ray population as well as immense number of scuba diving sites (you can even get PADI open water scuba certified during your stay). Snorkel excursions to swim with the mantas, sea turtles and occasional whale sharks at Baa Atoll (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) is just one of the many activities nearby resorts offer. Sea kayaking, jet skiing, dive trips, tennis, badminton and snorkeling right off your own overwater villa are all available at certain resorts as well.
The Maldives truly is paradise at its best.