By Andrew Eddmenson
In the past year, I visited nearly a dozen countries!
Weekend excursions allow you to preserve those vacation days and still feel as though you’ve experienced the best of what each country has to offer. Let me share with you my top weekend destinations from Riyadh and how to make the most of these brief visits.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
With direct flights from King Khaled International Airport leaving daily, you can wake up early in Riyadh and enjoy your morning coffee in Addis Ababa. And trust me, everything you’ve heard about Ethiopian coffee is true – it’s amazing! Gather around for a traditional coffee ceremony at almost any corner shop where the beans are roasted over an open flame, ground with a mortar and pestle, and boiled in a customary jebena pot.
During the day, visit any of the city’s captivating art and history museums including the National Museum of Ethiopia – home of the world famous Lucy skeleton. At night, explore Addis Ababa’s surprisingly vibrant night life by enjoying a cultural music and dance performance over a plate of injera, a national dish of spiced meat piled on top of sponge-like flatbread. Fearless travelers should seek out the Addis Merkato, Africa’s largest open air market, and try not to get lost in the bustling crowd while taking in the local flavor.
Why would anyone travel to Bulgaria? For one, the capital of Sofia has the amenities and atmosphere of more popular European cities at a fraction of the cost while also feeling less crowded and more chill. It’s also home to some of the most impressive and diverse architecture I’ve ever encountered, telling the country’s rich history through its assorted cityscape.
Nature enthusiasts should take a two-hour bus ride to the nearby Rila mountains, home to the famous Rila Monastery and the Seven Rila Lakes. One can easily access the natural beauty of these glacial lakes (found 2,500 meters above sea level) by taking a convenient lift ride followed by a short trek. However, I recommend a two-day hike across one of the range’s clearly marked paths where you’ll find lush forests and meadows, wild horses roaming the open valleys, and breathtaking panoramic views of mountains as far as the eye can see.
Tell some people that you’re traveling to Zanzibar, and they’ll likely be scratching their head as to whether or not it’s a real place. Found off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, Zanzibar island is a very real and very romantic retreat that’s worth the half day of travel to reach. The casual beach resorts lining its coast provide a balanced ambiance of authenticity and luxury as you begin and end each day watching the crystal blue ocean waves crash along the shoreline.
If you decided to spend your entire holiday lounging on the white sand beaches, no one would blame you; but there’s plenty else to do. Zanzibar is recognized for its spice industry, and touring the local spice farms will expose you to a myriad of tastes and smells that you will not soon forget. The turquoise waters around the Mnemba Atoll reef deliver exceptional visibility for snorkeling and diving. Last but not least, wandering the narrow alleys of Stone Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) will mesmerize you with its distinct blend of Arabic, Indian, and European influences.
Final Tips for Weekend Travel:
- Pack Light. Weekend trips don’t require a lot of baggage, so save time at check-in and avoid the tragedy of lost luggage by not checking a bag. Just be mindful of carry-on restrictions such as liquids.
- Take the Red Eye. Overnight flights can be a pain, but you’ll get the most out of your trip by resting on the plane and waking up with a full day of discovery ahead of you. The excitement from being in a new place is almost always enough to compensate for a poor night’s sleep.
- Find a Package Deal. Consider paying a third party to take care of your lodging, transportation, and itinerary. I used Escape Travels on all these trips and felt more relaxed knowing everything was handled (visit escape-travels.com for more info).