Five extended weekends from Europe
Cape Cod’s Race Point Light, one of the cape’s oldest lighthouses, stands along the Atlantic coastline. (BBC)
This article is the fourth in a series featuring destinations and activities perfect for a quick getaway. From cuisine to culture to the great outdoors, discover ideas that will help you make the most of your weekend.
With plenty of art to be absorbed and history to be unearthed, these cultural destinations deserve well more than a couple days. Still, desert camps, American city breaks and the mysterious Caucasus are all within reach for a short holiday.
Artistic ambitions in Arabia
Qatar’s penchant for skyscrapers and superlatives is well known – luckily, the country goes big on cultural ambitions too, and there’s plenty to fill a long weekend here. Start at Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art on the seafront, home to the most comprehensive collection of Islamic art in the world. Next, survey the city’s changing skyline with a stroll along Doha’s Corniche. You’ll pass several operators running dhow cruises so hop aboard and chug around the Persian Gulf. To end your break, shop for souvenirs in the Souq Waqif or explore the Qatari interior, taking a 4WD desert safari to the inland sea – an inlet extending into the dunes south of Doha (from £50).
Whales and wheels in Cape Cod
It’s been many years since Cape Cod’s Old Colony Railroad was used by trains, but the old track bed is now the Cape Cod Rail Trail cycle route, which runs for 22 miles through quintessential New England scenery. From South Dennis, the route passes clapboard colonial mansions, cranberry bogs and sandy beaches, before ending at the town of Wellfleet, famed for its oysters (bike hire from £13 per day). The next day, pedal a further 16 miles along country roads to bohemian Provincetown at the northernmost tip of Cape Cod. Whale-watching cruises depart from the town’s harbour (£27 per person).
Carpe Diem is a sophisticated Provincetown guesthouse (from £60).
Go nomadic in Tunisia
Though it may sound a bit like a character from Star Trek, the “Grand Erg Oriental” can claim to be one of the most hostile places on earth – a parched sea of sand dunes undulating across much of southern Tunisia. Those foolhardy enough to go for an amble in this wilderness would be best advised to join guided treks from the oasis town of Douz. Itineraries follow a tried and tested routine for desert travel: walking during the cooler morning and afternoon hours, snoozing through the midday heat, and taking fireside meals in the evenings before snoozing again in bivouacs under starry skies come nightfall (two nights from £140).
Creole heritage in New Orleans
New Orleans began life as America’s global city, with communities from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean converging at the mouth of the Mississippi. To get a feel for the town’s cultural mishmash today, start at the French Quarter – the town’s historic core featuring (confusingly enough) 18th-century Spanish architecture. Bearing north, the Marigny neighbourhood, whose bars hum with jazz, is the place to take the city’s musical pulse. It’s worth taking a day trip to the sleepy plantations of southern Louisana – the Laura Plantation has tours recounting pre-Civil War life for Creole and African-American communities (tours £11).
Columns Hotel is housed in an ornate 19th-century mansion (from £85).
Pilgrims’ progress in Armenia
Just as Japan has Mount Fuji and Scotland has Ben Nevis, Armenia’s national mountain is Mount Ararat – said to be the site where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the flood, now an imposing presence over the country’s lively capital city Yerevan. One minor catch is that Ararat is actually sited just over the border in Turkey – but some of the best views can be seen from Khor Virap, a 5th-century monastery a short drive out of town. If this is all a bit too recent for you, head east from Yerevan to Garni Temple – a 1st-century Greek-style temple dedicated to the pagan sun god Mitra. Back among the wide boulevards and grandiose monuments of easy-going Yerevan, a bumper crop of museums are on hand to provide a crash course in Armenian culture. The Stalinist-looking History Museum of Armenia is the place to learn about the nation’s history as the world’s first Christian country.
The Hotel Europe has rooms near the city centre (from £55).