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From February 4 to 7, 2016, AFAR Experiences is heading to Dubai. Travelers who join the next edition of AFAR Experiences can expect a unique opportunity to dive beneath the surface of this fascinating destination. Four days of unparalleled insider access include opportunities to meet the men and women who have made the emirate one of the most exciting cities in the world.

Among the reasons to visit Dubai is its geographic location with many of the world’s iconic sights just a short flight away on Emirates, which has its hub here and serves over 140 destinations. We asked the members of AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council to prepare itineraries that make for ideal trips before or after a visit to Dubai, whether you are visiting as part of AFAR Experiences or at any other time.

Betty Jo Currie of Currie & Co. recommends hopping on a flight to South Africa for at least four days in Cape Town. That’s her recommend minimum to, “see the bays, beaches, monuments, botantical gardens while also leaving time to explore the thriving restaurant and wine scene—all the more delicious given the current good exchange rate with the US dollar.” (Seen here is the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.) After a few days in and around Franschoek, including a stay at Babylonstoren, a unique luxury farm stay hotel, Betty Jo can arrange a private flight to Tswalu in the Kalahari Desert. If you are traveling with a larger group, Betty Jo recommends staying at Tswalu’s Tarkuni villa (which can accommodate up to 10), recently named the best villa in the world by the Robb Report. Contact Betty Jo for a custom itinerary to South Africa, from the urban attractions of Cape Town to safaris in the Kalahari.

Photo of Kirstenbosch from the National Botanical Garden by Didier B/Wikimedia Commons.

Katie Cadar of TravelStore has created a South African itinerary that covers the country’s rich culture and natural wonders. “In Johannesburg, guests can learn about the struggle and triumphs of the South African people by visiting the Apartheid Museum as well as Lilliesleaf, the nerve center of the liberation movement,” Katie says. She’ll arrange for guests to spend a day touring Soweto to meet some of the people, or volunteering in one of the schools. Some of the country’s most famous parks are close to Johannesburg. A highlight that Katie recommends is tracking leopards and lions on an elephant-back safari. “You’ll get to know and understand the elephants,” Katie says of the experience. “The will never forget you!” Contact Katie if you want to sleep under the southern stars at the end of the day on a walking safari with some of the most experienced trackers you’ll find anywhere.

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From the gleaming cityscapes of Dubai to the ancient civilizations of Jordan is a short flight but a trip that takes you across millennia. Will Kiburz of Coronet Travel has arranged a seven-day itinerary that includes both iconic landmarks like the treasury at Petra but also sites that aren’t as famous outside of Jordan, like Jerash, one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in world. Other days on Will’s itinerary include visits to Mount Nebo, where Moses is said to have looked out over the Holy Land but unable to enter it. For a more contemporary look at Jordan’s culinary scene, he will arrange a wine tasting session and dinner with the man who created Saint George wine, which has quickly earned itself a number of industry awards. Will’s seven-day itinerary starts from $2,150 per person, based on double occupancy. (Dinner with the winemaker requires an additional fee.) Contact Will to travel on this itinerary or any other custom trip to the region.

Photo by Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Perth is one of Emirates’ destinations in Australia, and also the gateway to the Margaret River region. Cari Gray of Gray and Co. has created a six-day itinerary for cyclists who want to explore the area’s charming towns, endless white sand beaches on the Indian Ocean, and the highest concentration of premium wineries in the country. Travelers who book Cari’s trip will stay at the Cape Lodge in Dunsborough (seen here). Use the first day to settle in at the lodge and stretch your legs with an easy ride on the quiet country roads nearby. Then on your second day you’ll take in the views of the Indian Ocean at the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse, followed by lunch at the Beach Bunker Café. Other stops include a ride to the most southwesterly point of the country, and a scenic coastal walk where you’ll learn about the area’s flora and fauna. Contact Cari to book this itinerary or a custom biking adventure elsewhere in Australia.

From the glittering city of Dubai, two flights daily on Emirates will take you to the ultimate tropical island destination: the nation of the Maldives, an archipelago of 1,192 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean. John Clifford of International Travel Management has created a nine-day itinerary that gives you three different experiences of the Maldives. You’ll start with three days at the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa in the North Malé Atoll, and then spend three days aboard the Four Seasons Explorer cruising through the islands. The 11-cabin, 122-foot luxury catamaran lets you spend days snorkeling and diving the reefs of the Maldives with excursions to remote islands for private dining and spa services on the beach. To recover from your sailing excursion, John recommends three days at the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, in the Baa Atoll. To book this trip or another custom Maldives vacation, contact John at International Travel Management.

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If Thailand has long been on your must-see list but that overnight trans-Pacific flight has deterred you, daily direct flights from Dubai on Emirates will get you there in under seven hours. Once there, Josh Alexander of ProTravel International recommends heading north after you have had a chance to explore the capital. “While Thailand has some of the most exotic islands in the world,” Josh says,”the northern part of the country provides a great mix of diversity—culture, adventure, and great sightseeing opportunities.” He sends travelers to the Golden Triangle, where Burma, Laos, and Thailand meet. “I love sending clients on a longtail boat on the Mekong where they can visit three countries in one day, or even an hour. The area is also home to both amazing resorts with breathtaking views and experiences as well as working elephant sanctuaries.” If you are interested in visiting Thailand on a custom itinerary created by Josh, contact him at ProTravel International.