Travel Unpacked: Muscat airport voted world's best and Etihad opens links to the Maldives

The National rounds up the most interesting tourism news you might have missed

Muscat International Airport in Oman has been voted the best airport in the world. Photo: Oman Airports
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More exciting hotels are on the horizon, from lodges carved out of volcanic stone in the Azores to Hilton's first LXR property in South-east Asia.

Meanwhile, in the region, Muscat International Airport is voted world's best airport and Etihad Airways opens links to 16 more destinations in the Maldives.

Here's a round-up of recent travel and tourism news – in case you missed it.

Etihad Airways strengthen links with the Maldives

The UAE's national airline has announced a strategic bilateral interline partnership with Maldivian, the national airline of the Maldives, unlocking access to 16 destinations in the Indian Ocean archipelago beyond the capital Male.

This means Etihad passengers can now enjoy combined services and networks from both carriers on a single ticket. It opens up destinations such as Dharavandhoo Island, Maafaru International Airport, Maavarulu Airport, Ifuru, Kadhdhoo Island and more.

The Abu Dhabi airline is also set to increase the frequency of its flights to Male from 10 to 14 per week from January 1.

The world's best and worst airports, revealed

Oman's Muscat International Airport is the best in the world, according to a new study by passenger rights experts, AirHelp Inc. Its annual analysis of more than 4,000 travel hubs worldwide takes into account on-time performance, passenger feedback, punctuality, and food and shopping options, along with other factors.

While Muscat came out on top, Doha's Hamad International Airport also came in fifth position. Brazil's Recife/Guararapes – Gilberto Freyre International, South Africa's Cape Town International and Brazil's Brasilia – Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International came second, third and fourth, respectively. Two more Brazilian hubs and three in Japan, including Tokyo's Narita, round out the top 10.

At the top of the worst airports list is Indonesia's Banjarmasin Syamsudin Noor International Airport. Malta International Airport, London Gatwick, Lisbon Humberto Delgado and Belgrade Nikola Tesla complete the top five.

The rest of the top 10 includes Bali's Denpasar, Toronto Pearson, Bulgaria's Sofia Airport, Marseille Provence and another from Indonesia.

Lodges carved out of volcanic stone open in the Azores

The Azores, an autonomous archipelago in Portugal, is known for its striking natural beauty and outdoor activities, which is why Pegasus Lodges is opening Faja do Belo there in January.

The company, which offers remote travel experiences, is launching a set of eight lodges, accessible via a brief hike on the secluded island of Sao Jorge. Each accommodates three to five people in one or two bedrooms, and guests are able to take part in activities, from canyoning to fishing and diving to surfing. Nearby hiking trails are also accessible, with local guides leading visitors through hidden lakes, waterfalls and remote surf breaks.

Full-service dining is also offered, with authentic Azorean and Portuguese food prepared by a resident chef and delivered directly to guests.

Ritz-Carlton residences to open in the Al Wadi Desert

Within the 1,235-acre Al Wadi nature reserve in Ras Al Khaimah will be The Ritz-Carlton Residences, a collection of three, four and five-bedroom villas featuring private terraces, pools and mountain views. The villas will be for sale through Dubai Sotheby's International Realty.

They will blend Arabian heritage with modern comforts, including amenities such as a residential clubhouse, business centre, library, boardrooms, a gym, yoga studio and cinema. There will also be several dining options, ranging from casual to fine dining, details of which are yet to be revealed.

Hilton opens first LXR hotel in South-east Asia

Umana Bali, LXR Hotels & Resorts has opened on the Indonesian island, marking the Hilton brand's first resort in South-east Asia.

Located on the island's southernmost tip at Ungasan, the ocean-facing hotel features 72 villas laid out in cascading terraces on top of limestone cliffs, featuring private infinity pools and outdoor hot tubs.

Locally commissioned pieces of art are also scattered throughout the resort, while eco-friendly amenity kits have been made from recycled banana leaf paper, coconut shell and there are slippers woven from pandan and mendong fibres. The spa incorporates ancient healing traditions, with activities including yoga, sound healing, meditation and soul blessing ceremonies.

Meanwhile, the kitchens source more than 80 per cent of its produce from local farms and the property's own hydroponic herb and vegetable garden, which is used across Mediterranean spot Oliverra, South East Asian restaurant Commune, the Pad Pool Bar, Mer Lounge and Peruvian-style Uma Beach House.

Palace Dubai Creek Harbour set to open soon

The finishing touches are being put on the new Palace Dubai Creek Harbour.

This is the final Emaar Hospitality Group hotel project in the Dubai Creek Harbour and is built on the waterline.

The palatial interiors feature Arabesque decors an the halls are filled with heritage art pieces and Mashrabiya patterns. The five-star property also features a spa with rooftop infinity pool, while rooms have spacious private balconies from which to enjoy the skyline views. There is also a 24/7 fitness centre and a kids' club.

Restaurants include poolside Fai Lounge and familiar names such as Ewaan and Al Bayt, which serve Levantine and Arabian cuisine.

An opening date has not been announced.

Updated: December 25, 2023, 10:05 AM