From a young age, I've dreamed about filling the pages of my passport. I've always had a giant bucket list of countries I wanted to travel to, and thanks to the Qatar Airways stopover program, I was recently able to visit Qatar on my way to the Maldives. Now I'm ready to tell everyone I know about it so they can experience it for themselves.
The stopover program lets you book your flights to your ultimate destination on Qatar Airways with up to a four-night layover in Doha. For my itinerary, I booked my flight from Los Angeles to Doha, stayed there for four nights, and then flew to the Maldives for an additional four nights.
The best part? For your stay in Doha, four and five-star hotels have partnered with Qatar Airways so you can get a rate as low as $23 for a one-night stay. (Though the website states the offer ends on Dec. 28, 2019, their press team confirmed they're likely to announce similar offers in 2020.) So if you want to experience an amazing vacay, the stopover program is definitely an experience worth looking into to make the most of your trip.
Though my final destination on this getaway was the Maldives, my time spent in Doha and exploring Qatar was unforgettable. Through the stopover program, I booked my stay at the Mondrian Doha for a discounted rate, which made for a beautiful stay and easy transit around the city.
I went on a few excursions with Q Explorer, including a visit to the stunning Katara Mosque. My tour guide even told me where to take photos for the best view of the tower, the building, and the pigeon coops in the background. Around Doha, I went on a sunset cruise on a traditional dhow boat, walked around the Souq Waqif, and visited the Museum of Islamic Art and National Museum of Qatar.
Since I had four days in Qatar, I was able to do a little exploring outside the city as well. My tour group experienced the camel races at Al-Shahaniya Camel Racetrack, which was one of the most interesting things I've seen in my life. To get the best view of the race, we drove next to the 10-kilometer race track to follow the camels as they made their way to the finish line.
I also went dune bashing, which allowed me to see the endless sand dunes of Qatar from the safety of a 4x4. The photos that came out of this excursion were some of my favorite from the whole trip.
After Qatar, it was time to head to the Maldives, where I stayed at both Four Seasons properties (two nights each at Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru). I traveled to the Maldives earlier this year, but experiencing it again at different resorts made me fall in love with the country even more.
The best part of my stay in the Maldives was having the opportunity to take in the incredible crystal clear turquoise waters the country is known for. I stayed in a beach villa at both properties, which meant the beach was a short walk from my back door. I took advantage of that and snorkeled as much as I could.
At the resorts, the best way to make the most of my time there was to enjoy the incredible environment that surrounded me. I took a beginner's surfing lesson at Kuda Huraa, because that area is known for surf competitions and amazing waves. I also loved visiting the turtle rehabilitation centres at both resorts, which work to nurse injured turtles back to health.
After experiencing the Maldives, it was time to head home. Though my journey was over 30 hours long (between my two flights and my layover in Doha), Qatar Airways made it a super comfortable one. I snagged a business class upgrade, which meant I got to experience the airline's award-winning Qsuite, which was quite possibly the most luxurious flying experience I've ever had.
I'm grateful the Qatar Airways stopover program allowed me to see two different countries in a short amount of time. It's a trip I'll remember for the rest of my life.