[Updated 6 Jan 2020]
If there’s anyone out there who understands your travelling needs and priorities - discovering beautiful places, shopping for souvenirs, savouring local food, and looking great while doing all of those - it’s none other than your girlfriends. There’s nothing like travelling with our best friends, who know us better than our family and partner sometimes ?
Leave the boys behind because it’s time for just the girl gang to go on a trip! If you're looking for inspirations, check out these beautiful destinations you should head to with your girlfriends in 2020:
1. Meknes, Morocco
Meknes might have fallen behind Fez and Marrakesh in terms of popularity, but the obscurity actually makes the city a breath of fresh air. Over the years, the riad scene in Meknes has been steadily growing, but compared to the bigger cities, you can get things at half the price.
Start your tour at the historic Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, one of the finest buildings in Meknes which house the remains of the famous former sultan. Even if visiting the tomb is not something you have in mind, the intricate architectural details and decorative features of the mausoleum are admirable! For a beautiful sunset view in the evening, head to Bab Mansour, a splendid imperial gateway several minutes away from the mausoleum ☺️
If you’re up for a little adventure and love some good history, head out of the city to Volubilis. The ancient ruins of Volubilis are a part of the excavated Berber and Roman city, featuring well-preserved mosaics, triumphal arches, basilicas, and various buildings. The site was abandoned and uninhabited for centuries before it was devastated by an earthquake in the mid-18th century, and later excavated during and after the French rule in Morocco.
#HHWT Tip: Planning the ultimate Moroccan getaway? Here's our 7D6N Muslim-friendly itinerary for the ultimate Moroccan adventure!
2. Penang, Malaysia
This colonial town in the northwest of Malaysia may not be as famous as the iconic Malacca, but its growth in popularity in recent years proves that Penang has plenty of charms of its own. The colourful and multicultural centre of George Town is decorated with a collection of street art painted or installed on the walls of decades-old shop lots and buildings, which makes for perfect OOTD backdrops.
There's no denying that Georgetown, the capital city of Penang, is brimming with picture-perfect spots that are great for holiday snapshots. You can stay in an Instagram-worthy boutique hotel or fill up your feed with pictures from these popular spots (that aren't street art!).
One of the most common reasons why Penang is a popular getaway destination is none other than the food! If time is limited but you still want to try a little bit of everything, head over to Gurney Drive Hawker Centre. It’s split into two separate sections; halal and non-halal - so put your mind at ease. Of course, don’t leave Penang without trying the nasi kandar! Better yet, turn it into a food trip and eat your way through Penang at these popular halal eateries and trendy Muslim-friendly hipster cafes.
3. Chiang Mai, Thailand
There are many reasons why travellers would choose Chiang Mai over Bangkok. With scrumptious cuisines, grand temples, picture-perfect views, friendly locals and cheap shopping, Chiang Mai is like a treasure box with numerous charms ? Located in mountainous northern Thailand, it is a city of artisans and craftspeople with lots of art galleries and cultural centres.
Start by admiring the architecture of Wat Phra Soi Suthep temple and taking snapshots with the beautiful blooms at Bhubing Palace. Next, take your girlfriends to Bo Sang Handicraft Centre to learn the art of making traditional paper umbrellas by hand. If nature is more your thing, spend some time bonding with elephants at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. Then, wrap your day with a halal Khantoke dinner where you can savour local cuisine and watch a traditional dance performance.
Finding halal restaurants in Chiang Mai is fairly easy, and some of them are located close to tourist attractions. From yummy beef noodles at Sofia Halal Restaurant to mouth-watering Thai soups at Takawa Halal Cuisine, here are some appetising authentic Northern Thai eateries in Chiang Mai (and its nearby attractions)! Fortunately, there are many Muslim-friendly hotels that serve halal food upon request in Chiang Mai. One of them is the Rainforest Boutique Hotel, a beautiful place surrounded by nature away from the chaotic city centre.
#HHWT Tip: If you've never been to this charming destination, here's the ultimate Muslim-friendly guide to exploring Chiang Mai for the first time.
[P.S. Conquer Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai with our amazing 4D3N Muslim-friendly itinerary!]
4. Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Blending the different charms of Indonesia, the capital of Bali is both bustling and peaceful. Denpasar may come off a little daunting for first-timers as it is not the tropical paradise image that Bali holds, but this multicultural city is actually where you can discover the “real” Bali beyond the beach and paddy fields.
Denpasar is abundant with temples, museums and palaces. In fact, there’s probably more temples than homes here. It’s the perfect destination if you’re seeking adventure, culture and relaxation on top of beautiful views! The incredible traditional architecture of Bali Museum is a sight not to be missed, and right next door is the majestic Jagatnatha Temple, the biggest Hindu temple in the city.
Do you love shopping? Then you’re at the right place! Denpasar was an important trading centre prior to the colonial era - hence the name “pasar” (market) - and remains a shopping hub until now. There’s a bunch of shopping malls around the city, but if you wish to experience the frenzied shopping scene at a traditional market and bargaining your souvenirs at the best price, make your way to Badung Market. Feeling hungry? Make sure you swing by these awesome Muslim-friendly eateries in Bali to get a sample of local food.
#HHWT Tip: If you want an undisturbed time with your girlfriends, check out our top picks for awesome villas in Bali!
5. Santorini, Greece
Santorini is one of those places that remind you of how beautiful God has created the world to be. Although this small Greek island is famous as a honeymoon destination, it’s not any less charming for a girls’ getaway. Spend your day surrounded by the iconic whitewashed buildings as you explore the hiking trail along Fira, head to the unique volcanic beaches where the sandy white sand is mixed with red and black volcanic pebbles, and watch the stunning sunset in picture-perfect Oia ?
Compared to Athens where the Muslim community is larger, halal food isn’t as easy to find in Santorini. Thankfully, the majority of the food here is seafood. Still, alcohol and minced meat are added in as ingredients in some dishes, so we recommend you to speak to the restaurant staff or call ahead of time to be sure. But that said, you can stay in the many Muslim-friendly accommodations in the Greek islands too!
#HHWT Tip: For a fuss-free trip in Greece, our 6D5N Muslim-friendly Athens-Santorini itinerary is just what you need ☺️
6. Paris, France
As strange as it might sound to some people, travelling to the city of love with friends can be a lot more fun than with your other half. Think about all the grand sights like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Sacré-Cœur - and those are just some of the attractions in Paris you can't miss out on! Besides that, you can take a bite of its world-famous desserts and go shopping at Champs-Élysées with your girlfriends because there are many international brands that are cheaper in Paris than back home.
For a fun time with your girlfriends, make your way to Palais Royal, a 17th-century palace and former residence of Cardinal Richelieu, and childhood home of King Louis XIV. Be sure to visit the lovely garden, Jardin du Palais Royal, which is the only garden in Paris to be classified as “Remarkable Garden” by the French Ministry of Culture. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic with your girls or take a stroll around for the best OOTD spot ? Looking for more places for the 'gram? We've got you covered with our list of picture-perfect spots in Paris!
Fancy a posh dinner? Head to Le Confidentiel for authentic French cuisine, and it’s totally halal! The French Gourmet restaurant is located steps away from Champs Elysees and is the first halal restaurant in Paris to offer all-you-can-eat menu. The average meal is around €25, so be ready to splurge! Check out our full list for other must-try Muslim-friendly restaurants in Paris. To eat like a true Parisian, you have to try these delicious French pastries in Paris too.
P.S. If you're exploring Europe, our 98DN London-Amsterdam-Paris itinerary will be perfect for you!
7. Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto is synonymous with ancient temples, traditional buildings, ryokan inns, and breathtaking natural sights. Create unforgettable memories with your girl gang and dress up in pretty kimonos or yukatas as you navigate the historic city. For those wearing the hijab, you'd want to rent matching Japanese-patterned hijabs with your kimono at Yumeyakata ☺️
Although it’s often crowded with tourists, the narrow alleys of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka leading up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple are the best shopping lanes where you can find the most unique items to bring home as souvenirs or indulge in local snacks and desserts. Don’t forget to try authentic matcha here in various forms!
#HHWT Tip: While you're exploring the city, savour Kyoto's yummiest (and authentic!) Japanese cuisine at these awesome halal eateries!
While there are many ways to experience Kyoto like a local, don’t miss the amazing bamboo forest in Arashiyama! Standing amid the soaring bamboo stalks, it feels like you’ve been transported to another world. If you’re here in autumn, make sure to hop on the Sagano Romantic Train, a sightseeing train line that runs along Hozugawa River. This old-fashioned train moves at a slow pace, giving passengers a great opportunity to admire the scenic landscape. The golden colours of autumn make the view even more magical!
P.S. Explore Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and more with our 5D4N Muslim-friendly itinerary!
8. Jeju Island, South Korea
The largest island off the coast of Korean Peninsula, Jeju-do is well known for its lush forest, beautiful seasides, coastal roads and walking trails. Loved by both local and foreign tourists, Jeju-do caters perfectly to any type of vacation, be it a relaxing holiday or one with outdoor adventures.
Mt Halla, or Hallasan, is Jeju-do’s biggest attraction, literally. A shield volcano, Hallasan is the highest mountain in South Korea and surrounded by Hallasan National Park. If hiking is too much effort, how does picking tangerines sound? For as low as 5000 won, you’re free to roam around the farm, pick and eat as many as you wish! Each person is allowed to bring home 1kg of tangerines. Besides that, there are more hidden gems to discover in Jeju too.
P.S. While exploring the island, make sure you pop by these amazing Muslim-friendly restaurants in Jeju.
Renting a car is the best way to go around the city as public transportation in Jeju-do isn’t as efficient as in other cities. Rental car services are available at the airport. The cars are equipped with built-in GPS and the road signs are written in English, so don’t worry about not finding your ways around! Otherwise, you can also rent a driver or a taxi for a day. If you think this will be your next trip, check out this 5D4N Muslim-friendly Jeju itinerary to get you started!
9. London, UK
Every girl dreams of visiting London at some point in her life, so it’s only right to head there for a girls getaway? It doesn’t matter if you’re a history buff, a fashionista, a foodie or even a Potterhead, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in London and you'll need to bookmark these must-do activities to complete your first London trip.
From the lively Borough Market to trendy Harrods, London is a shopping haven. With many shopping streets and markets, just be careful not to overspend! However, if you're planning to splurge, brands like Dorothy Perkins and Jo Malone are cheaper in London than back home. Meanwhile, if you’re into art and culture, there’s a lot of museums, galleries as well as theatres to check out. Being in the land of Shakespeare, you definitely can’t miss Shakespeare Globe. Check the events and catch a play if you can!
#HHWT Tip: London is an expensive city but you can get more bang for your buck with these 7 incredible hacks!
Have a thing for the British royal family? While going on a royal tour to the Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace does sound fancy, why not grab a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a photo “together”? Head to Madame Tussauds London and meet your favourite celebrities, athletes, politicians and more as well as the entire royal family themselves!
P.S. Missing home food while in London? Get your Malaysian food fix at these delicious halal eateries in London ?
10. Bucharest, Romania
Once known as the “Paris in the East”, Bucharest is the Romanian capital that merges their past history with a modern identity. What might surprise you about Bucharest is that it’s not aesthetically beautiful, but that’s the real charm. There’s a lot of mismatched architecture in the city made up of French-inspired buildings and communist-era utilitarian blocks, which makes it a fascinating mix. Can you believe Bucharest even has its own iconic Arc de Triomphe??
Despite being a part of the EU, Romania is a lot cheaper than the other European countries since they use Romanian Leu (RON) as their currency instead of the Euro. And great news for budget travellers, attractions, entertainment and transportation don’t cost a lot here as well!
Don’t forget to drop by Carturesti Carusel, one of the most beautiful bookshops you’ll ever see. Located in the heart of Old Town (Lipscani), the bookshop is set inside a restored 19th-century building and has an impressive minimalistic yet posh design. Find a vinyl collection in the basement and have a coffee break (Bucharest’s most expensive!) on the top floor ?
11. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
When people think of Dubai, things that come to mind may include stunning skyscrapers and luxurious developments within an exotic backdrop of the desert. Truth be told, it has many scenic attractions and shopping splendours that are perfect for a girl's getaway. Since Dubai lies in the Arabian desert, which is often known for having hot and harsh weather, the best months to visit are between December and February where the average temperatures (in degrees Celsius) reach the low-to-mid twenties.
Getting around Dubai is easy, thanks to the abundance of Metro, buses and taxis - you can read about it in our first-timer's guide to Dubai! If you're focusing on must-see attractions, visit the Burj Khalifa (the current tallest building in the world), go on a desert excursion, explore the traditional-style alleyways of Old Dubai and making a day trip to Abu Dhabi. Don't forget to visit Dubai's Quranic Park that was named TIME Magazine's world's greatest places to visit in 2019!
There's no shortage of halal food too, and Dubai has an array of international brand eateries that are halal! Go ahead and try the juicy ShackBurger at Shake Shack, indulge in halal xiaolongbao (broth-filled dumplings) at Din Tai Fung, and enjoy cupcakes and pies at Magnolia Bakery.
P.S. Planning a Dubai adventure? You'll love these incredible activities in Dubai for every thrill-seeker!
Apart from eating Portuguese egg tarts and sailing through the canals of the Venetian Macao, there are many wonderful sights and sounds to discover in Macao. An amazing city that is a unique mix of East-meets-West, there's no better time to plan a fun getaway with your girlfriends!
Set aside a few days to explore the world-famous Ruins of St. Paul's, admire the traditional Chinese-style architecture of Lou Kau Mansion and even rent out a traditional Portuguese costume to pose for pictures at the Taipa Houses! For more things to do, check out our Muslim traveller's guide to Macao to discover what to see, eat and do.
You and your friends can feast on delicious halal options throughout the city too. From braised lamb chops at Loulan Islam Restaurant to ayam penyet at Loly Indonesian Food, you never have to worry about finding halal food in Macao. To wrap up your treat, how about indulging in Kandari Murgh Tikka (tender and smokey chicken tikka) at the 1 Michelin-starred halal-certified Golden Peacock?
We hope these charming places have got you psyched to plan a trip with your girlfriends this year! With plenty of Instagrammable spots, shopping and unique activities, you're bound to have an unforgettable trip with your best girls ? SHARE this with them and you're on your way to forging wonderful memories!