The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is a country of stunning contrasts where the majestic man-made wonders resplendently co-exist with the untouched desert, mighty mountains, and sparkling waters. Whether you are looking for out-of-the-world leisure and sightseeing options, historical wonders, scenic drives, epic natural scenery, fantastic outdoor adventures, or other pastimes such as shopping and entertainment shows, the UAE offers the best of choices in all these categories and beyond. And, this list of top places to visit in the UAE will get you started.
TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN THE UAE
Most UAE vacations are centered on Dubai activities and attractions. Rightly so, Dubai is the most popular of all seven emirates in the UAE, with the most superlative and record-breaking sights to its credit. These are as diverse as the tallest of its kind Burj Khalifa, the unequaled man-made island of Palm Jumeirah, and the brand-new Bluewaters Island plus Ain Dubai – the world’s largest observation wheel. Dubai is also the Middle East’s theme park capital and the world’s most favored shopping spot. Its leisure and entertainment scene is equally mesmeric. With its fair share of cultural and historical attractions, this emirate caters to every preference.
About two hours drive away from Dubai, Abu Dhabi is both the UAE’s largest and the capital city. Given its unrivaled reputation as the seat of government and power in the UAE, you can imagine the magnitude of its offerings. From the action-packed Yas Island with Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld to the Arabian World’s largest art museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, there is a lot to see here. Nature lovers are in for a treat at its pristine mangroves while adventurists and pleasure seekers can unleash their fun side at Abu Dhabi Corniche. And did we say that the city thrives with museums, monuments, and other similar sights, the prominent being the grandiose Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Heritage Village, Qasr Al Hosn, and Qasr Al Watan?
If it is a generous bout of greenery and the revitalizing breeze that you are seeking in the middle of the desert, Al Ain, luckily, has it in aplenty. It is Abu Dhabi’s largest city and the UAE’s greenest city. What makes it more special is that it is the only place to be included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, thanks to its timeless attractions such as the 4000-year-old Al Ain Oasis and Hili Archeological Park that dates back to the Bronze Age. That doesn’t make any less when it comes to its adventure and amusing side, with Wadi Adventure Park and Hili Fun City to name a few. Furthermore, don’t miss a drive up to Jebel Hafeet, which is the country’s second-largest mountain.
Hatta is that part of the country which is still untouched by time or major developments. Located about 130 kilometers from Dubai, it is mostly frequented for its laid-back charm, with its picturesque Hatta Heritage Village. It lets you glance into the lifestyle of ancient Emiratis. Take to the Hatta 360 Observatory (developed in 1880) to absorb the most irresistible views over Hatta and beyond. Other attractions worth visiting here, especially for adventurists, are Hatta Wadi Hub and Hatta Dam (where you can enjoy kayaking).
Ras Al Khaimah
Be it for a weekend getaway or a full-fledged Arabian holiday, Ras Al Khaimah ticks all the boxes. Located about 1.5 hours from Dubai, it is the country’s northernmost emirate which appeals to all types of visitors with its mix of glorious beaches, history-steeped sights, unparalleled desert sands, and exuberant waters along the Arabian Gulf. Among its must-visits are the 16th-century Dhayah Fort, Ras Al Khaimah National Museum, Khatt Springs, and of course, the abandoned village of Jazirat Al Hamra.
Jebel Jais is one of the main reasons that draw people to Ras Al Khaimah, which is just a little above one hour drive away. For those unversed, Jebel Jais is the country’s highest mountain, at a whopping altitude of 1,934 meters. Not to mention, it is a favorite of adrenaline junkies as they get to participate in scores of activities. Experience the world’s longest zipline with a swift zip across the stunning Jebel Jais Valley and further enjoy the region’s longest toboggan ride with Jais Sledder. Looking for milder activities? There is the Viewing Deck Park and Jebel Jais Ferrata whose highlight is a climbing route that encompasses a mix of climbing, walking, and ziplining.
Fujairah is bestowed with a rugged charm that you will find nowhere else in the UAE. It is unpretentious and authentic, making it ideal for anyone who wants to escape the pulsating city life. Framed by mountains and greenery, a trip to Fujairah is simply like going back in time. The first thing that welcomes you here is the stalls that dot the Masafi Market where you can shop everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to carpets, souvenirs, and other merchandise. Speaking of the top Fujairah attractions and activities, make sure that you visit the country’s oldest and largest of its kind Fujairah Fort, the unspoiled Fujairah Beach, and the antiquated Fujairah Heritage Village.
The Arabian Desert
The UAE’s topography is largely characterized by desert sands which have greatly impacted its culture, history, and traditional lifestyle. It is, apparently, unimaginable to finish a UAE vacation without taking a desert safari. From the imposing Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarter to the mysterious red dunes of Al Lahbab to the fun-packed deserts of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, each of the UAE’s desert landscapes or locations is special in its own right. But, to get the best out of your desert safari, make it a point to get it arranged through an experienced service provider. An exhilarating session of dune bash, camel ride, and cultural activities like henna tattooing, falconry, etc are some of the standard inclusions of a desert safari. Moreover, depending on the time and package you choose, your desert safari also includes BBQ dining, traditional performances, and camping under the desert stars.
Sharjah & Kalba
Just a few minutes’ drive away from Dubai city center (less than 40 minutes), Sharjah is where you get to discover the diverse aspects of Arabian and Emirati cultures. It is courtesy of its inspiring points of interest such as the Sharjah Heritage Museum, Heritage District, King Faisal Mosque, etc. While these are some of its surefire sights, it also boasts of some hidden gems, mainly Kalba. Tucked away on the Gulf of Oman Coast, this Sharjah exclave is definite to blow you away with its verdant mangrove reserve, which is a breeding ground for some rare and unique flora and fauna.
Umm Al Quwain
This emirate is one of the best-kept secrets of the UAE. It is crowd-free and hands-down a paradise for nature lovers and bird watchers. Add to these verdant mangroves, striking coastline, marvelous beaches, and quietude islands. For culture and history buffs, an unmissable attraction is Dhow Building Yard where you get to see how traditional dhows are created first-hand. So what’s more needed for a relaxed holiday in the UAE? Umm, Al Quwain is less than an hour’s drive from Dubai and about two hours’ drive away from Abu Dhabi.
As you now have an overview of the best places and things to do in the UAE, don’t delay anymore to plan your much-awaited Arabian getaway. You can visit here anytime but know that the place has scorching summers (May to September) and super salubrious winters (November to March). Be it the glitz or the serenity and solitude you are craving, the UAE’s heaps of attractions and experiences promise that you will get what you are looking for in your holiday.