Most people visit Dubai for about 4-5 days and this gives them hardly any time to explore the city itself or take any day trips from Dubai to the neighbouring emirates. With ample things to do for people of all ages and interests, Dubai will keep you busy and occupied for as long as you plan to spend here.
The UAE itself is a very small country and although most tourists visit only Dubai & Abu Dhabi, there are many other things to see and do in the other Emirates as well. If you find yourself with some spare time and a curiosity to explore what lies beyond the stylish and modern city, here are 10 day trips from Dubai that are worth taking, at a maximum of 3 hours driving distance and within the country.
Note: Although you won't be crossing the UAE border in many of these (except no.10), it is recommended that you carry your passport with you as there might be police checkpoints on the way.
#1 Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque & Corniche
The capital of the UAE is second in its popularity with the tourists. Although it is no match for its fashionable and chic neighbour (Dubai), it is home to one of the most stunning monuments in this region - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Abu Dhabi has a lot to do and you will find some remote yet gorgeous beaches here. One of the best day trips from Dubai is to Abu Dhabi, where you must visit the Grand Mosque and the Corniche (a public beach at near the city center offering water sports, plenty of cafes, restaurants and beach clubs with the lovely skyline in the backdrop) and if time allows, you may also visit Ferrari World, a theme park with rides, 4D and simulator experiences, as well as an exhibition of Ferrari's cars over the years. This is also where you can enjoy the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa.
Click here to see a photoblog of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi.
#2 Jebel Hafeet
Jebel Hafeet makes for one of my favourite day trips from Dubai because of its contrasting landscape from most other emirates. A craggy limestone hill with a steep ascent that leads to UAE's second highest peak, this place is a 2-hour drive from the city. Catching a sunset from the top is a popular thing to do here, followed by a drink at the rooftop terrace of the only hotel here, Mercure Grand, which offers breathtaking views of the city below and its sparkling lights.
The drive from the base of the hill to the top is steep yet the road is very well paved so it does not need a 4-wheel drive. There is a small cafe/food stall at the top where you can have tea, coffee, and snacks while you enjoy the beautiful views.
Click here to read What you must know BEFORE visiting the UAE.
#3 Bab Al Shams Desert Resort
Not only do I love this resort, the drive to it through the undulating golden sandy desert is absolutely breathtaking. It is hardly a 45-minute drive away from the city and is another one of the best day trips from Dubai. Even for those not staying at the resort, it is absolutely recommended to visit it even if it just for a drink or snack in their rooftop lounge, Al Sarab or the popular restaurant Al Hadheera located in the middle of the desert, a few meters away from the resort, offering an authentic Arabic buffet meal with traditional entertainment.
A walk through the resort to any of these two places is also an absolute pleasure because of the beautiful Arabic architecture and the detailing of the interiors, with lamps, majlis, and pots that are magnificent, luxurious yet welcoming. You may also enjoy camel rides and a falcon show on their premises during evening hours.
#4 Hatta Mountain Safari & Dam
Yet another one of the amazing day trips from Dubai, Hatta is about 1.5 hours away from the city and at the border of UAE and Oman. You may drive to the Hatta Fort Hotel and take a mountain safari tour from there (in a 4x4 vehicle) or book one from Dubai itself. The safari takes you through the rugged mountainous terrain and crystal clear green pools located amidst these mountains and the Hatta Dam. Alternatively, you can drive to the Hatta Dam in your own vehicle. The view from the top of the dam is absolutely stunning, with the dark brown hills and the green lake in between.
#5 Al Hamra Ghost Village, Jazirah Aviation Club & Cove Rotana, Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah is my favourite emirate after Dubai because of its gorgeous beaches, host of adventurous activities and the amazing resorts located on the coast. The emirate is hardly a 1.5-hour drive from the city and is home to an abandoned old village which is rumoured to be haunted. If you're really brave and adventurous, a trip to this 'Ghost Village' in Al Hamra is probably up your alley. If not, you can skip it and proceed to the city centre where ample resorts and their beachside restaurants will definitely make you fall in love with the town.
Another activity for the adventure seekers is the microlight or gyrocopter flying, offered at a reasonable price at the Jazirah Aviation Club. About 30 minutes away is one of my favourite resorts in Ras Al Khaimah, Cove Rotana. Although many new and swanky resorts have sprung up in the area recently, this remains one of the charming ones which is spread out over a large area, has an amazing Arabic architecture and feel, offers stunning views from the infinity pool and the beach is absolutely gorgeous! If you can, you must spend a night here at the resort and even if you cannot, I recommend you to have a drink or dinner at their beachside dining restaurant.
Cove Rotana Poolside Dining[/caption]
Click here to read How to experience 15 world records in 4 days, in the UAE.
#6 Snoopy Island & Al Aqah Beach, Fujairah
Fujairah is yet another fantastic emirate, slightly further away from Dubai than the rest but totally worth a visit because of the natural beauty and landscape. One of the popular day trips from Dubai to Fujairah would involve a visit to the Al Aqah beach, which is lined with several resorts but also has a white sandy public beach which offers water sports and amazing views, with the Al Hajjar mountains in the backdrop. It is about a 2-hour drive away from Dubai and although it is home to several historically significant monuments (such as Al-Bidyah Mosque, the oldest mosque in the UAE and the Fujairah Fort), it is the beaches that attract maximum attention. You may choose to stay overnight in one of the many amazing resorts here but if you cannot, a visit to Al Aqah public beach is a must. The drive through the rugged mountains leading to this coastal town is as lovely as the town itself.
A local favourite is the Snoopy Island, located 10-minutes before approaching the Al Aqah beach. A public beach located off the Snoopy Island (named so because of its shape), is where you might find a lot of Dubai residents camping for the night, especially during the cooler winter months.
#7 Jebel Al Jais
Jebel Al Jais is the tallest mountain in the UAE and one is several years, it is known to see some snow during thick winters. The road through the mountains was carved only recently and since then has attracted a lot of local population that loves to drive all the way up (the last 5 km are still rubble and a road is being built) to enjoy sweeping views of the valley below. Eventually, the area will see some resorts, cable car, and many sporting activities but at the moment, there is just a tea and coffee truck at the highest point. There are several observation points along the way and the vistas are amazing. This is definitely one of the unique day trips from Dubai.
#8 Wadi Adventure, Al Ain
This is the perfect day trip for adventure lovers! Wadi Adventure, a park that has an artificial whitewater river for rafting, a wave pool for surfers, ziplining, kayaking, a rope course and climbing wall and my favourite- the giant swing, this is the place to come to for your dose of adrenaline rush. It is a one-of-its-kinds park in the UAE and set at the foothills of Jebel Hafeet, may be combined with a trip to the summit of the hill to enjoy gorgeous views of the sunset.
#9 Sharjah Corniche
Sharjah is a stark contrast to Dubai, both in terms of the vibe, which is more laid back and conservative, and the attractions, which are more cultural than the lively city-life. However, a day-trip to the emirate can be a good way to spend time away from the busy and fast-paced life of Dubai, and learn more about the culture of this region. Some particularly interesting places to visit are: Blue Souk (also known as the Central Market), an air-conditioned market with more than 500 shops selling handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes, perfumes, jewellery and knick-knacks. Although it is in an enclosed area, the place has the ambience of an authentic Arabian souk. There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants to take a break from exploring and shopping. For those who like visiting museums and learning about the history and culture of places, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is an interesting one. Exhibits here date back to the 7th century, focusing on Islamic art and crafts from that era.
Personally, my favourite place is Al Qasba, and that too at night because of how beautifully the place lights up and comes to life, with plenty of waterside cafes and restaurants, making it perhaps the most lively place here. You can choose to take a ride on the Eye of the Emirates (the giant wheel that offers birds-eye-view of the city) or watch the musical fountain on the lake, rent a water bike or take an abra tour.
Another particularly beautiful place to visit here is the Al Noor Mosque, one of the few mosques in the UAE that are open to non-Muslims for tourism. You will find stark similarities between the architecture of this mosque and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The yellow lighting at night, with the reflections on the lake and the backdrop of Sharjah's skyline, make for the perfect Instagram picture.
Khasab makes for one of the most picturesque day trips from Dubai. As it geographically is a part of Oman and requires crossing the borders and stamping the passport, you might need to first check the requirements of entering Oman based on your nationality. For UAE residents, if you're driving to Khasab, you need to make sure you're carrying your passport and relevant car papers (registration, insurance). As for non UAE-residents, the entrance into Oman will depend on your nationality. Some people might need to apply for a visa in advance whereas others can get on arrival.
Also note, if you need to enter back in the UAE after, this means the requirements for entering into the UAE should also be checked (do you have a multiple entry visa, does your nationality get visa on arrival, etc). However, it may be worth looking into these things because Khasab is a part of the Musandam peninsula, which is considered to be the Norway of the Middle East, with magnificent fjords, gorgeous blue seas and the perfect weather all year around.
When in Khasab, you may choose to camp for the night on one of the public beaches (it is extremely safe to do so) or stay in one of the few resorts located here.