Hatta has recently emerged as one of the best day trips from Dubai not only for camping but also for adventure enthusiasts. About 1.5 hours away from the bustling city lies this really cool spot which not only offers the visitors a chance to enjoy some peace and calm amidst the rugged mountains but also an opportunity to indulge in activities such as kayaking, boating, archery, hiking, zorbing and what not! It qualifies as one of the best camping spots in the UAE because of several reasons - ample overnight camping options, beautiful landscapes, exquisite sunrises and a wealth of activities that can keep you busy and entertained for an entire day!
While Jebel Jais is yet another camping location that takes the trophy for one of the most iconic places to pitch the tent if you're a fan of mountainous landscapes and adventure activities (after all, its the highest mountain peak in the UAE), what it lacks is access to a water body and this is where Hatta out ranks Jebel Jais. Hatta is home to the popular Hatta Dam which is built over a lake where one can kayak/ boat. Apart from that, there are smaller artificial lakes so if you're a fan of lakeside camping, you will not be disappointed. With several designated spots where you'll find ample camping enthusiasts barbecuing into the night, camping in Hatta not only makes sense but comes highly recommended!
The best time to visit Hatta is between November - March, when the weather is just about perfect to pitch your tent. The UAE is one of the safest countries in the world so one need not be worried about that aspect. Although a little far from Dubai city, Hatta is still a part of the same emirate so you're not crossing over into another emirate (this is important to know because sometimes, different emirates have different rules with respect to camping, alcohol consumption, bon-fires etc). The temperatures here are slightly lower than in the heart of the city but be prepared for a warm / hot afternoon even during the winter due to the intense sunlight in the day time.
Camping in Hatta
With camping spots strewn across the little town, I chose a specific one which was a little far from the crowded part where most tourists go, yet it was very scenic, next to a small lake, nestled in the mountains. I found it on google maps under the name BBQ and Campsite and what attracted me about it was that it seemed a little off-route, almost on the border of Oman. You can park your car and pitch your tent right next to the lake, and while I didn't see anyone taking a dip in the cool waters, it may not be a bad idea to do it, given that the lake is quite shallow and the water seemed very clean & clear.
The camping area is free of charge but one of the cons of this camping site is that there are NO toilet or shower facilities on site. While there are built-in barbecue pits & ample parking spaces, one might need to walk over to the trees in the area behind the lake, to relieve themselves when nature comes calling. This camping spot is meant for the truly adventurous - there are no food trucks or shops in the vicinity so one must be well-prepared with their complete camping gear, enough water & food if they plan to spend the night here.
If you are looking for a more organized camping experience in a place that offers comfort in terms of facilities, Hatta Wadi Hub is a good option. Although chargeable (AED 199 on weekends), the camping site is replete with food trucks, cafes, barbecue areas, toilet and shower facilities and ample parking spots. This could be a good option for families or for those who feel that taking a leak in the open nature is not their idea of fun!
The Hatta Green Lake itself does not have any camping spots on the shores of the lake, so if you're keen on camping by a water body, the BBQ & Campsite area is a great option. You would also save some money by bringing your own barbecue grill, marinated food (easily available at Lulu Hypermarket), coal & lighter fluid. Alternatively, you could bring some ready-to-eat meals or enjoy a nice meal beforehand at Cafe Gazebo at JA Hatta Fort Hotel, which is not too far from the camping site.
Some things you need to keep in mind while camping in Hatta:
- Be prepared for a rocky terrain; bring along your sleeping bags and additional mattress / duvet to soften the surface even more
- Stock up on water (and food) and it may not be easy to find it late at night
- Bring a light jacket as it can get cold at night
- A GPS so that you can find the camping sites easily; the road signs are not necessarily helpful; especially if you're looking at one of the offbeat ones
- You do not need a 4x4 vehicle to get to this area so you need not worry about that
- Make sure to carry a garbage bag with you; keeping the area clean and not littering are a very important part of camping in the outdoors
- Be prepared to watch mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets!
- Some people in the camping sites can be very noisy; I had to put up with loud music until 3 am because of a very insensitive, young group of college students who did not sleep the night
- Hatta is still a part of Dubai, so they're a lot more relax and open in terms of the rules on carrying/ drinking alcohol in public spaces; this means you can carry your own and drink while you are there, but make sure not to create any problems or issues which could bring attention to you else the cops may reprimand you for it
Adventure Sports & Other Activities in Hatta
Hatta is slowly becoming the adventure capital of the UAE. One of my favourite things to do here is kayak at the Hatta Green Lake. At AED 60 for single kayaks and AED 120 for double, it is certainly not cheap but the experience is worth it. The views from the dam above are nothing short of spellbinding but the quiet waters are best navigated in a kayak or paddle boat. Don't underestimate the size of the lake though, it can get really tiring to go from one end to the other. However, if you do land up in the middle of the lake, to tired to paddle your way back, just signal for the coat guard and help will be on its way!
There are a lot of other adventure activities in Hatta that you can try out. Not far from the Hatta Dam (or the green lake) is Hatta Wadi Hub and here are some really cool activities you can experience here:
- The 'Hatta Drop-In': be prepared to land into a plunge pool after sliding down/ tubing from a height of 15 meters (don't forget to bring your swim wear for this)
- The 'Cannon/ Slingshot': It's the ultimate adrenaline rush to be catapulted at a speed of nearly 100 kmph; the perfect activity for adventure junkies
- Zorbing: This is probably the only outdoor zorbing experience in the UAE
- Other activities like Axe Throwing, Archery, Trampoline
Another cool thing to try out is a hike to the Hatta Sign. For hiking enthusiasts, there are several options to choose from.
Coming soon - Hatta Cable Car!
I remember mentioning to a friend while camping in Hatta that the upcoming destination is missing only one thing - a cable car. And viola! In January this year, the plans were announced for a 5km + cable car right above the Hatta Dam that will transport people to the Um Al Nesoor summit. I can only imagine how gorgeous the views of the green lake will be from the cable car. With three intermediate stops, which will offer viewing platforms, cafes & restaurants, and recreational facilities, it's one of the new projects in Dubai that I cannot wait to experience!