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10 Top-Rated Day Trips from Dubai

Feb 15, 2017

Dubai's cosmopolitan buzz, world-class restaurants, and multitude of shopping opportunities could keep you occupied in the city for a week, but even serious city slickers need a break every now and then. Luckily, most of the major tourist attractions and popular things to do in the UAE are only a short trip away, so you can choose from plenty of fun options for day trips from Dubai. Everybody should take a desert excursion to the wild dunes, if only simply for the startling contrast between the metropolis high-rises and the rolling desert sands. For tourists who want to stick to the cities, Abu Dhabi is a sightseeing must for the dazzling white architecture of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, while the city of Al Ain makes a worthy trip for culture vultures due to its bundle of museums.

1 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
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Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the UAE's major modern landmarks and a triumph of contemporary architecture merged with traditional Arabic design and artistry. Decked out with a lavish use of marble, gold, ceramic work, and crystals, the mosque's high ornamentation is a combination of Mamluk, Fatimid, and Ottoman stylistic design to symbolize all the ages of the Arabic empires.

About 132 kilometers from Dubai, the mosque incorporates 82 domes, the world's largest Persian carpet (created by 1,200 carpet weavers), and seven absolutely ginormous crystal chandeliers (the largest weighing 12 tons). The overall effect is one of staggering opulence and superb craftsmanship. Visitors can tour the mosque complex between 9am and 10pm Saturday to Thursday and from 4.30pm to 10pm on Friday. The first president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, for whom the mosque is named after, is buried behind the main mosque building.

Address: Airport Road, Abu Dhabi

Official site: http://www.szgmc.ae/en/

2 A Desert Safari

A Desert Safari
A Desert Safari
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Heading out into the desert for a day is a must-do on any Dubai day trip tick list. There are plenty of opportunities for safaris and excursions into the UAE's wild desert interior for those seeking a taste of adventure. Camel trekking is the more traditional transport option, with more opportunities to simply experience the quiet beauty of this harsh landscape, but 4WD safaris can get you further away from the city and allow you to see a wider area.

Most tours out of Dubai include visiting and driving through the huge dunes not far from the city for some adrenalin-fueled activity. Dune bashing is basically a roller coaster experience in a car and is heart-in-the-mouth exciting when speeding full tilt down a huge wave of sand. For travelers with a thirst for adventure, there are more options for sandy thrill-seeking, with many safari operators now offering sandboarding (surfing on sand) and quad biking on the dunes as well.

3 Musandam Peninsula

Musandam Peninsula
Musandam Peninsula
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Oman's Musandam Peninsula, about 194 kilometers from Dubai, is the perfect peaceful antidote to Dubai's bright lights and big city buzz. This jagged region is incredibly scenic, with its tall, mountainous coast plunging steeply into the sea of the Arabian Gulf. Due to its similarity in character to the fiords of Norway, it's often nicknamed the Arabian Fiords, but these mountains in actuality were carved by tectonic plate movement and not by glacier movement. The best way to experience the scenery here is by a cruise from the Omani town of Khasab. There is a strong possibility of seeing dolphins along the way, and many cruises make a stop off at Telegraph Island, which was once used as a telegraph station by the British for their London to Karachi cable line. The inlets in this area are particularly spectacular, and those interested in history can still see the ruins of the very lonely station where the telegraph operators used to live and work.

Location: Main access from Khasab, Oman

4 Al-Ain

Al-Ain
Al-Ain
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Nicknamed "The Garden City," Al Ain makes a great day trip from Dubai for culture lovers, with its museums, well-restored fortresses, and a Bronze Age archaeological site. The Al Jahili Fortress is home to the UAE's oldest museum, the Al Ain Museum, with a collection that highlights the archaeology and ethnography of the Emirates, while the Al Ain Palace Museum collection is housed in the old residence of the UAE's first president and contains a fine art gallery as well as displays of traditional Emirati life.

For families, the highlight here is the Al Ain Zoo, which now also includes a safari tour experience where you can spot African and Arabian species roaming in a carefully created natural style habitat. And no Al Ain visitor should miss a trip up to the summit of Jebel Hafeet, the second tallest peak in the Emirates.

5 Wadi Adventure Park

Dubai's city heat can really wear you out. Wadi Adventure Park, about 153 kilometers from the city, is a great option to cool down while having fun. This activity park offers kayaking, surfing, white water rafting, and wakeboarding all in manmade facilities. There's also climbing, zip lines, obstacle courses, and swimming pools (for just chilling out after all the activities). The white water rafting course stretches for more than one kilometer, while the surfing pool offers a safe environment for complete beginners to master surfing techniques. This is a great family-friendly day out that's sure to please teenagers as well as younger children.

Address: Hazza Bin Sultan Street, Al-Ain

Official site: www.wadiadventure.ae

6 Hajar Mountains

Hajar Mountains
Hajar Mountains Laith Wark / photo modified
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Ranging across the eastern UAE and into Oman, the Hajar Mountains make a great nature escape from Dubai and offer the Emirate's best road trip experience. The winding mountain passes offer stupendous panoramic views and plenty of opportunities to see gazelles, while bird watchers should keep their eyes peeled to spot Egyptian vultures. The tiny isolated villages here are a world apart from Dubai, and a popular stop along the way is Hatta Heritage Village, a fully-restored ancient village that now offers plenty of information on traditional Hajar life, with museums, craft-making, and renovated traditional dwellings. Another great stop-off in the Hajar region is the village of Masafi, which has a colorful market where you can pick up excellent local crafts including earthenware pots and carpets.

7 Fujairah

Al-Bidyah mosque
Al-Bidyah mosque
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A day out in the Emirate of Fujairah, about 167 kilometers from Dubai, manages to combine both nature and history. The mudbrick Al-Bidyah mosque is thought to be the oldest example of a mosque within the UAE, with a history that can be traced back to the 15th century (though it may be much older). Just outside the modern city of Fujairah is the small golden-hued stone Fujairah Fort, which was a vital communication and military post during the 16th century. Around the fort area is Fujairah's Heritage Village, where you can walk through a reconstructed typical village that highlights local Emirati rural life in earlier centuries, including exhibits and demonstrations on traditional farming techniques. If you're looking for something less historic, the beaches nearby are some of the prettiest in the UAE, lying along the Gulf of Oman, with excellent snorkeling and, for those who want to explore deeper, the best scuba diving in the Emirates.

Location: 167 kilometers from Dubai

8 Ferrari World

Ferrari World
Ferrari World MrT HK / photo modified
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This theme park offers much more than just looking at cars. Touted as the world's largest indoor theme park, Ferrari World encompasses roller coaster rides; Formula 1 race courses; audio-visual attraction rides, which allow you to experience Italy's most famous highlights from the air and to tour the Italian Ferrari factory; an entire children's section with rides suited for little ones; and a museum of Ferrari's cars (obviously). It's a great day out for kids of all ages, with everything from a learn-to-drive experience for small children to riding the world's fastest roller coaster (going from 0 to 240 kilometers per hour) on The Thrill of Rosso ride, which gives you the real Formula 1 racer experience. Ferrari World lies about 112 kilometers from Dubai.

Location: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

9 Horseback Riding

Dubai as seen from its desert surroundings.jpg
Dubai as seen from its desert surroundings.jpg
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Discovering Dubai's desert surroundings on a horseback tour is a great city escape. Emirates Equestrian Center arranges desert hacks for experienced riders on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, with both early morning and late afternoon starts, while many private stables in the Dubai area cater for all levels of horse experience, from beginners to advanced, and can put together bespoke riding day trip itineraries for families, groups, and individual riders. Exploring the desert-scape in this way brings you much closer to the raw and brutal beauty of the environment than in a 4WD tour.

10 Fishing

Dubai Marina at Sunset
Dubai Marina at Sunset
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Specialist tour operators in Dubai offer deep sea fishing excursions in the waters of the Arabian Gulf, where you can throw your line out and try your luck at catching tuna, snapper, grouper, and barracuda. Local company Deep Sea Fishing Dubai is the pick of the bunch as their fishing tours are all day endeavors, starting with an early morning departure from the city and heading at least 45 miles off the coast, which maximizes fishing time and the likelihood of a successful catch.

Location: Umm Suqeim district

Official site: www.deepseafishing.ae

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