While the city of Dubai offers an array of activities to do, there are also a host of exciting destinations nearby that are excellent for day trips. Visit historical UNESCO world heritage sites, lay your eyes upon unique architectural feats, or cruise along the sparkling blue sea to watch dolphins. Whatever adventure your heart’s desire, you’re sure to find it on a day trip from Dubai.
Abu Dhabi: View Architecture and Amusement Parks
As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi offers a range of activities like amusement parks, mosques, and museums to visit. The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest in the world and a must-visit while in the area.
Considering the hot summers, Abu Dhabi has one of the few indoor theme parks in the world, called Ferrari World. Children and kids at heart are wowed by the amusement park’s Formula Rossa ride, which is the world’s fastest roller coaster. The last stop on a day trip to Abu Dhabi could be the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It plays host to art exhibitions from around the world, Asian trade routes, and the First Great Powers gallery.
Getting There: Options to travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi include buses, taxis, or self-driving. The most affordable option is the intercity bus to Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station and cost 25 dirham (approximately US $6). It takes between 1.5 to 2 hours via bus.
Travel Tip: Don’t forget that the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque has a strict dress code. Men and women will have to wear loose-fitting, ankle-length trousers or skirts, and have their arms covered and women will need to cover their heads.
Al Ain: Explore an UNESCO Site
Within the confines of the Abu Dhabi Emirate lies Al Ain, an oasis city on the eastern border of Oman. It’s chock full of date palm trees and flowing natural springs of water. The desert oasis contains an ancient irrigation system water falaj and loads of greenery. It's home to Jebel Hafeet, the highest peak in the UAE.
The UNESCO site in Al Ain features Hili’s archeological remains, Jebel Hafeet tombs, and the Bidaa Bint Saud settlement. The Hili archeological site is made up of Bronze Age and Iron Age sites, historic burial grounds, and an agricultural village. The Al Ain Museum is also located on the site, housing additional ancient artifacts.
Getting There: Al Ain is located around 2 hours away from Dubai via the Al Ain Road. It can be best reached by bus from Al-Ghubaiba bus station or from the Bur Dubai taxi station.
Travel Tip: A journey on the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road can be an extremely cool experience to have. Visit in the late afternoon to enjoy a stunning sunset on the mountain range.
Ras Al Khamiah: Zip Line on Jebel Jais
Jebel Jais is located on the North-Western side of the Hajar mountains in the Musandam Governorate of Oman and in Ras Al Khaimah. The peak of the mountain range on the UAE side has a summit elevation of 6,345 feet above sea level.
The Jebel Jais zip line, named the Jebel Jais Flight, holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest zip wire. Adventurers and adrenaline junkies alike will be excited to zip across the Jebel Jais mountain range at speeds of up to 93 mph. You can enjoy the ride solo or with a family member and/or friend, as two cables run beside each at the thrilling heights.
Getting There: There are several ways to travel to Jebel Jais, including the Jebel Jais tours shuttle buses from Ras Al Khaimah, personal cars or taxi and takes around 3.5 hours.
Travel Tip: Temperatures in Ras Al Khamiah are typically lower than other areas of UAE, especially on the mountain range. Make sure to bring a sweater or jacket for your zip line adventure.
Musandam: Watch Dolphins at Play
Located at the Strait of Hormuz, Musandam Peninsula is part of Oman but is surrounded by the UAE. In the capital of Dibba, view the 17th-century Portuguese Khasab Fort after driving the winding roads to arrive in the picturesque destination.
Several day tour options are available in order to do the main attraction in the area, a dolphin watching dhow cruise. View the serene animals from an ancient wooden boat, or dhow, in the middle of the Gulf of Oman.
Getting There: The drive from Dubai to Musandam is around 2 hours. Self-driving is the best option for touring Musandam. Follow the signs to the emirates of Um Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah, until reaching the border crossing for Musandam.
Travel Tip: Due to Musandam technically being located in Oman, note that you’ll need to cross the border. Thus, if self-driving, ensure you have insurance to cover border crossing and the appropriate visa.
Hatta: Visit Hatta Fort & Heritage Village
Located just over 80.7 miles (130 kilometers) south-east of Dubai, Hatta offers stunning mountain cliffs and green valleys. In the center of town is the Hatta Heritage Village, which opened in 2001. In the middle of the Heritage Village is Bait Al Wali, the house where the ruler once resided amongst opulent jewels, garments, and weaponry.
Tourists are educated on the past customs here, including tales of old, customary marriage ceremony procedures, and even traditional songs. During a visit, it’s a must to also visit the historical fort which was built in 1896 and was restored in 1995.
Getting There: The travel time from Dubai to Hatta Heritage Village is 1.5 hours via Sharjah-Kalba road.
Travel Tip: A visit to the local hotel near the Heritage Village, JA Hatta Fort Hotel is recommended for lunch or a coffee break.
Sharjah: Historic Mleiha Archeological Centre
Within the depths of deserts of Sharjah lies the Mleiha Archeological Centre, which offers visitors a glimpse into the region's historic Bedouin culture. The area offers magnificent natural backdrops, blending culture and history in the setting.
Mleiha dates back to the Bronze Age and offers the opportunity to learn about the Iron, pre-Islamic, and Islamic ages during a visit. It features interactive displays, exhibitions, and ancient artefacts to learn about times of yesterday in the Emirates.
Getting There: Mleiha is located 50 minutes outside of Dubai via Sharjah-Kalba Rd.
Travel Tip: For a private experience catered to your groups’ needs, Mleiha offers an exhilarating ArchaeoMOG tour in a UNIMOG truck. Experience not only the museum but the Mleiha Stables and the Valley of the Caves.
Sir Bani Yas Island: Enjoy Arabian Wildlife and Adventure
Located off the southwest coast of Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Dubai. Families and friends can enjoy arriving to the island on a speedboat from Jebel Dhana Jetty to this picturesque island.
Sir Bani Yas island features the Arabian Wildlife Park, which offers a safari experience on a savanna reserve of more than 10,000 animals including gazelles, giraffes, Arabian oryxes, and cheetahs. The island also offers three Anantara Hotel Resorts and Spas, containing beach front solitude and access to water sports such as kayaking.
Getting There: Sir Bani Yas Island can be reached by boat, plane, or car. When traveling by car it takes approximately 4 hours from Dubai and 2 hours from Abu Dhabi via the E-11 highway.
Travel Tip: For history buffs, consider doing a guided walk into the island’s Bronze Age roots, where you can visit a Christian monastery developed by monks over 1,400 years ago.
Fujairah: Experience a Fort and Nature
As one of the younger Emirates in the region, Fujairah isn’t as touristy as other locations, making it a great option for a getaway. Visitors can learn about Emirati history by visiting the 15th-century Al-Bidyah Mosque and the 16th-century Fujairah Fort.
Popular tourist attractions in the city of Fujairah include the 31,000-acre nature reservee Wadi Al Wurayah, which is home to the UAE’s only waterfall. Madhab Spring Park features mineral springs and is a great spot to hit for families, located close to Fujairah Heritage Village.
Getting There: Located around 1.5 hours from the city, Fujairah can best be reached by car via Fujairah Rd/Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Rd.
Travel Tip: If you happen to venture to Fujairah on a Friday, make sure to stop by the Friday market to experience a taste of local goods and food.
Liwa: Off-Roading Adventures and Dune Bashing
The ancient city of Liwa convenes at the northern point of the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter), which is the world's largest uninterrupted sand mass region. It spans 100 kilometer and is home to some of the largest sand dunes known to man. The largest tribe in the UAE, the Bani Yas Tribe, also call Liwa home.
Tourists can climb the largest sand dune in the UAE: Tel Moreeb, which literally translates to "scary mountain." A host of tour companies offer dune safari experiences in 4X4 trucks. However, if dune bashing in 4X4s is not your speed, then you can opt to do a slow-paced Liwa camel trek.
Getting There: Liwa is around 3.5 hours from Dubai by car via Tarif - Liwa Rd.
Travel Tip: Celebrate UAE’s heritage by attending the 9 day Liwa Festival, which features bike and car races that climb the 300-meter-high Moreeb Dune.
Umm Al Quwain: Explore Museums and a Water Park
As the second smallest emirate in the UAE, Umm Al Quwain (UAQ), is one of the lesser-known destinations in the region. Nonetheless, it packs big fun for those looking to explore off the beaten path during a visit. It is positioned between Sharjah and Ras Al Khamiah.
UAQ is home to various reactional activities like skydiving, sailing, and even falconry. However, its top tourist destination is Dreamland Aqua Park, as it’s the UAE’s largest water park. History buffs would also enjoy the UAQ National Museum, which is housed in an impeccable fortress. It’s home to a collection of ancient artifacts excavated from nearby sites.
Getting There: UAQ is located just under an hour from Dubai via Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd.
Travel Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for locals building traditional wooden dhows en route to UAQ.