When your think of United Arab Emirates I expect you think of Dubai or Abu Dhabi and the glitz of those cities as the only thing on offer. You’d been forgiven for thinking that too, that’s the way the country seems to be marketed. But there is so much more to the UAE than those two fancy cities. There’s mountains, middle of nowhere towns, snorkeling spots, sand dunes and roaming camels. We’ve just spent a quick four days driving around several stops in the UAE and I genuinely had no idea that the UAE had landscape like this.
Dubai is a fantastic city but it is only a tiny part of the UAE so if you’ve got time, here are some other spots you should also head to.
4 Places to Stop on a UAE Road Trip from Dubai
You’ve probably all heard of Abu Dhabi before, you’ve possibly even confused it with Dubai once or twice. It is a smaller version of Dubai in many ways but it has a much more chilled vibe and everyone seems to take life at a much slower pace.
There is plenty to keep you entertained in Abu Dhabi no matter your age or preference. For the culture seekers among you there is the Grand Mosque. For the adrenaline junkies there is Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld, for the sport mad there is the Yas Marina Circuit and the chance to cycle the track on Sunday and Tuesday evenings, for those wanting to relax there is the Yas Beach complex which also has a pool and for those wanting luxury there is the Yas Viceroy Hotel.
Abu Dhabi is a great city for spending a few days at a slow place or a quick day stop to tick off one of those highlights.
Abu Dhabi is around 1 hour 15 minutes from Dubai.
Where to stay: Yas Island is perfectly located for a stay in Abu Dhabi, it is close to the airport and the first part of the city you reach on a drive from Dubai. It is also where you’ll find many of the attractions listed above. Aside from the Yas Viceroy Hotel, the rest of the hotels are located at Yas Plaza and start at £60 per a night.
Ras al Khaimah
I’d be surprised if you’ve heard of Ras Al Khaimah before, I certainly hadn’t until I began my move here. It is north of Dubai (the opposite direction to Abu Dhabi) and much smaller than both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Driving to RAK you will notice the landscape change considerably, the sand becomes redder and much of it banks up against the side of the road. There is also a lot more emptiness, you can look for miles in any direction and literally see nothing but sand and the odd tree.
Ras al Khaimah is a more authentic stop to the bright lights cities, however, it is still home to plenty of fancy hotel chains with resort style accommodation options, a waterpark and shopping malls making it the perfect ‘middle ground’ stop. You can also head into the desert easily on a range of different excursions including an authentic desert camp dinner, something we are saving for the winter months.
Ras al Khaimah is a great stop if you’re not a big city fan but still want some of the home comforts that come with staying in a well known spot.
Ras al Khaimah is around 1 hour and 15 minutes north of Dubai.
Where to stay: There are plenty of hotels to stay at in Ras al Khaimah and if you’re without a car then I’d suggest staying in the centre. We were with a car and found an amazing deal for Al Hamra Residence and Village, a spot just south of the city.
Al Aqah is a spot I imagine you are even less likely to have heard of. It is on the opposite coast to the above cities and isn’t even a city, you probably couldn’t even call it a town. Al Aqah is a section of coast that is home to a range of resorts that sit right on the beach. The reason? There’s some great snorkeling here, the beaches are quiet, life is at a much slower pace and it feels like a million miles away from Dubai.
People come here to escape Dubai and even during a public holiday it still didn’t feel busy. You can grab yourself a day pass for beach access if you just want to stay for the day or you can stay overnight in one of the resorts. There is a ‘free beach’ but there are no facilities around so unless you’re staying for a few hours this might not be the best idea. We got a day pass for Sandy Beach Resort as this place has the best location for Snoopy Island, ‘the’ spot for snorkeling in the area.
Al Aqah is a great stop if you want to escape the city vibe, visit the west coast and see some mountains.
Al Aqah is around 2 hours from Dubai.
Where to Stay: We opted for a cheaper hotel rather than one of the resorts as we visited on a public holiday, however, the hotel was a little strange and there was very little food options. If you’re keen on keeping the budget down there is also beach camping (I wouldn’t suggest this in the summer heat though). Otherwise there are a number of resorts to choose from which are significantly cheaper if it isn’t a public holiday.
Did you know UAE has the world’s longest zip line? I’ll forgive you for not knowing, it only opened in December 2017. This zip line is certainly one for the adrenaline junkies among you but whether it’s your thing or not a trip to Jebel Jais should be on everyone’s list. This northern mountain range which backs onto the Oman border feels not only like an entirely different country but almost like an entirely different planet!
The mountain range creeps up on you and because of the bright sun when you first see the outline you might even think you are seeing things but they are really there. From flat to mountain in what feels like seconds this whole area will have you open mouthed. The road which leads you to the top is one of the most incredible we’ve seen, whilst driving it, the huge sweeping roads make it feel easy but looking down on it, it looks like something else.
Jebel Jais is around 2 hours from Dubai and Ras al Khaimah is the nearest city.
You cannot stay at Jebel Jais but there are plenty of toilets along the whole road and at the top there are one or two food stations but make sure you have plenty of water before you set off.
Which one do you want to visit the most?
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