THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCESM
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES

The best UAE road trips: from desert dunes and golden beaches to ghost towns and underwater graveyards

Embrace the joy of slow travel and hit the open road on a UAE road trip, taking in desert dunes, beautiful beaches, palaces, ghost towns and UNESCO heritage sites on the way

Isabella Sullivan

11 July 2023

uae road trips

With flight prices at an all-time high, not to mention hoards of travellers, sometimes a flight-free trip can be more enticing. Taking a road trip is the perfect way to enjoy a low-key, fuss-free escape and embrace the nostalgia and romance of slow travel as you trundle down highways and through scenic landscapes. Thanks to its varied terrain, the UAE is one of the best counties for hitting the road, boasting a scenic UAE road trip to suit every kind of adventurer. For those looking for palm-fringed sandy beaches to those in search of rocky mountains and flame-hued desert dunes, here are the best UAE road trips.

uae road trip: snoopy island
The golden coast of Fujairah

Fujairah

Drive time from Dubai: 1 hour 20 minutes. Drive time from Abu Dhabi: 2 hours 40 minutes

As the only emirate on the peaceful and rural east coast of the UAE, Fujairah is nestled between the Hajar Mountains and a stretch of unspoilt golden beachfront. The emirate is known for its watersports, encompassing hotspots like Dibba – famed for its paddleboarding and calm waters – and Snoopy Island, where abundant wildlife makes it one of the UAE’s best snorkelling spots. Fujairah is the perfect UAE road trip for diving lovers; also home to one of the most fascinating underwater spots in the Middle East, the eerie car graveyard. The sunken attraction is spread across four square nautical miles and reached from Khorfakkan, encompassing 200 intentionally submerged cars and trucks in 1988 to form artificial reefs for new inhabitants to boost biodiversity. Explore the charming and historical town of Khorfakkan (the subject of the 2020 blockbuster), and check into one of the numerous beachfront resorts, like Address Beach Resort Fujairah and Palace Beach Resort Fujairah.

Al Jahili Fort: uae road trips
Ai Ain’s Al Jahili Fort

Al Ain

Drive time from Dubai: 1 hour 45 minutes. Drive time from Abu Dhabi: 1 hour 50 minutes

Al Ain is regarded as one of the leafiest regions in the UAE, located in the eastern reaches of the country on the border with Oman. This tiny island oasis is part of Abu Dhabi, home to the capital’s highest peak, Jebel Hafeet, and surrounded by sweeping dunes of the famed Empty Quarter. Palm groves and natural springs dot the landscape, but what makes Al Ain so fascinating and worthy of a UAE road trip is it’s actually the world’s oldest inhabited settlement and the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UAE. Known as the ‘Garden City’, there’s also the Al Hili Archaeological Park and Al Ain National Museum with artifacts from the heritage site. There are a handful of budget- to mid-range hotels, but it’s easy to drive in and out for a day trip or continue on to Oman.

liwa desert abu dhabi

Liwa

Drive time from Dubai: 3 hours 30 minutes. Drive time from Abu Dhabi: 2 hours 50 minutes

Those seeking a UAE road trip to the desert can do little better than making the 340km drive from Dubai to Liwa. Located at the northern edge of Rub al Khail near the border with Saudi Arabia – and otherwise known as the Empty Quarter – Liwa presents as nothing but vast stretches of burnt-orange deserts, offering a peaceful, meditative and isolating experience. Liwa’s true remoteness allows for a feeling of getting away that few other destinations offer, and it’s easy to just drive through the dunes and admire their beauty. Luckily, one of the most beautiful and luxurious Arabian resources is just moments away from this otherworldly area, Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara. Rising from the sands like a mirage, the desert resort offers luxurious accommodations, great restaurants, swimming pools, activities and desert excursions like camel treks, sandboarding and exploring the dunes by 4×4. Complete your UAE road trip with a visit to Moreeb Dune, the tallest one in UAE, and when night falls, unwind with a picnic under the stars.

the ritz-carlton ras al khaimah al wadi desert
The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert

Ras Al Khaimah

Drive time from Dubai: 1 hour 10 minutes. Drive time from Abu Dhabi: 2 hours 35 minutes

The UAE’s adventure capital, Ras Al Khaimah, is home to a rugged mountain landscape which weaves between coasts and inland mangrove fields and stretches high into the peaks of Jebal Jais. These roads are perfect for adventurers and road-trippers, and it’s thrilling in itself to weave through the rugged crevices and gorges. Of course, it’s important to get out of the car, and Ras Al Khaimah offers the world’s largest zipline, sky tours and a gravity-defying sky maze, along with other excursions like a Bear Grylls Explorers Camp where one can master the art of survival – in case of any road trip emergencies. Ras Al Khaimah is also an illustrious centre for cultural treasures and history, and attractions include ghost towns, the Fortress Al Jazeera Al Hamra, ports, palaces and mosques. What makes Ras Al Khaimah a perfect road trip destination is its surplus of fantastic hotels and accommodations. At the top end, The Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert and Al Hamra Beach resorts, private pool villas in the desert and by the beach, respectively, and Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, along with boho glamping grounds like Banan Beach and family-friendly resort accommodation.

hatta dubai

Hatta

Drive time from Dubai: 1 hour 30 minutes. Drive time from Abu Dhabi: 2 hours 40 minutes

Dubai residents need not journey far to escape the bustle of the glitzy emirate. Located just 90 minutes north of Downtown is the scenic village of Hatta, where a stunning mountainous landscape and cooler climate offer visitors the perfect getaway. For adrenaline seekers, numerous activities are available at Hatta Wadi Hub activity centre through the cooler months. Mountain biking, kayaking, archery, axe throwing, zorbing and much more await those wishing to make the most of the great outdoors. For those looking to simply retreat to the calm and return to nature, walking or hiking the mountains or taking to the waters of the Hatta Dam await. Check in to the long-standing JA Hatta Fort, a pet-friendly hotel offering excellent facilities and comfort, or experience one of the many glamping spots open through the shoulder and winter months.

kalba: best uae road trip

Kalba

Drive time from Dubai: 1 hour 20 minutes. Drive time from Abu Dhabi: 2 hours 40 minutes

Head east from Dubai, and after traversing the width of the country, you’ll reach the quaint fishing village of Kalba on the shores of the emirate of Sharjah. Nature thrives in this city, home to lush mangroves and biodiversity protected by sanctuaries and two of the rarest birds in the world. Holt your UAE road trip and drop your bags at one of the tented suites at the Kingfisher Lodge before heading out to enjoy a day of activities. Kayaking is popular here, among the oldest mangrove forest in Arabia, the Khor Kalba, and experience the Arabian art of falconry at the Kalba Bird of Prey Centre or visit the century-old heritage house, Bait Sheikh Saeed Bin Hamad Al Qasimi, filled with traditional Islamic collectables.

The complete travel guide to Hatta – Dubai’s adventure capital

hatta dubai

From hiking and barbecuing to glamping and golfing, here’s where to stay, what to do and how to get to Dubai’s scenic adventure capital

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