With its full-throttle development, iconic skylines of high-rises, and world famous beach resorts, the United Arab Emirates has become a favorite for family holidays and city breaks. Landmark tourist attractions such as Dubai's towering Burj Khalifa and Abu Dhabi's modern Sheikh Zayed Mosque, have branded the UAE as an up-to-the-minute luxury destination.
Scrape below the surface though, and you'll find there's more here than skyscrapers, shopping, and sandy shores. The various UAE destinations offer culture fans plenty of things to do. Delve into the country's Bedouin past on starry desert nights before exploring the many forts that guarded the coastline long before the domination of the glitzy high-rises. While for nature-lovers, the desert starts where the cities end and the jagged peaks of the Hajar Mountains are ripe for adventuring
The Burj Khalifa is one of the United Arab Emirates most famous buildings and the soaring sky-high landmark of Dubai. Not only is it the world's tallest building, but it also lays claim to the titles of tallest freestanding structure in the world, highest observation deck in the world, and elevator with the longest travel distance in the world.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a mammoth modern mosque of incredible beauty. Harnessing contemporary design and ancient craftsmanship, the mosque harmoniously blends modern and ancient styles and techniques to create a new interpretation of Islamic architecture. A visit here is a must on any Abu Dhabi itinerary. With its interiors using lavish amounts of gold, mosaic tiles, and glass work and immense amounts of marble, and its exterior of blindingly white stone contrasting dramatically under the Emirati blue sky, it never fails to dazzle.
For those with an adventurous streak, make a beeline for the empty stretch of desert hugging the coastline outside the cities. You'll find plenty of things to do here, from four-wheel-drive trips and dune-buggy journeys to sandboarding, hiking, and camel treks. Most people plan a desert trip from Dubai, but Abu Dhabi and Fujairah are also excellent bases for desert sightseeing. Bedouin-style dinners are a softer alternative if you want to experience the empty beauty of the desert.
There's a beach for everyone in the United Arab Emirates. From the city beaches along the coast of Dubai, with their high-rise background, and Abu Dhabi's golden sand beaches along its island-littered coastline, to the luxury sweeps of sand around Ajman and the wilder beaches of the Emirate of Fujairah, you have plenty of choices. Many luxury hotels have private patches of sand, which non-guests can use for a day fee. Water-sports such as diving, jet skiing, stand up paddleboarding, and snorkeling is also available at many resort locales.
Dubai Creek Dhow Ride
Dubai Creek slices through the city, and the best way to experience Dubai is from one of the beautiful dhows (traditional Arabic boats) that ply the creek. Sunset cruises (which often come with entertainment and dinner) are particularly beautiful as you watch the lights of the high-rises begin to twinkle in the dusk.
The Lost Chambers Aquarium, Atlantis – The Palm
If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to stroll the streets of an underwater city, the Lost Chambers Aquarium will show you. They’re an aquarium like no other. Don’t forget to ask when feeding time is—it’s a fantastic spectacle.
Wild Wadi Water Park
When the heat gets to be a little much, the Wild Wadi Water Park might be the perfect getaway. It’s an indoor/outdoor park so you can enjoy their 17 water slides and three pools regardless of the weather.
Dubai Miracle Garden
Want to slow down a little and enjoy nature? The Dubai Miracle Garden offers a walking path that shows off colours and floral arrangements that will take your breath away.
Combining water, lights, and music, it’s the biggest, most elaborate fountain show in the world. Entry is free and the spectacle is unmatched.
Ferrari World - Abu Dhabi
Unleash your motorcar driving potential on Yas Island at Ferrari World, the largest indoor amusement park in the world! Over 20 rides and attractions celebrate the Ferrari brand and experience. Ride the world’s fastest roller coaster or step it up a notch with the stomach-dropping ‘G-Force’ ride which drops 62 metres from the air. For devoted Ferrari fans, there’s plenty of memorabilia to purchase as souvenirs.