Abu Dhabi is one of the most modern and forward-thinking cities on the planet. So, obviously, the city has got you covered with attractions, activities and experiences. As one of few cities, it can offer you both city life, nature experiences and beach relaxation on the same day; all rolled into one perfect destination. The city is home to modern skyscrapers, meandering waterways, pristine beaches, green parks and a labyrinth of mangrove forests. Let’s highlight some experiences for you.
This stunningly beautiful 8km long waterfront promenade is located in the heart of Abu Dhabi. It features children’s play areas, cycle and pedestrian pathways, restaurants, cafés and a beach with turquoise water and soft white sand. Marina Mall is just across from the Corniche and Emirates Palace is at the southern end of the promenade. Take a relaxing stroll, do some people-watching on a bench overlooking the Arabian Gulf or rent a bike for a ride along this Instagrammable seaside boardwalk.
This lavish hotel is beyond glamorous. Don’t fret if you cannot afford to stay in one of the 394 rooms with butlers and balconies overlooking the sprawling palm-shaded gardens. You can dine at one of the many restaurants and bars or book a treatment in the opulent 1,500 sqm spa with a traditional Moroccan hammam. Or you can take your credit card to the world’s most eccentric ATM which dispenses gold bullion.
UAE Presidential Palace
The walled compound at the western tip of Abu Dhabi is home to the UAE Presidential Palace: Qasr Al Watan. Take a guided tour to see the historical treasures such as a collection of Arabic literature in the Qasr Al Watan Library, artifacts and scrolls in the House of Knowledge and the artful mosaics of The Great Hall.
Mangrove National Park
The mangrove forests on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi are a natural habitat for species such as the heron, flamingo, jumping needlefish, dolphin and dugong. You can explore the waterways by kayak on a sunrise, sunset or night light tour (on which LED lights are fixed to your kayak so you can see fish beneath you). Experienced kayakers can join a full moon tour, camping trip or the Al Rahba tour. There is also a boardwalk which allows visitors to walk between mangroves and peer into crystal-clear waters on nearby Jubail Island.
Abu Dhabi Pearl Journey
The 90-minute tour aboard a Jalboot, a traditional pearling dhow, cruises along the quiet channel between Abu Dhabi and Hudayriat Island. Seated on floor cushions, guests enjoy Arabic coffee and dates while Emirati guides explain how the country’s forefathers dived for pearls, and crew members sing traditional Emirati sea-faring songs.
About 160 km east of Abu Dhabi lies the green oasis town Al Ain, dotted with palm groves and archeological ruins at the foot of the Jebel Hafit mountain. Al Ain means ‘The Spring’ in Arabic and the garden city is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited settlements, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Al Ain is home to world-heritage locations such as the six Al Ain Oases as well as the archaeological sites of the 5,000-year-old tombs Bida bint Saud and Jebel Hafit, and Hili archeological park. With its still-operational traditional falaj (ancient irrigation system) and meandering pathways shaded by over 147,000 date palms and other fruit trees, Al Ain Oasis is the perfect place to see what agriculture in this region has looked like for millennia. While you are there, check out these attractions too:
- Al Ain Zoo
- Al Ain Heritage and Culture Village
- Al Ain Museum
- The Al Reef Handicrafts Training Centre
- Go-karting Al Ain Raceway
- Al Ain Souk
Liwa Desert and the Empty Quarter
A two-hour drive from Abu Dhabi takes you to the Empty Quarter, also known as Rub’ al Khali’. This desert extends for thousands of miles into Saudi Arabia; a rolling sea of sand dunes sculpted by the wind, up to 300m high. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara lies in the middle of these towering dunes of the Liwa Desert and offers a variety of memorable activities. These include desert walks, tours to the nearby Liwa Oasis, dawn yoga amid the dunes, camel trekking, desert drives, archery, fat biking, horse riding and a falcon and Saluki show.