Scenic Road Trips and Day Trips from Dubai
The city’s constant hustle and bustle often leaves us yearning for the peace and quiet of a good ol’ Dubai road trip. But you don’t need to go far with your rental car to enjoy a change of scenery. The UAE has more than its fair share of hidden gems that can be visited in one day from Dubai and which will leave you feeling refreshed and energized.
Take a deep breath at the top of Jebel Hafeet
A trip to the flourishing city of Al Ain is always rewarding. The two-hour drive itself is picturesque, with lots of camel and date farms and orange sand dunes along the route. Overflowing with history and culture, Al Ain has been inhabited for more than four millennia. It is also home to a spectacular, well-paved road up Jebel Hafeet, which guards over Al Ain and borders Oman.
Rising 1,200 meters, this is the UAE’s second-highest peak and you can see the two countries on either side of the mountain. The most popular way to reach the top is to navigate the 11-km zigzag road by car. The drive is smooth sailing and the views from the top are stunning. Driving up, you’ll find plenty of pit-stops and viewpoints which you can use for photoshoots. There’s also a small restaurant at the summit where you can grab a bite and a coffee. For a more sumptuous meal, stop off at the Mercure Grand Hotel on top of the mountain.
The best time to visit Jebel Hafeet is at either sunrise or sunset but allow an hour and a half to enjoy the drive upwards. The road is also lit up at night, so you can visit in the evening. Once back down, you might want to check out Sheikh Zayed’s palace (the former home of the UAE’s founding father), the lush Green Mubazzarah Park and the hot springs – all located at the foot of the mountain.
Getting there: Take the Dubai-Al Ain Road (E66) then E40, which takes you to the bottom of Jebel Hafeet.
Liwa Oasis: The road less traveled
A place of tranquility and dreamy landscapes, Liwa Oasis lies on the edge of the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass – the Empty Quarter – and was the first filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While it is a long 3.5-hour journey from Dubai, the spectacles on offer make it well worth the effort.
Once there, you can start by exploring the sand dunes of this marvelous terrain, which can reach shocking heights of almost 250 meters, whilst spotting the scattered ancient forts. Back in the days when water was scarce, the tribes who lived in Liwa built forts from mud bricks and straw to guard their wells from enemies.
If you plan to venture into the desert, make sure your vehicle is a well-equipped SUV and have a local guide to accompany you. Alternatively, you can relax at a luxurious oasis in the heart of the desert, such as the magnificent Qasr Al Sarab or the secluded hideaway Tilal Liwa.
Getting there: Follow the Sheikh Zayed Road (E11) out of Dubai and past Abu Dhabi; divert across the highway interchange to E65 (direction Hameem, exit 306), which becomes E90. Follow this road for about 150km, which will take you to the edge of the Liwa Oasis.
Masfout: Live the fairytale
It may be the smallest emirate in the UAE, but Ajman has some pretty cool attractions. One of them is the town of Masfout, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Dubai. Nestled between the Hajar Mountains, this landlocked enclave is known for its fertile land, honey production, and high-quality marble, while the rocky landscape surrounding it is a haven for walking, picnics, and wadi exploration. The town’s elevated altitude has also made it a summer retreat for Ajman’s residents.
The jewel in the crown is the Masfout Castle. Perched on the mountaintop, the 19th-century tower-shaped structure was once the first line of defense against bandits heading to neighboring Oman. Built with stones, mud, and local timber, the castle consists of two rooms and a gate and was restored in the late 1940s. There are no hotels yet in Masfout but plans are under way to establish a resort and an equestrian club. So now may be the best chance to go for a day trip and check it out!
Getting there: Take the Emirates Road (E611) then follow the Sharjah-Kalba Road (E102) to Masfout.
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