Escape the City – Short Day-Trips from Dubai
Whether you’re in the mood for taking your rental car on a spontaneous road trip or planning a daylong getaway with family, the UAE’s diverse landscapes have something for everyone, from long beaches and tall mountains to desert dunes and mangrove swamps. Here’s our pick of three great day-escapes from Dubai where you will find a pleasant mix of nature, adventure and culture.
Relaxation & Wildlife: Umm Al Quwain
Umm Al Quwain enjoys a slow-paced atmosphere that is hard to find in Dubai nowadays. Being the UAE’s least populous emirate, the town has some of the best shoreline in the country and uncrowded strips of white-sand beaches all within one hour’s drive from Dubai.
Once you reach, get closer to nature by taking a boat through the islands of Umm Al Quwain. These seven islands are surrounded by lush mangrove forests and separated by navigable creeks, forming a magnificent blue-green lagoon. The largest island, Al Sinniyah, is a natural reserve with the third-largest Socotra cormorant colony in the world. This black bird is endangered, which makes it a special sight especially for birdwatchers. You might also spot Arabian gazelles and turtles. To enjoy this sanctuary, haggle with a local fisherman or take a trip arranged by a local tour company or hotel.
Back on land, head to Umm Al Quwain Fort that was home to the emirate’s ruler in 1768. Overseeing the sea on one side and the creek on the other, the small fort in the old town area will take you back in time with its collection of artefacts from nearby archaeological sites and unique infrastructure.
High-Adrenalin: Big Red Sand Dune
Getting its orange-red colour from a high iron oxide content, the Big Red or “Al Hamar” is an enormous 300-foot sand dune in the middle of the desert and one of the most popular off-road destinations in the UAE.
Adventure enthusiasts will usually visit on weekends with their jeeps, quad-bikes and dune buggies to try and conquer the steep sand dune. You can also rent a quad bike from nearby outlets if you want to tackle the dune or have a spin around the flat course next to the highway. Alternatively, you could walk up the nearest dune and then slide down on a sandboard.
You can get to the Big Red by Hatta Road E44 in 40 minutes from the centre of Dubai. Just before you reach the Oman border, you’ll notice the huge sand dune to your left.
Mountain Experience: Jabal Al Jais
The UAE’s tallest mountain is 1.5-2 hours’ drive from Dubai and offers sweeping views over valleys and peaks. Part of the Al Hajar mountain range that was formed more than 70 million years ago, Jabal Al Jais stands at a staggering (seriously?) 1,910 metres in Ras Al Khaimah near the UAE-Oman border.
A great getaway for the day, the mountain offers breath-taking scenery and a welcome respite from the summer heat with temperatures around 10 degrees cooler than sea level. If you want to sleep under the stars, you’ll find plenty of space at the top to camp overnight, which means you’ll get to watch a spectacular sunrise over the surrounding peaks.
As with all mountain climbing, make sure to wear protective clothing, carry special equipment, bring food and water with you, and most importantly, be accompanied by a qualified guide. For the drive itself, take a look at our ultimate checklist for long road trips.
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