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5 Best Day Trips from Abu Dhabi: Discover Adventure

UAE Desert
Abu Dhabi Desert

The cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, offers a rich tapestry of experiences for all kinds of travelers. Iconic museums like the Louvre Abu Dhabi, along with the soon-to-open Guggenheim in 2025, are set to delight art lovers, while magnificent Islamic architecture and the grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque captivate those who appreciate stunning design. Adventure seekers can also get their hearts racing with the world’s largest man-made surf wave and the high-speed thrills of a theme park built for adrenaline junkies. However, beyond the city’s glittering skyline, you’ll find a different world where nature, heritage, and tranquility blend seamlessly.

When you're ready to escape the urban pace, embark on these five best day trips from Abu Dhabi that promise exhilarating adventures, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural wonders.

1. Explore the Vast Rub Al Khali Desert (Empty Quarter)

  • Travel Time: 2 hours 40 minutes by car

Journey into the world’s largest sand desert, known locally as the Empty Quarter, where you’ll be greeted by an expansive and mesmerizing sea of sand dunes stretching into the horizon. Rub Al Khali spans across four countries—Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—making it one of the largest continuous sand deserts in the world, covering 1,000 kilometers in length and 500 kilometers in width.


  • Tel Moreeb: Join a guided tour to witness Tel Moreeb, a towering sand dune that rises 300 meters (984 feet) high with a 50-degree incline, and experience the thrill of climbing the dune in a 4WD vehicle.

  • Wildlife and Nature: Spot hardy animals like free-roaming camels wandering through the golden waves of sand. The silence and vastness of the desert create a surreal and peaceful atmosphere that’s perfect for stargazing.

  • Adventures: If you're an experienced driver, rent a 4WD vehicle, let some air out of your tires, and embark on an off-road adventure across the dunes.

Getting There:

  • Take the E11 road out of Abu Dhabi, then enter the Liwa Desert on the E45 road.

  • Many travelers prefer to book an organized tour (such as Arabian Tours) to ensure a safe and entertaining journey, complete with a traditional dinner and a visit to Tel Moreeb.


2. Watch Camel Races in Al Wathba

  • Travel Time: 30 minutes by car

Al Wathba, a suburb of Abu Dhabi, is known for hosting some of the most prestigious camel races in the Gulf region. At the Al Wathba Camel Race Track, you can see these prized animals racing at speeds of up to 65 kilometers per hour (40 mph) with the help of electric robot jockeys. The racing season runs from October to April, with around 100 camels racing each day.


  • Camel Races: The atmosphere is electric, with prize purses reaching millions of dirhams as these graceful animals gallop over distances ranging from 6.5 to 9.6 kilometers (4 to 6 miles).

  • Al Wathba Wetland Reserve: Close to the race track lies the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, a haven for birdwatchers. Here, you can spot up to 4,000 flamingos feeding in the lakes during autumn and spring, along with over 250 bird species.

  • Walking Trails: Explore two walking trails within the reserve (1.5 km and 3 km long) to fully appreciate the area’s rich biodiversity.

Getting There:

  • Take the E22 Abu Dhabi–Al Ain road to the Al Wathba Camel Race Track.

  • Then connect to the E30 Abu Dhabi–Al Ain Truck Road and follow signs for the reserve.


3.Go on a Wildlife Safari at Sir Bani Yas Island

  • Travel Time: 3 hours by car and ferry

Sir Bani Yas Island is one of the eight Al Dhafra desert islands and is home to pristine beaches, luxury accommodations, and the Arabian Wildlife Park. Covering over half of the island, this conservation area is home to 11,000 free-roaming animals, including Arabian oryx, gazelles, giraffes, hyenas, and cheetahs. Staying in one of the luxurious resorts allows guests to go on a sandy 4WD safari through the wildlife park.


  • Wildlife Park Safari: Experience a guided safari to see rare and endangered animals in their natural habitat, including Arabian oryx, cheetahs, and hyenas.

  • Beach and Watersports: Relax on the island’s untouched beaches or indulge in watersports like kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling.

  • Luxury Accommodation: Stay at one of the Anantara resorts or other luxury accommodations that blend seamlessly with the island's natural environment.

Getting There:

  • Take the E11 highway to Jebel Dhana Jetty via Exit 113.

  • From Jebel Dhana, the Anantara Resort provides complimentary 20-minute water taxis to the island. Alternatively, you can arrive via a chartered boat or plane.

4. Climb the UAE’s Second-Highest Mountain in Al Ain

  • Travel Time: 2 hours by car

Stretching to the border of Oman, the 1,240-meter (4,068 feet) limestone mountain Jebel Hafeet towers over the border city of Al Ain. Its slopes offer thrilling hairpin turns along a 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) road that leads to the summit and rewards travelers with staggering city views.


  • Jebel Hafeet Summit: Drive or bike up the scenic mountain road to the summit, where you'll find panoramic views of Al Ain and the surrounding desert landscape.

  • Green Mubazzarah Park: At the base of the mountain, the lush Green Mubazzarah park offers natural springs, hot pools, and plenty of greenery for a relaxing picnic.

  • Al Ain Oasis: Discover the 150,000 date palms and fruit trees at the Al Ain Oasis, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Al Ain Adventure: Ride waves at the UAE’s first artificial surf park, offering kayaking, swimming, and rafting facilities.

Getting There:

  • Follow the E22 for 175 kilometers (109 miles) east of the capital to Al Ain.

  • Briefly join the E40 road, then climb the scenic Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road to the summit.

5. Turn Up the Tempo in Dubai

  • Travel Time: 1 hour 20 minutes by car

Known as a playground for the wealthy and extravagant, Dubai offers a unique mix of superlatives, with the world's tallest building, largest mall, and the most extensive man-made islands. Here, you can shop for every designer brand imaginable, buy gold and diamonds in the souks, and party with the beautiful people at beach bars and clubs.


  • Burj Khalifa: Take the elevator up to the observation deck of the world's tallest building for breathtaking city views.

  • The Dubai Mall: Explore the world's largest shopping mall, with hundreds of retail outlets, an aquarium, an ice rink, and more.

  • Souks and Beaches: Browse traditional markets for gold and spices, or relax on Dubai’s public beaches like Kite Beach and JBR Beach.

  • Beach Clubs and Nightlife: Enjoy the vibrant nightlife scene at exclusive beach clubs like Nikki Beach and Zero Gravity.

Getting There:

  • Follow the E10 and E11 highways for 138 kilometers (86 miles) to Dubai.

  • Alternatively, take a taxi or bus (only Dhs25/US$6.50) from Abu Dhabi Airport to central Dubai. If you're clubbing, use driver services like Safe Driver UAE or Zofeur to safely return to Abu Dhabi.

These five-day trips from Abu Dhabi provide a mix of adventure, culture, and nature for all tastes. Whether you’re scaling towering sand dunes, spotting rare wildlife, or simply enjoying the serenity of the desert, each destination promises an unforgettable escape from the city. So, pack your bags and embark on a journey beyond Abu Dhabi's city limits to uncover the diverse and remarkable landscapes of the United Arab Emirates.

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