Day trips from Dubai

Want to see more? There’s plenty to explore in Dubai's periphery.

The UAE has many different faces, and within a couple of hours of Dubai, depending on which way you go, you’re in for a delight. The hustle and bustle makes way for wide open spaces, and a more relaxed, somewhat surprising and often thought-provoking adventure.

Melinda HealyJournalist and travel writer
14 October 2022

Archeological sites, dreamy turquoise waters framed by mountain ranges, and date-filled green oases - these are just a few of the reasons to explore what there is to see beyond the emirate. A few clicks or a few hours away, you’ll no doubt be taken aback by the diversity of the landscapes, one minute you’re snorkeling off Fujairah or winding your way up the tallest mountain in the UAE, and then the next you’re venturing into the sandy abyss at one of the country’s most significant sites.

Abu Dhabi

No trip exploring the Emirates is complete without making the 90-minute journey to the UAE capital. Abu Dhabi has plenty of tourist calling cards; not only is it a developing cultural hub – it’s home to the only Louvre Museum outside of Paris and there’s a Guggenheim on the way – but it also boasts one of the world’s largest and most spectacular religious sites, Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Aside from these attractions, Emirates Palace is a must-do for its gold-encrusted cappuccino and ultra-luxe appeal, equaled only by the neighboring Qasr Al Watan Presidential Palace, which is sure to wow thanks to its jaw-dropping extravagance. Then, of course, there’s Ferrari World and Warner Bros Abu Dhabi – the kids will love these parks.

The best way to make the most out of your visit and see as much as you can in a short amount of time is on a Big Bus Tour – a ticket allows you to hop on and hop off at various landmarks across the city. For a bite to eat while in the city, consider hopping off near the Al Mina Fish Markets, where you can buy a fresh local fish and have it cooked for you on the spot.

How to get to Abu Dhabi: A car or taxi is the fastest way to get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai and will get you there in less than 90 minutes at a cost of about AED 250-300. There is a bus that travels between the two emirates, and while a ticket costs just AED 25, the trip is closer to 2.5 hours.

Jebel Jais

A trip up the tallest mountain in the UAE not only delivers sensational views, but also offers tourists an opportunity to fly across the Hajar range on the world’s longest zip-line at 1.7 miles, as ratified by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Jebel Jais is part of Ras Al Khaimah, the emirate on the UAE’s most northern tip. It’s a popular spot for hiking and driving – in fact there are six different walking trails and 45 minutes of driving from the base to the peak. Fans of British adventurer Bear Grylls will be excited to learn that he has an Explorers Camp up here – a ‘basic’ set-up that’s all about survival skills. While it’s pretty slow going on the drive up, due to the winding terrain, there are several lookouts to stop at as you journey the 18 miles to the top, some with snack and coffee vans from which to refuel your traveling party and stretch your legs.

If you’re keen on getting out and exploring everything about this natural local wonder, the best time to do so is during the UAE winter – between November and February. This is when the weather is more conducive to adventuring.

How to get to Jebel Jais: The base of the mountain is two hours by road from Dubai. The best way to ascend Jebel Jais is to rent a car and drive it yourself. Alternatively, you can get a bus from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah and then hire a taxi to take you to the top.

Al Ain

A Unesco World Heritage site affectionately known as the Garden City, Al Ain is steeped in history and its Oasis is the heart of the emirate. Thick with more than 147,000 date palms, natural springs and an ancient irrigation system, the 1200-hectare attraction is right at home in the shadows of Jebel Hafeet mountain. Al Ain was a popular stop-off point for those caravanners who traversed the Arabian Peninsula thousands of years ago. As tranquil – and green – as this part of the emirate is, there are a couple of other spots you should visit. Al Ain Palace and Al Jahili Fort are intriguing landmarks that shouldn’t be overlooked – the former was the home of the founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, from 1937-1966 and offers insight into the early days of the nation. Meanwhile, Al Jahili Fort played a crucial role in protecting the precious plantations in the late-1800s.

If you have time to spend a night, I would suggest booking yourself into the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet. Perched 3000 feet above sea level, the property is an oasis of a different kind – the architecture is unique and the opportunity to sit out and look over the emirate below is simply unrivaled in these parts.

How to get to Al Ain: Situated within the emirate of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain is about 95 miles from Dubai. There is a public bus that operates between the two cities – E201 – with the journey taking just under two hours.

Mleiha Archeological Site

This desert destination within the emirate of Sharjah paints a picture that extends back to some of the earliest human settlements. The archeological site allows visitors to explore relics of pre-Islamic history – we’re talking first-hand sites once frequented by Paleolithic nomads and tombs dating back to the Bronze Age.

There’s a museum here too, for those who really want to delve further into the significance of this historic site and verse themselves fully.

For those keen on doing the desert justice, there are guided treks and driving tours you can join, or if you prefer to see it from above, you’re able to see what the falcons do and paraglide from one of the region’s nearby peaks.

If visiting during the cooler months, Mleiha desert is ideal for setting up camp and bedding down under the glistening, starry sky.

Outside of the desert, Sharjah has a lot of attractions of its own, including its Museum of Islamic Civilization, Heritage Museum, and its annual festival of lights, which illuminates the emirate during the month of February.

How to get to Mleiha: You’ll find this heritage site about 45 miles from Dubai. Hiring a car and driving there yourself is the best idea, but if that’s too much of a headache, the archeological center does offer return transfers from Sharjah city or Dubai for a fee.


If you’re all about the great outdoors, a day trip to the foot of the Hajar Mountains is a must. Hatta promises visitors beautiful landscapes, turquoise waters and adventure trails for miles. Tackle the 31 miles of trails on two wheels, jump in a boat or kayak and cruise Hatta Dam (swimming is not permitted), or wind the clock back and explore the local heritage village and Hatta Fort.

If you’ve got more than one day to spare, this part of the world deserves your full attention. Consider splurging and booking a night at the best glamping site of all desert glamping sites: Dome Park. If you do this, you can add to the adventure by throwing zorbing, archery or the region’s 12-meter water slide to the mix.

The best time to visit Hatta is during the months of fall or spring, as this is when you can spend all day out and about and not swelter in the extreme heat.

How to get to Hatta: You can reach this part of the region by car in about 90 minutes. There are buses that make the journey or you can join an organized tour. A cab ride will cost you about AED 183 each way.


Although you’ll be in for a three-hour round trip, journeying to Fujairah is so worth the effort, if only for the fact that the emirate is home to the country’s oldest mosque. I’ve visited this incredible cultural site and it’s extremely poignant and consists of a prayer area that’s embellished with arches and another dedicated prayer area that points toward the all-important Islamic site of Mecca (all travelers should dress modestly, and women should cover their shoulders and hair to enter).

Renowned for its impressive coastline, which lends itself to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the UAE, you can be assured that as you submerge yourself, you’ll be surrounded by plenty of marine life. The beaches are popular too, they’re complemented by the overarching, craggy Hajar mountain range.

While you’re in these parts, make some time to visit Fujairah’s Sheikh Zayed Mosque and grab a bite at the Sailors Restaurant and Cafe on the corniche.

How to get to Fujairah: This emirate is 77 miles from Dubai. If you don’t have your own hire car, there is a bus service that travels between the two emirates at a cost of around AED 25 each way.

About the author

Melinda HealyAlthough born in PNG, Mel is an Aussie-made journo who's always been more interested in passport stamps than possessions. A whiz with words, Mel spent a number of years living and working in the United Arab Emirates, it was here that she shared insight into Dubai and Abu Dhabi with the world. Mel believes travel is a privilege and an educator.