The iconic high-rise skylines of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, rimming long sandy shorelines, have made the United Arab Emirates a popular destination for anyone wanting to mix a city break with some beach time.
Landmark tourist attractions such as Dubai's towering Burj Khalifa and Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Louvre museum offer sightseeing within easy reach of the city sand.
A host of massive malls have made both cities renowned among shoppers as the best places to visit, and both offer vacationing families plenty of purely fun things to do, with an impressive list of major theme parks.
There's more to the UAE than the contemporary glitz of its two major cities, though. The country's interior of desert and Hajar Mountains are all about big-sky scenery and adventure activities, from 4WD trips across a landscape of rippling dunes to taking on the world's longest zipline over the jagged contours of Jebel Jais.
There's also much more history here than those modern skyscrapers would have you believe. Sharjah and Al Ain are two cities dedicated to promoting Emirati heritage.
1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Under places to visit in Dubai, Burj Khalifa is the must visit place. The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa is also the highest observation deck, and a lift with the longest travel distance. At its top, one can get a scenic and surreal view of entire Dubai. It is described as both “Vertical City” and “A Living Wonder.” The tower apparently took 22 million man hours to build
2. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Under places to visit in Abu Dhabi, this mosque is must visit. Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the largest place of worship in the UAE covering over 30 acres. It took over a decade to build. It is a key place of worship where traditional architecture meets the exquisite interiors of mosaic, gold, glass, and marble. A visit here is a must on any Abu Dhabi itinerary. With its interiors using lavish amounts of gold, mosaic tiles, and glass work and immense amounts of marble, and its exterior of blindingly white stone contrasting dramatically under the Emirati blue sky, it never fails to dazzle.
3. Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Palm Jumeirah is an artificial archipelago – a microcosm in itself. It was created by land reclamation, and has a plethora of resorts, like Atlantis and Fairmont Palm, to visit. There is a special monorail connecting the mainland to Palm Jumeirah.
4. Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah
Museum is the must place to visit in Sharjah. Sharjah Art Museum contains works of art by contemporary artists from the Middle East. It has the most diverse art collection in the UAE. It hosts temporary exhibitions the year round. The museum is recognized for its collection of works by Arabic artists and also for its important pieces by European artists who specialized in painting the Arab world.
5. Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain
Al Ain Zoo is a fantastic place and one of the best places to visit in Al Ain for kids to observe fauna
. It was opened in 1969 and features over 4,000 wild animals and birds. The zoo is known for its safari, bird show, and dinosaur trail.
6. Khalifa Park, Abu Dhabi
Khalifa Park is the most popular park in the Emirates. It is a marvel to visit, with a museum
, an aquarium
, a children’s amusement park
, and a train around it.
7. Family Fun at the Theme Parks
In Dubai, Dubai Parks & Resorts offers four major theme parks rolled into one: Motion gate, dedicated to rides themed around Hollywood films; Bollywood Parks
; Legoland Dubai
; and Legoland Water Park
. The city is also home to MG Worlds of Adventure
with rides, roller coasters, and experiences themed around both Marvel storylines and characters for older kids, and the Cartoon Network for little ones. If you just want to splash about for the day, though, Dubai's Wild Wadi Water Park is your best bet in town. The best water park for older kids and teenagers wanting something more than simply slides is Wadi Adventure
in Al Ain.
8. The Dubai's Al Fahidi Quarter
The Al Fahidi quater of Dubai (also known as Bastakia
) is the last remaining fragment of Old Dubai and shouldn't be missed. This small heritage area really evokes the simpler, gentler past of the city before skyscrapers took over the skyline. The narrow lanes within the neighborhood are lined with carefully restored traditional buildings in typical Arabian architectural styles
, many with the wind tower features, which kept houses cool before air-conditioning became common.
9. Dhow Rides on Dubai Creek
The Burj Khalifa
may give you that famous skyline view from up high, but the most iconic Dubai views are still taken from the water. Dubai Creek slices through the city, and the best way to experience Dubai is from one of the beautiful dhows (traditional Arabic boats
) that ply the creek. Sunset cruises (which often come with entertainment and dinner) are particularly popular among visitors, as you get to watch the lights of the high-rises begin to twinkle in the dusk.
10. The Khorfakkan Waterfall
The Waterfall is located at a height of 43 meters above sea level and is 45 meters
long and 11 meters wide. It consists of a number of windows through which one can see the waters of the waterfall sloping from the top of the cave above to the bottom of the mountain. Additionally, it gives visitors a panoramic view of the Khorfakkan beach
. There’s even a restaurant and café that can accommodate more than 80 guests
. You can even choose to dine outdoors and enjoy the beautiful views. And the new attraction isn’t just for leisure activities. The Waterfall is also equipped with the latest technologies and has spaces to hold meetings.