Hit the dirt road

Some tried and tested spots around the UAE still have their allure. We’ve covered these places before but every visit seems like the first. Here’s a recap of the best road trips in the country


Nisthula Nagarajan

Published: Mon 2 Aug 2021, 10:41 AM


For the ultimate road trip accompanied by nothing but vast stretches of desert, get 340 km out of Dubai and Abu Dhabi along a seemingly endless stretch of road through the vast desert, aptly named ‘The Empty Quarter’. There is a desert settlement of around 50 villages and the former home of the ruling families of both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There are also several forts worth visiting, along with the towering Moreeb Dune, the tallest in the country. Take a 4x4 up the road on the dune and have a picnic under the stars.

Jebel Hafeet

Around 150 km from Dubai, climb 1,240 m up rocky limestone that’s several millions of years old. It acts as a kind of rocky barrier to Al Ain. Take regular breaks to appreciate the vistas on the way up (and hydrate!). From the top, marvel at the boundless rolling dunes of Oman and Al Ain. Explore the ancient tombs in the foothills, or simply drive up the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, which is popular for being one of the best road trips in the country. Take a dip in the while the hot-water springs at the foot of Jebel Hafeet to cool off after a day of thrill-seeking.

Al Ain

Being a desert land, the UAE is hardly known for its greenery. This is where Al Ain or the ‘Garden City’ is an exception. A lush green escape one hour and 45 minutes from Dubai, Al Ain is the world’s oldest inhabited settlement, known for its palm groves and natural springs. Head for the Al Ain Oasis, the UAE’s first curated Unesco World Heritage Site and home to the groundbreaking falaj irrigation system, constructed roughly 3,000 years ago. Let loose at the world’s largest man-made white-water channels at Wadi Adventure, situated near the grasslands of Green Mubazzarah.


Just around two hours from Dubai on the east coast of the country is the charming fishing village of Kalba in Sharjah. Another nature haven, the city is home to a thriving ecosystem of rare animals and birds as the UAE’s most famous wildlife sanctuary. Drop your bags at one of the tented suites at the Kingfisher Lodge and kick-start your day with a host of activities like with wildlife spotting while trekking, kayaking, as well as scuba diving. Kayak in the oldest mangrove forest in Arabia, Khor Kalba, witness the art of falconry at the Kalba Bird of Prey Centre and history buffs can enjoy the century-old heritage house, Bait Sheikh Saeed Bin Hamad Al Qasimi, filled with traditional Islamic collectables.


Escape the buzz of city life in just one and a half hours to the northern scenic heritage village of Hatta, where a breathtaking massif and cooler climate is just the getaway the doctor ordered. Go to the Hatta Wadi Hub activity centre during the winter to experience mountain biking, kayaking, archery, axe throwing, zorbing and more to make the most of the great outdoors. For the calmer folk, hike the mountains or take to the waters of the Hatta Dam. This locale is a popular holiday spot for both residents and citizens. The surrounding Hajar Mountains make for a picturesque backdrop.

Snoopy Island

Calling all water-sport wanderlusts. Islands are few in this part of the world, but fortunately, the UAE has several. Fujairah is home to Snoopy Island, a haven to every visitor, from snorkellers to professional divers and anyone looking for a tranquil spot. Just 2.5 hours from Dubai off the coast of the eastern emirate, this rocky marine outcrop is located 100 m from the Sandy Beach Hotel at Al Aqah. Azure waters and vibrant coral reefs make this one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Try out an array of water sports from kayaking to scuba diving.

Jebel Jais

Home to the world’s longest zip line, Jebel Jais is the highest UAE peak at 1,934 km. From Dubai, drive 195 km to reach the winding mountainside roads while absorbing the views of endless barren, eroded cliffs, deep canyons and warped escarpments around every bend in Ras Al Khaimah. Driving enthusiasts also widely regard this as the best drive in the UAE. There are numerous ‘Instagrammable’ spots on the way, but for the best views, the Viewing Deck Park near the summit is unbeatable.

Fossil Rock

Named after the cool preserved marine invertebrate fossils found on its slopes. This is definitely for off-road adventure seekers. On its peak, view the astonishing vast barren landscape — a geological treasure. There are tonnes of camels on the way to rock formation. In the winter, you can lay out a picnic in the desert once you reach the spot, rent quad bikes to ride the dunes and visit the nearby Mleiha Archaeological Centre for guided tours.

Your road trip playlist

Road Trippin’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Roadhouse Blues by The Doors

Road To Nowhere by Talking Heads

Tongue Tied by Grouplove

Wake Me Up by Avicii

All Star by Smash Mouth

Rocketman by

Elton John

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