Written by Jess Lee
Updated April 15 , 2022
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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.
For ideas on the best places to visit, see our list of the top attractions and things to do in the United Arab Emirates.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Take a Beach Break
Camel on a United Arab Emirates beach
For many visitors, a UAE vacation centers around the beach. Late October to May, while temperatures plummet over Europe and North America, is high season here as the UAE’s punishing summer heat gives way to winter’s beach weather.
For sun-and-sand focused vacations in Dubai, luxury resorts are focused along the coast west of the central city.
Abu Dhabi’s luxury resorts rim the shoreline of the city’s various islands.
Away from these two destinations, though, there are more beach options. The beach resorts of Ras Al-Khaimah and Ajman in particular are favorite city getaways, while on the UAE’s eastern coast, Al Aqah beach in the Emirate of Fujairah is a popular option for beachgoers who want to head away from the crowds.
2. Zoom Up Dubai’s Burj Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa is one of the United Arab Emirates most famous buildings and the soaring sky-high landmark of Dubai.
Not only is it the world’s tallest building (at 828 meters high) it also lays claim to the titles of tallest freestanding structure in the world, highest observation deck in the world, and elevator with the longest travel distance in the world.
A trip up to the observation deck, with its panoramic views across Dubai, is on most visitor itineraries, both to marvel at this modern engineering and architectural feat and to admire the dizzying views of Dubai laid out below you.
Address: Entry from Dubai Mall, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai
Official site: www.burjkhalifa.ae
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dubai: Best Areas & Hotels
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Dubai
3. Admire Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a mammoth modern mosque of incredible beauty. Fusing contemporary design with traditional craftsmanship, the mosque harmoniously blends modern and ancient styles and techniques to create a new interpretation of Islamic architecture.
Both its exterior and interior utilize lavish amounts of gold, mosaic tiles, and glasswork to decorate the mosque’s white marble stonework, while the architecture itself blends the various mosque designs of multiple Islamic empires.
Inside, the prayer hall is laid with the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet (5,700 square meters) and illuminated by chandeliers made from 24-karat gold and crystals. While outside, the vast marble courtyard incorporates a mammoth swirling floral floor mosaic of semi-precious stones.
Address: Al Khaleej al Arabi Street, Abu Dhabi
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi: Best Areas & Hotels
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