Dubai is a glittering city in the United Arab Emirates, famous for it’s towering skyscrapers, sizzling beaches and upscale experiences. Many travellers use Dubai as a stopover to break up a long journey to southeast Asia or further afield, but this famous desert city really is a destination in it’s own right. Popular with Europeans searching for some easy winter sun, Dubai has everything you could ever wish for when it comes to a holiday in the sun.
Dubai is the sort of place where you could spend a weekend or a month, and never get bored. It has all the glamour of the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, but with even more to see and do. There’s everything from adrenaline activities to fine dining on offer here, as well as an impressive catalogue of hotels that cater for families, business travellers and of course the mega rich. The city is known for its glamour, yet beyond the swanky shopping malls and luxurious residences you’ll discover a wealth of culture and innovative technological institutions, just waiting to be explored.
If you’re planning on visiting Dubai and wondering what there is to do besides lying by the pool, here are some ideas to get you started.
Of course, no visit to Dubai is complete without a trip up the iconic Burj Khalifa. at 830 metres tall, it’s the highest building in the world, and even more remarkable for being built right here in the desert. You can ascend the high-speed lift up to the observation deck and behold the city of Dubai in all its glory.
The desert views are far-reaching and give a real sense of perspective when it comes to the wider city setting.
Mosques aren’t usually open to non-Muslims, so this is a real find for travellers who want to expose themselves to a bit of local culture. The building itself is impressive, with intricately crafted white stone domes that look especially splendid after sunset.
You can visit the Jumeirah Mosque from Saturday to Thursday and enjoy a guided tour to find out about the history and architecture of Dubai’s most beautiful mosque.
Dubai Fountain Show
If you thought the fountains outside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas were impressive, just wait until you set eyes on the Dubai Fountain. There are several choreographed shows each day – they take place in the Burj Khalifa Lake in the heart of Downtown Dubai.
There’s music, light and of course spectacular displays of water shooting through the air, all timed to perfection. The performances are every half hour from 6 PM, so come after dark for the optimum effect.
The Ain Dubai is the largest observation wheel in the world, even bigger than the colossal London Eye on the South Bank. It sits on the shore beside the Jumeirah Beach Residences and treats riders to stunning 360-degree panoramas out across the bay. You can see the wheel from many other attractions in Dubai, and it’s an integral part of the iconic skyline here in the desert.
The revolution takes 38 minutes, with around 1750 passengers being able to ride at any one time. It really is huge! You can buy tickets online or at the gate, but booking ahead is advised during peak times.
Ziplining at XLine Dubai
For the ultimate thrill, head to XLine Dubai and zoom past skyscrapers and over hotels for a bird’s-eye perspective of the city. It’s famed for being one of the longest zip lines in the world, and you can travel at up to 50 miles an hour. This one’s not for the faint-hearted! Tandem rides are available if you’re travelling with family or friends.
You’ll take off from the Jumeirah Beach Residence and finish your epic adventure down at the marina. The views are incredible, but the bragging rights after you complete your aerial mission are even better!
One of the unmissable things to do in Dubai is take in a camel race. This traditional sport is centuries old, and is popular with locals as well as tourists. The Al Marmoom Race Track is the place to go, with events taking place in the mornings before things heat up too much.
You can take a seat in the grandstand and watch the colourfully adorned camels and their robot jockeys whiz around the desert tracks, often reaching speeds to 65 kilometres an hour. It’s a thrilling experience, and gives an intriguing glimpse into Emirati culture and heritage. The races usually take place during winter between October and April when temperatures are cooler.
Hot air ballooning
One of the best ways to really appreciate the Dubai landscape and its miraculous desert setting is by taking to the skies in a hot air balloon. You’ll take off from a remote area outside the city, and float silently over the sand that lies far down below. It’s a romantic endeavour and is popular with honeymooners.
Keep your eyes peeled for desert wildlife like like oryx and camels wandering across the dunes. Some flights also come with a falconry experience – a professional handler with fly a falcon right alongside your balloon!
The Spice Souk
There are lots of traditional markets in the the city, but undoubtedly the most tantalising is the spice souk. Here you can be guided by your nose as you wend your way through the stalls selling all manner of exotic smelling products. There’s everything from saffron to rosehips on display, which is a feast for the camera as well as the senses.
While you might not be in the market for purchasing spices during your holiday, you’ll certainly want to pick up a few souvenirs from the other stalls. Colourful lanterns and traditional clothing are visitor favourites. There are great views of the lavish Burj Al Arab hotel from here too!
Abra boat ride on Dubai Creek
for something more traditional, sail across the Dubai Creek on a traditional wooden vessel, known locally as an “abra”. This is your chance to ramp the pace of adventure down a notch and enjoy a leisurely ride like people have been doing for centuries.
It’s particularly atmospheric at dusk, and gives you easy access into Dubai’s historic old town for when you want a change of scenery from the modern metropolis.
Deep Dive Dubai
This one is for the divers out there, and it’s a place unlike anywhere else in the world. At 60 meters this is the deepest artificial pool on earth, with a whopping 14 million litres of water to swim in! You’ll need to be a qualified diver to enjoy this aquatic playground, so remember to take your certificate with you.
Experienced divers can explore the mysterious depths of this otherworldly realm, swimming through tunnels and arches while coming across submerged cars and ancient-looking tree roots. Those with no experience can enjoy a snorkeling session up on the surface at Deep Dive Dubai, and admire the sunken world from above.