Dubai is not known as one of the premier holiday destinations in the world without good reason. The government of the UAE has pulled out all the stops to ensure that there is plenty in the way of entertainment for those who visit here as well as residents who live here. If you’ve earned a well-deserved break from your daily routine and are scouting for some cost effective activities to tackle those mini-breaks, we’ve got just the thing for you. Whether you’re out for adventure or just in need of some pampering to soothe away those work-related blues, there are several options available both within Dubai and the UAE as well as some close international destinations to explore.
While there is not much hilly terrain to be found in Dubai, the neighboring northern emirate of Ras al Khaimah has some wonderful trekking routes that are particularly good for beginners. If you know what you’re doing, you can explore these on your own, but if you don’t we recommend one of the many professionally organized trips with trained instructors for a safe and enjoyable trek. Global Climbing is a local climbing group that organizes fun-filled overnight treks that include a quiet barbeque, followed by some yoga or a relaxing game of scrabble and a cup of delicious hot chocolate before bed, preparing you for a day of exhilarating hiking, which will challenge you both mentally and physically. Trips cost around AED 600 per person and include all necessary equipment.
There is nothing as relaxing as taking a kayak out onto the gorgeous blue waters of the UAE and enjoying the vast expanse of the ocean. The two most popular destinations for kayaking in the UAE are the mangroves of Abu Dhabi and Ras al Khaimah. Noukhada Adventure Company is one of the most experienced adventure tour guide operators in the region and they organize regular kayaking tours to both emirates. Enjoy a couple of hours of guided paddling through the lagoon channels and mangroves of Ras al Khaimah or Abu Dhabi and admire the wildlife from up close.
Wadis are dry, rocky river beds that follow the path of seasonal streams. Wadi bashing is a popular sport in the UAE where 4x4s are used to traverse the wadi beds and explore the region. So get ready for the ride of your life. If you do not know much about wadi exploration but would like to try it, there are several tour operators who organize trips. Check out Gulf Leisure for a complete fun filled tour through the wadis and dramatic landscape of Oman with the opportunity to get in some swimming and bird watching.
If you are looking for the ultimate spa experience or just want to get away and rejuvenate for the weekend, the UAE has an abundance of luxury resorts where you can unwind, relax and forget all your worries. These resorts also have adventure packages for thrill seekers, but if lounging on the beach with a cool drink is your idea of the perfect mini-vacation, the resorts will work perfectly for you.
If you’ve got a four or five day mini-break and are looking to expand your experience of the Middle East, the two most popular destinations outside of Dubai are Oman and Turkey.
If you are looking for a romantic getaway, head to Muscat, Oman which is a short five to six hour drive from Dubai. Add a bit of adventure to your trip by teaming up with the Oman Dive Center in Muscat. Enjoy a day at sea with the chance to spot, lobsters, cuttlefish and turtles. The early morning dolphin and whale watching boat trip is a must-do and the chances of spotting dozens of dolphins are quite high. After a fun filled day at sea, enjoy the intimacy of the beach huts (AED 700 for two including breakfast and dinner) with barbeques and local live music – the perfect ending to the day.
Alternatively, head to the Musandam for some beach camping or book a tour with the Al Boom Dhow which navigates through the waters of Dibba, stopping every now and then to allow passengers to swim and snorkel. The Al Boom has a double deck with plenty of space for lounging in the sun. The overnight package includes a night’s stay at the Golden Tulip hotel in Dibba. You can also book a package with Musandam Adventures who organize fishing trips and several other adventure filled trips to Musandam.
Turkey is a wonderful destination for culture vultures. One of the most historically rich countries, it was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empire, so as you can imagine the possibilities for historical exploration are fantastic! The Basilica Cistern (an underground piece of architecture), The Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace are popular tourist sites. Don’t forget that Turkey is also the cultural hub of the Middle East with a thriving contemporary art scene and lots of wonderful eateries to sample the local fare. If you’ve got the budget to spare, we suggest staying at the beautiful Sumahan, a converted mid-1800s distillery with unparalleled interiors and views. There are many flights to Turkey – Air Arabia departs from the Sharjah airport to Turkey’s Sabiha International Airport about four times a week. The flight is about four hours long.