JOURNEYS

An Active Adventure in Abu Dhabi

A car drifts on a sand dune.

PHOTO BY © DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE AND TOURISM - ABU DHABI

If you’re a traveler who agrees that the best way to explore a new destination is to get out of your car and head out on foot, bike, kayak, or even camel, you’ll feel right at home in Abu Dhabi. Adventures abound here, from coastal outings along the Arabian Gulf to dune bashing in the desert. Our active itinerary is all about experiencing the thrilling side of Abu Dhabi—its fascinating mangroves, ancient oases, and some of the islands that lie just minutes from the heart of the city.

Conquer a 4,000-foot peak or paddle a whitewater rafting course; you’ll experience the thrill of trying a new sport while exploring this fascinating corner of the world, then return home with a list of brag-worthy accomplishments.

A rally car in the dunes

TRIP HIGHLIGHT

Dune Bashing Adventure

Race through the desert on a dune-bashing adventure in an SUV before returning to your Bedouin tent in a modern Arabian village.
Abu Dhabi

TRIP DESIGNER

Visit Abu Dhabi

Visit Abu Dhabi supports the evolution of the emirate into a world-class destination, while conserving and promoting Abu Dhabi’s heritage, culture and tourism assets. The organization invests in a diverse array of leisure, entertainment, and cultural attractions, and organizes a comprehensive program of events. Visit Abu Dhabi also works closely with tourism partners to ensure they exceed global standards of excellence.
A boat sails towards Abu Dhabi under a dark sky

PHOTO BY © DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE AND TOURISM - ABU DHABI

DAY 1Arrive in Abu Dhabi

Get ready to hit the ground running in Abu Dhabi, with adventures near the city and in the desert. After landing, head to your base for the next two nights, perhaps one of the hotels on Saadiyat Island. At the St. Regis and Park Hyatt resorts, you can swim in the Arabian Gulf alongside hawksbill turtles, just minutes from restaurants, shopping centers and other sights. Those are just two of many options here, from luxury resorts to glittering hotels. Find one that suits your tastes on Abu Dhabi’s Stay page.

After checking in, head out for a bike ride along the Corniche, a waterfront promenade with views of the gulf and the skyline of gleaming towers, has bike paths along its entire length. A causeway at the end of Corniche Beach leads to the Marina Mall, where you’ll find a choice of restaurants for lunch. Or head instead to Yas Island, where a well-marked network of cycle paths includes plenty of shaded rest areas and water stations where you can rehydrate. If you’re in the city on a Tuesday evening, the 3.4-mile Formula 1 Yas Marina Circuit is open to cyclists (as well as runners and walkers) who want to train on a course next to one of Abu Dhabi’s iconic buildings, the Yas Hotel.

You’ll also find Ferrari World on Yas Island, where you can take a ride on the world’s fastest roller coaster—the Formula Rossa. The theme park also boasts the world’s highest rollercoaster loop, on the Flying Aces. Among the 37 different rides and attractions, the Scuderia Challenge is a simulator that will let you experience what it’s like to be drive one of the high-performance F1 automobiles that race on the Yas Marina Circuit.
A family kayaks down a river.

PHOTO BY © DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE AND TOURISM - ABU DHABI

DAY 2Kayaking through the Mangroves

Now that you’ve explored Abu Dhabi by land, discover it by sea. A kayaking tour is an opportunity to get a closer look at the mangroves that run along the coast. They’ve long offered protection from tidal surges while also acting as a windbreak, and they’re home to a variety of bird and marine species. On your half-day kayaking adventure, look for reef herons, greater flamingos, and the remarkable tree that makes this entire ecosystem possible—the grey mangrove, which thrives in salt water.

After a barbeque lunch (provided as part of your kayaking tour), take advantage of the other water activities at Yas Beach. Get back on the water in a small sailboat (available to rent from the Noukhada Adventure Company), try standup paddleboarding, or hop on a Jet Ski. (Noukhada offers lessons as well as rentals.) Or simply rent one of the beach cabanas and relax.
A group drives through the desert in an ATV

PHOTO BY © DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE AND TOURISM - ABU DHABI

DAY 3Into the Desert

Today you’ll head into the desert, with the Arabian Nights Village—roughly 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi—as your destination. This unique property sits amid the windswept dunes and evokes traditional life in an Arabian desert oasis. After you enter the village, guarded by its watchtowers, you’ll make your way to a unique room for the night—a Bedouin tent.

This is the perfect time to experience an adrenaline rush by trying one of Abu Dhabi’s more unusual extreme activities: dune bashing. After you’ve dropped off your bags, head out on a thrilling off-road adventure in an SUV, with an experienced driver who knows how to navigate the soft sands.

Your stay at the Arabian Nights Village will also include camel treks and quieter moments of henna painting, as well as sharing tales of the day’s adventures around a campfire under the star-filled night sky.
A couple walk through a small ravine

PHOTO BY © DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE AND TOURISM - ABU DHABI

DAY 4Jebel Hafeet

Head farther east into the desert today as you continue on to Jebel Hafeet, a mountain near the border with Oman. The 5,000-year-old Jebel Hafeet Tombs are the most important historic site here. These ancient domed structures were built at the beginning of the Bronze Age, and the artifacts found inside them have provided evidence that this area has been a center of trade for millennia.

For the adventure traveler, however, the main draw of Jebel Hafeet is its famous mountain road. Rising to a height of more than 4,000 feet, this peak is the emirate’s tallest. The twisting route up to its summit presents a heart-pumping challenge for cyclists; go by car and you’ll find it to be among the world’s most scenic drives. Near the top, check into the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet for a meal with breathtaking views of the valleys below. Then head to bed exhausted—in a good way.
A man rides a wave

PHOTO BY © DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE AND TOURISM - ABU DHABI

DAY 5Sandboarding and Whitewater Rafting

This morning, experience another only-in-the-desert activity: schussing down sand dunes on a sandboard or a pair of skis. Some believe that the ancient Egyptians were the world’s first sandboarders; regardless, the sport was rediscovered in the 1970s. If you’re an experienced snowboarder or surfer, it won’t take much effort to get the hang of this sport, but outfitters in Abu Dhabi can also get novices up on their feet and carving dunes in no time.

In the afternoon, experience the thrills of whitewater rafting in the desert at Wadi Adventure. This park at the foot of Jebel Hafeet has three different courses, as well as a zipline and vertical climbing wall. Afterwards, make the two-hour drive back to Abu Dhabi, arriving in time for dinner.
A man on a wakeboard gets lifted into the air

PHOTO BY © DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE AND TOURISM - ABU DHABI

DAY 6Depart

Depending on what time your flight leaves, you may be able to squeeze in one more high-adrenaline activity—perhaps wakeboarding at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort. Sort of a combination of surfing and water skiing, wakeboarding involves being pulled along by a boat. The resort has given this sport a new twist, however, with a boat-free cable system for wakeboarders as well as water-skiers. Choose from two lakes, one for novices and the other for more experienced wakeboarders and water-skiers. Or just sleep in and enjoy a leisurely morning, perhaps enjoying one last swim in the gulf before heading home with tales of your adventures in Abu Dhabi.