Top 10 natural retreats in the UAE

By: Tarana Khan

The United Arab Emirates is best known for its daring architectural ventures. When you visit the country, it's hard not to be dazzled by the gleaming skyscrapers and other man-made marvels. And why wouldn't you be? There's only one Burj Khalifa or Palm Jumeirah or Ferrari World on the planet! However, there is a lot more UAE has to offer besides shopping and sightseeing. Some of the natural attractions in this country are not even known to many residents, let alone visitors! Here is a list of ten of the best locations that bring you close to nature, and cost you little or nothing.

1. Hatta, Dubai

Hatta has always been a popular weekend getaway for people in the UAE.  The mountains, rocks and clear waters make for a relaxing retreat away from the city. The Hatta Wadi is great for an adventurous off-road trip. It is also worth visiting the Hatta Heritage Village.

2. Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain

Located at over 1200 meters above sea level, Jebel Hafeet is UAE’s second highest peak. A popular retreat for residents and tourists, it is located in Al Ain, where you can also visit the hot water springs and lake at Green Mubazzarah. The drive, as you ascend the peak, is breath-taking as the ancient mountains awe you with their simple beauty.

3. Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

This natural island is as close to nature and wildlife as it gets. The Arabian Wildlife Park has over 10,000 animals which you can see in their natural habitat. Apart from the safari, you can go on guided walks, hiking, biking or kayaking here. There's a luxury resort where you can unwind.

4. Ras Al Khor Bird Sanctuary, Dubai

This protected wetland attracts more than 20,000 birds of 67 species. The hundreds of flamingos that live here have become iconic of this sanctuary.  Special spots have been created to view the birds without disturbing them. The sanctuary is located within the city and is a perfect place to visit during the winter.

5. Khor Kalba, Sharjah

This wetland is also home to many rare birds and is a great place to explore nature. It also has mangrove swamps in which you can take a boat ride with the local fishermen. It’s also a great place to camp and go for a hike.

6. Wadi Warayah, Fujairah

This protected area in the Hajar mountains is a place where you can explore wildlife and the terrain. It also has some sites of archaeological significance. Wadi Wurayah makes a good spot for camping, trekking and off-road driving. There’s even a little waterfall and lake to cool off in. You might even come across the endangered Arabian leopard!

7. Al Ain Oasis, Al Ain

In the greenest city of the UAE, you will find date palms swaying in the breeze and the gurgling of water channels. The Al Ain Oasis transports you away from the city outside and is a perfect spot to relax and also see a bit of the country’s history and heritage. Al Ain has over seven natural oases you can visit.

8. Snoopy Island, Fujairah

This oddly-named island is a great place for snorkelling. You may even encounter a reef shark, turtle or ray - the marine life here is diverse. End the day with a barbecue at Sandy Beach. Hotel accommodation is available nearby, making for a relaxing weekend getaway. And yes, the island supposedly resembles the comic strip character!

9. Liwa Oasis, Abu Dhabi

This oasis is one of the largest in the region. There are many hotels and resorts where you can stay here, giving you views of both the greenery and the never-ending sand dunes of the vast Rub Al Khali desert. Many people still live in the villages here, so it is a good place to explore UAE culture as well.

10. Al Sinniyah Island, Umm Al Quwain

There are seven islands in Umm Al Quwain, and this the largest of them. Al Sinniyah is a marine sanctuary, home to many bird and wildlife species. The best way to explore the islands is by boat via the Madaar creek . A tourist centre nearby offers accommodation and boat hire.

Whether you are a resident looking for ideas to spend a long weekend, or a visitor wanting to experience more, try to explore the beauty within UAE itself. There's certainly a lot to explore!


About the author

Expat Blog ListingTarana Khan is an Indian expat living in United Arab Emirates. Blog description: A blog about parenting, Dubai and life's many adventures.
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Contest Comments » There are 14 comments

Mary @ Over40andamumtoone wrote 10 years ago:

Great post, I've actually visited a couple of the places you've mentioned. I loved Al Ain, so very different to Dubai and Sharjah. Good luck, I always enjoy reading your posts

Vinma wrote 10 years ago:

I have never been to Dubai. heard a lot about it- a concrete jungle, among other things :) But Natural retreats? This is indeed a pleasant surprise! Thanks so much for this list! Will bookmarking :)

Arlette Fonseca wrote 10 years ago:

An island named after and looks like Snoopy?! That's so cool! Off I go to Google Images :).

Shilpa Fernandes wrote 10 years ago:

Wow, wish I knew all these places in my childhood days, must come back to UAE!

Jaime Oliver wrote 10 years ago:

I so love your writing my lovely, I would love to visit your part of the world, however until then i will keep reading and dreaming :-)

Rahul wrote 10 years ago:

Great job Tarana. I guess this will be part of my checklist when I visit that part of the world :)

Besy Reji wrote 10 years ago:

Been in Dubai like forever and still never been to most of these places. Thanks Tarana. very informative

Naseem wrote 10 years ago:

Absolute Surprised to know that there are so much Natural Site to Visit in UAE, Glad to know What this country has to offer beyond 'Dubai' and of Course 'Burj Khalifa'( Tallest Building in the world).. Being in UAE Will shortly start planning to Visit these location..Thanks for the Info Tarana.

Rachel wrote 10 years ago:

This is a great list for Expats in the UAE looking to escape the hustle & bustle of city life for a while. Well done Tarana!

ANWAR KHURSHEED wrote 10 years ago:

Great info, will be used soon as we are planning to be there. Thanks Tarana

Indu Singh wrote 10 years ago:

Very informative and well described. I guess will keep these information handy whenever will plan to visit Dubai..and will recommend others too.

Zeudytigre wrote 10 years ago:

You make it sound like such a lovely place to visit, so much more than just sun, sea and sand.

Iris Harmon wrote 10 years ago:

I really liked this entry because it's simply written and very easy to scan through, giving the essential info in a clear and informative way. I really must make the effort to visit those islands - they sound idyllic. Well done.

Elena wrote 10 years ago:

OM gosh, what a great post. I'm a BIG fan of traveling so this was definitely a must read for me! I would love to go to Abu Dhabi to see all the wonderful wildlife! I bet my little one would love that too! Ah, someday I hope! I should start saving my pennies now :o) Anyhow, thanks for sharing this and I hope you're having a great week! [email protected]

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