For first-time visitors to the UAE, there is plenty to do. Obviously, Dubai is your first choice, and a visit to the Middle East’s most futuristic city is a good idea. However, sticking to just Dubai for your UAE experience would have been a fantastic trip a few years ago.
There are many exciting things to see and do if you are visiting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the first time right from luxurious shopping experiences, innovative sightseeing to thrilling adventures in the desert. However, there is a chance that you will be overwhelmed by all of the fascinating attractions, sightseeing, and activities on offer.
If you have a UAE visa, you will most likely try to fit in as many Dubai attractions as possible into your itinerary. However, we recommend that you not only focus on a Dubai trip, but also mix and match places of interest from the rest of the UAE.
So, while Dubai should be on your list, it is also time to look beyond Dubai and go emirate hopping if you so desire. For first-time visitors, here are some of the best things to do in the UAE.
UAE’s iconic landmarks
Undoubtedly, the UAE tops the list of countries with the most amazing modern architecture. The UAE is home to many iconic landmarks that are engineering marvels and one-of-a-kind. From the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, each landmark attraction will leave you wondering ‘how on earth did the UAE pull off such a grand feat’? While Dubai tempts you with the best of the best, Abu Dhabi visually entices you with its cultural treasure trove. The two emirates where you can see the UAE’s creative engineering prowess are Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Beaches and waterfront views
The UAE has some of the most beautiful waterfront scenery in the world. The country is endowed with a long coastline. Simultaneously, it has made changes within its emirates to allow water brooks to flow through it, resulting in artificial canals and beautiful waterfront arenas. Take a walk along the Dubai Marina, Abu Dhabi Corniche, Yas Island, or Khalid Lagoon in Sharjah to get a sense of the UAE’s waterfront panoramas, from where you can admire the emirates’ stunning architecture and cityscapes. The UAE also has a plethora of beachfronts with pristine sands and calm Persian water lapping on its contour where locals and visitors can relax in a tranquil ambience.
A dinner cruise along Dubai’s famous water inlets is one of the most popular things to do in UAE. If you enjoy the old-world charms of Dubai, a beautifully decorated traditional Dhow cruise Dubai Creek is ideal. If you want a more modern experience, there are a number of Dinner Cruise Dubai tours available on the Dubai Canal and the Dubai Marina. A dinner cruise is an excellent way to see the city’s skyline and landmarks while dining on a delicious meal. Many cruises also include live music or belly dancing as entertainment.
Thrill and adventures
UAE is an adventurer’s paradise. You can take a hot air balloon ride over the desert, try skydiving if you dare or try your hand at ziplining at Jebel Jais. Nature is abundant in the UAE and its deserts and rugged mountains are the perfect playground for some exceptional adventure thrills where you can go on desert or mountain full day adventure tours or camping expeditions. You can also enjoy indoor thrills such as skiing at an indoor ski park in Dubai, ride the world’s fastest roller coaster in Abu Dhabi even go snorkelling at an indoor aquarium. There are also many water sports available such as jet-skiing and parasailing, paddle boating, wake boarding, fly boarding and more. Just choose which kind of adventure suits your style and go for it!
Desert safari adventures
A trip to the UAE would be incomplete without visiting the desert. The UAE is well-known for its vast deserts, and a desert safari is an must-do experience. You have a great deal of choice in selecting the type of desert safari that is best suited to your trip. A desert safari adventure takes you in a 4×4 to the desert, where you can go dune bashing, camel riding, and even sandboarding. Late afternoon experiences also include a traditional Bedouin-style dinner and a belly dancing performance under the stars. The Liwa Desert, Bidayer Desert, and Al Faya Desert are the most popular Arabian dunes to visit for a thrilling desert safari experience in the UAE.
For the majority of visitors, shopping is one of the top things to do in UAE. There is no way that tourists wouldn’t want to benefit from low tax shopping advantages. Dubai is known for being a shopper’s paradise, with numerous shopping malls, souks, and markets, and is especially popular to visit during the grand Dubai shopping festival. Other emirates also have fantastic shopping arcades and malls that offer merchandise at lower prices than Dubai. The best places to go for retail therapy in the UAE are the Blue Souk in Sharjah, Yas Mall and Souk Central Market in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Souks, and Dubai Mall, to name a few.
UAE has a rich culture and tradition that can be found in every nook and cranny of the UAE emirates. Visit the Dubai Museum, which provides an excellent overview of the country’s history. You can also visit the Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood in Dubai and Heritage Village in Hatta, which provides an insight into the UAE’s traditional way of life. Visit the souks to learn more about traditional trading methods, or the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to gain a more in-depth understanding of the culture. If you want to learn more about the culture of the UAE while on vacation, the two main emirates to visit are Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
UAE’s unique attractions
The United Arab Emirates has many unique attractions that are not found anywhere else in the world. Dubai is a genuine melting pot of unique attractions. You can take a trip into the future and see what the future holds for humanity at the mesmerising Museum of the Future. During cooler months, 72,000 square metres of land at Dubailand turn into a floral wonderland known as Dubai Miracle Garden. In Abu Dhabi, you can see the world’s first Ferrari theme park, set beneath an incredible fiery red colossal canopy. There are many more such gems to discover in the UAE that you should not pass up!
For first-time visitors to the UAE, there is plenty to do. Obviously, Dubai is your first choice, and a visit to the Middle East’s most futuristic city is a good idea. However, sticking to just Dubai for your UAE experience would have been a fantastic trip a few years ago. Today, the UAE’s other emirates have made significant efforts to match Dubai’s popularity by constructing incredible attractions that are both distinctive and memorable. Adding a few of these UAE attractions into your itinerary is a sure-fire way to experience everything the country has to offer in some of its most captivating emirates. So, make travel plans right away to take advantage of everything the UAE has to offer.