Dubai: The winter months are some of the most fun-filled days for UAE residents, with the weather making it easier to explore the UAE’s outdoors.
Apart from the option to explore Nature, the UAE also sees several popular destinations, like the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Abu Dhabi or the Global Village in Dubai, opening up. Here we have put together some of the top things you can do either with your family and friends, or on your own, to make this winter in the UAE a memorable one.
1. Go biking and discover the great outdoors
If you are someone who likes to explore natural areas on a bicycle, there are several biking trails in the UAE, either running through mountains or at natural parks.
- Hatta bike trail
Hatta has several adventure options available for visitors, including a biking trail. The trail offers four routes that vary in degrees of difficulty, from a route for beginners and novice cyclists to a ‘severe trail’ for expert mountain bikers. There is no entry fee and in case you don’t have a bike, you can rent one from the Mountain Bike Trail centre for Dh65 to Dh85, depending on the type of bike.
For a more detailed guide on how to get there, click here.
- Mushrif bike trail
You can also enjoy biking around the popular Mushrif Park in Dubai. The bike trail is once again divided into different routes based on the degree of difficulty. Park entrance costs Dh3 per person and Dh10 per car.
2. Hike your way to health
With the mountain areas a great way to discover the natural beauty of the UAE, there are also many hiking routes that have been designed and maintained by municipal authorities across the country. Some of these trails include:
All these options are free of cost, however, if you choose to go to the Mushrif Park, you will need to pay the park entrance fees.
3. Chill out on the beach
With over 1,000km of a coastline, the UAE has many public and private beaches that are a great place to spend time alone or with family and friends. Dubai also has some 24/7 night beaches, where you can enjoy night swimming, free open gym, playground access and jogging tracks.
If you are looking for more comfort, you can also book a beach chalet in places like the Al Mamzar Beach Park.
4. Go around the world in 80 minutes
You can also have a great time exploring artefacts and products from across the world in the UAE. In Dubai, the popular Global Village has pavilions that represent the culture of over 70 countries allowing you to enjoy their local food, shop for clothes or watch cultural performances.
In Abu Dhabi, the ongoing Sheikh Zayed Festival has pavilions for different countries in the world, as well as a ‘World Civilisations Parade’ that highlights traditional songs and folk art from across the world.
5. Fire up a barbecue
Love to fire up the grill and enjoy a barbecue with friends? You will be able to find several spots at parks, beaches and other managed open air facilities where you can set up a barbecue. However, if you are new to the UAE, it is extremely important to remember that there are certain rules that need to be kept in mind when it comes to lighting up a barbecue. For example, you should not start a barbecue in unregulated areas like an apartment balcony or even a public park, if the area does not clearly state so. Also, when you do use a facility or area to barbecue, make sure you do not leave without correctly disposing off the garbage, especially the coal. Sharjah’s Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) advises campers to cool down the charcoal using water and wait for the charcoal to completely cool down, before placing it in a separate trash bag and disposing it in a designated garbage bin.
6. Walk through millions of flowers – Dubai Miracle Garden
This is the world’s largest natural flower garden, and it reopened for its 12th season in September this year. There is a special discounted ticket price UAE residents, too, with the park having more than 150 million flowers, record-breaking floral sculptures, ‘floral tunnels’ and water-themed attractions. To find out how to get there, click here.
7. Take in the waterfalls and lakes
Another great Nature experience in the UAE is enjoying the waterfalls, lakes and beaches around the country.
- Al Rafisah Dam – Khorfakkan
The Al Rafisah Dam is a calm outdoor area, which has the water reservoir and a man-made waterfall. Originally built in the 1980s, the dam had an upgrade with a new visitor centre and rest area. This location also has a play area for children, kayaking options for visitors, an island where you can explore wildlife as well as shops and cafes.
- Khorfakkan Amphitheatre waterfalls
Khorfakkan also has a newly built amphitheatre, which as an accompanying 45-metre-high waterfall, with the beach on the other end.
- Hatta Dam
The vast lake formed by Hatta Dam and its surrounding mountains is extremely popular among visitors, where you can hire a kayak or water bike for the day, or a pedal boat on an hourly basis.
You can also enjoy a ride on an electric boat, which will allow you to explore the serene lake and the surround mountain range.
8. Learn about Nature through mangroves and reserves
Did you know that the UAE has the largest mangrove coverage in the region. Mangroves are powerhouses when it comes to climate change mitigation and adaptation – they store up to four times more carbon than tropical forests and can sequester and store carbon both within the plant as well as in the sediment and soil beneath them. They are home to endangered species of turtles, seabirds, sharks and rays and can help reverse the decline in fish stocks and improve water quality. The UAE has several mangrove projects, as well as natural reserves, where you can learn more about the UAE’s environmental initiatives, while surrounded by Nature. Here are some top eco-tourism spots you can visit:
- Eastern Mangrove National Park or the Mangrove National Park in Abu Dhabi is in the heart of the city and makes up almost 75 per cent of the total mangrove forest area in the UAE, with salt marshes, mudflats, and algal communities.
- Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in Al Marmoom, Dubai is a protected area that helped bring the Arabian Oryx back from the brink of extinction. You can book a tour of the place and try your hand at falconry, ride a camel or simply hike through the desert surroundings.
- Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai, where you can enjoy the sight of pink and white flamingoes from bird hides at different locations.
- Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area in Abu Dhabi, where you can watch fossil formations dating back to the Ice Age.
- Jebel Hafeet Desert Park in Al Ain, which offers the option camping, explore nature and uncover archaeological and historical remains.
- Khor Kalba mangrove or the Al Qurm Nature Reserve in Sharjah is located on the east coast of Sharjah, a 90-minute drive from Sharjah's city centre. It has pristine waters for kayaking close to the mangrove forest. For families, there are also many spots near the water to pitch a tent and enjoy the weather.
- Jubail mangrove in Abu Dhabi’s Jubail island is the first self-contained educational, nature and leisure destination of its kind in the emirate. The park is famous for its boardwalks, floating just above the water's surface, and giving you a great view of the wildlife in the area like turtles, herons and gazelles.
- Sharjah Desert Park is a wildlife education hub, with four different venues – Arabia’s Wildlife Centre, a petting farm, a botanical garden and the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife.
- Wasit Nature Reserve in Sharjah is home to over 200 resident and migratory bird species, including the pink-backed pelican, flamingos, and marbled ducks. You can view the coastal bird populations from eight viewing decks and walk through the aviaries within the Reserve.
9. Discover Abu Dhabi on your own, through self-guided tours
If you are someone who enjoys to explore a city on your own, and at your own pace, there is a perfect experience for you – online guided tours that you can simply download on your phone, plug in your earphones and walk around Abu Dhabi. As these tours are linked to your phone’s geolocation, you can listen to stories about what you are seeing right at that moment. The walking tours are available for the following locations in Abu Dhabi:
- Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Reserve Tour
- Abu Dhabi Urban Treasures Food Tour
- Abu Dhabi Skyline Tour
- Al Ain Nature & History Tour
- The Historical Heart of Abu Dhabi
- Discover Liwa Driving Tour
- Modern Heritage Tour of Downtown Abu Dhabi
To find out how you can enjoy this self-guided tour experience, read our detailed guide here.
10. Go camping
The UAE has many camping as well as glamping (glamorous camping) spots and while some of the spots are free of cost – where you would need to ensure you bring all your camping supplies – others can charge a fee, based on the facilities offered.
The Al Wathba Lake Camp in Abu Dhabi, for example, or the Al Qudra Lakes in Dubai are great places where you can camp for free. However, if you are new to camping, it is important to make sure that you are aware of all the rules and best practices, including the following dos and don’ts:
- Do check you have everything you need.
- Do set up your tent before it gets dark.
- Do take enough food and water to last the entire trip, and a little extra.
- Do tell someone where you're going, as well as when you expect to get back.
- Do take a first aid kit with you.
- Don't go camping on your own, and do take more than one car.
- Don't leave any food out overnight, or any rubbish behind once you leave.
- Don't set up camp at the base of a cliff or near one, or by a ravine or wadi that could flood if it rains.
- Don't camp on private land and don't ignore safety signs.
11. Drive to the mountain top!
Another great activity during the winter season is driving to one of the many mountain peaks in the UAE, with Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain and Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah being the two most popular ones. You can always pack some snacks for the trip (check out our list of nine essential snacks for a UAE road trip) but also stop over at one of the many markets that can be found along highways winding the mountains, where you can enjoy local treats like Luqaimat and regag and all-time favourites like cotton candy or fresh coconut water.
12. Visit the zoo
From massive wildlife parks to smaller private zoos, the UAE has several options for animal-lovers to not just learn about wild animals but also interact with domesticated ones at petting zoos. From the largest zoo in the Middle East (Al Ain Zoo) to a pygmy zoo (UAE Pygmy Zoo in Ajman), there are all kinds of options available.