When you mention “Dubai” and “Abu Dhabi”, most people will conjure up images of a glittering concrete jungle, beautiful artificial islands, or trails of luxury. After all, the two popular emirates in the UAE are homes to growing clusters of skyscrapers and man-made marvels; chief among these are the iconic Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah, Yas Island, and more.
If you’re the type to always seek out destinations with natural attractions, don’t discount Dubai and Abu Dhabi just yet.
Of course, the steel beauties and the overall atmosphere of opulence are magnetic, helping to draw more than ten million visitors last year alone. However, that’s not all Dubai and Abu Dhabi can offer.
These destinations also home to natural areas that are mostly pristine, untouched by man or machine. At the very least, the greeneries, the desert, and the wildlife create an interesting contrast to the sleek images that the two cities present to the world.
Wego, the top travel search website in the Middle East and UAE, will help you get to these top natural destinations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai by offering cheapest prices for flights and hotels around. After ticking off this list, you might even leave with a fresh view of the two futuristic cities.
Wadi Ghalilah, Dubai
Ever thought about climbing the Stairway to Heaven? Yes, you can. Technically located in Ras Al Khaimah, Wadi Ghalilah is easily reached with a car ride from Dubai. The so-called Stairway to Heaven is a mountain trail that links a village in Oman with Ras al Khaimah. Clocking in at 1,500 meters climbs, it beckons experienced rock climbers and mountaineers with its steep rocks, narrow paths, and winding cliffs.
Needless to say, this hike is not for everyone. But if you have the stamina and the sensibility to stay safe until you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacularly thrilling view and perhaps some bragging rights.
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Abu Dhabi
This compact wetland reserve on the outskirt of Abu Dhabi attracts more than 200 species of migratory birds, which you’ll get to observe comfortably from the bird hide. The star here is the flamingo population, numbering in thousands, so much so that the reserve is also known as Flamingo City.
The protected-area site comprises of several habitats, from freshwater and saline lakes to dunes, shrubs, and trees, all catering to different natural inhabitants. Al Wathba also provides walking trails so you can explore the diverse ecosystems. This is a must-see on your Abu Dhabi holiday!
Big Red, Dubai
Travel down Dubai-Hatta highway toward the desert and you’ll spot Mars on Earth here in the form of the aptly named Big Red sand dune, locally known as Al Hamar.
It’s a highly popular spot for locals and travellers with thrills and adventures brewing in their minds; the 100-meter high dune provides the perfect arena for dune bashing, sandboarding, and other extreme activities. Not much of a daredevil? You can still entertain yourself by watching the adrenaline junkies duke it out.
But, Big Red sand dune is more than just a playground for desert sports enthusiasts. The dune’s deep hue, a natural curiosity brought by the high iron oxide content, makes for a mesmerizingly eerie background as you explore this great expanse. Just remember to bring water and be here early in the morning to avoid getting sun-scorched!
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When the heat gets too unbearable in the city, Hatta is one of the places locals go to relax, since the further east location means the weather there is generally milder. The drive to this Sheikhdom comes with flashes of majestic deserts, giving way to lush mountains as you enter Hatta. A little to the south, you’ll find the delightful Hatta Dam, where calm turquoise waters hug the rugged mountains.
Beyond offering cool respite, Hatta is also perfect for fans of nature and outdoor activities. Selections include mountain biking, hiking, camping, and kayaking through Hatta Lake.
Mangrove National Park, Abu Dhabi
Mangrove forests can be found all over UAE, but the closest to Abu Dhabi is the Mangrove National Park, a slice of peace and nature away from the bustling city.
Modern constructions have ravaged a huge chunk of mangrove population here, bringing a negative ripple effect on the biodiversity that the trees support. Conservation efforts have been made to restore the balance, including opening the park up to the public to spread awareness.
Visitors have the options of kayaking, paddle boarding, or boating tour to explore the area. The water is clear enough to witness life wriggling between the roots, but you can also make a game out of spotting slightly larger animals, such as turtles, blue swimmer crabs, and even dolphins.
The Green Planet, Dubai
Okay, this is not entirely natural, but you have got to be impressed by the concept: a tropical rainforest contained within a glass box in the middle of a modern metropolis.
The ambitious project delivers scenes from nature starring lizards, sloths, snakes, birds, and other wildlife that coexist in all five levels of the biodome. The temperature and humidity level are also fine-tuned to recreate the experience of walking through a tropical rainforest.
You get to essentially tour a different ecosystem level by level, observe the animals and even interact with them, as toucan, macaw, and other exotic birds fly among the branches. The whole experience can be rather surreal, but a good fun nonetheless. It definitely is something you need to see on your own.
Pack Your Bags for The UAE!
With such a diverse range of activities and things see and do, a trip to the UAE should be high on your travel list. You’ll definitely want to explore the beautiful architecture, eat at the highly acclaimed restaurants, and shop ’til you drop, but make sure to add these beautiful natural attractions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to your itinerary.
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