Top 10 Things to See and Do
1. Visit the impressive Yas Marina F1 circuit and take a tour to experience one of the worlds most famous formula one circuits firsthand. Topping the holiday to-do list for speed demons, you can even try filling the shoes of a professional racing driver with an Arrive and Drive session in a Formula 1 car.
2. A feat of astonishing architectural ingenuity, the Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque is one of the world’s largest mosques, and truly a sight to behold. With 82 domes, over 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold chandelier and the capacity for 40,000 worshippers, the sheer scale and grandeur of this remarkable mosque leaves all visitors duly awestruck.
3. With crystal blue waters and miles of pristine coastline, it would be a crime not to take advantage of Abu Dhabi’s ample sailing opportunities! Whether learning the ropes in a beginners Topper or testing your limits in a majestic Catamaran, this is the best destination for a wide range of vessels and excellent conditions.
4. The Arabian Wildlife Park stretches over more than half of the island of Sir Bani Yas, and is home to more than 10,000 who roam free across sprawling enclosures. Visitors can get eye-to-eye with giraffes from a purpose built viewing platform, take a 4x4 Nature and Wildlife drive with expert staff, or simply stroll through and absorb the diverse wildlife at your own pace.
5. Travel to the serene Al Ain Oasis to discover a cool, green paradise in the midst of the inner city. With an intriguing irrigation system that is over 3,000 years old , over 100 different varieties of palm tree and eight separate entrances to choose from over its expansive 1,200 hectares, it may be well worth extending your stay to two days to truly absorb the Oasis’ tranquil beauty.
6. Keen golfers have come to the right place! With its spectacular range of golf course carved out of the endlessly versatile desert, Abu Dhabi’s golf courses are perhaps the most diverse in the world. There are three championship-ready golf courses in the country, all of which boast a wide range packages and ancillary add ons.
7. Go horse riding at Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, the horse-riding hub of the city and home to one of the best riding schools in the area. Friendly and efficient instructors are at hand to coach riders of all levels, and the facilities are outstanding.
8. Try your hand at clay pigeon shoots at the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf club, considered the best in the country by Olympic and ISSF (International Shooting Sport Federation) standards! With a wide variety of different shooting ranges all equipped with hi-tech electronic scoring systems, the club is a great place for both beginners and experienced shooters.
9. One of the last markets of its kind, the Al Ain Camel Market has a uniquely Arabian feel and will be one of your best chances to see the majestic animals up close. Listen to traders bartering earnestly and have a wander around the livestock pens.
10. The iconic Eithad towers are typical of Abu Dhabi’s daring and dramatic architecture, and are well worth a visit if only for the unbeatable panoramic views of the city and shore from the observation deck. If you feel like splashing out however, they are also home to some of the worlds most expensive and exclusive luxury shopping facilities, restaurants and boutiques!
Top 10 Family Experiences
1. With five one-of-a-kind attractions and endless exciting rides and slides, Yas Water World provides an unforgettable day out for all the family. If you’re all feeling brave, experience the worlds first (and largest) six-person tornado waterslide, towering an impressive 238-metres above the ground!
2. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the worlds very first Ferrari theme park, telling the Ferrari’s story interactively with more than 20 exciting, educational rides, as well as interactive shopping, a Ferrari gallery and Italian cuisine experiences. Most excitingly, the park boasts the worlds fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, which reaches speeds of an incredible 240kmph!
3. Set aside a day (or two!) to explore the attractions of Abu Dhabi’s Corniche Road: stretching eight kilometres along a pristine, Blue Flag beach, the multiple attractions along the waterfront include children’s play areas, plenty of cycle and pedestrian pathways, cafes and restaurants and of course, astonishing views.
4. Becoming renowned as the Gulf’s first theme park when it opened in 1985, Hili Fun City in Al Ain is still the preeminent destination for action-packed family days out. Recently renovated, the park is home to 28 attractions for all age groups, an amphitheatre, a family show, and plenty of picnic and play areas.
5. With sprawling enclosures that authentically resemble the animals natural habitats, a petting zoo, a children’s garden and activities such as giraffe feeding and camel riding, the Al Ain zoo is a sure-fire family favourite. There are also plenty of green spaces for relaxing with picnics and a train tour of the wildlife area available.
6. Located close to Abu Dhabi International Airport, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the world’s largest falcon hospital, and is also home to an excellent falcon display museum as well as a free-flying falcon facility. Guided tours of the hospitals lavish wards are available, and the museum gives an in-depth insight into the sport of falconry.
7. The expansive Al Ain Sportsplex is home not only to top-rate facilities for motorsports, cricket, football and paintball, but Arabia’s largest go-karting track! Previously host to major international events including the Rotax Max Challenge Grand, the circuit is fully floodlit with different configurations catering to different ability levels, making it the perfect place for the family to engage in some friendly competition.
8. Explore Abu Dhabi from the sky with a Falcon Aviation Services helicopter tour. Aboard the fully air-conditioned helicopters which seat up to six, you are afforded a birds eye view of all the city’s most iconic attractions, from the sandy shores and towering skyscrapers of Corniche to swooping rollercoaster’s of Ferrari World.
9. The Al Mushrif Children’s Garden is an ideal place to take the kids, with amusement park rides, swings, fountains, and plenty of wide open spaces to run about. Open 3pm to 10pm (9.30pm on Fridays), bear in mind that photography is not permitted.
10. An impressive man-made white water rafting, kayaking and surf facility in the foothills of Jelel Hafeet, Wadi Adventure offers a day of adrenaline-fuelled excitement for all the family. Lessons by experienced trainers are available for those at all levels of ability, and you can either rent or buy gear from the resorts shop or opt to bring your own.
Top 10 Honeymoon Experiences
1. No honeymoon to Abu Dhabi would be complete without exploring its vast and ethereally beautiful stretches of desert together; camp out among the dunes and spend a night together under the star-spangled Arabian night sky for an experience you’ll remember for years to come.
2. With luxurious suites, a tranquil rooftop restaurant and breathtaking views of the majestic desert dunes, Qasr Al Sarab is Abu Dhabi’s most spectacular desert resort, and a perfect honeymoon hideaway. During your stay you will be able to choose from a range of culturally traditional excursions such as early morning desert walks, archery, mountain biking or camel treks, or simply kick back by the pool and enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery.
3. Climb aboard a traditional pearling dhow and set off on a once-in-a-lifetime ‘pearl journey’ down the picturesque channel between Abu Dhabi and Hudari Yat. Relax on the traditional Arabrian floor cushions and enjoy authentic Arabia coffee and snacks while a knowledgeable guide recounts the country’s colourful pearl diving history, before receiving a complementary souvenir valued between £300 - £500!
4. Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city aboard Abu Dhabi’s largest luxury sailing Catamaran, the Belvari Marine! There are few experiences more romantic than drifting along the Arabian Gulf shoreline on a sunset cruise, pausing only to take a dip in the crystalline waters or snap a picture of the friendly dolphins that follow the boat.
5. Located on a pristine stretch of white sand, Yas Beach is a laidback counterpoint to the cosmopolitan development that surrounds it; a perfect place to relax together, yet also easily connected to the endless leisure activities available on the island.
6. One of the worlds oldest continually inhabited settlements, the ‘heritage heartlands’ of Al Ain include six oases and the archaeological sites of Bida bint Saud, Hili and Hafeet, all classified as ‘cultural sites’ by UNESCO. The fascinating vestiges and ruins include circular stone tombs that date back to 2500 B.C, wells and adobe constructions that were once towers, palaces, homes and administrative buildings, and are haunting testaments to thousands of years of cultural transition and progression.
7. A mere seven minutes from the chaos of downtown Abu Dhabi, picturesque Saadiyat island is a resort fast becoming a world leader in leisure, business and cultural assets! With two excellent galleries already open to the public (and more proposed to be on their way), the regions first ocean golf course, luxury hotels and sweeping beachfront merging seamlessly into translucent turquoise waters, the island is a beautiful location either for a short stay or just a relaxing day on the beach.
8. Set amidst stunningly landscaped gardens, the majestic Al Jahili Fort is one of the country’s oldest buildings. Once the force that protected the city, mountain passes and palm groves, it has been lovingly restored and houses an exhibition of the work of British adventurer Sir Wilfred Thesiger.
9. Although already world-renowned for its hyperbolically luxurious hotels, the dizzying array of spa treatments that coexist in Abu Dhabi should not be overlooked – relax and rejuvenate together with soothing couples massages, and pamper yourselves with a pick of luxury treatments.
10. Soaring skywards for a seemingly endless 1,240 metres, Jebel Hafeet towers over Al Ain as one of the highest peaks in the United Arab Emirates. Drive, cycle or even hike (if you’re feeling energetic) up its winding highway to the top; here, your efforts will be rewarded as you gaze across astonishing views of Al Ain.
Festivals and Events
Mubadala World Tennis Championship
The global tennis season starts each year in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship when six of the world’s top male players come together for three days of fierce competition. Alongside the centre court action, you’ll find a Tennis Village – free to enter for the public and full of family-friendly activities – and daily autograph sessions with the star players.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
This annual event is part of the PGA European Tour and takes place over four days at the award-winning Abu Dhabi Golf Club. The Par 72 course covers 7,334 yards of lush fairways, undulating greens and more than 90 challenging bunkers.
Qasr Al Hosn Festival
Celebrate centuries of Abu Dhabi’s history and heritage with the annual Qasr Al Hosn Festival, held in and around the grounds of the historic Qasr Al Hosn Fort, the symbolic birthplace of the UAE that for generations housed the ruling Al Nahyan family. The festival comprises a wide range of historic and cultural themed exhibitions, workshops, performances and activities.
ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi
Now part of the ITU World Triathlon Series, the Abu Dhabi event will be the sport’s season opener until 2019, attracting athletes from more than 100 countries and tens of thousands of spectators to Abu Dhabi’s Corniche.
Tennis at the Palace
The world’s tennis elite come together in Abu Dhabi each March for Tennis at the Palace, set in the lavish surroundings of the iconic Emirates Palace Hotel.
Al Gharbia Watersports Festival
Head to Al Mifra fishing village in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region for this annual water sports extravaganza, combining everything from swimming, kite surfing and stand-up paddle boarding, to dhow, kayak and rowing races.
Abu Dhabi Festival
One of the Middle East’s leading cultural festivals, the Abu Dhabi Festival combines music, theatre, dance and visual and traditional arts.
Abu Dhabi Classics
May sees the spectacular conclusion to Abu Dhabi Classics – an eight-month series of classical concerts and performances by some of the world’s leading musicians and orchestras.
Liwa Date Festival
A fascinating insight into many desert traditions, the festival includes a date beauty contest with total prize money of around AED 5 million, a date auction, and educational sessions on how to care for palm trees.
July – September
Abu Dhabi Summer Season
The Abu Dhabi Summer Season coincides nicely with UK school holidays and sees concerts, comedy acts and children’s shows popping up all across the emirate. It’s also when many of the top hotels offer their best deals, so is great time to visit.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Final
Sailing’s annual World Cup Final, which will be held in Abu Dhabi until 2019, will see ten Olympic events contested in and around Lulu Island off Abu Dhabi’s Corniche during six days of fierce competition. The event will capture a television audience of millions in more than 100 countries and help to develop the emirate as an international winter sailing destination.
Abu Dhabi Art
Taking place each year on Saadiyat Island – the future home of Abu Dhabi’s Louvre and Guggenheim museums – Abu Dhabi Art showcases works from some of the leading contemporary art galleries around the world.
Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The Formula 1 season comes to a spectacular conclusion at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi each November. Thousands of visitors flock to Abu Dhabi to watch the race and to soak up the atmosphere of Yasalam Festival.
Al Dhafra Festival
Camel racing, falconry tournaments and high-stakes camel beauty contests are among the highlights of the annual Al Dhafra Festival, a celebration of Bedouin culture that takes place in Abu Dhabi’s western region of Al Gharbia.
Culture in Abu Dhabi
The culture of Abu Dhabi is firmly rooted in the teachings and traditions of Islam, which is a way of life as much as a religion in the United Arab Emirates. Both precociously modern and unerringly traditional, Abu Dhabi is a city comfortable to balance old and new to its liking - traditional sports such as falconry, camel racing and dhow sailing are still practiced. Courtesy and respect are highly valued, and locals will treat you with plenty of hospitality and friendliness as long as you demonstrate this in return.