Not Just The Desert: Nature, Adventures, & Best Places To See In The UAE (Besides Dubai)

February 14, 2022

When people think of the United Arab Emirates, they probably only think of Dubai, the Las Vegas of the Middle East. Hundreds of skyscrapers and record-breaking buildings, 5-star luxury wherever you go, fast cars and glitz and glamour all around. All surrounded by the desert. But what about the rest of the Emirates? Is it really just the desert and nothing else to see? Living here has given me the opportunity to travel all over the country and check out some really cool places that people usually don’t have on their list when traveling to the Emirates. So, here we go:

Abu Dhabi

Although Dubai is more famous, Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE. Abu Dhabi also has some fantastic attractions to offer. The Grand Mosque and the famous Emirates Palace hotel are two of the most celebrated buildings in the city. You also have the new Louvre Museum as well as Yas Island with the Ferrari World including the fastest rollercoaster in the world. There is also a Mangrove park in the city which one might not expect, but it’s a nice getaway from the regular city attractions.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Al Ain

This city is located at the border to Oman approximately 99 miles east of Abu Dhabi. Enjoy panoramic views over the city from the UAE’s second highest peak Jebel Hafeet. Alternatively, take a stroll in Al Ain Oasis, where date palm tree plantations cover the area and make for a perfect nature escape in the heart of the city.


A small exclave that used to belong to Oman until 1850, Hatta is a beloved escape by many expats who want to get out of the busy city life for a day. Kayaking on the Hatta Dam, a picnic with views of Hatta lake or some ‘wadi bashing’ are among the fun activities that should be on one’s list for a visit here.



The Emirate Fujairah is the UAE’s diving paradise. Al Aqah offers endless beaches along the Gulf of Oman. A beautiful underwater world awaits you here. Once done soaking up the sun head to the Hajar Mountains for a fun-filled road trip. Hiking trails along some fantastic wadis lead to great views at the top of one of the mountains.


Ras Al Khaima

North of Dubai is Ras Al Khaima, another Emirate well-known for its beaches. More interesting though is that you can find the highest peak in the country, the Jebel Jais Mountain here, offering awesome sunset views over the Emirati landscape. Moreover, the longest zip-line in the world is located at the top of the mountain. Definitely a go-to for all the adrenalin junkies and adventure seekers.

Jebel Jais


One of the seven Emirates, Ajman has just as beautiful beaches as Dubai, but far less crowded. It also has a lot of history to offer, so check out some of the museums. Furthermore, Al Zorah Natural Reserve is a great place to see lagoons and mangroves while watching 60 different species of birds.


The small Emirate is my favorite go-to for Quad biking in the desert, but there are more things to do here as well. The Blue Souk with more than 600 shops is a great spot to do some shopping and see some great Arabic relicts. Khalid Lagoon is another spot to see in Sharjah. The lagoon contains 1.7 million square hectares of water and is located at the Corniche, right next to the Blue Souk.


Also by Rebecca: What It’s Like To Be Queer in Dubai

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Photo: Unsplash

Rebecca Willems
A self-described queer vegan feminist, Rebecca is also trying to live a more zero-waste and minimalist life. During her undergraduate and graduate studies she put a lot of focus on sustainability, LGBTQ+ rights and gender issues across the globe. Having lived on 5 continents in many different cultures and being an avid traveler, she loves to learn about new cultures, learn languages, and try all the amazing vegan food across the world.


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