With the long summer months ahead of us and not much opportunity to get out and about so far this year, don’t fear that local day trips are completely out of the question.
[Please check attractions have reopened from Covid-19 closures before setting off!]
Although not a huge country, once you leave the city there can be some quite diverse landscapes to explore in the UAE. No need for a luxury supercar, nor a 4×4 to complete most of these road trips.
Set your Google Maps and let’s drive!
If you are setting off in the hotter summer months make sure you read this important guide to driving in the desert heat to make sure you and your vehicle are prepared.
Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah
Drive time from Dubai 2 hours (Abu Dhabi 3 hours)
Don’t be mistaken into thinking Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah is just for your adventure seekers. Whilst yes, it’s famously home to the world’s longest zip line, incredible Via Ferrata and the Jais Sky Maze, the windy mountainous drive also rewards you with some stunning panoramic views. The paved road has been extended all the way to the peak now and has a new viewing platform at the 1,934m summit of the UAE’s tallest peak.
Temperatures on Jebel Jais can be as much as 10c cooler than on the coast making it an inviting summer driving option – and conversely, in winter you may even get to experience snow!.
You can complement a drive up to Jebel Jais with a weekend in one of these luxurious RAK Family Resorts.
Staying overnight in RAK may be your preferred option if you want to see the tantalizingly beautiful sunrise from the peak – a truly special memory of your time in the UAE. Just remember you are still looking at about a 1-hour drive from the Al Hamra area of RAK to the peak.
Drive time from Dubai 90 minutes (Abu Dhabi 2 hours 40 minutes)
A nice easy one for Dubai residents which you can manage in even half a day. Hatta has a really interesting past; actually a Dubai enclave (one of several in the UAE), it sits entirely inside the Emirate of Sharjah -though it was once, in fact, an Omani enclave until the 1850’s!
From the road, you are unlikely to see much of a difference as you pass through the Emirates.
The Hatta Heritage Village has had a significant facelift in recent years and a lot more recreational facilities have been added at Wadi Hub and Wadi Dam. Whilst not all of these are available in the hottest summer months, you can still stop for lunch in town or head to Cafe Gazebo at JA Hatta Fort Hotel. Hatta is a popular mountain escape even in the hotter summer months as it tends to be a few degrees cooler than the city.
If you want to make it an overnight stop, there is everything from camping to glamping and luxury resorts in the winter. The Sedr Trailers and Damani Lodges close from May to October however you can still enjoy family resort JA Hatta Fort Hotel.
Khasab and the Musandam Peninsular, Oman
Driving time from Dubai 2.5 hours (Abu Dhabi 3.5 hours)
Arguably the most stunning of all the drives on this page is the Ras Al Khaimah to Kahsab, Musandam drive. There is a good reason this tiny Omani region has the nickname “Norway of Arabia” with stunning fjords dramatically meeting the sea, yet somehow the road in many places manages to dramatically hang to the cliff faces. It is certainly not a drive for the faint-hearted!
In the summer months, it is likely to be too hot to get out on the water near the Strait of Hormuz but there is a small fort and the harbour area to explore in Khasab. You can find our full guide on things to do in Khasab here.
If you set off early it is possible to reach Khasab and back in a day from Dubai, but to truly take in everything this stunning region has to offer, an overnight stay is really essential.
Things to know driving to Oman from the UAE
Assuming that borders are re-opened between the UAE and Oman, we have a detailed guide of things to consider for a border crossing into the Musandam Peninsula here.
(NB as at the time of writing early May 2020 land borders still remain closed for the time being due to Covid-19)
Driving time to Khasab can vary significantly depending on when you are making your crossing. Over popular public holiday weekends, the border crossing process can take much longer so add another hour or two to these time estimates, and some patience!
Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain
Driving time from Dubai & Abu Dhabi 1 hour 50 minutes
Yet more mountains in the UAE? Yes! Jebel Hafeet proudly stands at 1,240m high and is the highest point in Abu Dhabi Emirate – standing quite separate from the Hajar Mountains that dominate the country’s east coast.
From the city of Al Ain below, you can take on the steep mountain climb to the summit with an incredible 60 turns on this full paved, 3-lane drive. There are plentiful overtaking spots and playpark stops along the way and a small eatery and park at the summit where you can marvel for miles over the open desert plains into Oman.
After your descent from Jebel Hafeet, pop into the lush springs that you likely spied from above of Green Mubazzarah.
If you’re looking to make an overnight trip of it, the Mecure Grand Jebel Hafeet is the only hotel actually on Jebel Hafeet, otherwise, check out these options for family resorts at reasonable prices in Al Ain.
Liwa Oasis Desert Drive
Drive time from Dubai 3 hours, 20 mins (Abu Dhabi 2 hours 25 mins)
You will want a 4×4 to get the most out of this one as you will be taken deep into the empty quarter. The summer months can be a little brutal for this excursion so best arranged in the cooler winter months where camping in amongst the dreamy red dunes is possible.
Don’t have any wheels? See what car hire in the UAE costs here:
Read more on visiting the UAE with kids
We hope you have enjoyed this run through our favourite road trips in the UAE. If you’d like to explore the region further, why not try:
- Road tripping from Dubai to Muscat
- Ultimate UAE Family Staycation Guide
- Winter Weekend Bucket list for the UAE (includes a printable list of ideas to keep on your fridge!)
- 6 Ecotourism Experiences you need to try in the UAE
- Musandam to Muscat; Boat, Plane or Car?
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