Samantha Dancy
Last updated: 25 March, 2014

Outdoor adventures beyond the city – how to make the most of UAE this spring

The temperatures are slowly starting to creep back up in Dubai. The recent storms marked the change of seasons, and with each day that passes we now speed ever closer to the long hot summer. 

As the thermostat climbs, we still have another couple of weeks of comfortable outdoor life before we have to slink back inside to air conditioned restaurants and malls, so we need to make the most of it.

Whilst Dubai is well known for its uber-luxurious hotels, designer-filled malls and decadent five star restaurants and bars, few people actually realise the full range of activities open to visitors and residents of the UAE, from sporting challenges and outdoor adventures, to the stunning and extreme natural landscapes that can be witnessed by car, foot, boat, bike or camel.

“Most people are aware that beyond the glittering skyscrapers of Dubai lies the desert, but sadly many are unaware of how beautiful this natural phenomenon can be.

Most people are aware that beyond the glittering skyscrapers of Dubai lies the desert, but sadly many are unaware of how beautiful this natural phenomenon can be.

The five star resorts of Meydan’s Bab Al Shams or Anantara’s Qasr Al Sarab offer a pampered sanctuary for those who prefer to admire the rolling dunes from chilled infinity pools or comfortably guided 4WD rides.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a little more adventure, the Empty Quarter of Liwa is a place best explored at your pace in your own vehicles with a night spent camping under the stars (providing they are equipped and you have a convoy – safety first!).

Those with less experience, or a family in tow, can find plenty of great camping spots in the desert, hidden behind dunes, but still not far from the security of the road, anywhere between Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Fujairah.

Camping and playing in the sand doesn’t need to be limited to the dune-bashers however – plenty of fun can be had on beaches across the UAE. As Dubai continues to expand, the best beach camping sites remain further afield on the east coast of the UAE in Fujairah, and on the private islands of Umm Al Quwain (fishermen here are more than happy to take you and your equipment over for a night and bring you back the next day for the ultimate seclusion).

Then of course there’s the mountains. Not what springs to mind for the majority of people when thinking of Dubai, but the Hajar mountain range stretches down through the UAE, separating the east and west coasts of the country and cutting straight through Oman. These mountains provide plenty of hiking, climbing and trekking opportunities as well as a different form of off-roading known as wadi-bashing.

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Wadis are dried up river beds and valleys running through the mountain areas that fill with water (often from flash floods) during times of heavy rain, however many of these areas such as Wadi Wurrayah or Hatta contain pools or waterfalls throughout most of the year, and these provide excellent opportunities for canyoning, swimming and cliff jumping, or simply as picturesque picnic spots for a day out.

All of these sites and routes, whether through desert, mountains or along the coast, are clearly marked and easy to follow with a GPS and the UAE Off-Road Explorer as a guide, leaving very little excuse not to get out and see more than what one city has to offer.