6 unmissable desert experiences to do in Dubai
It’s a bucket list Dubai experience…
Outside of Dubai’s towering skyscrapers, lush beaches and bustling city life lie swathes of golden desert as far as the eye can see. Visiting the desert is one of the best things to do in Dubai, whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned resident. We’ve picked six unmissable desert experiences that you need to tick off your list.
Enjoy an authentic Arabian experience
Traverse the Dubai desert in an open-top vintage Land Rover from the 1950s, as you ride over the rolling dunes in style. Enjoy an authentic Arabian experience at the luxurious Platinum Heritage desert camp. For those who want to go all-out, you can book an overnight stay in a traditional stone dwelling room, and wake up to a magnificent breakfast in the desert.
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, safaris available daily, from Dhs595. Tel: (0)4 412 6333, platinum-heritage.com
Relax at a desert cafe
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Born from a need for socially distanced cafe experiences during the pandemic, desert cafes have become a staple winter pop-up in the UAE. There’s plenty to be found across Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman, but if you’re looking for a desert pop-up in Dubai, you need to know aobut Hidden. This off-the-grid desert pop-up cafe oozes boho-vibes, with rope deck chairs in crisp white surrounding cosy campfires, earthy woven bean bags and rattan sofas covered in plush cushions. The whole area is surrounded by palm trees, offering dappled shade to curl up with a coffee as the sun sets. It welcomes guests for evenings under the stars from 4pm to 2am Sunday to Thursday and 4pm until 3am on Friday and Saturday.
Hidden, near Al Maha, Dubai, Sun to Thu 4pm to 2am and Fri and Sat 4pm to 3am. @hidden_dubai
Stay overnight at a desert resort
An hour out of Dubai you’ll find Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa. This stunning desert oasis is home to individual villas complete with private pools, a main resort area where you’ll find all-day dining restaurant Al Diwaan, and a relaxing spa featuring single and couple treatment rooms. Guests can while away the day at their private pool, or head to the picturesque outdoor pool overlooking the sprawling desert dunes. Check in for a luxury staycation at this desert resort, and don’t be surprised to greet your neighbours – Arabian Oryx and gazelles – as you enjoy breakfast on your alfresco terrace.
Al Maha Desert Resort, Al Ain Road, Dubai. Tel: (04) 832 9900. marriott.com
Charge around the desert in a dune buggy
Nothing beats the thrill of taking a dune buggy across the empty desert, the rolling dunes unfurling ahead of you. Hop inside the beastly Can-Am X3, throw on your helmet and protection mask, and let loose. Don’t be surprised if you get a bit stuck though – it’s all part of the fun. Dune buggy sessions with Big Red DXB take place daily at 6.30am and prices start from Dhs1,200, although there’s also options for four-seater buggies from Dhs1,900. This includes all your equipment, an experienced tour guide to lead the way, free pick up and drop off in Dubai, refreshments, snacks and a pit stop for sandboarding.
Big Red Adventure Tours, Dubai – Hatta Road, from Dhs1,200. Tel: (0)54 311 188. bigreddxb.com
Go to a stunning desert camp
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Sonara is, is a game-changing desert dining experience, now with locations in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The focus is as much on the experience as it is on the inventive gastronomy at Sonara, where brash buffets and gimmicky belly dancing are replaced with magical entertainment and Middle Eastern fare with a fine dining edge. Experiences begin at sunset, where you’ll watch the pastel shades dance over the sky as the sun sets, watching as the golden orb drops behind the stretching dunes, sipping drinks and enjoying sandboarding, soft archery and falconry shows. From there, guests move downstairs to the restaurant, illuminated by thousands of twinkling fairy lights, for a three-course menu, accompanied by fire shows, live music or even a movie under the starry night sky. There’s packages available for just the sunset lounge, or the lounge and dinner, priced from Dhs460. For Dubai Desert Conservation Area take E66 the whole way (45 mins) and for The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert stay on E311 (60 mins).
Sonara Camp Dubai, Dubai Desert Conservation or Sonara Camp Al Wadi, The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert, daily from 4pm. nara.ae
Rise up in a hot air balloon
What better way is there to see the desert than from a basket 4,000 feet in the air? Balloon Flights is Dubai’s newest hot air balloon experience which takes you to the skies over the desert. You’ll need to wake up early, with a 3am call time to make it to the Sky Center at Margham ahead of sunrise. From here, you’ll get a swift safety briefing, before you clamour into the balloon just as the sun begins to break over the horizon, drifting up, up and away. Over a scenic, one-hour trip, you’ll be able to marvel at the majestic sunrise, see endless desert dunes, gorgeous cloud formations and the local wildlife including Arabian oryx and falcons, before safely landing deep in the desert. But the experiences don’t end there. Afterwards, you’ll fuel up with a hearty breakfast, enjoy a falcon show, and even receive a flight certificate signed by the captain to take home as a souvenir.
Balloon Flights Dubai, from Sky Center Margham, from Dhs1,099, until May 31. Tel: (0)4 208 7222, balloonflights.ae