Looking for a destination to stir your soul? Abu Dhabi serves up contemporary architecture, vibrant traditions, culture-rich museums and natural wonders in equal doses.
Here you’ll find magnificent palaces and forts, Bronze Age archaeological sites, tranquil mangroves and leafy desert oases. But there’s more: action-packed theme parks are surrounded by nature teeming with opportunities for the adventure of a lifetime.
With diverse experiences and a range of top-notch hotels at affordable rates, Abu Dhabi is a real adventure for solo travellers and a fun-pack place perfect for group travel.
Thousands of motorsport fans gather annually at the Yas Marina Circuit on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island. They’re here to watch the spectacle that is the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, of course. But if you want to do more than just spectate, take your pick from other exciting experiences on offer.
Indulge your inner Formula 1 driver in a 3.0-litre V6 Formula Yas 3000. This powerful single-seat racecar goes from 0 to 100km per hour in a mere 2.8 seconds. It hits top speeds of 330km per hour. Hold on tight!
You can also book a drag race experience in a 6.2-litre V8 Chevrolet Camaro SS. Or, take a 60-minute guided tour of the circuit while driving a Polaris RZR RS1 vehicle.
Try a karting session at the 1km-long Yas Kartzone. Three track configurations and technical turns offer a fun challenge.
Stay at the Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi Yas Island, within walking distance of Yas Marina Circuit. Here, modern and spacious rooms with luxurious amenities overlook Yas Marina or the circuit.
Four restaurants and bars offer dining options for every preference, from Belgian beers to Italian cuisine.
At Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, you’ll find yourself hurtling along at a stomach-lurching speed of 240km per hour. Should you dare to ride Formula Rossa, the fastest rollercoaster in the world, that is.
Meanwhile, on the Turbo Track rollercoaster, you’ll be shot through the roof vertically only to then be subjected to a heart-pounding zero gravity fall.
Prefer racecars to rollercoasters? One of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi is to sign up for a Ferrari Driving Experience. You’ll take a Ferrari Portofino for a spin around Yas Island. You can bring two friends, for an extra charge.
It’s easy to spend an entire day here. There are motion-based simulators, a karting academy and fascinating exhibitions. Plus, take a behind-the-scenes look at the Ferrari factory.
With rippled orange-red dunes, the Liwa Oasis stands at the edge of Rub Al Khali, otherwise known as the Empty Quarter. This is the largest continuous sand desert in the world. With massive dunes, including the 300m-high Tal Moreeb, it’s one of the most surreal sights in Abu Dhabi.
On a dune-bashing safari, a driver skilfully navigates the dunes and sand valleys in a 4x4. As a passenger, your job is simply to squeal in shock and delight. You can also experience the dunes on camelback, like desert-crossing caravans in days gone by.
The dunes here, many over 150 metres high, offer the perfect excuse to try sandboarding. Don’t miss the thrill of balancing on a sandboard and powering down the slopes.
Want to take the adventure up a notch? On desert safari tours in the Al Khaznah area, you can zip around on powerful quad-bikes or dune buggies. Tours also include henna painting, traditional barbeque, shisha, belly-dancing and stargazing.
The affordable Tilal Liwa Hotel is built like a desert fortress. The traditionally-designed rooms are full of character. The hotel can organize activities such as quad-biking and desert bonfires.
With a 4000-year-old history, Al Ain is Abu Dhabi’s second city. It’s home to lush oases, ancient archaeological sites, grand fort-museums and a deliciously slow pace of life.
Al Ain Oasis—the city’s largest—is home to nearly 147,000 date palms and fruit trees. The oasis is watered by an ingenious falaj network. This ancient irrigation system of aqueducts sources water from the Hajar Mountains.
Don’t forget to stop by the information centre at the West Gate. Pick up a free map and check out interactive exhibits that explain the history of Al Ain Oasis.
Wander on foot along the aflaj (irrigation channels) under the shade of palms and mango, banana, fig and orange trees. You can also rent a bicycle or buggy to explore the oasis.
Al Ain Oasis and other nearby sites such as the Jebel Hafeet tombs and Hili Archaeological Site constitute the Cultural Sites of Al Ain. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
The luxurious Al Ain Rotana offers rooms, suites and villas at rates that won’t break the bank. Dining options abound, thanks to the resort’s six restaurants and bars.
At 1,249 meters, Jebel Hafeet is the highest peak in Abu Dhabi and the second-highest in the UAE. One of the top things to do in Abu Dhabi is to drive the spectacular winding road that leads to the summit. You can also rent bikes to get there.
Come evening and a sublime rose-gold light begins to wash over the jagged limestone peaks in the area. With panoramic views from the top, there’s no better place to watch the sunset in the emirate.
At the base lies Jebel Hafeet Desert Park where you can hike or mountain bike. Or, explore the surrounding archaeological site, home to 5000-year old tombs, on camelback.
Stay at the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Al Ain which offers bright, modern and comfortable rooms with breathtaking mountain views.
There’s nothing like jumping out of a plane to make you feel alive.On a tandem skydive at Abu Dhabi Skydive, you’ll leap out of an airplane at 13,000 ft while being securely strapped to an instructor.
After an exhilarating 60-second freefall at 193km per hour, you’ll descend slowly by parachute. Enjoy views of the city, farms, desert and coastline as you soar.
At Clymb Abu Dhabi, experience the thrill of freefall in the world’s biggest indoor skydiving flight chamber (that’s 9.7m-wide and 32m-high). The activity takes place under the guidance of professional instructors and is suitable for experts and first-timers of all ages.
Also here are five indoor climbing walls. They’re suitable for varying levels and include the 43m-high Summit—the highest in the region—ideal for experienced climbers.
Hugged by the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea, the 644km-long coastline in Abu Dhabi offers plenty of opportunities for watersports enthusiasts.
On a kayaking trip in the Eastern Mangroves, find yourself in verdant surroundings popular with birdwatchers. Keep an eye out for crabs, turtles, herons and flamingos.
There are 200 islands and many deep-water, wreck and reef dive sites in Abu Dhabi. This makes it a great year-round destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. Local operators offer trips and courses suitable for varying levels.
On a diving trip, expect to see spotted eagle rays, stingrays, barracuda, angel fish and sea snakes, among other species.
At Abu Dhabi Corniche, you can rent a jet ski and try windsurfing, wakeboarding and water-skiing.
With so much on offer, the UAE’s modern, cosmopolitan and cultural capital is an adventure playground for travellers. What will you explore first?
Discover more about this beautiful city in our Rough Guides guidebooks. You might also want to see our list of the most romantic holidays in Abu Dhabi, or the best things to do with families in Abu Dhabi. Go on the trip of your dreams with our customisable tailor-made trip itineraries to the United Arab Emirates.
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