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Few countries in the world can top the glitz and glamour of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With its record-breaking skyscrapers, world-class hotels, gigantic shopping malls, breathtaking sand dunes, and beaches that do not disappoint, the UAE has quickly cemented its global reputation as a top travel destination. Keep scrolling for more ideas about planning a memorable UAE trip and discover all that is possible during your stay in the Emirates.
- Emily Ryan
- From USA
You can spend anywhere from three days to three weeks in the UAE, but we recommend a two-week stay as the perfect travel duration. A three-day stay will allow you to soak up the main highlights of one of the seven emirates, but a two-week itinerary will let you experience this region beyond tourist postcards. From conquering the Arabian Desert and gawking at the world’s most iconic architectural feats, to diving into Emirati culture, cuisine, and heritage, the Emirates has a wide range of activities to offer all sorts of travelers.
If you can only spare three days or less in the UAE, it is best to concentrate your trip on a single emirate. The UAE is composed of seven emirates in total, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi being the more popular tourist hubs. Dubai offers better options for activities, nightlife, luxury hotels, and must-see landmarks, but Abu Dhabi undoubtedly wins when it comes to beaches and historical architecture.
To kick off your three-day UAE itinerary in Dubai, we recommend targeting the must-see highlights first. Visit the Burj Khalifa and take in the beautiful panoramic landscape from the world’s tallest building. You might also want to treat yourself to a fancy breakfast or lunch at any of the Burj Khalifa restaurants. After you have soaked up the view from high up, you can go shopping at the nearby Dubai Mall or spend the afternoon with marine life at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Not to be missed is the Dubai Fountain show at night. This is the world’s largest and fanciest musical fountain.
Over the next two days, you can book a desert safari tour, rise to the skies aboard a hot air balloon, go on an indoor snowboarding adventure, enjoy skydiving or scuba diving, ride a boat or a luxury yacht, and hit the pristine, white-sand Jumeirah Beach. There is no shortage of fun to be had in Dubai, so the real problem is trying to squeeze it all in within three days.
With five days to spend, you should be able to add more activities to the above-mentioned UAE itinerary. A desert safari is an absolute must in any UAE itinerary and one you should set aside at least half a day to enjoy. There are many ways to enjoy UAE’s magnificent deserts, be it during an ATV ride, a dune-bashing ride in an off-road vehicle, a camel ride, or a hot air balloon adventure. Make sure to bring your camera along, as the sight of the sun setting over sand dunes is absolutely gorgeous. After a day full of adventures, there are many spots in the desert where you can kick back and enjoy a barbecue dinner, watch a belly dancing performance and even get a henna tattoo. You can even spend your night in a desert and sleep under the stars in a Bedouin-style campsite if you wish to.
A seven-day UAE itinerary will give you enough breathing room to enjoy both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. While driving between the two emirates really does not take much time (a one-way drive takes around one and a half hours), staying in just one emirate for shorter trips is recommended. This allows you to really squeeze out the adventures that either city has to offer. You can build on the previous five-day Dubai itinerary for a week-long trip and spend the remaining two days in Abu Dhabi.
On your first day in the capital, make sure to pay a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. One of the largest mosques in the world, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is basked in opulence and offers a free 45-minute guided tour for tourists throughout the day. To end your week-long trip, either relax on the sandy shores of Saadiyat Island and Yas Island or go theme-park hopping between Ferrari World and Warner Bros World.
A two-week UAE itinerary is a luxury of a lifetime. With nearly a fortnight to spare, you can do an in-depth discovery of the UAE, tick off all the fun activities in your itinerary and spend a few days at leisure, hopefully resting in some of the best hotels the Emirates has to offer. In addition to the activities and landmarks already listed, we recommend spending a day in the Palm Jumeirah. An artificial island located in Dubai, the Palm Jumeirah offers a wide range of activities, including water adventures at Aquaventure Waterpark, a luxurious spa treatment, and even a skydiving adventure for the ultimate adrenaline rush.
Although this region is the poster boy of modernism, it still oozes history that is fun to explore. Hop on a dhow (a traditional wooden boat) for a unique sightseeing experience of Bur Dubai through the Dubai Creek. Outside Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah offers a better view of Emirati history and culture. As the cultural capital of the Arab world, Sharjah is home to some of the UAE’s best museums and a heritage area dedicated to preserving remnants of traditional Emirati culture.
Get in touch with one of our travel experts in the UAE for a customized trip. If you would like to book a package trip or join a group, check out our tours in UAE.