The drive north to this UAE exclave is almost as stunning as the scenery that greets you upon arrival. Over the years, Hatta has been used as a summer home by Dubaians wanting to escape the heat and, due to its relatively mild climate, has become a draw for holidaymakers from the UAE as a whole, as they seek to do likewise.
2. Liwa Oasis
Head about 100 miles south-west of the capital and you’ll find a desert settlement of roughly 50 villages and the former home of the ruling families of both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The high point in the local calendar is the Liwa Date Festival, an event celebrating the various customs, traditions and heritage of the UAE, in particular, the date palm tree. The area contains a number of forts worth visiting, along with the imposing Moreeb Dune, but due to its remoteness, Liwa is ideal for just getting away from it all.
3. Ras Al Khaimah
It might be trying to transform itself into a party destination (“the Ibiza of the UAE”, no less) but Ras Al Khaimah’s charm lies in its mellow ambience. A casual stroll along part of the 64km of white-sand coast followed by dinner overlooking Al Hamra Marina is an idyllic way to relax after making the drive up here. For those with a hankering for history, extend your mileage with a trip out to Dhayah Fort, the scene of brave resistance from local tribesman against the British Army back in 1819. The surrounding Dhayah valley is fantastically fertile, given its location, and well worth viewing from the hilltop as you contemplate the world around you.
4. Al Ain
Being bound on all sides by desert, the UAE is hardly well known for its greenery, but as soon as you approach this most verdant of outposts on the Dubai-Al Ain Road, you’ll soon realize how it gets its “Garden City” moniker. After tackling the myriad roundabouts on the way in, make a beeline for Al Ain Oasis, the nation’s first curated Unesco World Heritage Site and home to the incredible falaj irrigation system, which was constructed some 3,000 years ago.
5. Muscat, Oman
The Omani capital is the epitome of hospitality, and is swiftly becoming a hugely popular tourist destination for those seeking traditional splendour in a country as laid-back as they come. Culture vultures will have a packed itinerary here, starting with visits to some of the many museums.
6. Jebel Akhdar, Oman
The so-called Green Mountain is one of the most spectacular destinations in the entire Gulf region, especially when viewed from the summit. Oman’s highest point offers some fantastic trekking, giving you the chance to discover ancient villages and plenty of local flora and fauna, which both thrive thanks to the relatively high level of rainfall in the area.
7. Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain
Another lofty location, this mountain acts as a kind of rocky guardian to the city of Al Ain, which lies beneath it. While some go to explore the ancient tombs that have been unearthed in the foothills, many rock up here simply to discover the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, widely regarded as one of the best drives in the entire UAE. On your way, you can spot an array of wildlife, including the country’s greatest diversity of birds, counting some 119 species. Bats, foxes, snakes and lizards are also native to the mountain.
8. Salalah, Oman
By far the longest trip on our list, you’ll definitely want to make a weekend of it down in sunny Salalah. For those brave enough to tackle this trek (you might want a co-driver or two for this one), the rewards here are immense, as this coastal city is as wonderfully welcoming as it is abundant with nature. In the monsoon, or khareef, season (July to September) this green city becomes even greener, but even though you might’ve missed that particular boat, we suggest you climb aboard another and go dolphin-watching. These most remarkable of mammals put on some show as they circle your vessel, pulling off tricks as if auditioning for a part in the state circus.
9. Fujairah and Dibba Rock
A haven for sporty types, take an overnight trip to this eastern emirate as the approach is most beautiful at sunset.Parasailing has really taken off in Fujairah and a number of watersport companies offer thrillseekers the chance to give it a go. Mountain-climbing and hiking in the Hajar Mountains are also very popular, but we believe one of the most enjoyable activities has to be a stand-up paddleboard safari to the famous Dibba Rock, where you can also go diving, if you happen to be a real water baby.
10. Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah
The mountain road that leads you to this fantastic destination in Ras Al Khaimah has become an instant hit with driving enthusiasts, challenging Jebel Hafeet as the best drive in the region. Once you’ve snaked your way to the top, you simply must tackle the recently built Via Ferrata which will not only test your agility and head for heights but also give you some of the best vistas of the surrounding area. If that sounds like too much hard work, there’s nothing quite like hurtling down one of the three zipline courses, with the world’s longest and highest set to open here in December. A viewing deck is also being built at the summit, meaning the less active can also enjoy the UAE’s highest peak.
SOURCE: Time Out Dubai