Must-See Natural Attractions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2023

The wonderful natural attractions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are one more good reason to add the UAE to your Middle East travel itinerary.

When you mention Dubai and Abu Dhabi, most people will conjure up images of glittering concrete jungles, beautiful artificial islands, and endless luxury. This is expected, but there are many natural attractions in Dubai on offer as well!

On my many trips to the UAE, I always make sure to get out into nature. I’ve gone hiking, birdwatching, sandboarding, camping, and more in the beautiful natural areas of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Now in this post, I’ll share my experiences with you.

5 Must-See Natural Attractions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

The two popular city-states in the UAE are home to growing clusters of skyscrapers and man-made marvels — chief among these being the iconic Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah, Yas Island, and more.

Of course, the steel beauties and the overall atmosphere of opulence are magnetic, helping to draw more than ten million visitors last year alone. However, that’s not all Dubai and Abu Dhabi can offer!

1. Wadi Ghalilah, Dubai

Technically located in Ras Al Khaimah, the so-called Stairway to Heaven is a mountain trail that links a village in Oman with Ras al Khaimah. Clocking in at a 1,500-meter climb, it beckons experienced rock climbers and mountaineers with its steep rocks, narrow paths, and winding cliffs. It’s easily reached by car from Dubai, which can be rented from Renty.

Needless to say, this hike is not for everyone.

But if you have the stamina, climbing knowledge and the sensibility to stay safe until you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular, thrilling view and perhaps some bragging rights.

2. Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Abu Dhabi

The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi attracts more than 200 species of migratory birds, which you’ll get to observe comfortably from the bird hide.

The star here is the flamingo population, numbering in thousands, so much so that the reserve is also known as Flamingo City.

The protected-area site comprises several habitats, from freshwater and saline lakes to dunes, shrubs, and trees, all catering to different natural inhabitants.

3. Big Red, Dubai

The aptly named Big Red sand dune, locally known as Al Hamar, is a highly popular spot for locals and travellers interested in adventure and the natural attractions in Dubai.

Travel down the Dubai-Hatta highway toward the desert and you’ll spot Mars on Earth. The first time I went, I really thought I’d arrived on another planet.

The 100-meter high dune provides the perfect arena for dune bashing, sandboarding, and other extreme activities. Not much of a daredevil? You can still entertain yourself by watching the adrenaline junkies duke it out.

4. Hatta, Dubai

Hatta is one of the places locals go to relax when the heat gets too unbearable in the city. Due to the more eastern location, the weather there is generally milder.

The drive to this Sheikhdom comes with flashes of majestic deserts, giving way to lush mountains as you enter Hatta. A little to the south, you’ll find the delightful Hatta Dam, where calm turquoise waters hug the rugged mountains.

This is one of the most beautiful natural places to visit in the UAE and I like to go as often as I can.

5. Mangrove National Park, Abu Dhabi

The Mangrove National Park is the closest mangrove forest to Abu Dhabi, although mangroves can be found all over UAE. It’s a slice of peace and nature away from the bustling city.

Modern constructions have ravaged a huge chunk of mangrove population here, bringing a negative ripple effect on the biodiversity that the trees support.

Conservation efforts have been made to restore the balance, including opening the park up to the public to spread awareness.

Visitors have the option of kayaking, paddle boarding, or boating tour to explore the area.

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