A trip to the desert is an absolutely essential part of a Dubai itinerary to see a completely unique and beautiful angle to the country.
But if you’re conjuring up images of sandy tents, or only the option of nauseating dune bashing and bumpy camel treks, then it’s time to change your perceptions! There are far more luxurious ways you can enjoy the Dubai desert.
From glamping style villa tents to full-scale luxury resorts, we’ve picked out our favourite spots to enjoy the UAE desert in style. Whether you’re looking for an action-packed family weekend or seeking out a beautiful day spa or luxurious romantic retreat, you can find them all here in the Dubai desert.
Note that there are only a couple of luxury resorts that are actually in Dubai Emirate, however, we’ve also highlighted for you brilliant resorts and glamping options that are easy to reach from Dubai in other Emirates.
If you’re after something a little more rustic, then check out our guide to Camping in Dubai.
Top Desert Resorts in Dubai & the UAE
Click below to see instant booking information, or read on to see what makes each so special.
Best Desert Resorts in Dubai Emirate
- Best For Romantic Luxury – Al Maha – A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa
- Best for Family Luxury & Weekend Breaks – Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Luxury UAE Desert Resorts in the other Emirates
- Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort & Spa (Abu Dhabi)
- Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa (Abu Dhabi)
- The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert (Ras al Khaimah)
- Al Badayer Oasis (Sharjah)
The Very Best Dubai Desert Resorts
There are two firm choices in the Dubai Emirate when it comes to pure indulgent luxury resorts in the desert, offering unique and beautiful desertscapes, indulgent accommodation and impeccable service.
Al Maha – A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa – Best For Romantic Luxury
Where do you find Al Maha?
Located in the Dubai Emirate about 45 minutes from Downtown in an area called Murqquab, off the Dubai – Al Ain Road (E66).
What to expect at Al Maha
This is our top pick for sheer indulgence and luxury. The resort complex consists of only 42 stand-alone private tented-villas, each with its own private pool and sun deck. There’s a strictly no under-10’s rule, making it perfect for that romantic night away or special occasion.
Al Maha offers a huge range of desert activities included in your hotel stay, as well as add on options from dining under the stars to spa packages. The resort is inside the 225sq km Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve making for a brilliant combination of wellness and nature. You can choose to explore the desert by 4×4, foot, camel or horseback.
How much does a night at Al Maha Cost?
Dust off your wallet as exclusive Arabian luxury of this calibre doesn’t come cheap. Suites with a private pool start at 4,445 AED / $1,200 USD plus local taxes per night. Look out for special offers though such as Valentines and Mother’s Day.
Those looking for a daycation escape can indulge in a Timeless Spa package, including lunch, treatments and pool use.
Bab al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Where do you find Bab Al Shams?
Near Endurance Village taking the D63 from Dubai or E75 along the border from Abu Dhabi. It is approximately a 45-minute drive away from Downtown Dubai, 50 minutes from DXB or DWC.
What to expect at Bab al Shams
As well as an array of dining and pool options, they have a stellar line up of outdoor activities from falconry to camel rides and options to hire sporting gear such as fat bikes and dune buggies. Families can make use of the Sinbad Kids Club and there is a dedicated kids pool area, as well as a stunning infinity pool overlooking the desert.
Due to its proximity to Dubai, its a popular weekender spot for daycations and draws a big Friday Brunch crowd. If you are there for the party atmosphere then it’s a Thursday/Friday you want, however, the rest of the week is much quieter for families or a relaxing indulgent treat.
How much does a night at Bab al Shams cost?
Rooms start from 1160 AED / $315 USD plus taxes per night for a Superior King through to 3850 AED / $1050 USD for a Deluxe Suite. Rates will be cheaper during the hotter off-peak months (and Booking.Com Genius members can save more).
The resort also offers “daycation” packages where you can enjoy the desert-based leisure facilities without staying overnight.
Luxury UAE Desert Resorts in the other Emirates
The good news is, desert luxury in the UAE spreads far beyond the boundaries of Dubai Emirate. Check out this collection of resorts that can be reached within a few hours drive of Dubai.
Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort & Spa (Abu Dhabi)
Where do you find Qasr al Sarab?
Head deep into the Empty Quarter – the Liwa Desert – approximately 3 hours drive from Dubai via the E11/E65, well signposted and freeway driving until last 14kms or so where you snake deep into the dunes on a paved road to your desert oasis.
What to expect at Qasr Al Sarab
From the grand archway that welcomes you off the freeway to every intricate touch in your room, there’s no mistake you’ve entered a luxurious and opulent hidden oasis.
The resort has a range of hotel rooms through to private villa suites. An equally great location for both romantic retreats and family getaways, there is an extensive recreation program from dune bashing and camel treks, through to sandboarding, fat biking, archery, horse riding and nature hikes into the desert. They also offer a daily tour deeper into the Liwa Desert to discover the historic Liwa Fort, visit a Palm tree farm and camel farm.
The wellness program is superb, including aqua aerobics and dawn yoga, along with the most exquisite of Arabian spa experiences. And don’t forget the kids club, available for parents wanting to grab some time alone along with a kids pool area and babysitting services on offer (extra charge).
How much does a night at Qasr al Sarab Cost?
Deluxe Garden view rooms start around 1,950 AED / $530 USD plus taxes per night, through to Royal Villas with a private pool 5,650 AED / $1540 USD plus tax per night, larger group villas are available too.
Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa (Abu Dhabi Emirate)
Where do you find Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa
Located on Sir Bani Yas Island, to the west of Abu Dhabi, you take the E11 from Dubai, continue past Abu Dhabi city and turn off at Ruwais for the Jebel Dhanna Jetty. This journey takes about 3 hours. From Jebel Dhanna a luxury ferry makes the 20-minute journey across to Sir Bani Yas Island and it’s another 15 minutes minivan journey across the island to your resort – all transfers from the port included.
What to expect at Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa
One of the most truly unique opportunities you will get on a Dubai trip is to head to the west of the UAE. Sir Bani Yas Island is home to one of the country’s largest nature reserves. As well as the main hotel resort complex on Sir Bani Yas, you can also enjoy a private luxury villa at one of their sister resorts on the island, AL Yamm Villa Resort and Al Sahel Villa Resort.
The island itself is largely made up of nature reserve, home to more than 10,000 freely roaming animals from gazelle and oryx to cheetahs and giraffes. The hotel will arrange for you a 4×4 nature and wildlife tour.
Apart from the animals, enjoy uninterrupted sea views to the Arabian Gulf, pool and beach access and a great range of restaurants and bars from the Palm & Savannah Gill buffet dining to Amwaj seafood on the beach, Olio Restaurant and lounge Italian beachfront dining and Al Shams Middle Eastern cuisine poolside. And did we mention the Desert Oasis Spa, Balance Wellness retreats and yoga lessons?
One of the most exciting times of year to visit is for the annual Kite Fest, held the first Saturday in March (in 2020 this will be 7 March). Packages can be booked including weekend camping and barbeque along with a nature drive experience.
What does a night at Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa Cost?
There is quite a range in pricing from Deluxe Garden Rooms at 1120 AED / $305 USD plus taxes per night, through to a standalone 2 bedroom villa with private pool from 6,915 AED / $1,885 USD plus taxes per night (note Booking.com Genius members can get big discounts here).
NOTE THAT THIS RESORT IS NOW CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS UNTIL JANUARY 2021
If you are not after a full overnight experience, day packages are on offer as well. But trust us, if you have driven all the way from Dubai, you will want at least a couple of nights here to truly soak up the experience.
Separately, you can check pricing for the sister resorts on Sir Bani Yas Island, also operated by Anantara Al Yamm Villa Resort and Al Sahel Villa Resort, quite reasonably priced compared to the resort villas these also offer a unique experience, many rooms with uninterrupted sea views, some with private plunge pools.
Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert (Ras al Khaimah)
Where can you find Al Wadi Resort?
Al Wadi Desert Resort is accessible from the E311, about 90kms from Downtown Dubai and DXB airport. It’s just over the border into the Ras Al Khaimah Emirate where the rolling red dunes start, about a 1-hour drive from DXB. The hotel also offers a shuttle service directly from DXB airport or private door to door transfers can be arranged.
What to expect at Al Wadi Desert Resort
Another beautiful and unique desert resort in the UAE bathed in luxury and hands-on nature experiences. Perfect for families as well as couples of a group of friends, the resort consists of 101 bedouin-styled individual villas, each with their own private pool.
Set within Wadi Khadeja, a 500-hectare nature reserve, there is a great line up of recreation opportunities such as daily falconry shows, desert safaris, nature walks and archery on offer. There’ is even an on-site equestrian centre and professional riding lessons. From the comfort of your room or pool, you can watch gazelle and oryx freely roaming.
The Amara Spa with its hydrotherapy pool and rainforest experience are highly commended. And the Ritz Kids club and programme is also one of the best with lots of hands on-experiences including animal tracking, bird watching, tree planting and star gazing.
There is a sister Ritz-Carlton resort at Al Hamra Beach, so if you still like your sea views as well as your desert vibes, you can hop on the complimentary transfer bus and enjoy some rays at the beach before returning to your tranquil desert setting for sunset.
What does it cost to stay at Al Wadi Desert Resort?
One night in a private pool villa starts from around 1700 AED / $465 USD plus taxes per night – there are cheaper deals to be had over the hotter summer months.
Al Badayer Oasis
Where do you find Al Badayer Oasis?
Situated just off the E44 on the Dubai to Hatta Road (Margham), Al Badayer is actually in the Emirate of Sharjah, approximate 40 minutes from Downtown Dubai.
What to expect at Al Badayer Oasis
A very new luxury tented camp including breakfast and swimming pool and located technically in neighbouring Emirate Sharjah as the borders criss-cross inconspicuously across the desert. There are 21 on-site rooms and 10 tents making it a small and intimate luxury setting, as supposed to a sprawling resort, located close to “Big Red” one of the country’s largest sand dunes.
It is not AS bells and whistles as some of the other examples here, but it is relatively close to the city and DXB airport and has an attractive offering for first-timers seeking that unique desert experience with charming Bedouin touches throughout. You will still find on-site a health club, indoor pool and a wellness-focus to your visit, as well as outdoor recreation activities from desert safari’s to camel trekking and quad biking.
Dining is at the Kulo Emirati restaurant or Caravan international eatery and nightfall sees uninterrupted starlit skies in this utterly tranquil desert setting. (NB Sharjah is a dry Emirate, no alcohol is served).
How much does a night at Al Badayer Oasis cost?
Rooms start at 1,350 AED / $365 USD plus taxes per night through to family-sized tents 3,500 AED / $955 USD plus taxes per night.
Hotels in Dubai attract several taxes including municipality tax, tourism fee, VAT and a 10AED per night hotel fee. Total additional charges to quoted prices can equate to an extra 25%. You can read more about tourist taxes in Dubai here.
Want more amazing Dubai resorts & hotels? Check out our guide to the best Dubai hotels with private pools
Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai
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