Dubai is very central in the United Arab Emirates in terms of its geographic position. Immediately to the west of Dubai, you have the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the largest of the 7 Emirates of the UAE with so much going on, we even have another site just about Abu Dhabi!
Then to the northeast and beyond you have the other five Emirates, often referred to as the “northern Emirates“ to explore. It’s also possible to visit parts of Oman on a day trip – more on that below!
On this page, we share with you our favourite locations that can be easily reached within a day from Dubai but trust us, when you see how much there is to do, you will want to stay about a lot longer!
[Distances are calculated from Downtown Dubai and timing subject to traffic]
Please note: Since June 2020 there have been domestic border control points placed between Dubai and Abu Dhabi due to COVID-19. Please follow the latest guidelines here to see if you are eligible to cross the border between Emirates at this time. There are no other domestic border crossing points in the UAE but other Emirates may require the UAE’s “Alhosn Green Pass” for entering attractions, where as most places in Dubai do not.
1. Best Dubai Day Trip: Abu Dhabi
Dubai to Abu Dhabi distance: approximately 160km / 1 hour 15 mins
Dubai is often mistaken as the UAE’s capital but, in fact, it is neighbouring Abu Dhabi that holds this crown. Home to the country’s Federal Supreme Council and ruling leader Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al Nayhan, it’s also home to some of the country’s most magnificent architecture and cultural sites.
So many stops that it is challenging to see them all on a Dubai day trip, but here are a few that we recommend you should try to fit into a single day trip from Dubai:
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: one of the most stunning buildings in the world, we have a detailed guide on exactly how to visit the Grand Mosque as a day trip from Dubai here. Entry is free for all, but do be respectful of prayer times, closed Friday’s until 4:00 PM.
- Qasr al Watan: The Presidential Palace: Home of the Federal Supreme Council and UAE Cabinet meetings, where foreign dignitaries are greeted and offices of the President, Vice President & Prime Minister and the Crown Prince – a detailed guide here on what to expect inside.
- Louvre Museum Abu Dhabi: Take on the Journey Through Humanity permanent display and many seasonal exhibits in one of the city’s finest modern buildings (closed Mondays) – a detailed visitors guide can be found here.
Top Tip: the Grand Mosque can be pretty packed from mid-morning as this is when most coach tours arrive from Dubai on day trips. If you want the Mosque to yourself, aiming for first thing in the morning (9:00 AM opening but you can arrive earlier) or mid-afternoon may prove much less crowded, this is the huge benefit of taking a private tour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.
Recommended Day Tours to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
- This best-selling day tour option from Dubai includes a full day trip to the Grand Mosque and the Presidential Palace, as well as the famed Etihad Towers observation deck as part of a shared coach group.
- Short of time? This half-day Grand Mosque-only tour from Dubai includes just your shared coach transfers to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque with plenty of time to look around.
- If you’d prefer to include the Louvre in your itinerary, we’d recommend this Abu Dhabi day tour from Dubai which includes the Grand Mosque and Louvre with English speaking guide.
- For the best Abu Dhabi tour experience, we recommend taking a Private small group tour to Abu Dhabi from Dubai so your itinerary can be as flexible as possible.
If you are seeking to make your own way from Dubai to Abu Dhabi we suggest you read this detailed guide on all your transport options along with this detailed guide to the best Abu Dhabi attractions to plan out your own day trip or overnight trip to the capital.
2. Best Dubai Day Trip: Musandam Peninsula, Oman
Dubai to Khasab distance: 196km / approx 2.5 hours
Transporting you to a whole different country but within reasonable driving distance from Dubai, the “Norway of Arabia” awaits in the Omani exclave of Musandam. Sitting to the northeast of the northern Emirate Ras Al Khaimah, the regional capital of Khasab, Musandam can be easily reached by road – an incredibly picturesque and often breathtaking coastal drive.
From Khasab, there is a small harbour with a plentiful choice of traditional dhow boats and more modern cruising vessels. Sail out to the stunning rocky fjords where the Hajar Mountains that run through the length of Oman and the UAE dramatically end at the Strait of Hormuz.
Dolphin spotting is a favourite activity and in the warmer shoulder season, snorkelling and scuba diving are popular, albeit the better diving is on the eastern coast of the peninsula.
You will want an early start to fit in a full day of fun, and taking an organised day tour, they will help you with the Omani visas and border crossing process. It is possible to hire a car and do it all alone, but first-timers will no doubt appreciate a guide to take you through the Al Darah border crossing point and the formalities involved.
Recommended Day Tours from Dubai to Musandam
- Try this full-day tour from Dubai to Musandam if you’d like assistance all the way with your journey with meet and greet, broder crossing, dolphin cruise, lunch & snorkelling gear all included.
- MIf you want to make your own way to Khasab then join this half day Dolphin Watching Dhow Cruise which includes just your boat tour, snorkeling kits and snacks with an English-speaking guide.
Your drive to Musandam will also take you on a scenic tour through five of the seven Emirates! You can see the changing landscapes as you exit the big cities and many interesting stops along the way, such as Al Rams and Dhayah Fort on the way through Ras al Khaimah (more on RAK below!)
Recommended Day Tours from Dubai to Dibba
If you do not want the formality of crossing the border, it’s also possible to take a dhow cruise to a different part of the Musandam coast, coming via Fujairah and the east coast of the UAE to an area known as Dibba.
Your boats here do not need to make a formal land crossing into Oman so no border crossing is required, but you will still be richly rewarded with dramatic coastal views.
- Check out this full-day dhow cruise option from Dibba which includes transfers to Dubai and a full day out on the water with snorkelling and dolphin-spotting opportunities.
The raw beauty and isolation of Musandam is simply breathtaking and makes this one of our top picks for nature lovers visiting Dubai.
Top Tip: You get a lot more visitors to Musandam over the local weekend which starts Friday afternoon through to Sunday night. If possible, time your trip for Monday through Thursday for fewer lines at the border.
3. Best Dubai Day Trip: Al Ain
Dubai to Al Ain distance: approximately 130km / 1 hour 30 mins
Sitting to the southwest of Dubai, you will find the Oasis City of Al Ain. With deep historic roots believed to date back to the neolithic period, this is our top pick day trip for history lovers. You will find the UAE’s only UNESCO World Heritage sites scattered in several locations across the city – a full guide to these sites can be found here.
Much of the country’s more recent history also stems from the township of Al Ain, home town to the country’s founding father Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan al Nayhan, and the birthplace of the current ruler of Abu Dhabi and the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al Nayhan.
Well worth visiting spots include Al Jahili Fort, Qasr al Mawaji, Al Ain National Museum (as of 2019 closed indefinitely for renovations) and the Al Ain Palace Museum (the former Royal homestead). You may also be fascinated by the supposedly healing hot springs of Al Mubazzarah, at the foot of Abu Dhabi Emirate’s tallest peak Jebel Hafeet.
Those travelling with kids will definitely want to try and squeeze in a trip to the Al Ain Zoo too. The best in the country, the zoo is set on large grounds with many news installations worth of a trip in themselves including the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre, perfect for history lovers of all ages with lots of interactive displays.
Getting to Al Ain is straightforward by car [though note you are in Abu Dhabi emirate so previaling domestic border rules will apply].
You can make the trip to the historic centre in approximately 1.5 hours from Dubai. However, if you plan a trip up the winding road to the top of Jebel Hafeet, add another 40 minutes. You will be rewarded with spectacular views over Al Ain and neighbouring Oman.
Recommended day tours from Dubai to Al Ain
If you are unfamiliar with the UAE roads, joining an organised group to get between the highlights is recommended as the city is well spread out.
- Try this full-day tour option taking in the city’s museums and nature highlights leaving from Dubai.
- If you’d prefer the intimacy of a small private group with more local experiences thrown in, try this private tour to Al Ain with all transfers included and a flexible itinerary.
Al Ain also makes a great stopover point if you are undertaking a Visa Border Run to Oman. Plenty to fill a day but you could fit a lot more into two days as many of the city’s highlights are well spread out.
4. Best Dubai Day Trip: Ras Al Khaimah
Dubai to Ras al Khaimah distance: approximately 110kms / 1 hour 15 minutes
Ras al Khaimah – affectionately referred to as RAK locally is best known as the UAE’s outdoor adventure playground. The stunning Hajar Mountain range runs through the Emirate and is home to the country’s tallest peak Jebel Jais.
Jebel Jais is an adrenaline junkies dream, with plenty of new attractions being added every year. The world’s longest zipline allows you to speed up to 150km/hr 1680m above sea level for nearly 3kms. You can also experience Via Ferrata and the newest additions, the Jebel Jais Sky Tour – 7 different courses over 5kms through the mountains (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays).
Recommended Day tours from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah
- You can try this tour which will pick you up from Dubai and arranges everything for your ziplining experience.
- Experience one of the UAE’s most incrrediblenature spots Wadi Shawka with a desert tour thrown in including Camel Rock and Fossil Rock.
- Thrill-seekers might like this alternative 4×4 route to the top of Jebel Jais for a unique desert mountain experience, or on foot, trail explorers will prefer this guided tour, departing from RAK.
- If you are seeking something a little more sedate, try this 5-hour private cultural highlights tour around the city of Ras Al Khamiah, including the Museum, Heritage Village, Fish Market and ghost town (departs from locations in RAK).
- Another favourite for a truly unique cultural experience is heading to the tiny village of Al Rams and taking a tour of the active pearl farm Al Suwaidi Pearls – learn about this treasured part of local culture and see a live pearl diving demonstration.
We do recommend for those on a one week+ Dubai itinerary to spare a few nights of their trip for staying up in Ras Al Khaimah. There are plenty of luxury resorts that line the shores of RAK and man-made Marjan Island – see some top accommodation choices in RAK here.
5. Best Dubai Day Trip: Fujairah
Dubai to Fujairah Distance: approx 120kms / 1 hour 15 minutes to Fujairah city
Taking you all the way to the country’s east coast, facing the Gulf of Oman, you will find the Emirate of Fujairah. Steeped in history, it is where you will find some of the country’s most interesting landscapes, from the azure waters and soft sands of Al Aqah to the historic forts and the country’s oldest mosque.
Many like to visit the country’s east coast for its scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities or simply experience a completely contrasting side of the country to Dubai. You may also enjoy visiting some Sharjah exclaves Khorfakkan and Kalba, which also sit on the east coast, surrounded by the Emirate of Fujairah.
Recommended Day Tours to Fujairah from Dubai
- Check out this diving tour to see the Dibba side of Fujairah from the water. All transportation, snorkelling gear and meals/drinks included for a big day out on the east coast.
- History and beaches in this Dubai to Fujairah day trip which includes a journey through the mountains, Fujairah Heritage Village, Fujairah Fort and the UAE’s oldest mosque.
- Those interested in testing out their scuba diving skills in the UAE will love this day tour from Dubai to Fujairah which includes transfers, a certified instructor along with all your equipment and meals on board.
6. Best Dubai Day Trip: Yas Island Theme Parks
Dubai to Yas Island distance: approximately 115km / 1 hour
Arguably, the UAE’s best theme parks can be found on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, only around 45 minutes from Dubai Marina or an hour from Downtown Dubai down the E11 Freeway, you can easily spend a whole day – or ideally two if you are going to enjoy everything on offer.
[Noting as above there may be domestic border crossing procedures to adhere to and Abu Dhabi Emirate Green Pass guidance].
The three big theme parks on Yas Island are:
- Yas Waterworld (outdoor water park)
- Ferrari World (indoor adrenaline and Italian-themed park)
- Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi (indoor theme park based on DC Comic characters and Looney Toon favourites)
Stay tuned Yas as will soon also be welcoming a Sea World to this theme park trio.
Each is a top-rated attraction with plenty of thrill rides and entertainment, and for large parts of the year limited lines.
Recommended Day Tours from Dubai to Yas Island
- Buy Yas Waterworld Tickets online in advance here (no transfers included) – or if you’ll be staying in Abu Dhabi you can combine your hotel transfer and Yas Waterworld ticket.
- When you purchase this day tour to Yas Island your Ferrari World Tickets are included, along with your transfers (this can work out cheaper than paying spearpately for your trnasfers and tickets).
- Want some culture along with your thrills? Try this Abu Dhabi day tour which includes the Grand Mosque, a drive by Abu Dhabi’s many highlights then finish your day at Ferrari World, Yas Island.
- If you love your motorsports, then perhaps a tour around the Yas Marina Circuit will be your thing, or even better the opportunity to drag your own Chevrolet Camaro around the track is your preferred experience.
- CLYMB Abu Dhabi is also well worth checking out. It has the world’s largest indoor climbing wall, and the largest indoor skydiving centre. It can be found from inside Yas Mall, immediately adjacent to Ferrari World.
Top Tip: Yas Island has a small Plaza of hotels and restaurants, as well as the lively Yas Marina area at night and the newly opened Yas Bay entertainment district. It is well worth an overnight trip at least to this adventure-filled island to experience everything on offer.
There’s a good guide here on how to make use of the Yas Island Theme Parks shuttle bus service from Dubai.
7: Best Dubai Day Trip: Hatta
Dubai to Hatta distance: approximately 105km / 1 hour 20 minutes
One of the most exciting newly-developed destinations in the Dubai emirate is the area of Hatta and Hatta Dam. Sitting to the south of Dubai near the Omani border, a large amount of tourism development has been poured into this rugged area of the Dubai Emirate to create a brand new nature playground.
There is so much on offer at this destination, especially for your outdoor enthusiasts; after exploring the heritage village, take on kayaking to mountain biking, enjoy the adventure sports at Hatta Wadi Hub and the Hatta Jump water park.
Recommended Day Tours from Dubai to Hatta
- See this full-day tour from Dubai which takes you through all the major highlights of Hatta with transfers included from your Dubai hotel.
- This Hatta safari day tour provides not just a desert tour away from the city crowds but you’ll also stop at Hatta Dam and one of the more unique local attractions, the Hatta Honey Bee Garden
Top Tip: It gets much busier on the local weekend which is now Friday afternoon through Sunday. Visit mid-week and out of school holidays, it’s beautifully secluded (though do check attraction opening times mid week).
Find all your transport options between Dubai and Hatta here.
8. Best Dubai Day Trip: Dubai Desert
This is a classic suggestion for a Dubai day trip, we couldn’t leave it off a day tours round up, even if you’re still in Dubai emirate.
There are all sorts of desert day trips, at all different times of the day to suit individual traveller needs. A “classic desert safari” will include an element of dune bashing, camel rides, sandboarding and henna painting, followed by a traditional Bedouin feast along with musical and dancing entertainment (except Ramadan).
If your focus is on camel riding, we suggest you check out this article on how to get your fill of camel experiences in Dubai – there are plenty of them!
Alternatively, if you’d like a more immersive experience, check out this guide to overnight desert camping experiences.
Recommended Day Tours to the Desert from Dubai
With so many desert safari’s available these days, it can be hard to choose between them.
Some of them such as Platinum Heritage are premium tour providers. Their focus is on the desert itself and connecting with the environment. You will enjoy vintage Landrovers taking you sedately through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, falconry displays and traditional food, both day and evening tours are available.
Alternatively, some camps and day tours are set up very specifically with the needs of adrenaline junkies in mind. Your local driver will know his dunes back to front and find the most thrilling path into the camp, followed by options at your camp to hire dune buggies, fat bikes and sandboards to explore the dunes differently.
These are our top picks of Dubai desert day tours to try:
- This Al Khayma Premium Red Dunes and Camel Safari tour is one of the most booked in Dubai for a reason – enjoy dune bashing, sandboarding, camel riding and camel feeding, with falconry and a tradition dinner. Always highly rated and deliver on customer service.
- Early starter? This Morning desert safari with Camel Riding & Sandboarding (plus optional quad biking) might be the best choice for you.
- On a budget, one of the best value evening desert safari and BBQ options includes your pick ups and dune bashing, with add-on activities possible.
- See our complete guide here to tours focused on Dune Buggy and adrenaline experiences in the Dubai desert.
For an absolutely unique and unforgettable Dubai experience, we recommend you try hot air ballooning at dawn above the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve:
- Try this sunrise balloon ride with breakfast and falconry show – including your tranfers to and from central Dubai.
- Or combine hot air ballooning with a camel trek & quad biking adventure an Arabic breakfast is included before transfers back to your Dubai hotel after an action-packed start to the day!
Whenever you are headed into the desert, we always recommend trainers are a more practical option than sandals or flip flops – they will, of course, fill with sand too but you’ll find it easier to walk about. Don’t forget sunscreen and hat any time of year visiting Dubai – you can see our full Dubai desert checklist here!
We always recommend visitors to Dubai to leave plenty of time to take in the highlights in the other Emirates as well. Much of the natural beauty and culture of the country and region lies far beyond the city.
If you’d prefer to make your own way around the Emirates to experience some of these highlights, we recommend you head over to our guide to driving in Dubai. Understand more about driving conditions, car rental options and whether self-drive is the better option for you.
If you’re interested in hiring a driver for a set number of hours, try a service such as GetTransfer. Drivers can bid on your journey making it highly competitive and at a fixed price for all-day convenience, you may not find with a group tour.
Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Dubai, a handy guide on what to pack and top tips for first-timers on the do’s and don’ts, laws and customs to be aware of.
- Check out this incredible list of 150+ places you should visit when you’re in Dubai.
- Pick up a Dubai Pass to save up to 50% on top Dubai attractions
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!!!
- Discover the best areas to stay in Dubai, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our hotel or tour recommendation links.Dubai Travel Planner