11 Natural Hidden Gems in the UAE Worth Exploring

Adventure in the Mangrove Reserve of Abu Dhabi / (c) Peter Dowley/Flickr
Adventure in the Mangrove Reserve of Abu Dhabi / (c) Peter Dowley/Flickr
Jessica Harn

Although the UAE may be famous for its glittering futuristic cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, many tourists who visit the country don’t explore the UAE’s nature. Besides the desert, there are also ancient fossil beds, natural hot springs, and beautiful oases. Here are 11 of the UAE’s most beautiful natural gems that are totally worth visiting.

Loved by over 40s

Big Red

A striking red sand dune in the middle of the Al Badayer Desert, just a quick drive from the city of Dubai, Big Red offers some of the best tracks through the desert to hike, bike, or drive through for an exhilarating look at the UAE’s more wild side. This is one of those places that the UAE seems to keep secret, and that only those who truly want to discover the beauty of the desert will uncover!

Big Red, Al Badayer Desert

Fossil Rock

Natural Feature

Sharjah_sand dunes
© Robert Haandrikman / Flickr
Not only known for its 80 million-year-old marine fossils carved into the bright red rocks of the desert, Fossil Rock is alsoa popular camping site. Here, visitors can explore the hot desert and fossils during the day and bask under the stars during the cooler night. Fossil Rock juts into the sky in the middle of the wild UAE desert, so be sure to have a sturdy 4×4 car, as you’ll have to drive over sand dunes without proper roads to get there!Fossil Rock, Sharjah

Wadi al Bih

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

© Laith Wark / Flickr
Located in the wilder northern Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, Wadi al Bih is a secret oasis at the top of the desolate Hajar Mountains. With beautiful bird life, emerald-green pools of water, and hiking trails in and out of the oasis of green and fields of flowers; Wadi al Bih is worth the drive up north for an experience like no other in the UAE.

Wadi Ghalilah

Wadi Ghalilah

Known as the “Stairway to Heaven”, Wadi Ghalilah is located in the very north of the UAE, in the middle of the mountains, and is the perfect place to go mountain climbing and hiking. Only discovered 25 years ago by adventurous explorers, Wadi Ghalilah will reward those who make it to the top with spectacular views of the raw beauty of Arabian nature.

natural gems uae 2

The striking Hajar Mountains| ©Kathryn James/flickr

Wadi Ghalilah, Ras al Khaimah

Wasit Nature Reserve

Natural Feature

Wasit Nature Reserve
© Schwoaze / Pixabay
Boasting some of the UAE’s most diverse and colorful ecosystems, this nature reserve in the emirate of Sharjah is home to a brilliantly striking lake, green landscape, and wide variety of birds and other tropical mammals and reptiles. Considered the “lungs” of Sharjah because of how fresh and green the reserve is, this is the place to go to truly appreciate the miracle of nature’s blossoming in the surrounding desert.

Umm al Quwain Wetlands

Natural Feature

Umm Al Quwain
© Majid Sarmast / Flickr
Here, you can try and imagine what the Arabian Peninsula might have looked like before it became a desert. The best way to explore these wetlands in the UAE’s smallest emirate is to grab a boat or kayak, and navigate the quiet mangroves and water channels to explore this beautiful and thriving lagoon that has survived despite the surrounding areas of the Arabian Peninsula turning into sandy rock.

Wathba Wetland Reserve

Wathba Wetland Reserve

A serious of natural lakes, wetlands, salt flats, and fossilized sands and dunes, this wetland 40 km south of Abu Dhabi is a truly magnificent place to go to experience the hidden beauty of UAE nature. With more than 250 species of bird, this is the place for anyone with an interest in Arabian wildlife; the bright pink flamingos are definitely the most popular.

Wathba Wetland Reserve, Abu Dhabi

Sir Bani Yas Island


Sir Bani Yas Island

Sir Bani Yas is the perfect getaway to truly feel like you’ve traveled to another world. The enormous and highly popular wildlife park–with giraffes, cheetahs, and gazelles–is only overshadowed by the island’s beautiful thriving coastline and towering salt dome hills in the island’s center.

Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

Al Hayer Forest

Al Hayer Forest is another one of the UAE’s secret gems: a forest of ghaf trees in the middle of the desert. It’s also a popular camp site to those seeking shade from the harsh UAE summer sun. Camp out in this oasis for a striking view of lush green trees amid the scorching red desert of Arabia.

Al Hayer Forest, Al Ain

Mangroves National Park


Mangrove National Park, Abu Dhabi
With its lush green water channels and thriving mangrove trees, this protected natural wildlife area in Abu Dhabi is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the country. The best way to explore this nature reserve is by boat, allowing you to get up close to its variety of wildlife and nature.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

A Dubai secret, the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is a thriving wetland and home to a colorful array of migratory birds and wildlife. With its famous flamingos, cooling waters, and lush green vegetation, this sanctuary is for those who need to re-appreciate the beauty of nature.

Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, Dubai

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.