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.

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!

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CentralAmerica

GORGEOUS GUATEMALA

Gorgeous Guatemala

5 days . Mini
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1. Guatemala

An express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.

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CentralAmerica

BEACHY BELIZE

Beachy Belize

5 days . Mini
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2. Belize

A quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
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CentralAmerica

COLONIAL MEXICO

Colonial Mexico

5 days . Mini
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3. Mexico

An exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
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SouthAmerica

ADVENTUROUS ECUADOR

Adventurous Ecuador

8 days . Epic
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1. Ecuador

A remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.

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SouthAmerica

ANCIENT PERU

Ancient Peru

9 days . Epic
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2. Peru

An alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
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Europe

SEDUCTIVE SOUTHERN ITALY

Seductive Southern Italy

10 days . Epic
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1. Italy

The ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.

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Europe

EDINBURGH AND THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS BY TRAIN

Edinburgh And The Scottish Highlands By Train

7 days . Culture
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2. Scotland

Embark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
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Europe

COMPLETE PORTUGAL BY TRAIN

Complete Portugal By Train

8 days . Culture
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3. Portugal

A wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
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Asia

SOULFUL SOUTH KOREA

Soulful South Korea

10 days . Epic
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1. South Korea

Discover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.

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Asia

THAILAND, CAMBODIA & VIETNAM

Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam

11 days . Epic
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2. Thailand

From Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
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Asia

SECRETS OF SRI LANKA BY TRAIN

Secrets Of Sri Lanka By Train

10 days . Culture
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3. Sri Lanka

A fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
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Africa

EPIC MOROCCO

Epic Morocco

11 days . Epic
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1. Morocco

An epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!

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Africa

ULTIMATE EGYPT

Ultimate Egypt

9 days . Epic
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2. Egypt

From Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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Africa

IMMERSIVE KENYA

Immersive Kenya

8 days . Epic
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3. Kenya

An immersive blend of culture and wildlife for first time travelers to Africa. Learn about Nairobi, sample local coffee in the Aberdares and finish up with a fantastic safari stay in the Masai Mara.
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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

RAK
© 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

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.

The striking Hajar Mountains| ©Kathryn James/flickr

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

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

Resort

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 has wildlife and nature, but it also has an amazing coastline| ©JGBO/flickr

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

Park

Mangrove National Park, Abu Dhabi
©Panoramas/flickr
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

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

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