For most people the UAE means high-rise buildings, extravagant brands, and luxurious hotels; little do they know that the Persian Gulf country is blessed with stunning natural landscapes that make it worthy of an off-beat traveller’s choice. Eliminating the conventional and curating a list of places which are far beyond the usual, here’s our pick of the best ways to go off the grid when in the Emirates.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn 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.
2. BelizeA 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.
3. MexicoAn 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.
1. EcuadorA 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.
2. PeruAn 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.
1. ItalyThe 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.
2. ScotlandEmbark 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.
3. PortugalA 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.
1. South KoreaDiscover 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.
2. ThailandFrom 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.
3. Sri LankaA 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
1. MoroccoAn 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!
2. EgyptFrom 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.
Wadi Al Bih
Hiking Trail, Natural Feature
Spanning through Ras Al Khaimah clock tower to the UAE border, Wadi Al Bih is popularly known as the Grand Canyon of the UAE. ‘Wadi‘ is an Arabic term for ravine or valley, and this 1 km (0.62 mile)-long ravine offers spectacular views of the UAE, making it an ideal location for hiking, mountain biking, and camping. Explorers can visit the nearby deserted villages in RAK and wadi areas for a more detailed trip. Be sure to take in the natural greenery and dark pink sorrel flowers. Off-grid tip: Don’t visit during or after rains as flash floods are relatively common. Carry a passport if you wish to see the Omani side of this place as well.
Hiking Trail, Hill Station, Natural Feature
Update your music collection: this long drive up the mountains is a great reason to give those classic forgotten tunes another listen. Fujairah is an escape from the scorching summer heat of the other emirates, as the mountains offer higher altitude and a change of scenery. This is the perfect spot for active travellers: the emirate is home to a series of hiking trails and borders the Indian Ocean – perfect for water sports. Off-grid tip: Underwater enthusiasts can enjoy Snorkelling and Scuba Diving at Fujairah’s pristine beaches.
Umm al Quwain Wetlands
One of the seven emirates of the UAE, Umm Al Quwain stands proud of having a preserved natural wetland. For nature lovers and bird watchers, this spot is a treat for the eyes and the soul. The wetlands are situated near a bright blue lagoon and small islands – witnessing this natural bird habitat along with water bodies around it is a view which guarantees serenity. Off-grid tip: Discover this escapade in a boat or a kayak, especially in the mangroves and water channels between the island.
A two-hour drive from the smallest emirate Ajman, Masfout is a long-kept secret for UAE locals. A quick escape into pleasant climate and a picnic-perfect location, it’s a relaxing way for a day out rather than the usual sight-seeing or shopping activity. Masfout is known for its countryside feel and seclusion from fast-paced city life, while the higher altitude is a guarantee of cooler climate and fresh breeze. The location is also home to beautiful flora and fauna. Off-grid tip: It’s safer to travel in large groups as the place hasn’t received much limelight and is visited by only a few.
Al Jahili Fort
Al Jahili Fort was erected in the year 1891 and is located in Al Ain. With its long history of defending the city, this place is a cultural paradise for those who likes to seek knowledge about cultural journeys of the past. To make the visit even more interesting, there are regular events held to reflect on the rich heritage of the UAE. The ancient monument has been restored andis taken care of by the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi. Its beautifully landscaped gardens, huge courtyards, and an ancient architecture speak volumes about the traditional Arab world. Off-grid tip: Visit on a Wednesday to enjoy the handicraft exhibition and police dog show, or opt for a Thursday to see the regular military band performance.
Just a short drive from the UAE’s most populated emirate, Fossil Rock in Sharjah is particularly popular among Dubai locals. The vibrant camping location is filled with numerous activities like dune bashing, dune buggy rides, and trail running, among many other things. Fossil Rock isn’t very far from city life and therefore its rare to see a starry night, but for active travellers and first-time campers, this spot makes a fun holiday. Off-grid tip: Big Red nearby has a popular huge red dune and is a must-visit spot.
Al Qudra Cycle Track
Cycling here means taking in picturesque views of the lengthy desert span of Al Qudra. With a convenient location and a dedicated stretch, this is the best way to challenge your body. This is an 86 km (53 mile) track, consisting of a 50 km (31 mile) loop followed by 15-20 km (9.3-12.4 mile) straight stretch. Bikers can take a quick break at the many resting stations along the way. The cherry on the cake is that the riding path is free of charge. Cyclists are compulsorily required to wear a helmet and have lights installed on their bike post sunset. Off-grid tip: Bike renting is easy and can be organised at the start of Al Qudra. There are few taxis in the area, so a ride back to your hotel/home should be planned in advance.
Wasit Nature Reserve
Wasit Nature Reserve is home to numerous breeds of birds from all over the world. This huge natural reserve was once a dumping ground, but now it has been declared a protected area by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. In addition to its expansive bird population, the reserve also has small mammals, reptiles, and insects. For a nature photographer, this could serve as a refreshing location to capture the movements of unique bird varieties and migratory birds in a natural surrounding, to the striking backdrop of the backdrop of the lagoon. Off-grid tip: Early morning is a haven for nature lovers; fresh air, spotting of rare species of bird, and natural beauty. Plan a trip during the early hours
History books and archaeological channels always captivate their audience by highlighting ruins and fossils, but experiencing fossil formations first-hand is in a league of its own. Jebel Dhanna is a coastal region with scenic cliff and rock formations amid mountains. The site had an ancient river running through it which dried and left back fossils of various vertebrates – one fossil of a crocodile skull dates back a whopping 8 million years. Off-grid tip: The famous Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort can be a good option for guests looking at overnight staying options to appreciate the coastline of Jebel Dhanna.
Al Wathba Wetland Reserves
Al Wathba Wetland Reserves is also known as Flamingo City thanks to its population of these stunning birds and their natural habitat. The wildlife remains undisturbed and therefore visitors can expect to see flamingo flocks from a designated hide-out spot. The place is usually quiet and peaceful as the organisers aim to create a fearless environment for the flamingos to be able to live and breed in the reserve. You can also spot black winged slits, little green bee-eaters, desert hyacinths and other species too. Off-grid tip: The location may be a bit confusing, keep an eye on the map and not miss this off-beat place. Summertime marks the breeding season and therefore research before planning.
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