Year by year, Dubai continues to zoom up on the list of top tourist destinations in the world with record visitor numbers and a unique blend of tourist attractions. It is the only place where you can jet ski, snow ski, go on a desert safari, scuba dive, go up in a hot air balloon, go on a dhow cruise, get your adrenaline rush at exciting waterparks, pearl dive and even experience sublime spa treatments to rejuvenate and revive body, mind and soul. Read on to discover 20 must-have experiences in dynamic Dubai that will keep you coming back for more…
‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY’
Unveiling a one-of-its-kind, must-experience journey to the highest man-made vantage point on earth is the new ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY’ located at 555 metres (1,821 ft) high on Level 148 of the world’s tallest building. It recently clinched its newest Guinness World Record title and offers unmatched views of the city, an outdoor terrace and a premium lounge to relax. Now also the ‘Highest Observation Deck’ in the world, it features an interactive life-size screen enabling visitors to discover iconic destinations in the city and a retail boutique showcasing souvenirs.
Apart from ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa’ on Level 124 that will continue to operate as normal, the tower now offers an additional ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY’ journey with two stops – at the observation floors on Level 148 and Level 125. Level 125 serves as a tribute to Arab arts and culture featuring a not-to-miss attraction ‘Dubai – A Falcon’s Eye View allowing visitors to go on a virtual tour across prominent destinations, hovering over Dubai like a falcon.
Every visitor to Burj Khalifa can now learn more about the inspiring story of the desert flower, Hymenocallis, which is the design inspiration for the tower with a vividly animated show. Newly composed music will set the tone for the journey, and Emirati television anchors Omar Butti and Ilham Al Hammadi will bring ‘News At the Top,’ which is a compilation of the record-breaking events hosted by Burj Khalifa. Witness Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise’s adventurous climb to the spire of Burj Khalifa as well as the world’s highest BASE jump from the tip of the spire and pass through a Photo Collection point to purchase souvenir photographs. Call 04 8888124 or log on to www.burjkhalifa.ae for more details.
The new honour adds to Burj Khalifa’s three existing Guinness World Record titles for the Tallest Building, the Tallest Man-made Structure on Land Ever and the Highest Restaurant from Ground Level for At.mosphere.
An irresistible destination for sun, sand, surf and shopping, Dubai has now added yet another activity to this list – spas. The city has one of the highest concentrations of spas per capita in the world with tourists from across the world arriving in large numbers in search of healthy, luxurious holidays, making it a hotspot for ‘spa tourism’.
High-quality spa and wellness experiences are keenly sought out as they are seen as being equally important as well as valuable to buying a luxury product. Dubai provides a diverse and world-class spa offering where visitors can expect the best spa facilities in a variety of settings whether it's the beach, the city or the desert.
This age-old wellness treatment dating back to the times of ancient Rome is taking on a new meaning in Dubai with themed spas and designer spas such as the Giorgio Armani designed Spa. The wave of well-being and health is part of a more generic move towards more varied holidays and a desire to seek out new experiences, which are in general more active and focused than a traditional beach holiday. Spa Tourism complements Medical Tourism and it is anticipated that the spa industry will continue to expand at both ends of the market, both in the luxury, holiday segment and the regular, routine treatment sector with prices to suit most pockets.
Wild Wadi is a family-oriented ISO certified, award-winning water park with fun activities for everyone and all ages located close to Burj Al Arab! Themed around the tale of Juha, a known character from Arabian folklore, it boasts 30 exciting rides and attractions for every member of the family. Some of its most popular attractions include Flood River, Juha's Journey, the thrilling Tantrum Alley and Burj Surj, the ultimate surfing experience Wipeout Flowrider and the new, longer and scarier Jumeirah Sceirah.
General Admission 1.1 metres or above in height. AED 245 per person. Below 1.1 metres in height, AED 185 per person. For more information, please: 04 348 4444.
Please note: Wild Wadi Waterpark is planning its annual maintenance programme and the entire park will be closed from 11 January 2015 till 11 February 2015 inclusively. Wild Wadi will open its doors again to the public on 12 February 2015.
Aquaventure Waterpark, Atlantis The Palm
Enjoy the thrill of jumping into the No. 1 water park in the Middle East and Europe, over flowing with 17 fun-filled hectares for all ages. Experience adrenaline pumping waterslides that catapult you through shark filled lagoons, scream through the planet’s largest slide or race down the world’s first dual slide within a slide. Fly high on the longest zip line circuit in the Middle East. Or just relax on our private beach surrounded by lush tropical landscapes. Plus younger children will love Splashers a play area designed just for them. Spectacular rides and thrilling slides make Aquaventure Waterpark the most exciting day out in Dubai.
Rates: With Emirates ID: Adults: AED 165/ and Child: AED 140/; Without Emirates ID: Adults 250/ Child: AED 205; Open from 10am to 5.45pm. For more details contact: 04 426 0000.
Promising to take you on a great big adventure on a hot air balloon is Balloon Adventures Emirates LLC. So close, yet so far from the glitz and the glamour of the city of Dubai. Enjoy a magic carpet ride over an endless ocean of sand dunes, emerald green oases, oryx, gazelles and wandering camels. Witness a breathtaking sunrise with the backdrop of the majestic Hajjar Mountains and be welcomed by the warmth of the desert people we chance to meet on landing. All this is only a 30 minute drive from Burj Khalifa! AED 995 per person. Children (5 to 12 years): AED 850. For more details contact 04 285 4949.
Considered to be one of the biggest sailfish destinations in the world Dubai continues to attract mariners and deep seas fishing enthusiasts from across the world. Fun under the sun in the open sea with a fresh ocean breeze blowing about makes it all the more enticing. And if you can club it with a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary it turns all the more enjoyable too. Offering special fishing techniques and equipments to assist you in getting your best catch ever in addition to coastal cruising, and water sports activities are many well known deep sea fishing companies like Club Joumana, Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa: 04 8145555; Al Wasl Cruising & Fishing: 04 2950516. Al Wasl Charter and Fishing: 04 2959477.
Cruise Dubai by yacht! Al Wasl Charter and Fishing takes you onboard an exclusive yacht around the city’s coast: 04 2959477. Dubai Marina Yacht Club can help plan your itinerary, select the best places to visit and provide hints and tips for a perfect trip: 04 362 7900.
You can also contact leading tour operators: Planet Travel & Tours on 800 4039 or 04 3473746; Royal Park on 04 2626282; Arabian Adventures on 04 3034888 / 2144888; Alpha Tours on 04 2949888; Desert Adventures on 04 4504450.
A Dubai Dhow Cruise will prove to be a refreshingly authentic and reviving experience, especially for romantics. A dhow is an ancient Arabic sailing vessel that was used for fishing and commercial purposes in the Middle East region. It is a significant part of the rich cultural heritage of the land as its economy at that time depended on pearling and fishing and took place on the Dubai Creek.
Rocked by the waters of the creek you can gaze up at the stars and the glittering Dubai Skyline with its iconic skyscrapers, the heritage structures and the Dubai Gold Souk. Awaiting you in its plush interiors is a sumptuous repast and at times you can even watch a belly dancers performance and other live entertainment. If you make a reservation for a dinner dhow cruise, either on Dubai Creek or Dubai Marina, the company will come to your hotel and pick you up. Lasting around two hours there are several leading companies offering good packages such as the ISO 9001 – 2008 Certified Al Wasl Charter and Fishing. Contact: 04 2959477 for more details.
Imagine gently taking off from the pristine waters of Dubai on a Seawings seaplane and slowly ascending to the skies. Observe every architectural detail of the topmost point of the world’s tallest building - the Burj Khalifa and witness the marvelous design of the man-made Palm Jumeirah Island. Seawings offers once-in-a-lifetime aerial experiences that you will want to relive every time you are in the UAE. It boasts a fleet consisting of three Cessna 208 Caravan Seaplanes which take off from its operating bases, located in convenient parts of Dubai.
Seawings offers unique sightseeing trips around the city. Jebel Ali Silver - 40 mins; Adult AED 1495 Child - AED 1270 Creek Silver - 40 mins; Adult AED 1595; Child AED 1355; Sea Plane Tours - 25 mins; Adult AED 895; Child AED 760. 8am – 4.30pm. 04 8070708 / 04 8832999 or visit www.seawings.ae
See all of Dubai's landmarks from above and wow your friends with photos that only a select few get the chance to take. Setting off from Atlantis the Palm, you can take in both Old and New Dubai! Leading companies like Arabia Horizons Tours offers 15 & 25 minutes sightseeing flights on sharing basis from 1 to 5 persons as well as flights on exclusive basis for 15, 25, 45 & 60 minutes. Sharing Basis (from 1 to 5 persons): 15 Minutes Tour: US $218 (AED 795) per person; 25 Minutes Tour: US $343 (AED 1250) per person. For more details contact: 04 - 294 6060.
Atlantis offers spectacular helicopter tours in cooperation with Alpha tours. Discover Dubai from the sky and catch sight of the beautiful Burj Khalifa, The World Islands, Dubai Marina, Sheikh Zayed Road and many other landmarks from an eagle's eye perspective. 4 426 1500 or at email@example.com
Skydive in Dubai!
The intense wait, a racing heartbeat, an adrenaline rush, moments of insanity then a strong gust of wind as you shoot down at 210 km/hr! Skydive Dubai, the world’s premier skydiving location, neighbouring the luxurious manmade island The Palm Jumeirah and the Dubai Marina. With beautiful and breathtaking views it boasts a drop zone area size of 260000m and a runway area size of 60m x 700m consisting of ¾ water and ¼ land and a gear store with all the necessities and is a one-stop destination.
Skydive Dubai operates the drop zone in the highest safety standards under the regulations of the International Air Sport Federation (FAI). The success of Skydive Dubai partially due to the talented and dedicated staff that averages over 7000 jumps and over 10 years experience all of whom are fully accredited by the USPA (United States Parachuting Association) internationally and EAA ( Emirates Aviation Association) nationally. For more details call: 04 377 8888 or visit: www.skydivedubai.ae
It would be unthinkable to visit Dubai and not experience its famous desert safari. Several leading tour operators offer well designed packages such as morning safaris or evening safaris, during which one can view a stunning desert sunrise or a sunset. They can choose an overnight safari be dazzled by the starry night skies before relishing a hearty continental breakfast to fuel the rest of the day.
The morning desert safari is an action-packed experience featuring dune bashing, quad biking and sand boarding. After a 45-minute drive to the entry point to the desert, where all tour operators stop for refreshments, the tyres of the 4-wheel drives are deflated before driving deeper into the desert. Thereafter it’s a thrilling roller-coaster ride like no other with the vehicle at times sliding off at 45-degree angles before heading to the desert camp where striped, red, white and black cushions are laid out in majlis-style (Arabic for place of seating) with a hubbly-bubbly in one corner. Your host will soon set a sizzling barbeque with a belly dance performance to follow next. The ancient 5,000-year old dance form, known as Raqs Sharqi in Arabic, is believed to have originated in the Middle East.
Desert safaris help recapture the magic of times past where you are surrounded by seemingly endless ‘waves’ of desert dunes and spot a camel, hailed as the ‘Ship of the Desert’ calmly munching away or majestically walking in the distance. Highly revered for its invaluable role in the history of the region, it is considered a serious offence to hit one while driving.
One of the most popular sports associated with desert activities in Dubai is dune bashing. The action-packed, challenging endeavour involves riding a quad bike through the emirate’s sand dunes precariously, even as you maintain your balance while making your way to the finish. It will take you on big jumps at times while at other times you’ll have to ride on the steep edges of the dunes too. More about skill than speed, dune bashing is an adrenaline-pumping activity for those who dare. Contact leading tour operators for more details.
Dubai’s world renowned desert resorts offer out-of-the-world experiences that you will cherish for a lifetime. One of the most famous of these is the award-winning Al Maha Resort - a fabled sanctuary with Bedouin soul nestled in a verdant palm oasis, deep within Dubai’s magical dune and desert landscape in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Located 65kms away on the Dubai / Al Ain Road, its name is inspired by the beautiful and endangered antelope, the Arabian oryx. It showcases the heritage and architecture of the Bedouins and also offers a sense of desert adventure.
The Arabian Oryx & the Gazelles are the star attractions of the reserve. The indigenous Arabian wildlife can also be experienced from the temperature-controlled infinity pool or the sun deck seating area of all the Villas. Guests can enjoy two different complimentary desert activities every day as part of their stay.
At the heart of Al Maha’s environmental conservation efforts is the conservation of the flora, fauna, culture and heritage of the Arabian Desert and its core value of sustainability has been acknowledged by National Geographic and Conservation International’s World Legacy Award.
Built in the style of an ancient Bedouin settlement, it features 42 individually appointed guest suites unfurling a unique luxury experience as well as presenting exclusive access to the Reserve. Tourist access is strictly controlled and only Al Maha’s guests have the opportunity to experience Arabian nights in the Reserve. For more details visit: www.al-maha.com/
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Situated in the heart of the desert and nestled in the dunes of Dubai, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa (Arabic for "gateway to the sun"), is the ultimate luxury retreat. An exclusive low-rise resort in the natural desert landscape, surrounded by gently sloping dunes, it offers a one-of-its-kind traditional experience true to the culture and heritage of Dubai and the UAE.
Bab Al Shams is built in an Arabic fort setting in and around an oasis. Inside its walls, shaded courtyards, walkways and water features blend to present a unique ambience - offering the ultimate in comfort, cuisine and entertainment. At Bab Al Shams history, splendor and magnificence come together. The resort is adjacent to Dubai International Endurance City, and is just a 40-minute drive from Dubai and 45 minutes from Dubai International Airport. For more details visit: www.meydanhotels.com/babalshams/
It’s snowing year-round in the desert at the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East – Ski Dubai located at the Mall of Emirates. Featuring an amazing mountain-themed wintry setting, you can now enjoy skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing or just playing in the snow at Ski Dubai. What’s more, you now also meet and play with Ski Dubai’s newest and most charming residents – its Snow Penguins. The March of the Penguins in Ski Dubai Snow Park takes place several times a day.
So go ahead, roll down in the Giant Ball run, jump a 10ft ramp while turning down the tube slides, sightsee in the chairlift or just relax over a hot cup of chocolate in a snow-white ambience at minus 4 degrees, all in the heart of a desert! It makes for an unforgettable experience. For more details call: 800 386 or visit: www.theplaymania.com/skidubai
Dubai has emerged as a top golfing destination thanks to its fast paced developments as a tourist city and a luxury destination. It has also been attributed to the game’s leading names being commissioned to create some of the world’s most outstanding courses offering the best in service, quality and golf all under beautiful blue, sunny skies featuring internationally famous landmarks like Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa. So just tee-off!
Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club at Garhoud, Ph: 04 380 1919; Emirates Golf Club at Emirates Hills, Ph: 04 380 1234; Meydan Golf Course at Nad Al Shiba, Ph: 04 381 3733; The Montgomery at Emirates Hills, Ph 04 390 5600; Al Badia Golf Club at Festival City, Ph: 04 601 0101.
Horse Racing and Dubai World Cup
Take the reins! Dubai hosts the world’s richest horse race and has a rich tradition of horse racing. And with the number of equestrian events taking place this season, now is the perfect season to saddle up! The emirate offers many elite riding academies where in addition to riding you can learn a wide range of equestrian disciplines like polo, dressage and show jumping too.
Hoofbeatz opposite Dubai Outlet Mall, Ph 056 9424551; Riding Academy at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club, Ph: 04 361 8111; Emirates Equestrian Centre near Dubai International Endurance City, Ph: 050 558 7656.
Dubai World Cup
Dubai’s famous World Cup Carnival, Meydan is an unmissable one for equestrian enthusiasts culminating in the famous Dubai World Cup. Racing returns to Meydan Racecourse for the opening of the Dubai Racing Club’s season on November 6, 2014. There will be a total of 19 racing programmes, with the spectacular season culminating in the Dubai World Cup race day, March 28, 2015, the world’s richest day in racing.
Under the distinguished patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, racing is an integral part of the UAE sporting and social calendar. Meydan serves as the flagship racecourse for Dubai and is a source of pride for the UAE, featuring state-of-the-art facilities, and competitive racing for all levels with attractive prizes.
An architectural masterpiece, Meydan is home to the world’s only five-star trackside hotel, The Meydan, alongside the Meydan Grandstand. Racing at Meydan features the best of the local horse population while the Dubai World Cup Carnival attracts the greatest international horses and horsemen to Dubai. For more details contact 04 327 0077 or visit: www.dubaiworldcup.com
Wet, wild and totally wonderful, Dubai Dolphinarium is one of the region’s most loved attractions, visited by over 30,000 visitors per month. Visitors get up close and personal to graceful bottle nosed dolphins and playful seals at the action-packed live shows. This interactive extravaganza showcases these amazing animals as they perform incredible acrobatics - dance, sing, and juggle, play ball, and jump through hoops and even paint!
It is also home to the Dubai Creek Bird Show, the only exotic bird show in the region, presenting an action-packed experience with over 20 different birds and parrots. During the free flight shows, audiences can also interact with the feathered fraternity when they put on a special aerial show much to the delight of their on-ground admirers. For more details contact: 04 336-9773 or visit: www.dubaidolphinarium.ae
A trip on Dubai’s Monorail to visit The Palm Jumeirah
The Palm Monorail was opened on 30th April 2009 and runs at an elevated level along the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai - connecting the Palm Gateway Monorail Station at the entry to the Atlantis hotel at the far end. It is not yet connected to the Dubai Metro but there are plans to link it to the Dubai Internet City (TECOM) station on Sheikh Zayed Road. It is linked to the new Dubai Tram system which opened on 11 November 2014.
The Palm Monorail is a good vantage point to see the Palm Jumeirah. It is often used by tourists staying at the Atlantis hotel to enjoy a stunning view of the island and it also takes you from the far end of the island to the main part of Dubai where it links up with Al Sufouh Road (and
eventually the metro). As the Dubai Monorail runs at an elevated level, it offers some of the best views of the world famous Palm Jumeirah and even the nearby Burj Al Arab hotel, especially when approaching the Atlantis hotel, when the road goes through the underwater tunnel and the monorail travels above the sea, offering a spectacular view of the hotel. There is a train every 20 minutes from the Palm Gateway Monorail Station and one way takes ten minutes.
Boasting a long coastline, the UAE is an ideal destination for deep sea diving enthusiasts, encompassing the tip of the Arabian Peninsula which separates the Arabian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman. Since ancient times, Dubai was a thriving seaport so its coast features several shipwrecks each with its own thriving ecosystems. Sites range from shallow to beyond recreational dive depths catering to all levels of training and experience. Adding excitement is the presence of whale sharks - elusive, gentle marine travellers who flock to these waters.
One of the most well known places to enjoy scuba diving is the Pavilion Dive Centre at Jumeirah Beach Hotel which offers courses in different categories. All courses are PADI and National Geographic Courses with the exception of Emergency First Response Courses. Open Friday to Monday: 8am to 6pm; Tuesday to Thursday: 8am to 10pm. For more details call 04 406 8828 or log on to www.jumeirah.com
There’s a dive for everyone at the Atlantis Dive Centre in Dubai. It offers programs for everyone, including beginners wanting to experience diving for the first time as well as experts or certified divers looking to take a specialty dive course or dive to one of the UAE’s fascinating shipwrecks. The Atlantis dive team offers you the chance to dive in the Ambassador Lagoon, the largest aquarium in the Middle East and Africa. It also has an accredited 5 star PADI dive centre on-site with the biggest team of instructors in the country.
Swim with Dolphins!
Enjoy an unforgettable experience during an Atlantis Dolphin Encounter at Dolphin Bay in Dubai. Wade into waist-high crystal clear waters and enter a playful world for a nose-to-bottlenose with one of the marine world’s most charming and intelligent beings. This programme is perfect for families with young children or non-swimmers. Each booking also includes same day access to Aquaventure Waterpark and 25% off same day admission to The Lost Chambers Aquarium. All children under 12 years old must be accompanied by a paying adult (18 years and above). One adult per three children, per interaction. Reservations should be done in advance. Call 04 4261030 for more details or visit www.atlantisthepalm.com
The Dubai Dolphinarium too offers daily swimming with dolphins sessions presenting a once in a life-time experience suitable for visitors from 5 years onwards.
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
The world’s largest shopping mall boasts one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world - the 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall. It houses thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species, over 300 Sharks and Rays, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world. There are numerous ways to experience the main Aquarium tank measuring 51 metres in length, 20 metres in width and 11 metres in height.
The 48 metre walk-through Tunnel provides 270 degree views from 11 metres below the surface of the tank. Visitors can go on a glass-bottom boat ride and for those wanting to experience a dip in the tank can opt for a Cage Snorkeling Experience. The Shark Dive brings you within inches of a large variety of sharks and rays
Don’t forget to meet King Croc, one of nature’s rare phenomenon, and one of the world’s largest reptiles along with his female companion of 20 years both of whom now reside in a special enclosure at Underwater Zoo replicating their natural habitat. At over 5 metres long and weighing 750 kg plus, he is 40 years old with the potential to grow even bigger, has 60 razor sharp teeth and a bite force estimated to be about 3,700 pounds per square inch – the highest bite for any animal.
Continue your journey at Underwater Zoo and learn more about amazing creatures inhabit both our rivers and oceans. Located on Level Two above the Aquarium tank, it leads you through three ecological Zones; Rainforest, Rocky Shore and Living Ocean. Opening hours: 10:00am - 10:00pm [Weekdays]; 10:00am - 12:00am [Weekends] *Timings are subject to change. For more details call: 04 448 5200 or visit www.thedubaiaquarium.com
Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa
Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas’ first Dubai property, Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa is a luxurious, uniquely Thai inspired beach resort, prestigiously located on the iconic Palm Jumeirah. Set amidst lush landscaping it has 293 guest rooms and villas including Anantara Two Bedroom Beach Pool Villas and the Middle East’s first Over Water Villas with most featuring glass viewing panels revealing underwater glimpses of the Arabian Sea.
It has a 400 metre long private beach, three beautiful lagoon-inspired pools and a 50 metre shoreline infinity pool. Indulge in kayaking, wake boarding and paddle boarding, as well as diving and snorkelling adventures. It has two well equipped gyms, two tennis courts, a teens club, Chill and Tuk Tuk Kids Club. The Anantara Spa offers distinctive pampering, beauty and wellness journeys from 17 luxurious treatment suites while its six restaurants and bars offer riveting culinary experiences.
Fascinating Thai touches include floating market boats on the lagoons serving tropical beverages and three wheeler tuk-tuks transporting guests around the resort. For more details contact: 04 567 8888 or visit www.anantara.com