Short on time or money? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of places to explore right on your doorstep that won’t leave a dent in your holiday allowance or your savings pot. Discover the Emirates with these staycation suggestions.
If you have a head for heights, the iconic Burj Khalifa is a good place to start your Dubai adventure. The At the Top experience, starting from AED 135, whisks you up to the 125th floor for uninterrupted city views while the Sky experience lets you stand on the world’s highest observation deck on level 148.
Afterwards, head to the old area of Dubai where you can shop in a traditional market at the Spice Souk or Gold Souk in Deira – feel free to haggle.
The Dubai Museum, part of the Al Fahidi district in Bur Dubai, is a fascinating time capsule depicting what life was like in the Bedouin days. Don’t miss a ride on an agra down the creek for just a couple of dirhams.
Make time to visit one of the city’s newest attractions. Towering above the city at 492 feet, the so-called ‘biggest picture frame on the planet’, the Dubai Frame, offers breathtaking vistas and is great for your Insta-feed.
Where to stay: If you’re on the lookout for something different, the boutique XVA Art Hotel in Al Fahidi features cultural motifs, complete with courtyards and regional architecture. It also has an art gallery and a vegetarian café. Bur Dubai. Contact: 04 353 5383, xvahotel.com
If you want to be Downtown, Rove Hotel is an affordable option. Featuring an urban design, it’s equipped with spacious rooms, a sundeck and an international restaurant. 312 Happiness Street, Zabeel 2. Contact: 04 561 9000, rovehotels.com
Despite being the smallest of the emirates in terms of land size, there’s still plenty to do in this tiny spot. Start with the Ajman Museum where you can see centuries-old items such as weapons, documents and relics.
Meanwhile, the Al Zorah Nature Reserve is home to lush mangroves and a variety of birds. To see a different side of the city, and the country for that matter, take time out to visit the two UAE-owned enclaves: Manama and Masfut.
Known for its honey and old fortresses, Manama is situated at the foothills of the Hajar Mountains, about an hour’s drive east of the city centre.
Meanwhile, Masfut in the south is a 90-minute drive from the city centre. Its rocky surroundings and cooler climate suit outdoor lovers but you’ll need to bring your passport, as you’ll be crossing the Oman border along the way.
Where to stay: Ramada Hotel and Suites Ajman is situated in the city proper and strategically located near the airport and commercial and leisure centres. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Road. Contact: 06 740 4666, bit.ly/2LZHe8x
If you prefer somewhere more secluded, opt for the five-star beachfront property Fairmont Ajman, which boasts 252 rooms, eight restaurants and a view of the Arabian Gulf. Contact: 06 701 5757, fairmont.com/ajman
Once the largest museum in the UAE, the Sharjah Arts Museum is home to 72 galleries containing artworks by prominent and obscure Arab and international artists from the past.
For more culture and history, visit Sharjah’s Heritage Village, which is home to several galleries, museums and a souk selling souvenirs, local wares and antiques.
Formerly an airport and now an aviation museum, the Mahattah Fort, meanwhile, displays items that pre-date the UAE’s founding.
If you have time to spare, visit the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation to discover the roots of Arabic and Islamic culture through arts, craftworks, relics and documents.
Next, squeeze in a visit to the Sharjah Archaeology Museum for a glimpse into the life of early settlers in the area before making your way to the southern part of the city to enjoy the small fishing village of Kalba for some quiet sightseeing.
Where to stay: Coral Beach Resort Sharjah Hotel is good for families who enjoy pristine beachfront views. Complementing the family-sized rooms are the leisure facilities including a spa, fitness centre and kids club. Al Muntazah Street, Corniche. Contact: 06 522 9999, hmhhotelgroup.com
Want to be near the city’s attractions? The 239-room Citymax Hotel Sharjah is closer to commercial establishments including shopping malls, and is handy for Sharjah International Airport. Wahda Road, Abu Shagara District. Contact: 04 409 8000, bit.ly/2LFXTRW
Al-Bidyah, the UAE’s oldest mosque constructed out of mud and bricks in 1446, can be found here. It’s also close to an ancient Islamic graveyard that features a big tomb dating back to the Iron Age, great for history buffs.
Offering a glimpse into ancient local life, the majestic Fujairah Fort, erected in 1670, is one of the oldest in the country. It’s part of the city’s Heritage Village where you can also view restored houses and irrigation systems used by early farmers.
Nearby is the Fujairah Museum, which houses archaeological discoveries such as pots, weapons and pre-Islamic coins originating from the Bronze and Iron Ages.
The so-called Snoopy Island is also located in this emirate. Resembling the silhouette of the famous cartoon character, this landmark is popular among divers and marine life enthusiasts who fancy some snorkelling.
Where to stay: Sandy Beach Hotel and Resort offers a breathtaking view of the Hajar Mountains and Indian Ocean. Giving guests a sense of privacy, accommodation ranges from studio bungalows and one- and two-bedroom chalets to studio apartments and a three-bedroom penthouse. Al Aqah. Contact: 09 244 5555, sandybeachhotel.ae
The recently opened InterContinental Fujairah Resort offers a shoreline location on Al Aqah Beach, paired with a spectacular backdrop of the Hajar Mountains, and is a great place to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing. Dibba Road. Contact: 09 209 9999, ihg.com
Ras al Khaimah
In this northern emirate, the UAE’s tallest mountain, Jebel Jais, is also home to the world’s longest zipline, a three-minute journey that whisks you at speeds of up to 150kph, 1,680 metres above sea level.
To really soak up the rugged mountain views, head to the hilltop Dhayah Fort, an ancient watchtower that once served as a defensive structure against the British forces.
If you’re an avid photographer, you might enjoy the abandoned fishing village of Jazirat al Hamra. Deserted since 1968, this ghost town is now ruins and dilapidated structures that reflect a former way of life.
Where to stay: Featuring 147 suites, the beachfront Al Hamra Residence and Village boasts beach and pool facilities, tennis courts, restaurants and bars and a nearby golf course. Jazeera Al Hamra. Contact: 07 206 7222, alhamraresorts.com
Double Tree by Hilton Resort and Spa offers a nice view of the city from its rooftop pool and bar. The hotel, which features spacious rooms and spa facilities, is also within walking distance of amenities including the local mall. Al Jazah Road. Contact: 07 226 0666, bit.ly/1E8b1kX
Umm Al Quwain
To this day, this sleepy emirate is a fishing village at heart, and you can still see craftsmen constructing dhows on the creek.
For a dose of history, take time to visit Umm Al Quwain Fort and Museum to see ancient artefacts and manuscripts.
If you have kids in tow, cool down at Dreamland Aqua Park for some swimming and rides. Cap off the visit by venturing to the Khor Al Beidah, a wetland that serves as a natural habitat for marine animals, turtles and birds.
Where to stay: Barracuda Beach Resort is popular among big groups thanks to its spacious apartments. There’s also a communal barbecue area and an outdoor pool. Khor Al Baida. Contact: 06 768 1555, barracuda.ae
Located near Dreamland Aqua Park is the Hotel Royal Residence. Choose from studio to three-bedroom villas and take advantage of facilities including tennis and basketball courts, a pool and fitness centre. Al Etihad Road, beside Sikkat Beirut Restaurant. Contact: 06 767 0111, royalresidenceuaq.com
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez