Escape stressful city life by visiting these natural spots not far from the UAE.
Lush greenery, fresh air and sounds of wildlife – how we all crave to experience all these and escape the daily grind of the concrete jungle.
Research has shown that being in nature helps nourish the mind and body and combat negativity and stress.
In today’s age of social media and the internet, the need to get away from our tech-driven lifestyle has become all the more important.
With that said, here are some great nearby destinations to help you switch off mentally
and be at one with nature.
Located near Oman’s highest mountain peak, Jebel Shams, Ghul is touted as the Grand Canyon of Arabia because of its deep valleys.
Despite its rocky conditions, visitors can actually drive a 4×4 car up here. But whether by vehicle or by foot, it’s hard to miss the wonderful scenery as it unfolds – including old villages and deep valleys – at every turn.
Stretching 5km, the Al Hoota Cave stationed at the foot of Jebel Shams features stalagmites and stalactites that formed throughout the cave’s more than two million-year history. There are also resident animals including the rare blind fish, Garra Barreimiae, bats, spiders, snails and water beetles. A cave tour can be organised via alhootacave.om
Oman is known for its pristine waters and the coastline near Ras Al Jinz is a nesting site for the endangered green sea turtles. The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve offers a guided tour for those who want to see this local species up close. Hatching occurs between May and September so it’s best to plan your visit around those months if that’s what you’re here for. For more information, visit: rasaljinz-turtlereserve.com
Moving over to the Dhofar region is Salalah, which welcomes the monsoon season from around July to September where the temperature drops, the clouds open and the result is a carpet of green grass.
In the area, you’ll find the scenic Wadi Darbat. Cows and camels feeding on its vast grass-covered land frequent this lush valley. Its natural spring surrounded by tress and plants is a relaxing sight for those looking to escape the city.
Getting there: Etihad and Oman Air fly direct to Muscat from around AED 755.
The curiously named Devil’s Head, for example, is a site that would excite any adventurous traveller.
This Bedouin camp – its actual name is Ras Shaitan Nuweiba – is ideal for those looking for a quiet place to reflect or meditate. In fact, the camps here are deprived of modern amenities to help visitors focus on themselves and their surroundings.
The site is also known for its canyons, caves, plateaus and beach with mountain scenery, and it’s also a great place for scuba divers.
Located near the popular holiday spot of Taba is Fjord Bay, which is a favourite location for diving, swimming, hiking and climbing, among various other outdoor activities.
Seasoned divers can explore the so-called Fjord hole, a deep area in the surrounding sea that houses spectacular underwater sceneries and marine life. For less experienced divers,
the Fjord banana is a shallow reef with fish and coral.
Getting there: Etihad flies direct to Cairo from around AED 1,440.
But take a trip to the Azraq Wetland Reserve where you can see a variety of migratory birds from Asia and Africa.
Featuring pools, marshlands and mudflats, this spot welcomes species such as larks, harriers, plovers, finches and eagles. It’s also common to see water buffalos roaming in the area.
Meanwhile, the Shawmari Reserve is a must visit for animal lovers looking to see endangered and rare wildlife. Some of the animals roaming freely include the Arabian oryx, ostriches, onagers and desert gazelles.
The reserve features an observation tower so that visitors can search for elusive animals and migratory birds. There’s also an oryx safari trip to allow visitors to see these protected animals up close and learn about the conservation efforts being done.
Jordan’s largest nature reserve, Dana Biosphere Reserve, is characterised by its rugged landscape comprised of limestone, granite and sandstone. The vast area is ideal for hiking, stargazing, cycling and bird watching.
Despite its dry-looking appearance, the reserve is actually home to diverse plants, birds and animals – the endangered Nubian ibex and Syrian serin both call the area home.
Finally, located about 37km from Amman is the mountain ridge Mount Nebo, a scenic valley juxtaposing against the surrounding rugged mountains on the famous King’s Highway.
Getting there: Royal Jordanian flies direct to Amman from around AED 1,500
Considered a hidden gem, Ashwem beach is known for its long stretch of clear sand and turquoise waters. Furthermore, the beach serves as a refuge and nesting place for Olive Ridley turtles.
The beach is not conducive for watersport activities so is a great option for a relaxing and serene break.
Another peaceful spot worth seeing in Goa is the Rivona Caves. It is thought that Buddhist monks came here to meditate during the 7th century.
Visitors will find Buddhist sculptures, paintings and even a carved out portion off
the wall believed to have been used as a seat by an ancient Buddhist teacher.
Drawings of animals and birds can also be seen inside the walls and there’s a natural pond at the side of the caves.
Getting there: Oman Air and Air India offer flights with one stop to Goa from around AED 1,300.
Located two hours away from neighbouring emirate Ajman is an exclave named Masfout. This tiny village sits at a higher altitude so the cooler climate enjoyed throughout the year makes it an ideal summer retreat.
The rocky terrain is great for picnics, cycling, walking, mountain biking and exploring wadis.
Currently, there are plans to boost development in the area to attract more visitors. It is perhaps best to check out the place now before it gets too busy in the future.
Even the drive itself is scenic as you pass rolling dunes on your way to the foothills of the Hajar Mountains.
Getting there: After leaving Abu Dhabi, take the Sharjah-Kalba Road out of Sharjah to avoid the Oman border on the Hatta Road, which is only open to GCC nationals.
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez