Of the 7 emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is the most populated and arguably the most visited by tourists. The glossy, ultramodern and futuristic facade of Dubai is in stark contradiction to it’s atmospheric Old Town, which offers you a glimpse of a bygone era of Dubai’s history.
Yet within 2 hours drive south of Dubai, lies another of the 7 emirates, Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE and a match for Dubai in terms of palatial accommodation, golden sandy beaches, stunning architecture and thrill seeking activities to lure visitors.
If you are considering a visit to the UAE, why not sample the best of both worlds and combine Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a 7 day Trip.
The following is an Independent Itinerary as this country is extremely safe and easy to navigate on your own terms.
Dubai Creek historically divided the city into Bur Dubai and Deira and is one of the oldest historical districts dating back to the early 1900’s, when Dubai’s economy lay in fish and pearl diving.
Deira, located on the Eastern side of the creek, is your starting point.
SIGHTS COVERED :
- Gold, Perfume & Spice Souks (1 hr)
- Bur Dubai Textile Souk (1 hr)
- Al Fahidi Fort & Dubai Museum (1-2 hrs)
- Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (1-2 hrs)
- Heritage & Diving Village (1-2 hrs)
- Madinat Jumeirah (Evening)
GOLD, PERFUME & SPICE SOUKS
Alight at Al Ras Metro Station and walk to the Gold Souk, one of Dubai’s most visited souks. Covered walkways hide a warren of retailers offering gold, silver, diamonds and precious metals for purchase. It is fascinating to wander and watch as opposed to buying, but if you do want to buy, barter, barter! Next stop just east along Sikkat Al Khail Street is the Perfume souk. Here, beautiful decorative bottles hold strong arabic perfumes. Lastly, to another famous spot, the Spice Souk, where your senses will be in for a huge treat. Colourful sacks emit pungent aromas from every herb and spice you could imagine. Walk to the Deira Old Souk Abra Station.
BUR DUBAI TEXTILE SOUK
Board a traditional wooden Abra to cross the creek from Deira to Bur Dubai on the western side of the creek. Pay the man 1 AED, sit back and enjoy the view and the breeze! Wander through the textile souk with its endless fabrics. It can get extremely hot here but it is a fun way to spend half an hour. Be fully prepared to barter hard and just walk away if you are not interested in buying. From here walk past Dubai Grand Mosque with it’s striking minaret (Not open to Non-Muslims) to your next stop.
Gain a fuller understanding of the history of Dubai at the museum through a series of “wings”, which acquaint the visitor with life in Old Dubai. Various sections include a 1950’s market, a traditional home, antique pottery/weapons and a tour of shipbuilding and pearl diving profession. Leave the museum and walk a few streets to the old part of Dubai. ** MUSEUM AED 3 ADULT **
AL FAHIDI HISTORICAL NEIGHBOURHOOD
Walk the shady winding maze of alleyways, marvelling at the restored sandstone houses with their wind towers which served as a primitive style of air-conditioning back in the day. As you wander around the pedestrian only conservation area you will see the last remaining part of the gypsum and coral wall of old Dubai, which at one time was the city’s protection from attack. Contained within the area are numerous art galleries, including the XVA Gallery, where you can enjoy a refreshing mint lemonade and a late lunch in their cafe. Head to Al Fahidi Metro Station and take the Green Line to Al Ghubaiba Metro Station.
HERITAGE & DIVING VILLAGE
Located side by side, the Heritage Village showcases local traditional life where you can witness live, different craftsmanships being practised. Shops sell various items and during the tourist season (Oct-Mar), there are various activities to watch. Next door at the Diving Village, learn about traditional maritime professions of fishing, shipbuilding and pearl diving, whilst viewing live demonstrations. ** BOTH FREE ** Enough walking around in the heat, take an inexpensive taxi to your final destination for the day.
Combine fine views, shopping, dining and entertainment under one roof at a traditional Arabian town resort. Get dropped off at the main entrance and have a wander around the outside first, taking photos of the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel in the daylight. Entering the souk, a re-creation of an ancient marketplace, and wander under the beautiful wood carved archways whilst perusing the open style shops. With plenty of restaurants to choose from, settle in for a great meal and a relaxed evening. Be sure to retrace your steps and take a night view photo of Burj Al Arab Hotel before your taxi ride back to your accommodation.
- Handy and extensive guide on using the metro and etiquette issues to note.
- Abra Routes for Dubai Creek.
- Dubai Museum Opening hours and admission cost.
- Interesting information about Al Fahidi Historical District.
- Heritage Village opening hours and history.
- Diving Village Story and opening hours.
- A detailed map of Souk Madinat Jumeirah here.
SIGHTS COVERED :
- Dubai Mall (3+ hrs)
- Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo (1-2 hrs)
- Burk Khalifa (1-2 hrs)
- Dubai Fountain (1 hr)
- Souk Al Bahar (1+ hrs)
Alight at Burj Khalifa/The Dubai Mall Metro Station and walk along the temperature controlled glass tunnel travellator which links the station to the mall. As the world’s largest mall, it is easy to spend a full day here, however adjust your time according to what interests you from the retail and leisure attractions. I personally did not find the shopping any cheaper than at home. Be sure to plan your time wisely, as this mall is HUGE. Some niche areas include an open air street scape and a souk. Enjoy lunch at one of the numerous eateries or food hall.
DUBAI AQUARIUM & UNDERWATER ZOO
Rising from the ground up to the third floor, this 10 million litre aquarium tank is the largest suspended aquarium in the world. Enjoy a behind the scenes tour, walk through a 48 metre tunnel for a birds eye view of stingrays and sand tiger sharks swimming above you. Move on to the Marine Zoo and marvel at the penguin colonies, otters and the King Croc which is over 5 metres in length and still growing! You will not be disappointed here!
Having already booked your tickets online for At The Top Level 124, proceed to the lower ground level of the Mall and join the queue for the lift to whisk you up to the top of the world’s tallest builing and over 160 stories high. For a sunset visit, be sure to book your entry time approximately 90 minutes prior to sunset. The elevator rising at a speed of 10 metres per second is very smooth. Enjoy the fantastic view of Dubai and the far reaching desert below you as the sun sets. Return down to the lower ground level by lift and make your way outside the mall to Burj Lake and the venue of your next activity.
Bag yourself a spot around the lake to witness the famous and justifiably so, Dubai Fountains. The world’s largest and impressive dancing fountains which are choreographed to music, run every 30 minutes from 6 pm to 11 pm.
Here is a detailed post about the Dubai Fountain.
SOUK AL BAHAR
Cross the bridge over Burj Lake and be transported to an ancient Arabic setting. High archways guide you around small shops selling fashions, art, souvenirs and carpets amongst other things. The souk maximises its waterfont setting as restaurant terraces line the promenade, some giving you great views of the Dubai Fountains. Enjoy a leisurely dinner before crossing back over the bridge and stopping for a view of Burj Khalifa lit up against the night sky.
- Plan your trip to the Mall by checking this map.
- There are different priced packages at the Aquarium & Zoo starting from AED 100 per person.
- Burj Khalifa ticket prices are dependent on times and observation deck level, but book well in advance.
- Check out Souk Al Bahar Dining options and make a booking well in advance.
SIGHTS COVERED :
- Cultural Breakfast (2 hrs)
- Atlantis Hotel (1-2 hrs)
- Aquaventure waterpark (1-2 hrs)
- Marina Cruise (1 hr)
- Sunset Beach (1 hr)
- 360 Restaurant (1+ hrs)
SHEIKH MOHAMMED CENTRE FOR CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING
Alight at Al Fahidi Metro Station and walk a few minutes to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Get your day off to a cultural start with breakfast at the centre, chatting to and learning about UAE religion and culture from your Emirati host. Served on Mondays and Wednesdays in the Al Fahidi Historical district, this is a great unique experience. Afterwards return to Al Fahidi Metro Station.
Take the green line to Buruman Station, change to the red line and continue to DAMAC Metro Station. Here you can interchange with the Dubai Tram. The tram goes in one direction around the JBR area (Jumeirah Beach Residence) and the station you want to alight at is Palm Jumeirah station. Here you can join the Palm Monorail which whisks you to the Atlantis Hotel, with perfect elevated views of Palm Jumeirah and the sea. Enjoy a relaxing and totally unique lunch at the Poseidon Cafe, looking out at the mesmerising Ambassador Lagoon whist eating. You will now be heading over to the Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark for some serious fun.
Book your Day Visitor pass online before you arrive for extra savings, unless you stay here, in which case you have a free visit. Enjoy the thrill of rides and slides and finish off relaxing on the private pristine beach before showering.
As you return on the monorail, try and sit on the front seat for great unrestricted views across the Palm. Rejoin the tram and alight at DAMAC Station. Walk along the promenade to Ferry Station 2, for your 5pm cruise.
Board the Dubai Ferry, sit back and enjoy a 1 hour circular trip of the marina, the walk and Jumeirah Palm Island. The striking coastline and the skyline look incredible as the sun starts to go down. Head back to DAMAC Station and jump back onto the metro 4 stops to Mall Of The Emirates Station. Walk along the promenade to Sunset Beach in front of Umm Suqeim Park.
What a perfect spot to sit and watch the sun setting over the iconic Burj Al Arab and the gulf. This pristine beach with its turquoise blue warm water and soft golden sand is picturesque perfect.
JUMEIRAH BEACH HOTEL
Opposite Sunset beach is your last destination for today and dinner at 360, located at the end of the hotel walkway. Enjoy fantastic panoramic views as the sun sets and the evening sky is lit with the iconic Dubai skyline. Every day apart from Friday is Happy Hour between 5 and 8 pm!
- Cultural Meals need to be booked in advance. Breakfast is AED 80 per person.
- Details re pricing and stops on Dubai Tram here.
- Check out the view from the Poseidon Cafe.
- Information on pricing and booking at Aquaventure Waterpark.
- Dubai Ferry Information leaflet here.
- Book a table at 360 well in advance.
SIGHTS COVERED :
- Emirates Palace (1-2 hrs)
- Marina Mall (~1 hr)
- Qasr Al Hosn Fort (1 hr)
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (2+ hrs)
- Shangri-La Hotel (2+ hrs)
After a leisurely breakfast, pick up your hire car and drive about 2 hours to Abu Dhabi. Your first destination today is the famous Emirates Palace sitting grandly at the far western end of the Corniche. Wander freely around the interior common areas which are stupendous spaces showcasing marble, domes and plenty of gold leaf. Although extremely grandiose from outside, there is a quiet calmness exuded as you walk around. Make your way to Le Cafe for a relaxed lunch.
Relax in the classy yet informal surroundings of this cafe as you decide whether to try a camel burger. Be sure to indulge in the famous Palace cappuccino which is sprinkled in real 24 carat gold flakes! And be sure to check out the rest rooms before you leave – they are sumptuous.
Drive along Corniche Road West and turn left onto 18th Street. You are not here for the shopping, but the fantastic view from the Sky Tower. The views are enchanting on a clear day and all for free!
QASR AL HOSN FORT
Head back along the Corniche and make a right turn down Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street. Dating back to the 1760’s, the fort was built as a watch tower to protect the water supply. Learn about local life and the history of Abu Dhabi as you walk around the exhibitions in the museum. Be sure to check the date of the annual festival when a variety of activities and events are put on.
SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
Aim to arrive about 4.30pm so that you can enjoy your visit but also witness the changing light reflecting off the marble exterior of the mosque.
For a FULL post on visiting the Mosque, see here.
SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, QARYAT AL BERI
From the Grand Mosque, head across the bridge to the Shangri-La Hotel and enjoy a memorable dinner from one of the restaurants, which have amazing night views across the water of the Mosque.
- Check out the Photo Library of Emirates Palace if you fancy staying here.
- Read the full history of Qasr Al Hosn Fort.
- A complete guide to visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque can be read here.
- Check out your dining options here at the Shangri-La Hotel.
SIGHTS COVERED :
- Saadiyat Public Beach (<1 hr)
- Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital ( ~2 hrs)
- Manarat Al Saadiyat (1-2 hr)
- Observatory Deck At 300 (1+ hrs)
- The Corniche (2+ hrs)
SAADIYAT PUBLIC BEACH
Start your morning with a drive to Saadiyat Island and a gentle stroll along Saadiyat Public beach with its perfect white sand and pristine clear warm water. Although you have to pay a fee of AED 25, it is well worth it for the fantastic views. Get there for 8am so it’s not too hot and you want to be on the road again by 9am at the lastest.
ABU DHABI FALCON HOSPITAL
Falcons are magestic birds and on this 2 hour tour you will witness first hand how these birds are treated and cared for. Led by an expert guide you will learn about their heritage, visit the examination room and see them in full flight. A totally unique tour experience. At the end of the tour, head back the way you came to Saadiyat Island for some interesting fact finding.
MANARAT AL SAADIYAT
Learn the fascinating story of Saadiyat Island and the vision for its future through this arts and culture centre. Set to become home to three futuristic museums (Louvre, Zayed National and Guggenheim) the future of this once forlorn island is looking pretty peachy. Entrance is free plus you can enjoy lunch at Fanr Restaurant. Head back to the centre of Abu Dhabi and the western end of the Corniche.
OBSERVATORY DECK AT 300
Not in the same league height wise as Burj Khalifi, at 300 metres this still gives you a great view from the top. Make your way to the Etihad Towers complex and the 74th floor of tower 2. For a fee of AED 75, you have fantastic cityscape and island views. Book ahead to enjoy afternoon tea and AED 50 of your ticket can be used against the cost. Alternatively just enjoy the view over coffee and cake.
A scenic stretch of sweeping road to cycle, walk, watch sunset from or simply relax on the beach, kick back and people watch. You will find a varied selection of cafes and restaurants to choose from for dinner options.
- For full details about the tours available and online booking at Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital see here.
- Overview of Manarat Al Saadiyat – check here.
- To book afternoon tea at the Observatory Deck check out menus here.
SIGHTS COVERED :
- Emirates National Auto Museum (<1 hr)
- Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Resort
- Liwi Desert
EMIRATES NATIONAL AUTO MUSEUM
Today you will be driving to the Liwi Desert on a drive which will take 2-2.5 hours. If you are a car fan, you will have the opportunity to stop off en-route at the Auto Museum which showcases the private car collection of Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan. This is a haphazard kind of set up but interesting array of about 200 vehicles, some rainbow coloured and a plane! Quirky and quite expensive at AED 50 but worthwhile if you are interested in vintage type cars. The road is a lonely stretch and keep an eye out as you may see lorry drivers pulled over with their prayer mat out praying. Continue to your accommodation for the night. Alternatively, just head straight to your accommodation and start indulging in the various activities available.
ANANTARA QASR AL SARAB RESORT
This place will blow you away …literally! Situated in the desert, this resort is palatial in every detail and encourages you to relax. I seriously suggest pre planning your activities before you arrive, as you are spoilt for choice and will want to fit in as much as you can. Enjoy a leisurely lunch before beginning your activities – the options are limitless. These include desert walks, dune bashing, desert safari, desert yoga, archery, falconry, sand boarding and night drives.
Dining options include Al Falaj where you can enjoy dining in a Bedouin Camp, Suhail where you can dine on a rooftop terrace or dining amidst the sand dunes while the sun sets and you are served by your own private butler.
- Further Reading : For a FULL report on staying at Qasr Al Sarab Resort.
- Further Reading : For a post on a Sunrise Camel Trek.
- Details of all activity options click here.
- Details of price list of activities click here.
SIGHTS COVERED :
- Sunrise Camel Trek
SUNRISE CAMEL TREK
It is an early start this morning and you will travel into the desert to meet your camels and watch the sun rising over the golden never ending sand dunes.
For a FULL REPORT on this trek, read this post which details the experience in full.
After your camel trek, start your return journey back towards Abu Dhabi where you could stop for lunch before continuing back to Dubai, depending upon the time of your flight.
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