One of the most fascinating day trips from Dubai is to discover Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It can be reached in about two hours on a wide-gauge motorway that winds its way through the middle of the desert.
Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi has had an almost unbelievable development in recent years, thanks to oil and all the wealth that has come with it. As a result, in a very short time the city has seen the construction of luxury buildings, skyscrapers and ultra-luxury hotels, making it one of the richest cities in the entire Middle East.
Abu Dhabi is the ideal destination for a beach holiday in winter because even in the coldest months of the year the sun shines and temperatures are very pleasant, between 22° and 30°. July and August, on the other hand, are not recommended because the very high temperatures (always over 40°, with peaks of 50°) and the humidity make the heat unbearable.
The best time to go to Abu Dhabi is from November to March. However, these months coincide with the high tourist season, so flight and hotel prices go up. Spring and autumn are two good compromises between weather and prices.
Arriving from Dubai, the first monument one encounters in Abu Dhabi, which for many is also the most beautiful, is the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the largest places of worship of the Muslim faith in the world, capable of seating more than 40 thousand people.
Its white marble domes dazzle worshippers and visitors alike (by the way, anyone can visit it and headgear for ladies and long trousers will be provided at the entrance), and its sumptuous interiors are decorated with splendid carpets, huge chandeliers and all kinds of stucco.
The beating heart of Abu Dhabi is the Corniche, a long avenue running along the sea bordered by futuristic skyscrapers on one side and a beautiful beach on the other. The sea in Abu Dhabi is very beautiful and this city beach is rather frequented by tourists and international workers, especially in the winter months: in summer the scorching temperatures make it almost unlivable.
Just opposite the Corniche beach is Al Marina Island, one of Abu Dhabi’s brightest tourist spots. The island is small and houses the city’s marina, as well as the elegant Marina Mall (with 122,000 square metres of shops, a 100-metre high observatory, a skating rink and a multiplex cinema) and the Heritage Village, an open-air museum showing what life was like in Abu Dhabi and the surrounding areas before the discovery of oil.
Leaving the Abu Dhabi of dreams and wonders, before returning to Dubai it is time to visit another of the city’s attractions: Ferrari World, the world’s largest theme park dedicated to the Prancing Horse.
It is built on the artificial island of Yas Island, right next to the Formula 1 circuit, and inside there are numerous Ferrari-themed attractions including the Formula Rossa, the fastest rollercoaster in the world: it reaches the incredible speed of 240 km/h in just 5 seconds, giving the impression of being on board a real single-seater.
Reaching Abu Dhabi is very easy because the city has an international airport with direct flights from most European cities. Etihad Airways is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, which has its headquarters in Abu Dhabi, and has a global network.
Another option is to fly to Dubai by direct flights of Emirates, the country’s second airline. The two cities are only 130 km apart: with a rental car you can get to Abu Dhabi in about an hour and a half; alternatively, if you travel with Emirates you can take advantage of a free shuttle from Dubai airport to the centre of Abu Dhabi (to be booked at least 48 hours in advance).
Unfortunately, neither Etihad nor Emirates operate low-cost flights, but periodically these companies launch interesting offers thanks to which it is possible to reach Abu Dhabi at an affordable price.
A day trip to Abu Dhabi is the typical day trip to take during a multi-day holiday in Dubai. With guided tours, a pick-up service from your hotel in Dubai will take you along the Gulf coast to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Abu Dhabi is a large metropolis so it is a good idea to choose carefully where to stay. One of the most popular areas for tourists to stay in Abu Dhabi is The Corniche, an area more on a human scale than other neighbourhoods; it is famous for a splendid 8 km seaside promenade, one of the city’s most beautiful beaches, bicycle lanes and many clubs with outdoor tables.
In the centre of Abu Dhabi, a good area in which to look for a hotel are the two main streets, Handam Street and Khalifa Street, because they represent the ideal compromise between the sea (not so far away) and metropolitan liveliness.
For Formula 1 fans and families with children, we recommend sleeping on Yas Island, the artificial island home to an ultra-modern motor racing circuit, Ferrari World and other theme parks.
Constantly expanding is Saadiyat Island, destined to become the cultural quarter of the capital with the Louvre Abu Dhabi already open and other important museums soon to open. Fabulous resorts are already in place and numerous others under construction.
To stay on the jet set theme, one of the most popular hotels for the rich from all over the world who choose to visit Abu Dhabi is the Emirates Palace. This huge square building is considered by visitors to be an ultra-luxury hotel, more of a palace than a hotel.
It has more than 1 km of private beach, suites furnished in gold and marble, a six-kilometre cycle track, cricket and rugby fields and all the luxuries possible and imaginable. The hotel can be visited from the outside and for many is even more luxurious and iconic than the Burj al Arab in Dubai.
Given the size of Abu Dhabi, it is unthinkable to get around on foot. Public transport is not a convenient option either: unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi does not yet have a metro system and buses are not a very practical way of getting around the city.
The best means of getting around Abu Dhabi is definitely the car, either a rental car or a taxi. The good news is that taxis are widespread and all in all cheap, so they are the preferred option for most tourists.
Many hotels in Abu Dhabi offer a free or paid shuttle service to the city’s main tourist attractions and the airport, but don’t take this for granted: if you are interested in taking advantage of such a convenient service make sure before booking that your chosen hotel offers it.
Another easy and cheap way to get around Abu Dhabi are the hop on hop off tourist buses: with just one ticket you can make unlimited trips and get off at all the city’s top attractions.