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Top Holidays

The adventurous side to Dubai

  • Adventure
  • By Guy Humphrey
  • Published 21 February 2018
  • Revised 27 February 2024
  • Published 21 February 2018
  • Revised 27 February 2024

Dubai. Just thinking about this lively city conjures up images of towering skyscrapers, seven-star hotels and world-class shopping. However, there’s another side to this glorious City of Gold. Leave the glitz of your hotel room far behind as the emirate is a treasure trove of white-knuckle experiences suitable for every traveller. From a hot air balloon ride through the desert to the indoor slopes of Ski Dubai, an adventurous holiday is guaranteed. But where to begin? Our extensive guide showcases some of the top adrenaline-inducing extravaganzas that are most definitely worth their weight in gold.

Take adventure up a gear

With the main city and The Palm one way, and the sandy dunes of the desert the other, the Al Qudra Cycling Trail really signifies how different and diverse Dubai really is. Located on Al Qudra road, you’ll be venturing through the sandy dunes of the desert in an 86-kilometre route that’s formed of two distinct paths. Apart from the odd cycling group, a peaceful ride is guaranteed as you take to two wheels and explore. Warm up on the first path, totalling at 18-kilometres, with the second path being a whopping 50-kilometres. Taking approximately three-hours in total to complete, this course is ideal for beginners thanks to the long, straight roads with a couple of small hills along the way.
 
Oryx and camels roam freely here too, with rest stops interspersed throughout in case you want to take five minutes and get snap-happy with your camera. You’ll also want pictures of the sunset and sunrise, which are both breathtaking and a real sight for sore eyes. While there are changing rooms, a café and a bicycle rental shop at the beginning of the course, there are little to no facilities along the way so make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for the journey… but not too many if you follow our drift.
 


Enjoy the thrills and dunes of Dubai with a desert safari. 4x4 tours are the most common form of transport, and with various packages including belly dancing, henna painting, camel rides and even a fire show as extras, it’s easy to see why.
 
Dune bashing will see things get underway with a bang, driving at increasing and decreasing speeds to really wake you up before a scenic tour begins. Knowledgeable guides are also on hand throughout your tour giving you historical and factual information about the area you’re surrounded by. Want to turn the adrenaline up a notch? Then give quad biking or sand skiing a try. We guarantee your heart will be pounding as you jet up and down the dunes in style.
 
Some tours also come with the chance to have a buffet dinner and barbecue, with vegetarian food also available upon request. Add even more luxury to proceedings with a bottle of bubbly at a surcharge, with unlimited soft drinks, teas and Arabic coffee too. This choice is well-suited to larger groups with each 4x4 able to take a party of six with ease.
 

Embark on a desert safari

Enjoy the thrills and dunes of Dubai with a desert safari. 4x4 tours are the most common form of transport, and with various packages including belly dancing, henna painting, camel rides and even a fire show as extras, it’s easy to see why.
 
Dune bashing will see things get underway with a bang, driving at increasing and decreasing speeds to really wake you up before a scenic tour begins. Knowledgeable guides are also on hand throughout your tour giving you historical and factual information about the area you’re surrounded by. Want to turn the adrenaline up a notch? Then give quad biking or sand skiing a try. We guarantee your heart will be pounding as you jet up and down the dunes in style.
 
Some tours also come with the chance to have a buffet dinner and barbecue, with vegetarian food also available upon request. Add even more luxury to proceedings with a bottle of bubbly at a surcharge, with unlimited soft drinks, teas and Arabic coffee too. This choice is well-suited to larger groups with each 4x4 able to take a party of six with ease.
 

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Jet down the dunes

Sandboarding will have you drift down the desert dunes for an adventure that you don’t want to miss out on. Available as part of a desert safari or separately, there are plenty of ways to experience this extreme sport. If you really want to get to know the dunes by board, then we recommend booking a separate experience as the safaris offer a taster session along with other excursions and generally are not long enough for you to get your teeth stuck in. With scorching temperatures and humidity, make sure to bring water with you and wear lightweight clothing that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Don’t think it will be a breeze through as unlike snowboarding there isn’t a chairlift to hoist you up, you have to trek through the soft sands, which is a workout in itself!


A more relaxed affair can be found in the form of deep sea fishing. Intense excitement is still to be had when you feel a bite, and there’s nothing like the feeling of reeling in a humdinger of a fish. While you can do this excursion throughout the world, we bet it won’t be as luxurious as in Dubai. Forget small fishing boats and stale sandwiches. Departing from Dubai Marina, you’ll be aboard a yacht and if you get peckish, there’s a barbecue onboard. Some charters even let you cook your catch, with two crew members and all equipment included.
 
Within the waters of the Arabian Gulf you’re able to catch king fish, barracuda, groupers, snappers and much more. The marine life is as diverse as Dubai itself, and boy does this experience prove it! Most tours last for up to four hours, with an extra hour available upon request at an additional cost. This choice is also fantastic for those here on business wanting to unwind to the lullaby of the gentle waves.
 

Get reel

A more relaxed affair can be found in the form of deep sea fishing. Intense excitement is still to be had when you feel a bite, and there’s nothing like the feeling of reeling in a humdinger of a fish. While you can do this excursion throughout the world, we bet it won’t be as luxurious as in Dubai. Forget small fishing boats and stale sandwiches. Departing from Dubai Marina, you’ll be aboard a yacht and if you get peckish, there’s a barbecue onboard. Some charters even let you cook your catch, with two crew members and all equipment included.
 
Within the waters of the Arabian Gulf you’re able to catch king fish, barracuda, groupers, snappers and much more. The marine life is as diverse as Dubai itself, and boy does this experience prove it! Most tours last for up to four hours, with an extra hour available upon request at an additional cost. This choice is also fantastic for those here on business wanting to unwind to the lullaby of the gentle waves.
 

Inflate your adrenaline

For a more relaxing and leisurely adventure, a hot air balloon ride is a must. You’ll soar 4,000 feet above the Arabian desert and the Hajar Mountains with this experience, ideal for couples wanting a romantic excursion.
 
After taking off, make sure to wave to fellow holiday makers who get smaller and smaller the higher you go. Once you reach 4,000 feet, the views are panoramic, gorgeous and a real sight for sore eyes. You’ll be able to see camels, gazelles and oryx below, roaming through the sandy dunes and lush vegetation that the desert boasts.
 
Some tours include breakfast, with others even having a falcon show for an extra USP. The breakfasts tend to be at Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and have a menu of hand-cut smoked salmon and caviar to start the day right. The best times to book the tour are sunrise and sunset, adding even more beauty to the already attractive site. Alternatively, if you want to carry on the adventure there’s also the chance to embark on a desert safari afterwards courtesy of a 1950s land rover for an additional luxurious touch.
 


Located in the Hajar Mountains, the exclave of Hatta is one of Dubai’s best kept secrets. Forget the desert and bright lights of the city, your holiday just got scenic. Get your walking boots, lightweight clothing and sunscreen, fasten your seatbelt in your 4x4 and let’s start adventuring.
 
The day trip will start with a spectacular drive through the Hajar Mountains before pitstopping at Hatta Dam. The colours are rich, the air is clean, and the memories are unforgettable. You’ll then change four wheels for two legs as you embark on a tranquil walk through the lush vegetation to Hatta Hill Park. An optional picnic greets you, and what better way to boost your energy levels then with a little relaxation under the palm trees?
 
Hatta Heritage Village is a great way to finish off the tour, with a street market as well as a carpet and pottery shop to wander through. Various tours have optional extras, with quad biking, camel rides and the chance to dine at a four-star restaurant in one of the hotels, too.
 

See it all with a mountain safari

Located in the Hajar Mountains, the exclave of Hatta is one of Dubai’s best kept secrets. Forget the desert and bright lights of the city, your holiday just got scenic. Get your walking boots, lightweight clothing and sunscreen, fasten your seatbelt in your 4x4 and let’s start adventuring.
 
The day trip will start with a spectacular drive through the Hajar Mountains before pitstopping at Hatta Dam. The colours are rich, the air is clean, and the memories are unforgettable. You’ll then change four wheels for two legs as you embark on a tranquil walk through the lush vegetation to Hatta Hill Park. An optional picnic greets you, and what better way to boost your energy levels then with a little relaxation under the palm trees?
 
Hatta Heritage Village is a great way to finish off the tour, with a street market as well as a carpet and pottery shop to wander through. Various tours have optional extras, with quad biking, camel rides and the chance to dine at a four-star restaurant in one of the hotels, too.
 

Skydive into the action

For a once-in-a-lifetime experience that promises to have the adrenaline pumping, skydiving in Dubai ticks every box. Whether you’re a pro or a beginner, there’s nothing more freeing than this extreme sport. Choose to skydive in either the desert or the city depending on your mood and get prepared for a real adventure in the air. After stepping aboard the helicopter you’ll be taken high up in the sky. Once you’re ready you’ll be strapped to an instructor before the action gets underway.
 
After a safety briefing the big moment will arrive. As you make your way closer to the open hatch your nerves will turn into adrenaline. One…two…three… jump and enjoy the weightless feeling of freefalling. You’ll feel the wind rush through your entire body and experience utter euphoria. Your instructor will then unleash the parachute and you now have five minutes where you can relish some of the best views in the house before you land. Once your feet are firmly back on the ground you’ll then be presented with a USB of pictures taken throughout your skydive, a top-notch souvenir for sure.


You wouldn’t think that the Middle Eastern heat would lend itself to snowsports, but the indoor venue of Ski Dubai is one of the most popular attractions in the emirate. Found in one of the largest malls in the world, Mall of the Emirates, here you can race down the slopes in between dashing around the shops.
 
The 22,500-square metre venue has plenty of things to do. The piece de resistance is the 85-metre mountain that has five varying slopes in terms of steepness and difficulty. Lessons are available for beginners and those wanting to perfect their skills, with the site also being home to the world’s first indoor black diamond run measuring at 400-metres in length.
 
Since opening in 2005, Ski Dubai has seen many happy locals and tourists alike, and if you fancy including the whole family, the Sky Park play area is ideal. Here there are sledding and toboggan runs, an ice body slide, climbing towers, giant snowball zorbs and an ice cave to explore. What’s more, there’s also a penguin enclosure found here with encounters able to be booked in advance.
 
However, for the best views we recommend the snow bullet zip line which takes you 16-metres above the ground. Dart from one end to the other waving at your family and friends below, as you take in the arctic conditions that you never would have thought possible in Dubai. 
 

With great powder comes unforgettable adventures

You wouldn’t think that the Middle Eastern heat would lend itself to snowsports, but the indoor venue of Ski Dubai is one of the most popular attractions in the emirate. Found in one of the largest malls in the world, Mall of the Emirates, here you can race down the slopes in between dashing around the shops.
 
The 22,500-square metre venue has plenty of things to do. The piece de resistance is the 85-metre mountain that has five varying slopes in terms of steepness and difficulty. Lessons are available for beginners and those wanting to perfect their skills, with the site also being home to the world’s first indoor black diamond run measuring at 400-metres in length.
 
Since opening in 2005, Ski Dubai has seen many happy locals and tourists alike, and if you fancy including the whole family, the Sky Park play area is ideal. Here there are sledding and toboggan runs, an ice body slide, climbing towers, giant snowball zorbs and an ice cave to explore. What’s more, there’s also a penguin enclosure found here with encounters able to be booked in advance.
 
However, for the best views we recommend the snow bullet zip line which takes you 16-metres above the ground. Dart from one end to the other waving at your family and friends below, as you take in the arctic conditions that you never would have thought possible in Dubai. 
 

And breathe…

So, the next time you’re in Dubai and you feel like you’re after some adventure make sure to keep this guide handy. The experiences on offer are varied, and with every member of the party being catered to, it’s no wonder that the excursions see many tourists return. From indoor skiing and hot air balloon rides to desert safaris and snowboarding, you’ll be feeling pumped and ready for action in no time. The hotels are equally as adventurous with families sure to adore the aquarium and Aquaventure waterpark of Atlantis, The Palm. Foodies are not left out of the equation either with the Dine Around programme found at all Jumeirah hotels in Dubai. With this you’ll be able to enjoy a complimentary lunch or dinner in up to 30 restaurants, lounges and bars. Tuck into gorgeous gourmet cuisine from around the world… no doubt you’ll be feeling hungry after your many holiday adventures. 

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