things to do in uae

Visiting a new place can be overwhelming no matter where you go, especially when the culture, landscape, and societal norms are as unique as they are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE. There’s a lot to consider before you set foot in these distant parts of the world. That being said, it’s truly a mesmerizing place. The tall buildings, the adventure, the thrill of visiting somewhere completely unlike anywhere you’ve ever been. It’s a rush.

Here’s a look at what we recommend doing on your first trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and our 7 favorite things to do in the United Arab Emirates.

dubai dhow

1. Set sail on a Dubai Dhow cruise

Board your wooden boat and set sail down the creek to see this magical city lit up by the moonlight. Some of the boats serve dinner and drinks, some just embark to let you see the sights. Whichever you pick, you’re sure to have a magnificent time on the water.

2. Take a day trip to Sharjah and Ajman

Located in Northern UAE, these two cities are full of historical sites.

Sharjah is the cultural center of the Emirates, with central attractions including Sharjah corniche, King Faisal Mosque, Qanat Al Qasba, and Central Souk. In Ajman, you can see many unique artifacts at the Ajman Museum, or round out your day relaxing on Ajman Beach. You’d better bring sunblock, though.

3. See the Dubai Mall

Even if you’re not much of a shopper, this is a mall worth visiting. The Dubai Mall is the biggest mall in the world, so you’re not likely to get claustrophobic. With over 1,000 stores, an indoor theme park, and plenty of world records (the tallest dancing fountains, the largest ice skating rink in the middle east and the largest aquarium). And most importantly….

4. Go to the top of the Burj Khalifa

burj khalifa dubai

Yes, you can do this from the Dubai Mall – it’s actually where the main entrance to the Burj Khalifa is. Everyone should go up to the top of the Burj when in Dubai, it’s pretty stunning to see the views from such an incredible structure. It also shows off some of the other incredible structures in Dubai very nicely. Outdoor observatories are on the 125th and 148th floors.

By the way, we’re assuming you can guess which building in the photo above is the Burj. It’s a bit taller than the others.

5. Take a city tour

atlantis hotel dubai

There’s a lot to explore in Dubai, so you’ll want to be sure you book a couple of cities tours. We’d recommend you visit both new and old Dubai, so be sure to see the following:

-Atlantis Hotel in the Palm Jumeirah

-The Jumeirah Mosque

-The Union House

-The Dubai Museum

-The Gold Souk

-The Spice Souk

-The Dubai Frame

6. Go on a desert adventure

desert adventure dubai

Take in the dunes as you race up and down them on a desert safari you’ll never forget. Ride camels if you wish, take in a sunset, go skiing in the sand dunes, take part in a fire or belly dancing show, enjoy a traditional BBQ dinner…there’s so much to see and do in the desert.

7. Take an Abu Dhabi city tour

grand mosque abu dhabi

The capital of the UAE is quite a mixture of modern and traditional, and you’ll love taking the time to explore that dichotomy. First and foremost, you must visit The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It’s the largest mosque in the country and the key place of worship, with 41,000 people attending during Eid. Take in the five-star Emirates Palace hotel, go shopping at the Abu Dhabi City Center, and explore the amazing places to eat and drink. After you’ve eaten some food, head to two more final stops: The Origins of Louvre Abu Dhabi for some culture, and Ferrari World for some fun. We told you there was something for everyone in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

This post is sponsored by Maupintour.

See their tour itinerary to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.