The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

A whole summer here at home in Dubai and the UAE is looking extremely likely for most of us. So here at The Huntr we decided it was the best opportunity to finally visit all of those places we’ve been meaning to check off of our lists – here within the UAE. Because whilst we live the bustling city life, we often forget the vast expanse of untouched natural landscapes that await us just a short drive away.

With this in mind and to help you experience the best of Dubai and the UAE this summer, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite drive destinations across the Emirates. Whether it’s a kid-friendly picnic spot you’re looking for or maybe just a chance to catch golden hour amongst nature, look no further than these intercity getaways…

Insider tips: While wintertime gives us enough leeway to head outdoors any time we please, during the summer we recommend leaving as early as possible (anytime before 10am) or after 5pm to chase the sunset. Always leave the house with a full tank of fuel, SOS kit and food and water supplies because many of these spots are off the beaten track. Please check UAE guidelines for info pertaining to borders being open between Emirates and open and access timings.


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Al Qudra, Dubai

Good for: Wildlife Spotting, Families & Kids, Picnics.

Home to the infamous lakes and the Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, this part of town has grown increasingly popular due to the city’s eco-tourism initiatives. Enjoy wide-open roads, minimal traffic, scenic views of the desert landscape, and a chance to spot a range of bird species – even some rare beauties. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the Arabian Oryx. We also recommend exploring the road leading to the new Akoya Oxygen property for views you wouldn’t want to miss – especially if you’re there close to sunset. Fuel up at Al Qudra’s Last Exit where you can also rent bicycles (if you’re willing to brave the humidity for a workout).

Deep dive into The Huntr’s Al Qudra Drive feature here

Map location: Head here for the lakes. Head here for the Akoya Oxygen drive route.


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Hatta, Dubai

Good for: Nature, Families & Kids, Picnics, Hikes.

Any conversation about the best road trips within the UAE is bound to include this beautiful hilly town on the Oman border. For years Hatta has been a go-to daycation destination for families in the UAE and now owing to the Visit Hatta campaign it only continues to amass popularity. While some of the recreational options may be closed due to Covid-19, the drive to Hatta is something that’s still worth considering. You can cruise through hills, farm sites, wadis and stop by the dam to experience a picture-perfect landscape – there’s plenty of options for an early morning/evening picnic and a chance to get some fresh air.

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Jebel Hafeet, Abu Dhabi

Good for: Nature, Families & Kids, Picnics, Hikes.

Jebel Hafeet is a popular mountainside destination for UAE residents. Located in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi in Al Ain City, the hills we see are part of the Hajar mountain range that the UAE shares with Oman. The winding drive up to the top is about 14km long with several viewing points along the way. On reaching the hilltop you have a chance to grab some refreshments at the cafeteria alongside some incredible views of Al Ain. If you’re up for a cheap and cheerful overnight stay check out the Mercure Grand Hotel Jebel Hafeet. And while you’re in this rocky neighborhood, we suggest paying a visit to the Jebel Hafeet Tombs for a quick glimpse into the region’s ancient history.

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Mleiha, Sharjah

Good for: Nature, Families & Kids, Hikes.

Mleiha makes for a scenic drive destination but is also home to one of UAE’s oldest settlements dating back to as far as 2,300 BCE. Maybe you choose to embark on the hiking trails of the Mleiha Wadi Caves and do some exploring on your own, or perhaps you skip the heat and do the learning indoors at the Mleiha Archeological Centre? Either way, you’re guaranteed to leave with a renewed sense of appreciation for the history of the region we live in.

Deep dive into The Huntr’s Mleiha drive feature here

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Ghost Town Madam, Sharjah

Good for: Families and Kids.

Just a 40-minute drive from Downtown Dubai you will find the mysterious abandoned Madam Village – popularly referred to as ‘Ghost Town’ or ‘the Buried Village’. While it’s a great destination for off-roaders and seasoned explorers of the UAE’s outskirts, the unique experience will also appeal to photographers and creatives. Waves of sand roll into the rooms and one can find remnants of old mosaic tiles, decorative wallpaper, and electrical wiring hinting at a mysterious past. Two rows of houses and a picturesque mosque rest between the dunes, making Madam Village a sight to behold. With enough shade and room to explore, it makes for a uniquely immersive experience of the desert.

Deep dive into The Huntr’s Ghost Town drive feature here

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

2nd December Cafeteria, Sharjah

Good for: Families and Kids, Nature, Bikers.

2nd December Cafeteria is a modest little eatery just off Sharjah’s border. With an air pump that’s free to use, along with quick refreshments on the menu, it’s a go-to spot for the off-road and biker crews (who will entertain you with their impressive displays). The drive to Badayer is about 45 minutes from Downtown to Dubai – stop here for sweeping views of the dunes on either side, you’d be hard-pressed to find a chai experience as peaceful as this.

Insider tip: This cosy cafeteria experiences comes with a catch – its timings depend on the likelihood of off-road & biker crews being around. Best to head out here early Friday mornings or evenings.

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Fossil Rock, Sharjah

Good for: Families and Kids, Nature, Hikes.

Just a quick drive from the Mleiha archaeological center lies Jebel Maleihah – or Fossil Rock as it is more commonly known. It gets its name from the abundance of marine and animal fossils that dot the site, giving visitors a glimpse into pre-historic Sharjah. This hill, amongst others in Central Sharjah, was once underwater and are formed almost entirely of mineral rocks – this is enough reason for Geology enthusiasts to make a visit, but the stunning views from the top and the undulating terrain makes it a popular spot for campers, off-roaders and bikers, too.

Don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need a 4×4 to experience Fossil Rock. There are two ways in which you can approach this desert destination, one is suitable for 4x4s and seasoned off-road drivers and the other is for sedans. Check the links below.

Map location: Head here for 4×4 and off-road drivers entry point. Head here for the sedans and parking entry point.


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Wasit Wetland Centre, Sharjah

Good for: Wildlife Spotting, Nature, Families and Kids.

Once a toxic dumping ground, this 200,000 square meter area has been restored to its natural form abundant with thriving flora and fauna native to the region, which was made possible by Sharjah’s Environment and Protected Areas Agency. While it’s still within city limits, Wasit Wetland Centre offers a unique experience quite unlike any other project in the Emirates. Complete with a cafe, viewing booths, and a visitor’s center, here you can enjoy slightly cooler temperatures owing to the rich, oxygen-producing foliage and get acquainted with the hundreds of bird species that have made the wetland their home or favorite pitstop. The Wasit Wetland Centre has also drawn admirers thanks to its noteworthy architectural design, which prides itself on being non-invasive and complementary to the indigenous ecosystem in which it exists.

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Khor Fakkan, Sharjah

Good for: Romantic Getaway, Picnics, Families and Kids.

An hour and a half from Dubai over to the East Coast lies one of UAE’s most beloved beach destinations. The 89km Sharjah to Khor Fakkan Road through the hills makes this trip seem much quicker than one might expect and the sweeping views of the wadis only add to the charm. Since the last time we visited, a new specialty coffee joint has graced the beach-side gem too – Drowsy Coffee. From what we can tell, it seems like a good way to end the day by the beach and fuel up before a long drive back. If you get there before we do, drop us a message and let us know what you think.

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Wadi Shis, Sharjah/Oman

Good for: Families and Kids, Nature, Picnics.

While you’re on the Sharjah to Khor Fakkan Tunnel Road, we’d like to recommend another refreshing destination to drive out to. Nestled between the Hajar Mountains is Wadi Shis, a waterway that passes through a little village called Shis on the UAE’s East Coast. What’s interesting about this unique location is that you could say you’re both in the UAE and in Oman at the same time. The Wadis is lush post rainfall but is equally scenic even in the summers – the old-style homes and farms give you a feeling of going right back in time.

Insider tip: Take water shoes so that you can enjoy a walk through the water without hurting the soles of your feet on the rocks.

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Kalba, Sharjah

Good for: Families and Kids, Nature, Hikes, Wildlife Spotting, Picnics.

Recently, Kalba has become increasingly popular as the UAE’s go-to eco-tourism destination. Just a smooth, 1.5 hours drive away from Dubai, visitors have a wide range of recreational activities to choose from including hiking, exploring the seaside heritage sites and a chance to learn about the history of the region. Kayaking enthusiasts will be happy to discover that Kalba is home to one of the largest and most important mangrove reserves in the region – the Al Qurm Nature Reserve. We’re saving the adventurous outdoor activities for when the weather is more forgiving, but just the picturesque drive by the hills makes for a cozy little evening or morning getaway.

Insider tip: Covid-19 has left quite a few of the recreational sites like the Kalba Corniche temporarily closed. We recommend exploring the drive routes first and saving the more elaborate family activities for when it’s a safer time.

Map location: Head here


The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: 12 Ways to Escape City Life in Dubai and the UAE

Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah

Good for: Nature, Families and Kids, Hikes.

Drive down about an hour and a half on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road till you hit Ras Al Khaimah and then you will be welcomed by a sign that leads you straight to the winding roads of Jebel Jais. With eight viewing points at varying heights, there’s enough opportunity to make a quick stop, stretch your legs, and catch the different views. We reckon that with the onset of summer the drive may get tiring, but once you reach the 1,250m mark you’ll find the perfect spot to reset. The Jebel Jais Viewing Deck Park offers shaded parking, benches, food trucks stocked with refreshments, and sweeping views of the hills.

Deep dive into The Huntr’s drive to Jebel Jais here

Map location: Head here


Photography and words by Shama Nair exclusively for The Huntr