Heading out into the desert takes you closer to the true spirit of Abu Dhabi. Whether it’s Al Ain, Liwa or the dramatic Empty Quarter, you’ll find imposing dunes, unique wildlife and thrilling experiences that you’ll never forget.
There’s a world of possibility on a desert safari. Climb into a 4x4 to speed through the sand, meet falcons and camels, go sandboarding, watch belly-dancing shows and enjoy camping underneath the stars.
You can opt for an afternoon’s worth of fun or learn more about the soul of Arabia by experiencing traditional ways of life in the desert. Sample local delicacies with an Arabian buffet or get decorative henna tattoos with your family.
There are lots of options when booking travel for a desert safari. You’ll find pick-up points across Abu Dhabi for a unique adventure, every single time.
Adventure lovers who want to experience desert life, families fascinated by camels, fin-lovers and history buffs keen to discover a different side of Arabic life.
Crashing through the dunes in a 4x4, the thrill of sandboarding and, for couples, romantic meals and barbecues in the desert under the starry sky.
Dune bashing is one of the most popular pastimes in Abu Dhabi, and no visit is complete without taking to the desert in a 4x4. Expect fun and adrenaline in equal measure with the desert equivalent of off-roading.
You’ll have a highly trained, professional driver whisking you over the dunes. You’ll be in a vehicle built for safety in this environment, but be prepared for skids and slides and for your car to send up massive sprays of sand.
Take a desert safari out to Liwa Oasis and you won’t just be able to enjoy the fun of blasting through the desert, but you’ll also get a fascinating insight into the history, culture and lifestyle of the Bedouin people.
You’ll see Moreeb sand dune, one of the world’s largest, where the ochre sand towers up to almost 300 metres. You’ll see a camel farm, the impressive Liwa Fort, as well as dune driving.
A different experience to most desert safaris in the region, an Al Ain safari is all about the wide array of animals in a park hewn from the desert. Here you can see huge rhinos, stately ostriches and zebras, gazelles, wildebeest and many more.
You can choose to take your own car and a guide will take you around the park. Alternatively, join a truck with other people and an expert guide will point out endangered species, such as the scimitar oryx.
One of the best packages you can book is one that encompasses dune bashing, sand boarding, a camel ride and culminates in a barbecue and Arabian buffet under the stars.
After the electrifying experience of exploring the dunes, you may well be treated to a traditional belly dance with a backdrop of a spectacular sunset. A freshly-prepared barbecue will be accompanied by Arabic coffee and dates, with live entertainment as you dine.
If you want to see as much of the desert as possible, then you can arrange an overnight desert safari. On the first day, you might dune bash or glide down the dunes on sand boards. You can climb aboard a camel and visit a camel farm, take photos in local dress and then enjoy a barbecue and sheesha pipe.
You’ll spend the night in the comfort of a traditional Bedouin tent, with carpet, blankets and pillows, basking in the silence of the desert.
What makes a desert safari in Abu Dhabi so spectacular is the vastness of the desert, the range of experiences on offer and the stunning dunes stretching into the infinite distance. Below are some of the best areas you can visit…
Al Ain is around a two hour drive east of central Abu Dhabi. The fastest route will take you along the Abu Dhabi – Al Ain Rd (E22).
The best way to access Rub al’ Khali – the Empty Quarter – from Abu Dhabi is to drive south on the E65 road. A good place to head for is the Liwa Oasis, which is about two-and-a-half hours from the heart of Abu Dhabi. Liwa sits at the northern edge of the desert.
The Al Khatim Desert is roughly south-east of Abu Dhabi, and should take less than an hour to drive, depending on traffic. From Abu Dhabi, take the Abu Dhabi – Al Ain Rd (E22). Take the exit for Lane 2700, then take a left into Lane 2531.
Travel to and from the desert is provided by the companies you book with. Some have specific locations you will need to get to, however many also offer hotel pick-up and drop-off across most of Abu Dhabi.
The desert is obviously full of sand so it’s best not to take expensive electronic equipment with you that might not function if sand gets inside it. If you need to change a lens on your camera, do it inside a vehicle.
Many tour providers will provide bottled water and soft drinks as standard, as well as catering for longer journeys. BBQ dinners usually come with an Arabian buffet.
The weather in the desert is typically hot and sunny and rain is uncommon. Make sure you have access to plenty of water and wear suitable clothes, loose and light items are best for keeping cool. Hats are recommended too.
Ideally you should be wearing breathable, loose clothing, as it can be very hot in the Abu Dhabi desert. However, if you’re staying into the evening, or overnight, it’s also advised to pack warmer clothing, as the temperature in the desert drops at night.
Packages vary from very quick excursions where you’ll dune bash for 20 minutes, up to longer visits taking in more of the desert activities, such as camel rides, quad biking and sand skiing. It’s also possible to stay overnight in the desert.
Yes, children are allowed on desert safaris in Abu Dhabi. There are many child-friendly things to do such as camel riding, sandboarding and falcon experiences.
Most of the desert safari companies are used to catering to a diverse international audience, so provide food for various diets. If you’re booking a safari that has a food element and have particular dietary requirements, it’s best to check with the provider what is on offer.
Abu Dhabi’s highest peak affords stunning vistas all around, some 1,249 metres up in the sky. The desert park at its foot contains important archaeological remains.
From ziplines to giant swings, white water rafting and splash pools and an aerial adventure course, this adventure park has something for all of the family.
Discover a different side of Arabian life at Al Ain Oasis, which gives a wonderful insight into ancient agriculture at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Camels were once the major method of transport for the Bedouin people.
The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest continuous sand desert.
The falcons you’ll see in the desert were traditionally used to help Bedouins hunt.
The Rub ‘al Khali desert is roughly the same size as France.
Rise and fall at Clymb™, where you’ll find record-breaking indoor climbs and incredible state-of-the-art skydiving facilities. It’s fun for all the family with climbs for every ability level.
Enrol the kids at Junior Grand Prix School, discover the world of Ferrari and strap yourself in for the fastest rollercoaster in the world, the Formula Rossa.
Dune bashing whetted your appetite for thrills? At Yas Marina Circuit you can drag race and go kart, cycle and get fit – it’s also home to the Formula One™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
All imagery provided by © Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi