We are currently sitting on our 12 hour flight back home to Australia, reminiscing on the incredible whirlwind of adventures, relaxation, and fine dining, that were the last 4 days for us in Dubai.
Wow, our minds are blown.. With zero expectations (which is generally the mindset we like to have when we travel!), we are incredibly surprised about how much ground we covered in Dubai in just over half a week, and how much of a peaceful presence this huge city evoked.
I’m sure many of you guys have used Dubai airport for a connection previously in your travels, and we’re doubtful that probably even 10% of you would have spent more time here than was required. Maybe because you were too excited to get to your final destination, or maybe because there’s a bit of a lack of awareness as to how many amazing experiences are on offer in this part of the world!
For us, it was the latter, which is the whole reason why we’re putting this blog together.. to tell you why you should make sure that your next stop-off in Dubai, is a memorable one!
Let us break it down for you..
Nothing is impossible in Dubai:
Your options are forever endless in Dubai, whether it’s shopping, dining, adventure experiences, accommodation, transport, or just relaxation.. Dubai offers so much choice, and ease in doing so.
We found that the majority of places we went, people spoke the universal language of English, but as always, we of course scrubbed up on our polite greetings, thank you’s, hello’s, and a little really does go a long way.
Need a recommendation for somewhere to go out for dinner? Ask your Uber driver on the way to the bay!
Lost in the big city? A friendly local was always willing to help.
If you’re looking for an adventure, you’ve come to the right place!
We jam-packed a HEAP of epic excursions into our four days, and want to share with you some of our favourites.
One thing that kept us on our toes the entire time in Dubai, was how incredibly diverse each experience we had was.
One moment on a safari and hot air balloon above the Arabian desert, the next in a helicopter viewing the big city from above, and then climbing aboard a boat for a self-chatered sunset cruise…
Atlantis the Palm & Helitour:
Atlantis the Palm is famous for a number of things, including it’s fine accommodation options, waterpark for the young and old, and the Lost Chambers walk-through aquarium, where the underwater world of Atlantis has been re-created for you to walk, sit, and get mesmerised by for hours on end. Sharks, rays, jellyfish, and thousands of species of colourful fish are looked after in a space where we found ourselves wandering for hours on end.
That was until, we had to head upstairs to the helipad for our tour from above..
Seeing the man made islands of Dubai from above, is really the only way that you can grasp the mass size of this city meets sea experience..
Desert Sunset Safari & Hot Air Balloon at Sunrise:
One minute we’re living it up in the city, and the next (well, 45 minutes later), we’re surrounded by the white desert, and dunes for days.
We had an incredible time with Platinum Heritage, a one-stop-shop when it comes to exploring Dubai.
First up, we jumped in vintage cars where we hit the dunes, spotting camels, oryx, and mountain deer. We cruised at sunset, finishing up at our camp for the night, which was a beautiful arabian wonderland. We ate traditional local food (even camel meat and camel milk for the non-vego’s!), smoked shisha, camel riding, had artists cover our hands in henna designs, and then joined in on some traditional dancing and drum playing under the stars.
Our particular tour included an overnight stay in the desert, as we were rising for something very special the next morning before the sun came up.. A hot air balloon ride!
The 5.30am wake-up was totally worth it once we were floating above the desert for sunrise, one that we’ll never forget.
Kayaying the Hatta Lake:
Hatta is a quiet and quaint town, around 2 hours by car from Dubai. We joined Noufal from Orient Tours for a road-trip to this barely touched part of the UAE, where we explored the old stone village of Hatta, went 4WDriving over the red desert dunes, and arrived to the pristine blue Hatta Lake, where we were able to enjoy the most peaceful kayak, being the only ones on the entire lake!
Tip, visit during a weekday, and you’re almost guaranteed to have this space all to yourself!
Hero Boat Sunset Tour:
Of course our last night in Dubai had to be a special one, and what better way to spend it than by enjoying a sunset cruise over the ocean, in our very own boat!
We joined the Hero Boat crew where we had the opportunity to charter our own boat, and see Dubai from a whole new perspective. First stop was the Burj, followed by the World Islands (man mind islands that have been designed as the map of our world!), all the while the sun was gently setting, and the sky a beautiful pinky glow..
After the tour, Hero Boat’s kindly supplied us all with some Arabic champagne (apple juice and rosewater), and freshly grilled prawns as we sat along the coast, soaking up the last light for the night.
Lap it up the local way:
For a better understanding of the local culture, traditions, and history, we visited the local markets, which are called Souks.
The most famous three being the Spice, Gold, and Textile Souks. The souks are located along the canal’s, and we did a few trips in the local Abra’s (little wooden boats which you can hop on and off for only 1AED per trip per person) between them, which we highly recommend!
Tip, start at the Spice and Gold Souks, and then jump on an Abra to take you across the canal to the Textile Souk (or vice versa).
After exploring the Textile Souk, came our favourite part of this particular morning, which was wondering through the Bastakiya area - an old preserved village which is now filled with art galleries, museums, arabian tea houses, and hundreds of beautiful archways and doorways.
We also participated in a Culture Lunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Here we gathered around with locals and other travellers, where we were encouraged to ask as many questions as we’d like about the traditions, cultures, and everyday living of the locals in Dubai and the UAE - we learnt a lot about marriage etiquette, dress etiquette and also enjoyed a deliciously traditional lunch gathered on arabian mats and eating on the floor.
You’re going to want to stay in some divine accommodation options, so you better extend that stop-over!
We stayed around a 20 minute drive from the coast, but still with water views along a picturesque creek in Dubai, where you really felt away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Palazzo Versace, a five star hotel which was the largest and most glamorous we have every experienced.
Our suite had everything we needed and more, balcony and water views, large main bedroom, sitting room and kitchenette, spa, bathroom, power room, dressing room, and don’t even get us started on the numerous pool’s around the hotel, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, and gym!
I’m nervous about jumping on the scales when we get back home after over indulging in the breakfast buffet each morning, and yes, this did include a donut wall, chocolate fondue fountain, your own personal waffle and crepes chef, as well as an assortment of traditional foods, western, asian, french, cheeses, fruits, pastries, cakes, fresh juices, eggs as you please, and so much more.
The staff here were incredibly helpful, friendly, and professional, it was luxurious living at it’s finest and it was hard to not pinch ourselves when waking up to the sunrise views from our bedroom and remote control curtains :P
Whether you’re after city living, beach resorts, or a stay in the worlds most luxurious hotel, the Burj Al Arab - the choices in Dubai are endless.
The iconic Burj al Arab, boasts double story appartments, a huge variety of dining restaurants and bars, it’s own private beach and numerous pools, as well as the most luxurious spa setting we’ve ever seen.
We were also lucky enough to indulge in a couples massage experience here, with views of the entire city from the treatment room!
You have so many dining options at your fingertips in Dubai, beachside and some more casual options along Jumeirah, or beautiful canal views at Souk Madinat, which is where we found and absolute gem and must-visit - Folly by Nick & Scott!
We started here just before sunset, as they have a dreamy rooftop terrace space, with million dollar views of the Burj al Arab and cocktails that won’t have you stopping at just one.
Once the sun set, we headed down to the mezzanine level where we enjoyed a five course meal, paired with wine - we let the waiters choose our menu, and they happily catered for our dietary requirements and vegetarian preferences with no problem !
Every single dish was mouthwatering and delicious, and we had to remember we were at a nice restaurant where it wasn’t acceptable to literally lick our plates clean, not that that stopped us :P
If after-dinner drinks are also what you’re after, the roof-top turns into a festive spot after dark, DJ and all!
The best part, is that the men behind the magic are right there on site, and are more than happy to come out and have a chat, share their story and passion for creating delicious food in a place with a contagious vibe.
Dubai, you were oh-so good to us, we hope to meet again very soon.
A few experiences / companies we would highly recommend:
Palazzo Versace - breathtaking accomodation
Burj al Arab - if you can't afford to stay here, at least pop in for a massage or spa session
Platinum Heritage - sunset safari experience
Ballooning UAE - hot air balloon at sunrise
Orient Tours - day trips / excursion to Hatta
Fly High Dubai Heli Tour - You don’t experience the real Dubai, until you see it from above
The Lost Chambers - the most beautiful aquarium you’ll ever see
Folly by Nick & Scott - mouthwatering food and sunset views that money can’t buy
Hero Dubai - charter your own boat, & pick the sunset cruise!