If you've already tackled the best things to do in Dubai, how about exploring some of the neighboring emirates? You’ll find everything from mosques and museums to mountain bike trails and ziplines within day-trip distance.
Here are the best places to discover from Dubai in a day.
It takes just 90 minutes to get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
With its onion-shaped domes and glowing white marble, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is a must-see. Located 90 minutes from Downtown Dubai, the mosque runs free tours that take place daily, except during Friday prayers. Over on Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is an essential stop for art and architecture aficionados. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the building is as much of a draw as the 600 artworks on display.
How to get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai: A taxi costs around Dhs200 ($55) each way. You can also catch a public bus (route E100 or E101) for Dhs28 ($7) one way.
Mleiha is home to an important archaeological site
Located in Sharjah's central region, Mleiha is one of the most important archaeological sites in the United Arab Emirates. The Mleiha Archaeological Centre details the history of the region from the Paleolithic era and offers guided tours of the Bronze Age tombs and pre-Islamic forts. Feeling adventurous? Explore the wild beauty of the desert during a guided trek, a 4WD tour or a fat bike tour, or paraglide from one of Mleiha’s tallest peaks.
How to get to Mleiha from Dubai: Mleiha is 47 miles (75km) east of Dubai. You can rent a car, or check with the archaeological center in advance to see if return transport is available.
Hatta is perfect for outdoor adventure
Backed by the craggy Hajar Mountains, the picturesque Dubai exclave of Hatta is made for outdoor adventure. The Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre has 31 miles (50km) of graded single-track trails, and you can rent bikes from Adventure HQ. For walkers, a 5.5 mile (9km) trail sets off from near the camping area, continuing past Hatta Heritage Village to the artificial Hatta Dam. Here, you can rent kayaks and pedalos to cruise the turquoise waters.
How to get to Hatta from Dubai: You can rent a car to drive to Hatta, 84 miles (135km) southeast of Dubai, or take the E16 bus.
Sharjah is a cultural hub, packed with museums and galleries
Just 18 miles (30km) from Downtown Dubai, Sharjah city is known as the cultural capital of the UAE and for good reason, with more than 20 museums and galleries. Start at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, which displays more than 5000 artifacts from the Muslim world, and then wander down to the Sharjah Heritage Museum for an insight into Emirati culture. A 10-minute stroll away, Sharjah Art Museum is a must for fans of contemporary Arab art.
How to get to Sharjah from Dubai: A taxi costs around Dhs90 ($24.50) each way. There are several public bus routes that go in that direction too (E303, E303A, E304, E306, E307 or E107A), which costs Dhs10 ($2.75).
Visit the Unesco World Heritage-listed oasis in Al Ain
Filled with more than 147,000 date palms, the Unesco World Heritage-listed Al Ain Oasis was once a vital stop on the caravan route crisscrossing the Arabian Peninsula. You can stroll the shaded walkways, see how the ancient falaj (irrigation) network carries water to the palms and visit the hi-tech eco-center. Stop by Al Ain Palace Museum, where Sheikh Zayed once held court, and the photogenic Al Jahili Fort, built in 1891 to defend the city’s precious plantations.
How to get to Al Ain from Dubai: Al Ain is located in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, around 95 miles (150km) southeast of Dubai. Public bus E201 runs between Dubai and Al Ain's bus station and takes 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Kalba is the perfect day trip for wildlife watching
This east coast exclave of Sharjah is a great place to see some of Arabia’s elusive wildlife. Keen birdwatchers should bring their binoculars, as Khor Kalba’s mangroves are an important habitat for the beautiful white-collared kingfisher. On the outskirts of the city, Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre is home to critically endangered Arabian leopard, Arabian wolf, tahr and desert lynx. At the nearby Kalba Bird of Prey Centre, free-flying demonstrations take place twice a day in the outdoor amphitheater (except Mondays).
How to get to Kalba from Dubai: Kalba is 80 miles (130km) east of Dubai, so rent a car to get there and around.
Take a road trip to Jebel Jais, the UAE's tallest peak
The starkly beautiful Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah is the UAE’s tallest peak at 6345ft (1934m). To enjoy the area’s craggy charms, take a scenic drive up the wickedly winding mountain road. There are rest stops along the route, and the viewing deck at 4100ft promises even more phenomenal views. If you're after an adrenaline rush in RAK, you can launch from the Jebel Jais Flight Zip Line, the world's longest, which reaches speeds of up to 95mph (150km/h). You could also tackle the half-mile-long Jebel Jais Via Ferrata, a four-hour experience that includes three thrilling ziplines of its own.
How to get to Jebel Jais from Dubai: You’ll need to rent a car to get to Jebel Jais, which is 100 miles (160km) northeast of Dubai.
Go diving or snorkeling in the waters near Fujairah
Stretching along the Gulf of Oman, Fujairah has better visibility and more diverse marine life than the waters off Dubai. Roughly 350ft (100m) offshore at Al Aqah, Snoopy Island is popular with snorkelers, thanks to schools of clownfish and regular turtle sightings. Local dive centers offer shore dives and boat trips to popular sites such as Dibba Rock, Coral Gardens and various wrecks.
How to get to Fujairah from Dubai: Al Aqah is 100 miles (165km) northeast of Dubai. Rent a car or check whether the dive centers include transport from Dubai in their packages.
Cruise the inlets of Oman's Musandam Peninsula
Dubbed "the Norway of Arabia," the Omani exclave of Musandam is famous for its fjord-like inlets and aquamarine waters. Numerous companies offer cruises aboard traditional wooden dhows, with dolphin sightings all but guaranteed. Tours typically include round-trip transport and a buffet lunch, with plenty of time for swimming and snorkeling. Boats depart from Dibba on the east coast or Khasab at the northern tip of the peninsula, with the latter offering more spectacular scenery.
This day trip from Dubai requires some advance planning. If you're planning to go to Dibba, know that you cannot enter the Omani side of Dibba (Dibba Al Baya) as an independent traveler. All people entering here need to have a free permit, which is provided by any of Dibba Al Baya's tour operators when you make a booking. The process is exceedingly easy for those on UAE tourist visas. When booking your activities, email a copy of your passport photo page and UAE entry stamp page to the tour operator; they will then organize the permit and meet you at the border with it in hand.
How to get to the Musandam Peninsula from Dubai: Dibba is less than two hours' drive from Dubai, while Khasab is three hours each way. Check Oman's visa requirements before you go.