Usually known for its desert climate and sweltering heat, Dubai boasts balmy winters that are the exception to the rule. By early November, temperatures begin to drop and continue to hover around 27°C until late February. This is when the city embraces its pockets of green, expertly manicured gardens and purpose-built walking paths, each as pleasant for a quick stroll as they are for a full day.

Here’s where to wander in winter.

Green park with Dubai's downtown skyline in the background
Winter is the perfect time to get out for a stroll in Dubai © franckreporter / Getty Images

Roam Al Barsha Pond Park

As close to a quintessential European city park that you’ll get in Dubai, pretty Al Barsha is a great choice for a stroll day or night, thanks to lighting under the palm trees and colourful hanging lanterns. Stick to the running track and you’ll cover around 1.4 km, with acres of greenery on one side and clear blue water on the other. Popular with local families and expats alike, the park has swings, slides and climbing frames to keep kids amused, and the whole family can head out on the water in one of the kitsch swan boats. Bring a picnic and set up on one of the pockets of green on the east side of the lake to enjoy an excellent view of Media City’s towering skyscrapers and the tip of the Burj Al Arab as an impressive backdrop. If you're taking a taxi, ask to be dropped off at Al Barsha Mall and then head across the road to the park.

Birds resting in the waters of Al Qudra Lake, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Bring your binoculars for some birdspotting at Al Qudra Lake © Rizwan_Goa / Shutterstock

Spot an oasis in Al Qudra

With acres of desert dunes surrounding a cluster of lakes, out here surrounded by nature at the unexpectedly beautiful Al Qudra, you’ll soon forget that the oasis was created artificially. It’s now home to free-roaming wildlife, including more than 130 species of birds, plenty of fish and several desert trees and plants. For the real untouched oasis vibe, make for the outer lying lakes that see less footfall. You might even be lucky enough to spot wandering oryx, camels and antelope. Getting to Al Qudra involves a drive, but it’s worth it. Follow the D63 out of Dubai towards the Dubai Cycling Track until you come to The Last Exit street food park. Stock up on snacks here and then head a little further south into this oasis in the middle of Saih Al Salam desert.

The old merchant quarter of Al Fahidi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Step back in time in Old Dubai © David Steele / Shutterstock

Amble through history in Old Dubai

Known for its gleaming skyscrapers and record-breaking buildings, it’s easy to forget that Dubai was, not too long ago, just a small fishing hub. Get a glimpse of Old Dubai with a wander around its charming historic district. Start in Bur Dubai where you can meander through the narrow alleyways, wind towers and courtyard houses of Al Fahidi before popping into the Dubai Museum, set in Al Fahidi Fort, the city’s oldest building, which dates back around 200 years. A stroll through the Textile Souq is chaotic and colourful and leads you to the abra station where a trip across the water to Deira on of these traditional wooden sailing vessels costs a mere Dhs1. On the other side of the creek, disembark at the Spice Souq where a heady assault on the senses awaits. Pick up some local herbs and spices then visit the twinkling covered arcade that is home to Dubai’s Gold Souq.

Aerial view of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Palm might not be native to Dubai, but the plants growing along its trunk in Al Ittihad Park are © Nikada / Getty Images

Climb The Palm

Renowned for its five-star hotels, Palm Jumeirah is also home to Al Ittihad Park. Smack-bang in the middle of the palm’s ‘trunk’, this little slice of greenery is encircled by a 3.2 km walking and jogging route that sees plenty of foot-stomping. Veer off the beaten track and wander the inside paths where more than 60 species of trees and shrubs indigenous to the United Arab Emirates have been planted. Handy signs provide more information on each herb and how they were traditionally used: discover how mishras was used to construct weapons for the Bedouin or how oshbat um salam, which grows in the mountains, was formerly used as a malaria treatment. Rockpools, fountains and small play parks keep your walk interesting, and kids will enjoy seeing and hearing the monorail as it soars along the track above their heads.

Sunny day at Al Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Discover secret sands at Al Jumeirah Beach © Hayley Skirka / Lonely Planet

Jumeirah’s coastal stroll

Just east of Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, and you’ll find the relatively little-known Al Jumeirah Beach, a good spot for a shoreline walk away from the crowds that frequent the city’s more popular stretches of sand. Kick off your shoes and wander along the coastline, past the bobbing sailboats and in and out of the crystal-clear ocean until you end up at a huge cluster of rocks where you can stop to drink in endless ocean views. Just shy of 1km in length, it’s a great choice if you’re looking to take a walk with little ones in tow, and there are some modest bathroom facilities at the west end of the beach. There's an Emirati-owned shoreside cafe called Bait Al Bahr should you get thirsty.

Escape the city in Mushrif

Mushrif National Park is a colossal spread on the western edge of the city, and it’s perhaps the closest you’ll get in Dubai to a walk in the open countryside. A walking and cycling track circles the park, cutting through a natural ghaf forest. Used by Bedouin as a refuge against the desert sun and sand-dusted storms for many years, more than 60,000 of these trees now grow in this park, which oodles of wildlife also call home. Birdwatchers will be able to see rare pallid scops owls, Orphean warblers and yellow-throated sparrows flitting in the sky and trees above deer, rabbits, peacocks and even the occasional hedgehog. There’s enough activity here for you to happily spend an entire day exploring with plenty of picnic and barbecue spots to break up the walk, a collection of detailed miniature houses, green tunnels crafted from flowers, and swing parks for the kids to run amok in.

Colorful illuminated waterfall in Dubai. The waterfall is part of the Dubai Water Canal development. United Arab Emirates, Middle East.
The recently opened Dubai Canal offers up some of the best views of the city © Philip Lange / Shutterstock

City views from Dubai Canal

In 2013, when Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced his intention to expand the emirate’s waterway through the middle of the city’s main highway, no one knew quite what to expect. Fast forward four years and the Dubai Water Canal has opened up a whole new side of the city, one that’s perfect for wandering along. Stretching 3.2 km in length, the route incorporates cycling, jogging and walking paths, all of which offer absolutely amazing views of Downtown Dubai. Five architecturally impressive pedestrian bridges allow you to cross easily from one side of the canal to the other, taking in different vantage points. Top tip: do this walk in the evening to see the Sheikh Zayed Bridge Waterfall at its most impressive.

Green Planet houses more than 3000 plants and animals in a glass dome surrounding a 25m-tall man-made fig tree
Green Planet houses more than 3000 plants and animals in a glass dome surrounding a 25m-tall man-made fig tree © Mark Eveleigh / Lonely Planet

Discover a tropical rainforest

A tropical rainforest in the middle of the desert is one of those ‘only in Dubai’ moments that's in store at Green Planet, the city’s first and only rainforest. This attraction is a great option if you’re seeking an interesting wander but have small kids who can’t cope with long distances or spending too long in the harsh sun. Set in a vertical biodome that towers 45m in height, Green Planet has a flooded forest that's home to stingrays, fish and turtles. Start your walk here and then board a glass lift and head up to the canopy level, where you’ll start to make your way slowly down a spiral footbridge that winds around a life-sustaining 25m-manmade tree. Green Planet is home to more than 3000 plants and animals – including free-wandering toucans, frogs, spiders, lizards and even a pair of sloths – so you won’t be breaking any speed barriers on this ramble as you stop to check out the wondrous wildlife that call this place home.

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First published in January 2018

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