Visiting the incredible dune-sculpted deserts outside Abu Dhabi city are a must on a trip to the capital of the United Arab Emirates, but getting there requires going off-road. Previously, it was best to join a tour with an experienced 4WD off-road driver, but now Abu Dhabi has launched six self-drive off-roading routes that have been designed for all levels of driving experience.

The routes that are part of the Off-Road Driving in Abu Dhabi Project span the sands around Abu Dhabi emirate, including near the oasis of Al Ain and through Al Dhafra, which lies on the edge of the forbidding Empty Quarter and has been used as the otherworldly backdrop for a number of films, including 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Driving in Rub al Khali desert at the Empty Quarter, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates ©Katiekk/Shutterstock

‘Abu Dhabi is a wonderful destination for adventurers and those looking to connect with nature, thanks to its diverse and rugged landscape’, said Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, the executive director of Tourism and Marketing at Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism. ‘Off-Road Driving in Abu Dhabi will provide adventurers with the opportunity to explore Abu Dhabi’s beautiful landscape and embark on exciting and varying adventures throughout the year.’

The journeys will take travelers past sightseeing points and wildlife areas, including places to spot camel and gazelles, as well as remote spots to set up an overnight camp. The shortest route takes around four hours to drive, but the longest, which traverses some of the largest sand dunes in the country, could take two days to drive in full. For safety, drivers should travel in a convoy of at least three vehicles, and they will be provided with safety checklists and instructions. Local tour operators offer desert driving courses for those without prior experience.

Find specific details of the routes and links to Google Maps on the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism website.

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