Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

UAE Itinerary: One Week in the United Arab Emirates

August 29, 2023

The United Arab Emirates has become an increasingly popular destination in recent years. For good reason, the country is investing heavily in attracting tourists. More and more attractions are appearing in the two largest cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This is a place where beautiful buildings, 5-7 lane highways and new districts are rising out of the desert almost daily.

Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world today and the tallest building in the future is already under construction. Dubai also has the world’s largest fountain, the largest Ferris wheel, the largest picture frame and the largest flower garden. Abu Dhabi has one of the largest mosques in the world, which impresses most tourists with its beauty. The country offers one of the best public safety and road networks in the world. There are few people who are not impressed by this when they experience it. So you can enjoy a safe and relaxing holiday in Dubai. It makes you feel like everything is for you.

When to travel to the UAE

The UAE has very good weather in the winter, so it’s a good place to travel in the winter months. However, in summer the heat is almost unbearable, so we do not recommend traveling in summer. If you want to go swimming, then October, November or March, April will be the ideal time to travel.

How to get to the UAE

Unless you’re from a neighboring country, the best way to travel to the UAE is by plane. Our UAE itinerary starts in Dubai, as this is where most international flights land. Some flights land in Abu Dhabi, from where it’s also absolutely easy to travel with a bit of organisation. There are regular buses between the two cities, which are not expensive, and private companies also transport tourists.

We recommend traveling within the country mainly by car, because car rental is relatively affordable and fuel is cheap. The driving style takes some getting used to, similar to southern European countries. Parking is very easy all over the country, really impressive, we never had a problem with parking even in the city centre.

If you’re afraid of driving there, you can also travel by public transport. There are several bus routes between Dubai and Abu Dhabi many times a day, and there are also bus connections to some of the rural locations.

Within Dubai, the metro is the best option. Taxis are also popular in the country and are available and affordable almost everywhere.

Important to know about the UAE

The UAE has two potential disadvantages from a tourism perspective. One is the prices, because it is not a cheap country. If you want a low budget trip, the UAE is not the best choice. Apart from fuel, nearly everything is expensive: hotels, restaurants, entrance fees for programs…etc.

The other is the natural environment. Because most of the UAE is desert, there is a lot of dust. This can be hard on people with respiratory illnesses, in our case even steroid nasal sprays had minimal effect. Moreover, the tap water is purified seawater, which is supposed to be drinkable, but in practice is not recommended.

But on the positive side, there are many facilities for special dieters in cities, and the staff are very attentive to hygiene. Overall, the UAE is a great destination and we think it’s definitely worth a trip.

After the overview, let’s check out the details of the one-week UAE itinerary.

Of course, the days can be swapped and personalized. The location is flexible, there are no long distances, so you can plan your itinerary freely and easily.

Day 1: Dubai

Dubai is the largest city in the UAE, and also the one with the most attractions. It is therefore worth planning more time for Dubai, as it takes many days to see the major sights.

So the plane will probably land in Dubai on the first day. On that day, see the sights around the airport. This is the Dubai Frame, the Creek Harbour area and the Museum of the Future.

The Dubai Frame is a huge frame with a fantastic view at the top. You can see most of Dubai from the top. A special feature is that the floor of the upper level works in such a way that if you step on it, the floor becomes transparent, like there is nothing underneath.

Creek Harbour is not a time-consuming place to visit, we recommend it especially at sunset. Next to the Creek Harbour are wonderful little sculptures and constructions that are great photo opportunities. These include the flamingo sculpture and the small white arches, which also create the perfect location for photography with the Dubai skyscrapers and the Creek.

The Museum of the Future is one of Dubai’s newest attractions. The building is a stunning and impressive sight even from the outside. If you have the time and interest, take a look inside. The modern building showcases Dubai’s future plans as they imagine the future in a few decades. It shows new technologies, space, transport, healthcare and wildlife, among other things. Tickets should be booked online weeks before arrival, because they often sell out in advance.

Day 2: Dubai

The second day continues with the sights of Dubai. We’re guessing that if you’ve traveled to Dubai, you’ve been looking forward to seeing the city’s main attraction, the Burj Khalifa. So now is the time to visit it too. The Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world with a height of 828 metres and 163 floors. Visible from almost anywhere in Dubai, it is a prominent and impressive building.

Around the Burj Khalifa is the huge Dubai Mall, where you’ll find a huge selection, plenty of shops in almost every category and price range, and a giant aquarium that’s also worth a visit. Even experienced shoppers like us got lost several times, it’s such a big mall. Plan to spend several hours at the Dubai Mall, or even a whole day if you want to shop.

In the Dubai Mall you will also find the Burj Khalifa tourist entrance, known as “At the top”. Tourists can take the cheapest tickets to floors 124-125, which offer plenty of excellent views. More expensive tickets are available for the 148th floor, and even more expensive tickets for floors 152-154, which offer a VIP experience with special service.

Pro tip: For the Burj Khalifa, we strongly recommend you buy your tickets online in advance to avoid the long queues and save time. The best idea, we think, is to arrive a little before sunset so you can see the Dubai view from the top in both light and dark.

Outside, the Burj Khalifa area, in addition to the Dubai Mall, has many restaurants, shops, hotels and a huge fountain that presents perhaps the best fountain show in the world. At regular intervals, the fountain dances to music or the Burj Khalifa puts on a laser show. Live, it is more impressive than it can be described, a fantastic experience. So it’s worth spending an evening or more at the Dubai Fountain, enjoying a delicious dinner, a pleasant walk and the spectacular shows.

Day 3: Jebel Jais, Ras al Khaimah or Hatta

One of these days, take a trip to the countryside. Unfortunately, not everything fits into a one week trip, so choose between Jebel Jais or Hatta. If you are using public transport, Hatta is definitely recommended as there is a bus service.

Jebel Jais is in fact a mountain in the Hajar Mountains, near Ras al Khaimah and the border of Oman. On the way, you can see the desert with camels and trees from the highway, which is a very interesting sight. However, the best part is the area around Jebel Jais and the panoramic road leading to it. For mountain lovers, this will be a real highlight. There is a very good road leading up to the mountain, with several places to take photos and admire the scenery.

Hatta is also located in the Hajar Mountains and near the border of Oman. The road to Hatta leads through a very beautiful mountain canyon. Hatta is home to the Hatta Dam, a brightly colored reservoir that offers many recreational and sport opportunities for visitors. You can go biking, kayaking, boating and much more.

If you’d rather stay in Dubai, you can book a desert safari for the day. There are many different types of desert tours in Dubai, in short: there are group tours, which are cheaper, and private tours, which are personalized but more expensive. It is possible to hire a quad bike or a special car to drive yourself around the sand dunes. Picnics are held in the desert with local specialities, baklava, Arabic coffee…etc. There are also companies that organize Arabic dance shows or belly dancing shows. And you can also slide on the sand dunes, almost like on snow.

Day 4: Dubai

Day four is worth spending the day in Dubai again. Let’s continue the list of highlights in Dubai. Important attractions in Dubai are the Miracle Garden and the Global Village. Both destinations are on the outskirts of the city, so transport should be well organized. It is easier to get there by renting a car.

The Miracle Garden is the largest flower garden in the world, covering an area of over 72,000 square metres with more than 250 million plants. Every year it has special themes, mostly fairy-tale characters. Its main highlight is a life-size Airbus A380 aircraft, made of flowers.

The Global Village is best suited for families, but couples can also enjoy a few hours. Global Village is like a huge festival for families. It combines cultures of 90 countries across the world at one place. There are four main sections in the Global Village. These sections consist of events and concerts, carnivals, food, and shopping. There is plenty for children to play with, with an almost complete adventure park for families. And you can really buy goods from almost every known country. In the evening, the Global Village is especially beautiful thanks to the many decorative lights.

Day 5: Abu Dhabi

On day five, visit Abu Dhabi, another famous city in the UAE. Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirates, is also a popular destination for tourists. Abu Dhabi has important attractions, but the city does not require as much time to visit as Dubai. We therefore planned to spend two days in Abu Dhabi. Of course, this can be modified as required, and because the two cities are relatively close to each other, the itinerary is quite flexible.

Abu Dhabi’s main attractions include the Grand Mosque (Sheikh Zayed Mosque) and the Qasr Al Watan. It actually takes a day. Other optional activities include Ferrari World, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Fossil Dunes in the countryside, and not far from there, Al Wathba Long Salt Lake. If you want to see these, you’ll need the second day in Abu Dhabi.

The Grand Mosque, also known as the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, is one of the largest mosques in the world. Its beauty also makes it exceptional, an elegant and impressive building. The mosque is free to visit, but entry is not easy. The entrance is through an underground shopping area, and after a security check, entry to the mosque area is only allowed for men and women in appropriate clothing. There are pre-assigned photo points in the mosque from which you can take photos. If you take photos anywhere other than the marked spots, security guards will warn you. This is quite frustrating. By the way, we think that the Grand Mosque is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the UAE, so we highly recommend it.

Pro tip: opposite the mosque, on the other side of the highway, you will find a square next to Wahat AlKarama. From the square, next to the fountain, you will get one of the best views of the Grand Mosque.

Qasr Al Watan is the Presidential Palace of the United Arab Emirates, located in Abu Dhabi. It was built in 2017 and is open to visitors from 2019. It is considered by many people to be the most impressive building in the UAE and even in the Middle East. To visit, you have to buy a ticket at the first entrance and then a bus takes tourists to the palace. The Qasr Al Watan looks spectacular from the outside, but from the inside it is even more impressive in its glamour and elegance. Almost everything is decorated in a combination of white, gold and blue. The Qasr Al Watan has a huge collection of art treasures, books and artefacts that are hundreds of years old.

Pro tip: near Qasr Al Watan is a popular 5-star hotel, the Emirates Palace. This hotel has a café where you can drink coffee sprinkled with gold flakes, eat golden macarons and have golden ice cream. The hotel itself looks fantastic, and the entrance offers stunning views of Abu Dhabi’s skyscrapers.

Day 6: Abu Dhabi or Dubai

If you’re curious to see the other sights of Abu Dhabi, this is a good day to do it. Optional activities in Abu Dhabi can include a visit to Ferrari World, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and for nature lovers, the Fossil Dunes and Al Wathba Long Salt Lake.

Ferrari World is a racing themed complex with exciting family games, driving simulators and a car show.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is an innovative museum surrounded by water, with ancient and modern art, a kayaking area and a café.

Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Reserve is located about 50 km south of Abu Dhabi. The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area includes over 1,700 fossil dunes covering 7 square kilometres, making it one of the largest fossil dune areas in the Emirates. Access to the area is free of charge.

Al Wathba Long Salt Lake is located a little west of the Al Wathba Fossil Dunes. These two areas offer recreation away from the noise of the city. Neither is overcrowded, so there’s the opportunity to view the UAE’s natural treasures in quiet.

The nearby Al Wathba Bicycle Track is a great place for families to relax. There are cycling track, a pleasant little lake, picnic areas and a playground.

In the evening, return to Dubai, where we will guide you through the city’s remaining places to explore. If you’d prefer to spend more time in Dubai, there’s plenty to see and do. Then enjoy your whole day in Dubai.

Day 7: Dubai

What is a very important part of Dubai and has been left out of the itinerary is the Marina and Palm Jumeirah. The Palm Jumeirah is the main luxury spot in Dubai, with a range of luxury hotels and restaurants, all with fantastic views and beautiful beaches.

As a tourist, there are two attractions worth visiting. One is the spectacular Atlantis Hotel at the end of the island. The Atlantis is not just a hotel, it’s also a water park and a favorite place for families. It has great restaurants led by world-renowned chefs. The building is very striking from the outside and the surrounding area is a great photo spot.

The other is The View at the Palm, a glass observation deck on a skyscraper that offers a panoramic view of the city and the bay. A ticket is required to access The View at the Palm. Above, there is also a famous spa, the Aura Skypool, which also offers a similar panorama of the city.

Another optional destination is The Pointe, where you can see the world’s largest fountain, with breathtaking shows in the evenings. The waterfront is full of great restaurants and shops.

Dubai Marina is worth a long walk among the skyscrapers. Here you can get perhaps one of the best photo points in Dubai. There are also some fantastic beaches on the Marina where you can take a bath. You can also easily get to the world’s largest Ferris wheel, Ain Dubai. The Ain Dubai has been out of service for a while, and may be back in service from 2023. If for nothing else, Ain Dubai is well worth a visit for a good photo.

Optional tourist attractions in Dubai include Ski Dubai, an artificial ski resort.

For families, the Wild Wadi Waterpark is a huge water park with special waterslides.

Also for families, there is IMG Worlds of Adventure, which is a large indoor theme park with attractions, restaurants and Cartoon Network and Marvel-themed shows.

For those who are interested, there is Expo City, the remaining part after the 2020 World Expo. Some pavilions and other attractions can still be seen today.

For something special, we recommend the glass slide at the Address Sky View hotel next to the Burj Khalifa, which is an interesting experience because you can slide down a glass slide at a height of several tens of floors. Nearby is an even more extreme option, the Edge Walk.

Other options for families and adventure seekers worth mentioning are Motiongate, BollywoodParks, Aquaventure at Atlantis and Legoland.

And for history lovers, we recommend exploring the Old Town. The Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood is a historic district in Dubai, built in the late 19th century.

We’ve only listed the optional activities, but in Dubai, more and more attractions are being built every day. So the list is never complete.

This is about all you can fit into a one week trip. We have shown you the real must-see places and given you information to help you organize your trip. If you can spend more time in the UAE, check out our other articles, where we show you other places to visit. Most of all, Dubai is the city that is worth almost any time spent there, it is so diverse and interesting. So we definitely recommend you plan as much time as possible for your trip to the UAE. We can almost guarantee that you will love it.

Photo Gallery

Want to see more photos?

Check out our photo gallery, where you can find all our photos categorized by country. In the photo gallery you can see photos from 6 years of travel and more than 20 countries. Discover the most beautiful places in the world!

Follow us on Instagram