The desert of Dubai


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One does not necessarily think of the desert of Dubai when preparing a trip to Dubai. What comes to mind first of all are the huge buildings, the artificial islands and the luxury hotels. One could almost forget that this very modern city was not so long ago a simple fishing village, lost in the middle of an arid desert.

During a stay in Dubai, going on an excursion in this desert will probably be one of the most memorable experiences you can have. For me, it's a trip I never miss when I go back to the emirate. From a simple walk in the dunes to a real safari, or even hot air balloon flights, a lot of activities are available in the Dubai desert.In this short guide, I will present the different ways to discover the desert of Dubai.


onyx desert wildlife

The Rub al-Khali desert covers about 650,000 square miles and is the largest sandy area in the world. Since time immemorial, this desert has been the natural habitat of the people of the region. Many of the locals in Dubai are direct descendants of the Bedouins, and the desert still holds a very important place in the local traditions and culture. From Dubai, you won't have to go far to really enter the desert.

The first dunes await you directly on the outskirts of the city, just 12 miles (20 kilometers) away.

The first thing to do is to choose your type of excursion.

Whatever activity you choose, transportation to and from the desert will be included. To go to the desert of Dubai, you will have several choices :

  • 4x4 safari

  • Camel ride

  • Desert flight by helicopter or hot air balloon

  • The tour in buggy or quad

  • Mountain bike or motocross tour

The activity that you should not miss! 😊

You wish to go to the desert during your stay in Dubai but don't really know yet what activity to choose?

I can only recommend the day trip I took while in the desert myself.

The tour is quite complete, as you will get a global overview of the different activities you can do in the desert: riding the dunes in a 4x4, sandboarding, barbecue & Arabic coffee, seeing camels and falcons... There are so many activities that you won't be disappointed! There is really something for everyone😊

safari dubai
As you can see, you will have the choice between many different ways to discover this desert. I will detail each of these options in the rest of this little guide.                                           In order to prepare for your trip in the desert, it will be important to dress accordingly. The UAE's dress code is of course still relevant/enforced in the desert: you will have to respect it? Dubai is a welcoming and tolerant place, so you will not be required to wear a veil or burqa. You will just have to avoid wearing clothes considered as provocative (yes I know it's not great but that's how it is...), and cover yourself well from the shoulders to the knees.        
For the rest, it will depend directly on the season you plan to make your trip to Dubai.
The desert is not a place where it is hot all year round. On the contrary, if you go during the winter period, I really advise you to bring at least a sweater. During the summer, on the other hand, a good sun cream will be absolutely essential, and hat will serve you well
If you don't know when to go to Dubai, don't hesitate to read my article on the subject😊


safari 4x4 desert dubai

 The off-road safari is the most popular and accessible option. There are a number of different options available, but generally speaking, they involve going out into the desert for a few hours to enjoy the scenery and get some thrills by riding full speed over sand dunes.

Depending on the package you choose, the duration of these excursions will vary, and you will also be able to enjoy some bonuses, such as admiring a sunset in the desert or enjoying a barbecue in a Bedouin camp. You can even attend a belly dancing show and stay overnight if you wish.

These excursions are offered at prices ranging from about $34 to $113. I would recommend avoiding the shorter tours though. The tours that are scheduled to last only a handful of hours will only take you to places that are too close to Dubai and too crowded with tourists for you to really take in the beauty of the desert.
This tour is included in the Dubai pass. If you want to go on a 4x4 safari in the desert, this pass quickly becomes interesting.


night trip under the stars

The different activities proposed to discover the desert of Dubai are mostly depart from D. itself, and lasting a few hours, they limit the time you can spend in the desert. But as an option, you can often choose to spend a night in the desert, either in a hotel or in a typical Bedouin camp. This will allow you to complete a day rich in discoveries, or to be in the right place start a visit early in the morning. It will also be an opportunity to watch a sunset and a sunrise in the desert.

Even in the middle of the desert, you will still be in the emirate of Dubai, therefore, the different hotels available will have all the comfort you could need. However, they offer a typical desert atmosphere, quite different from the city hotels. Rooms in these hotels start at around $113 per night. And as for all the activities you want to do in the desert, you will be picked up at your hotel then driven back there once your excursion is over.


camel dubai

If you want to experience the desert in the most authentic way possible, a camel ride is the way to go. It is the best way to understand a little bit better what the daily life of the inhabitants of the region could be just a century ago.

You will first reach the desert by motorized vehicle, before taking a long camel ride. During this ride, in addition to being able to enjoy the splendid desert landscapes, several activities will also be accessible according to the formula which you will have chosen. You will be able to try sand surfing or to admire a hawk in full hunting. Here too you can join a Bedouin camp to enjoy a meal and typical animations. In total, these excursions last  between 4 and 7 hours out of which you will be on camelback for a little more than an hour. As for prices, you will have to pay between $45 and $113 to live this experience that will surely mark your trip to Dubai.


hot air balloon dubai

If you want to fly over the Dubai desert, you can choose between a helicopter and a hot air balloon. Whatever your choice of vehicle is, you can choose to simply fly over the desert, or to complete the flight with a 4x4 excursion.

Taking to the skies is the most efficient way to enjoy the beauty of the region's landscapes, with the sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see. Hot air balloon flights will allow you to enjoy an unforgettable sunrise in complete tranquility. By helicopter, in addition to discovering the desert, you will be able to fly over some of the city's main attractions, such as the Burj Khalifa and the artificial islands.

These activities are understandably a little more expensive than the more traditional excursions.

Hot air balloon flights start at $327 and helicopter flights start at $225.


If you wish to discover the desert while living an experience full of thrills, the excursions in buggy and quad should interest you. You will be personally at the wheel of these small cars, to explore the desert and climb the dunes. During your journey, a few breaks are planned to allow you to breathe a little and take pictures of the landscape.

The vehicles that will be offered are all perfectly adapted to travel in the desert in complete safety, and a guide will accompany you during the whole experience. The quad tours are a little more physical, while the buggy has the advantage of being able to accommodate a passenger.
Quads are available to people over 14 years old from about $56. To drive a buggy, you must be at least 18 years old and pay between $113 and $170 .

Some excursions include a quad or buggy tour in their program, like this one, for example. For others, these options will often be extra! So remember to check the description of the excursion of your choice, especially if this type of activity is important to you 😊


fine sand sunset

Motorcycling is another way to discover Dubai's desert on a sporty and thrilling ride. During these motocross tours, professional instructors will be there to accompany you and guide you to some of the most remarkable sites. These trips are not reserved to experienced riders, and some tours are also available for beginners. In addition to the vehicle, all protective equipment will be provided at the start of this activity. Depending on the duration (between 2 and 8 hours), these motocross tours will cost between $225 and $564.

If all these motorized vehicles don't appeal to you, then maybe going mountain biking in the desert is more suitable for you. Here, you will be able to ride at your own pace to enjoy the nature on these bikes specially designed to ride easily on the sand, thanks to their very wide tires.

Without a motor, the bikes are much more environmentally friendly. They do not disturb the animals, so these trips are often organized in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. This large protected area is home to a wealth of flora and fauna, and if you're lucky you may see antelopes, desert foxes and wild cats. Dubai desert bike tours are available at prices ranging  from about $113 to $180, depending on the length of the tour.

That's it for this article. I hope to have given you all the information you needed, and that it will motivate you to make a trip in the desert! 😉

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auteurs blog dubaï
A first trip to Dubai 8 years ago – and a first love. I created this blog about Dubai to share with you my good deals and my recommendations about visiting this emirate. Ever since my first trip, I try to go back to Dubai at least twice a year, alone or with family!


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