Forget the Burj Khalifa, the skyscrapers, the shopping malls and the luxury. To discover the UAE in depth, the Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai will show you the most impressive of the whole country: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The best excursions to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
Taking advantage of your visit to the capital of the United Arab Emirates you can discover what life was like in the Arab country before the discovery of oil modernized life in the desert. Read on and I will tell you about the best excursions to Abu Dhabi from Dubai.
- Abu Dhabi excursion with lunch included - From $ 88.
- Excursion to Sheikh Zhayed Mosque and Louvre Abu Dhabi including lunch - From $ 145.
- Excursion to Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Ferrari World - From $ 222.
Full day excursion to Abu Dhabi
Starting early, you will be picked up from your hotel and embark on the journey to Abu Dhabi, a one and a half hour drive away. The excursion begins with a visit to the famous Sheikh Zayed Mosque, followed by a tour of the museum dedicated to the Sheikh and the Heritage Village, where the lifestyle in Abu Dhabi more than half a century ago is on display. You will also have the chance to pass through Saadiyat Island before returning to Dubai, home to Ferrari World and the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
To tell the truth, just visiting the Sheikh Zayed Mosque alone makes this day trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai worthwhile. The great advantage of taking a tour to Abu Dhabi over visiting it on your own is that you will have an English-speaking guide who will put you in context to better understand what you are seeing, and properly inform you of the rules to follow on your visit to make sure you don't have any problems.
Abu Dhabi Excursion with lunch included
The general excursion to Abu Dhabi from Dubai is fine, but in case you want to customize your experience a bit more, don't worry, here are some other options to enjoy the day at your own pace:
In case you like to travel with everything organized, I recommend you to choose the Abu Dhabi excursion from Dubai with everything included, which is this: excursion to Abu Dhabi with food included This way, you will save looking for a restaurant and most likely the day will be cheaper for you because, to tell the truth, most restaurants in Abu Dhabi are very expensive.
Excursion to Sheikh Zhayed Mosque and Louvre Abu Dhabi with lunch included
For a visit focused only on the cultural aspect of Abu Dhabi and avoid the more touristy attractions like the Heritage Village or Ferrari World, I recommend this tour to the Sheikh Zhayed Mosque and visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi with lunch included. You will have plenty of time to tour the mosque and the Louvre museum and lunch is included in the tour so you don't have to worry about anything.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Ferrari World Tour
And if, on the contrary, what strikes you most about Abu Dhabi is Ferrari World, in this excursion to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Ferrari World you will have about 5 hours to explore the theme park at your own pace and ride all the attractions you can. You will also take advantage of the visit to discover the unmissable mosque, which as you know is one of the most spectacular things you will see on your trip to the UAE.
What to see in Abu Dhabi in one day
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The dazzling Sheikh Mosque can be described in many ways, as a pearl on the shores of the Persian Gulf, an architectural dream out of The Thousand and One Nights, or the union of all Islamic cultures in one place in the world. But the truth is that words fall short when talking about this unique mosque in the world, being a marvel for all the senses.
Built in marble and gold, the mosque is a pretext for displaying inscriptions from the Koran engraved on its walls, incorporating Turkish, Moroccan, Pakistani and Egyptian inspiration, among others, to form a structure that extends in galleries of columns that seem to multiply to infinity, in the style of Arab decorations whose intricate geometry overlaps endlessly.
After all, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the product of a deep religious faith, and these motifs that give the sensation of infinite multiplicity are the way to artistically display the Islamic vision of God. To a Western visitor, the result is a spectacle of latticework designs with a multitude of inspirations.
From its inner courtyard tiled with floral motifs you will be able to take what is probably your best photo, as tourists are not allowed to step inside and outside of prayer hours you will find it completely empty. Visiting the mosque inside is also a delight thanks to its air-conditioned rooms and of course, its exquisite decoration that will leave you open-mouthed.
Normally, visits to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque last about an hour and a half to two hours.
In the oldest village of Dubai, restored in 2001, you will find watchtowers, forts and houses showing the lifestyle in the Arab Emirates in ancient times. You will see tools, weapons and handicrafts, in fact, there are artisan workshops that make these pieces on the spot and show you the process of their creation.
In fact, although the Heritage Village has a somewhat commercial aspect, it is interesting to visit because, instead of being full of souvenir stores, you can admire the process of creating them with respect to traditional techniques, which is an experience in itself.
No matter how much you've traveled, I'm sure you've never seen an amusement park like this one. A 45-minute drive from Dubai, it is located on Yas Island, dedicated to hosting tourist attractions and the Formula 1 Yas Marina Circuit.
Ferrari World is entirely dedicated to the Ferrari team, with rides inspired by its most legendary cars (including Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster), a recreation of an Italian village, and family-friendly shows.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Located in the museum complex on the island of Saadiyat, this is a museum associated with the Louvre in Paris, with a permanent collection to which works have been added since 2009. Its most notable acquisitions are 'Portrait of a Lady' by Picasso, 'La Bohémien' by Manet, or 'Composition in red, yellow, blue and black' by Piet Mondrian.
Do not expect to find the iconic pyramid at the entrance of the Parisian museum, but you will find a spectacular dome covering the museum and filtering the light through its Arabic-style lattices before entering the more than twenty galleries where the works are exhibited resembling a European museum. In short, a very interesting place in your visit to Abu Dhabi where you will find a perfect union between the Arab and Western worlds, without losing the spirituality that integrate the buildings of Islamic culture.
Plan your tour to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
Fridays in Abu Dhabi
Something you should keep in mind is that Friday is the day of rest in the UAE, so you will find some things closed. Ferrari World is open every day of the year, unlike the Louvre Abu Dhabi which closes every Monday just like the museum of the same name in Paris.
Abu Dhabi is a perfect day trip from Dubai, being less than an hour's drive away and having few (but very interesting) sites to visit, it is a destination that many people include in their trip to the UAE.
Best day of the week to tour Abu Dhabi from Dubai
In general, since Friday is the day of rest in the UAE and tourists take the opportunity to make excursions from Dubai, this is usually a day to avoid. My recommendation would be to go to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday or Thursday if you can. You will find less crowds of tourists and it will be easier to find a table in a restaurant, for example, and you will surely get some spectacular photos at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque by not having to dodge other visitors.
Best time of the year to visit Abu Dhabi from Dubai
The best time of year to visit Abu Dhabi is between April and May or September and October. In spring and autumn the weather is more pleasant, and there are fewer crowds of tourists, in addition to the fact that hotels tend to lower their prices. However, from December to March Abu Dhabi has a climate that is neither too hot nor too humid, so this time of year is the preferred time for most visitors and therefore the high season.
Where to eat on your trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
Most tours do not include lunch, but make a stop at a shopping mall, either Marina Mall or Emirates Palace giving you time for lunch. If you stop at Dubai Marina, these are the best places to eat:
Traditional Arabic food, with specialties like fish curry or avocado salad and Halloumi. This is the place to come to enjoy spectacular food, but it is a little demanding on the pocket.
This restaurant serves Lebanese food, and is known for its spectacular views of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. In case you are passionate about Turkish cuisine, you will find a very similar meal here with the added bonus of being able to take some nice photos of the mosque from a distance.
A place where you will find almost exclusively falafel-based dishes, such as dürums and salads. It's a cheaper option than the other two, so if you're traveling on a somewhat tight budget, look for a table here.
Other tours stop at Emirates Palace. If this is the case for your tour, these are the places to find the best food:
Indian gastronomy taken to the maximum exponent in a restaurant where quality and elegance are the main elements. In addition to having very good reviews, a good number of critics choose this restaurant as their favorite among all the offerings of Emirates Palace.
Perfect for al fresco dining, this restaurant enjoys the sound of the water from the pools and artificial waterfalls next to the terrace, where Greek-inspired food is served.
In case you're on a tight budget or don't like large meals, this cafeteria is your option at Emirates Palace where you can have a tea or coffee accompanied by some real pastry delights.
What should I take with me to Abu Dhabi
If your tour does not include food, I recommend that you take something to eat in your backpack in case you are traveling on a tight budget. As you may already know, prices in Abu Dhabi are not exactly cheap and eating in a restaurant will cost you between 150 and 200€ for two people.
To enter the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, shoulders and knees are required to be covered, and in the case of women, also the head. You are also not allowed to wear tight-fitting clothing, so keep this in mind when planning your outfit, and take along a headscarf that can also be useful to cover you from the sun throughout your excursion.
It goes without saying, but make sure you have a camera or a cell phone with a good camera in your backpack! Without a doubt, the mosque is quite a sight for people who love photography, but in case you're not I'm sure you'll want to go home with memories of this excursion.
It's also a good idea to include sunscreen in your backpack, some sandals to rest your feet in case you get tired of walking and a refillable water bottle.
Please note that smoking is prohibited in public areas in Abu Dhabi, as it is in many other cities in the United Arab Emirates. Look for designated smoking areas if you don't want to be fined.
Be careful when taking a selfie at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque with your partner, as physical contact between men and women inside the temple is forbidden. For the same reason, remember not to hold hands or embrace.
Other interesting activities in Dubai
If you prefer to squeeze the most out of the city of Dubai before jumping into sightseeing, there are a couple of must-do activities. My first recommendation would be to take a guided tour that tells you everything you need to know about Dubai. And secondly, you should not return from Dubai without having climbed the Burj Khalifa, one of the most popular skyscrapers in the world and, at least so far, the tallest. I leave you here a couple of articles I have written about it so you can organize your visits: Dubai Tours y Burj Khalifa Tickets: how to buy, prices and schedules.
Frequently asked questions
What can I see in Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, has landmarks such as the port of Jebel Ali, the famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Heritage Village where you will discover the history of the Emirates, and Yas Island where you can visit the Ferrari World theme park.
What food can I try in Abu Dhabi?
Some typical dishes to try in Abu Dhabi are Kabsa, a mixed rice dish, maqluba, a pot of meat, rice and vegetables, camel meat, and a wide variety of sweets and pastries.
What else can I do in Abu Dhabi?
You can visit the observation deck at the Etihad Towers Jumeirah, Qasr Al-Hosn, the oldest building in Dubai, the Warner Bros theme park on Yas Island, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital where you will see birds up close, and visit the Emirates Park Zoo.