Imagine a city on the coast, with beautiful blue skies, powder-white beaches and glittering skyscapers, a city full of culture and luxury hotels.
You might think we’re in Dubai, but no, we’re taking a look at Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi serves as the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is one of seven such emirates that complete the federation. The name literally translates as ‘father of the gazelle’, a reference to the number of gazelles in the area when the city was founded.
With direct flights three times per day with Etihad - one of the world’s leading airlines, Abu Dhabi is easily reached from London. However, it is also a stopover for cruises from the likes of MSC Cruises and Celebrity Cruises. With a journey time of around 7 hours, and year-round sun, it makes for a great alternative to the Caribbean or North Africa.
- The Corniche is the heart of the city and is an 8km promenade of beaches, restaurants, play areas and cycle paths. It’s a great area to stroll in the evening, enjoying the sub-tropical climate with an ice cream.
- Saadiyat Breach is a 9km pristine stretch of white sand with a fabulous public beach and some private sections accessed from the upmarket and stylish hotels.
- Emirates Palace was featured in Sex and the City 2. The lavish hotel stretches over a kilometre in width and is full of luxurious facilities including 11 restaurants, two pools, a lavish spa and a private marina. If you pop in for afternoon tea, make sure you try the Palace Cappuccino, it’s sprinkled with real 24-carat gold flakes.
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a stunning place to visit and came second on TripAdvisor's list of the world’s top 25 landmarks. A must on any trip to Abu Dhabi.
- Observation Deck at 300 gives you the best view of the city, a ski-high café on the 74th floor f the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel.
- Shopping is as exciting in Abu Dhabi as in Dubai, with high-end malls like The Galleria on Al Maryah Island, and the traditional markets of Al Mina, the atmospheric port area.
- Louvre Abu Dhabi opened at the end of last year and cost $1billion to build. The structure itself is worth a visit, but the museum of world cultural history also houses around 300 works of art on loan from the Louvre in Paris.
- Yas Island provides fun for all the family, with theme parks like Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld, along with the Formula One racetrack – Yas Marina Circuit. You can even drive around the trackin an Aston Martin GT4 yourself.
- Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi is due to open this summer, offering another theme park option for visitors. With six immersive worlds, such as Metropolis and Gotham, inspired by Warner Bros characters it is set to attract an additional 30million visitors per year.
- Arabian Sands – no trip to the UAE would be complete without a visit to the desert. A place of timeless beauty, it recently featured as the backdrop in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the desert planet Jakku. Day trips can include 4x4 safari, camel trekking, sand surfing, or just dinner underneath the stars. There is even a 1,400 hectare Arabian Wildlife Park on Sir Bani Yas Island.
What to book:
Cruise – MSC Cruises have a ship based out of Abu Dhabi during the winter and an 11 night cruise around the Arabian Gulf, beginning with 3 nights in a 4* hotel in Abu Dhabi, starts at £1,349 for an inside cabin including return airfare.
Formula 1 – situated over the Formula 1 track is the 5* Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel. Gold Medal have a race package for this November that includes your flights and hotel, but also your tickets to see the race take place. An amazing way to experience the Formula 1 weekend. Prices start at £3,399pp.
Short break – A 4-night trip to Abu Dhabi in October starts from £529pp with Travel2 and includes flights, 4* hotel on a B&B basis and city tour.