Forget the Burj Khalifa, skyscrapers, shopping malls and luxury. To discover the UAE in depth, the Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai will show you the most impressive thing in the whole country: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Best Abu Dhabi tours from Dubai
Make the most of your visit to the capital of the UAE and discover what life was like in the Arab country before the discovery of oil modernised life in the desert. Read on and I'll tell you about the best excursions and proposals to go to Abu Dhabi from Dubai:
- Abu Dhabi excursion with lunch - From £64
- Abu Dhabi tour with tickets to Sheikh Zayed Mosque - From £43
- Abu Dhabi tour with tickets to Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Louvre Museum - From £92
- Abu Dhabi tour with entrance tickets to Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Qasr Al Watan Palace and Etihad Tower - From £82
- Excursion to Abu Dhabi with tickets to Ferrari World - From £175
Abu Dhabi tour with lunch included
The general Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai is very good, but in case you want to personalise 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 organised, I recommend you to choose the all-inclusive Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai, which is this one: This way, you will save yourself the hassle of finding a restaurant and the day will most likely be cheaper because, to tell the truth, most restaurants in Abu Dhabi are very expensive.
Abu Dhabi tour with entrance to Sheikh Zayed Mosque
If you decide to go to Abu Dhabi, you can't miss the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the largest and most prominent mosques in the world. With this approximately 6-hour tour, you will travel in an air-conditioned vehicle to the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Together with a professional guide, you'll learn about the history of the city and the temple.
If you're short on time but want to make the most of your day trip to Abu Dhabi, don't hesitate to take this tour with entrance tickets to the mosque. You will be able to admire one of the most important architectural gems of the Arab world both inside and outside. You'll come away with some amazing photos and a valuable experience for any Western tourist.
Abu Dhabi tour with entrance tickets to Sheikh Zayed Mosque
and the Louvre Museum.
For a visit that focuses solely on the cultural aspect of Abu Dhabi and a break from the more touristy attractions such as 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'll have plenty of time to tour the mosque and the Louvre and lunch is included in the tour so you don't have to worry about a thing.
Abu Dhabi tour with entrance tickets to Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Qasr Al Watan Palace and Etihad Tower
Starting early, you will be picked up from your hotel and depart for Abu Dhabi, an hour and a half drive away. The tour includes return transfers, driver and several entrance fees to monuments such as the Qasr al Watan Palace and gardens, the Etihad Towers and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
In fact, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque alone makes this day trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai worthwhile. The great advantage of taking a day trip to Abu Dhabi over visiting on your own is that you'll have an English-speaking guide who will put you in context to better understand what you're seeing, and properly brief you on the rules of your visit to make sure you don't have any problems.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque & Ferrari World Tour
If, on the other hand, your main attraction in Abu Dhabi is Ferrari World, this tour to Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Ferrari World will give you around 5 hours to explore the theme park at your own pace and ride as many of the rides as possible. You'll also take advantage of the visit to discover the unmissable mosque, which as you know is one of the most spectacular things you'll 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 as an architectural dream straight out of One Thousand and One Nights, or the union of all Islamic cultures in one place in the world. Built of marble and gold, the mosque is a pretext for displaying inscriptions from the Qur'an engraved on its walls, incorporating Turkish, Moroccan, Pakistani, Egyptian and other inspirations to form a structure that stretches in galleries of columns that seem to multiply to infinity, in the style of Arabian decorations whose intricate geometry overlaps endlessly.
From its inner courtyard tiled with floral motifs you'll be able to take what is probably your best photo, as tourists are not allowed to set foot in it and outside of prayer hours you'll find it completely empty. Visiting the inside of the mosque is also a delight thanks to its air-conditioned rooms and of course, its exquisite decoration that will leave you open-mouthed.
- Heritage Village: In Dubai's oldest village, restored in 2001, you'll find watchtowers, forts and houses showing the way of life in the UAE in ancient times. You can 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.
- Ferrari World: no matter how much you've travelled, 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.
- Louvre Abu Dhabi: located in the museum complex on Saadiyat Island, this is a partner museum of the Louvre in Paris, with a permanent collection that has been added to since 2009. Notable acquisitions include **Picasso'**s 'Portrait of a Lady', **Manet'**s 'La Bohémien', and Piet Mondrian's 'Composition in Red, Yellow, Blue and Black'.
Don't 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 light through its Arabian-style latticework before entering the more than twenty galleries where the works are displayed, resembling a European museum.
Plan your trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
- Fridays in Abu Dhabi
One thing to bear in mind is that Friday is a day of rest in the UAE, so you'll find some things closed. Ferrari World is open every day of the year, unlike the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which is closed every Monday, as is the museum of the same name in Paris.
- Best day of the week for a trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
In general, since Friday is the day of rest in the UAE, this is usually a day to avoid. My recommendation would be to go to Abu Dhabi on a Wednesday or Thursday if you can. You'll find less crowds and it will be easier to find a table in a restaurant, for example, and you're sure to get some great photos at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque as you won't have to dodge other visitors.
- Best time of year to take a trip to 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, the crowds are less crowded and hotels tend to be cheaper. However, from December to March Abu Dhabi's weather is neither too hot nor too humid, so this is the preferred time of year for most visitors and therefore the high season.
Where to eat on your day trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
Most tours don't include lunch, but do stop at a shopping mall, either Marina Mall or Emirates Palace, giving you time for lunch. If you stop at the Dubai Marina, these are the best places to eat:
- Azkadenya: traditional Arabic food, with specialities such as fish curry or avocado salad and Halloumi. This is the place to come for spectacular food, but it's a little tough on the wallet.
- Maison Beirut: This restaurant serves Lebanese food, and is known for its spectacular views of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. In case you have a passion for Turkish cuisine, you'll find very similar food here with the added bonus of being able to take some nice photos of the mosque from a distance.
- Operation Falafel: A place where you'll find almost exclusively falafel-based dishes, such as dürums and salads. It's a cheaper option than the other two, so if you're travelling on a budget, find a table here.
Other tours stop at Emirates Palace. If this is the case for your tour, here are the places to find the best food:
- Cascades: perfect for al fresco dining, this restaurant enjoys the sound of lapping water from the artificial pools and waterfalls next to the terrace, where Greek-inspired food is served.
- Le Café: If you're on a tight budget or don't like a big meal, this café is the place to go at Emirates Palace for tea or coffee and pastry delights.
What to bring to Abu Dhabi
If your tour doesn't include food, I recommend that you pack something to eat in your backpack in case you're travelling on a tight budget. As you know, prices in Abu Dhabi aren't exactly cheap and eating in a restaurant will set you back 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, their heads as well. You are also not allowed to wear clothes that are too tight, so keep this in mind when planning your outfit, and take a headscarf with you as it can also be useful to cover you from the sun throughout your tour.
It goes without saying, but make sure you have a camera or a mobile phone with a good camera in your backpack! The mosque is certainly a sight to behold for people who love photography, but if you're not, I'm sure you'll want to go home with souvenirs of the tour.
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 UAE. 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 mosque is prohibited. For the same reason, remember not to hold hands or hug.
Other interesting activities in Dubai
If you prefer to make the most of the city of Dubai before embarking on a sightseeing tour, there are a couple of activities that are not to be missed. My first recommendation would be to take a guided tour that tells you everything you need to know about Dubai. Secondly, you shouldn't leave Dubai without having climbed the Burj Khalifa, one of the most popular skyscrapers in the world and, at least so far, the tallest. Here are a couple of articles I've written about it to help you organise your visits: Best Tours and Day Trips from Dubai y Burj Khalifa Tickets: how to buy, prices and schedules.