Summer may be behind us (almost), but the humidity still hangs thick in the air. Luckily, there are plenty of great destinations in the region that offer respite from the clammy weather, and cooler temperatures all round – whether it’s due to high altitudes, pleasant sea breezes, an abundance of shaded wadis, or subtropical microclimates. We round up ten places to visit while the UAE weather is still steamy, most of which are just a short drive away.
Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain The cool factor: Located further inland than most of the UAE’s towns and cities, Al Ain doesn’t suffer from the same levels of humidity. Figures from Abu Dhabi National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology released in 2009 put average humidity at 37.2 percent in August and 44.2 percent in September – around 15 percent less than in Abu Dhabi. If the low humidity isn’t enough to tempt you to pay a visit, keep in mind that the spectacular Jebel Hafeet area is just minutes from the huge Wadi Adventure waterpark, which houses man-made white-water rafting and kayaking facilities, as well as an impressive surf pool.
The lowdown: Al Ain is considered to be one of the most conservative cities in the UAE, but it is better known as the ‘Garden City’ courtesy of its natural abundance of flora (when compared with the rest of the UAE, at least). As well as its water-based attractions, the area is also home to a large zoo – entry is a very reasonable Dhs15.
Where to stay: The Al Ain Rotana has a number of cafés, restaurants and bars (including its own Trader Vic’s). It also features a large swimming pool, a spa, gym, beauty salon and barber shop, with rooms from Dhs450 per night. www.rotana.com.
Getting there: Head out of Dubai on the Dubai-Al Ain Road (Route 66). Once you’ve taken the turning for Al Ain (about an hour or so later), you’ll need a map handy – Al Ain is known as ‘the city of roundabouts’, and things can get very, very confusing. View Hijar Bani Hamid Oasis, Fujairah
Hijar Bani Hamid Oasis, Fujairah The cool factor: Located on the east coast of the UAE, Fujairah is the country’s most mountainous emirate, meaning it enjoys more seasonable weather. For instance, there’s more rainfall here than in Dubai, and higher altitudes result in lower temperatures.
The lowdown: The area offers plenty of cultural sustenance, from fishing villages to date plantations, as well as traditional fruit, vegetable and fish markets. Wadi Wurayah, in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains, boasts lush plantations and, importantly, cooler climes. During September and October, Arabian Adventures will run tours to Hijar Bani Hamid Oasis for Dhs235 per person, with a minimum of four people per group. www.arabian-adventures.com.
Where to stay: Head to the four-star Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, which offers standard rooms from Dhs467 per night. www.lemeridien-alaqah.com.
Getting there: Travel time from Dubai to Fujairah has been substantially slashed thanks to the Sheikh Khalifa Highway, which opened in December last year. From Emirates Bypass Road (611), take the Sharjah-Kalba Road (S116) and follow the signs. View Jebel Akhdar, Oman
Jebel Akhdar, Oman The cool factor: Paul Oliver of outdoor adventure company Absolute Adventure points out that, with an altitude of more than 2,000m, temperatures around Jebel Akhdar rarely exceed 25˚C – even in summer.
The lowdown: Though Jebel Akhdar translates to ‘Green Mountain’, it isn’t just one mountain, rather an area that incorporates the Saiq plateau (situated on the lower of the two plateaus that constitute the area). The ‘green’ prefix is, however, accurate because the terraces of Jebel Akhdar sustain shrubs, trees and even agriculture – pomegranates, apricots, peaches and walnuts are all grown here. The area also features the terraced villages of Wadi al-Muaydin. In 2011, Jebel Akhdar became a designated nature reserve: a decree issued by the Royal Court established the Jebel Akhdar Sanctuary for Natural Sceneries.
Where to stay: Sahab Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel on the Saiq Plateau, located 2,004 metres above sea level in the western Hajar Mountains. It offers views of the area’s ancient villages and terraced gardens. A studio room starts at Dhs791, while a deluxe will set you back Dhs925 (prices include breakfast). www.sahab-hotel.com (+968 25429 288).
Getting there: Take the E66 into the centre of Al Ain, then take 137th Street onto Highway 21. Staying on Highway 21, pass through Ibri, then the small town of Bahla. Continue straight over the roundabout and follow the road to Nizwa, where you can find comfortable lodgings at the Sahab Hotel – we’d advise calling for directions. View Jebel Shams, Oman
Jebel Shams, Oman The cool factor: Jebel Shams’s 3,018m altitude means that the temperature is around 20˚C at this time of year. Nice.
The lowdown: The area has a selection of short and long walks, some with the option of via ferratta – a mountainous climbing path by means of fixed cables – for more adventurous and experienced trekkers. Visit the mountainside village of Misfat Al Abryeen or the canyons around Wadi Ghul. Arabia Outdoors organises hiking packages to the area, which will start later in September. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where to stay: The Jebel Shams Resort, near Wadi Ghul, is the best place to enjoy the mountain and the surrounding area. Double rooms start at Dhs430 per night including breakfast and dinner. The website isn’t yet active, but you can make reservations by phone and ask for directions to the hotel if you’re unsure. www.jebelshamsresort.com (+968 9938 2639).
Getting there: Take the E66 into the centre of Al Ain and, from here, take 137th Street onto Highway 21. Staying on Highway 21, pass through Ibri and Bahla, before turning left at the first roundabout towards Al Hamra. The road isn’t in great condition – we’d recommend a 4x4. View Hatta Pools
Hatta Pools Take a dip in these natural wonders early in the morning, when a misty light settles over the peaks, casting deep shadows between the crevices. Tour companies such as Arabian Adventures (04 303 4888) offer day trips, taking punters through Wadi Sumeina, stopping for a dip at the rock pools of Wadi Shuwayyon and traversing the rough terrain of Wadi Ray. Tours often also pass through the undulating track of Wadi Khamees, which dips and twists towards Hatta town, offering glimpses of small rock pools and a traditional falaj irrigation system. Be warned, the natural spring water gorge has become a dumping ground littered with drink cans, plastic and uninspiring scrawls of graffiti, so hunt for an unsullied spot – and take home your rubbish.
Where to stay: Try Hatta Fort Hotel’s all-inclusive mountain getaway. Take in the scenery of the Hajar Mountains at the unique Hatta Fort Hotel. Avoid the weekend rush and stay midweek (Saturday to Thursday). A night will cost you Dhs475 per person (sharing a double room). www.hattaforthotel.com (04 814 5400)
Getting there: From the Dubai-Hatta highway take Mahdah 64 and turn left on to a gravel track at the Sumaini signpost. Follow the track and you’ll reach the mountains. View Khasab, Musandam Peninsula
Khasab, Musandam Peninsula The cool factor: Located in northern Oman and only two and a half hours’ drive from Dubai, the Musandam Peninsula is a mosaic of barren mountains and turquoise seas. This contrast means its northern-most town, Khasab, experiences less humid temperatures than steamy Dubai. The area enjoys balmy sea breezes and higher altitudes, and there are plenty of dhow trips on offer, so you can spend the day dipping in and out of the sea. For the more adventurous, diving tours can be arranged with local tour guides to take you to even chillier depths.
The lowdown: Musandam is home to a number of activities, such as mountain safaris, dhow and snorkelling trips, dolphin spotting and overnight camping trips. Dolphin Khasab Tours’ offers start from Dhs400 per head. www.dolphinkhasabtours.com (+968 2673 0813).
Where to stay: Though more pricey than other hotels in the area, the Golden Tulip Hotel is the most comfortable option. The facilities are a little dated, but each room has a balcony with views of the sea. From Dhs615 per night. www.goldentulipkhasab.com.
Getting there: Take Emirates Road (E311) towards Sharjah and follow signs to Ras Al Khaimah, then take a right at the first roundabout. Turn right at the Clock Tower and head past Ras Al Khaimah Hotel, continuing straight until you come to the second lot of traffic lights. Turn left at the signal and follow signs to Shaam. Take a right at the first roundabout in Shaam and continue along the road until you reach the border checkpoint (you’ll need to show your passport and car insurance documentation – make sure it’s valid in Oman). From there, follow the coastal road until you reach Khasab. View Umm Al Quwain
Umm Al Quwain The cool factor: The humidity averages 53 percent, marginally less than in Dubai, but is made more bearable by the coastal breeze that floats in over the harbour area, making it pleasant outdoors even in the midst of summer. If that fails, cool down by learning to wakeboard (www.uaqmarineclub.com), or try the waterpark (www.dreamlanduae.com).
The lowdown: It’s one of the UAE’s least-populated emirates, which lends Umm Al Quwain a relaxing, ‘undiscovered’ charm. Explore the past in the Old Town, home of the aforementioned harbour, and check out pre-Islamic life at the excavated Al Dur site (east of the Sharjah-Ras Al Khaimah highway). To get even further away from it all, take a day trip to Falaj Al Mualla, a fertile oasis town in the Al Batha Valley in the midst of a desert surrounded by camels.
Where to stay: Flamingo Beach Resort is a kitsch ’80s spot in the Old Town, offering lots of water-based activities, including crab hunting and island boat rides. There’s also a private beach, volleyball court, spa, barbecue, pool, restaurant and bar. Standard rooms cost Dhs380, including breakfast. www.flamingoresort.ae.
Getting there: Cruise up Emirates Road (E11) toward Sharjah and follow signs to Umm Al Quwain. The drive takes about an hour from Deira. View Salalah, Oman
Salalah, Oman The cool factor: It’s ‘khareef’ season from June to September, when monsoon clouds from the subcontinent bring cooling rain, and temperatures average 25˚C.
The lowdown: The subtropical climate of Salalah is unlike anything in the region. The city is lush and green, and coconut trees line silvery beaches – much of the vegetation is reminiscent of Eastern Africa (such as the baobab tree). In terms of activities, Salalah offers great scuba diving, as well as cultural interest at Khor Rori, a fortified town with an archaeological site.
Where to stay: Kick back at the Crowne Plaza Resort Salalah, which offers its own private beach and golf course. Standard rooms start at Dhs377 per night. www.ichotelsgroup.com (+968 23 23 8000).
Getting there: You’ll need to fly: Air Arabia flies direct to Salalah from Sharjah. Return tickets start at Dhs1,190, including taxes. www.airarabia.com.
Two more cooling spots to try Green Mubazzarah, Al Ain Tucked away at the foot of Jebel Hafeet, Green Mubazzarah is a dash of lush emerald amid the desert. Temperatures tend to be cooler than Dubai, though slightly warmer than towards the top of the mountain, but the real attraction lies in the area’s abundant natural pools and springs.
Where to stay: Perched at 915 metres above sea level, the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Al Ain Hotel is as cool a hotel as you’re likely to find in the area. Standard rooms start at Dhs199 a night. H3573@accor.com (03 783 8888).
Wadi Khab al Shamsi, Musandam Peninsula Located close to Dibba, this area features plentiful canyons that are popular with rock climbers and more able-bodied hikers. Other than being great to explore, the air inside the canyons is at least 10˚C cooler than outside. Different areas of the wadi are shaded at different times of the day (some are shaded all day), and the area as a whole benefits from a pleasant breeze.
Where to stay: Many adventurers choose to camp on Dibba Beach. Alternatively, the Golden Tulip Dibba offers basic rooms from Dhs660 a night. www.goldentulipdibba.com (+968 2683 6654).
Getting there: Follow the Al Dhaid Road (E88) all the way to Masafi and bear north on the E89 to Dibba.