When you come across an authentic, little known destination that’s packed with unexpected delights, it’s momentarily temping just to keep it to yourself! But true travellers love to share their secrets. And the UAE’s gorgeous Garden City of Al Ain deserves to be enjoyed by a new wave of real experience-hungry visitors. So wave goodbye to the futuristic urban buzz of Abu Dhabi or Dubai and take a drive through the desert to one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements, with stunning UNESCO world heritage sites set among lush green oases.
Once a vital stop on the caravan route between Oman and the Gulf, Al Ain is still a brilliant choice of place to stay. Highlights include the UAE’s biggest camel market: noisy, pungent and charismatically chaotic - with super-cute baby camels - it’s a memorably different experience from anything you’ll find in the malls of any modern metropolis less than two hours away. Al Ain’s close proximity to glitzy Dubai and Abu Dhabi is just one excellent reason to put the Garden City top of your Travel Wish List. But there are plenty more.
A major must-see is Al Ain's impressive zoo. Famous for its research facilities and acclaimed breeding program for endangered species, this enormous, family friendly reserve is home to Arabian oryx, big-horned Barbary sheep, African gazelles, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, monkeys, reptiles and eland - with lions, tigers, pumas, leopards and jaguars in the big cat section. Highlights include giraffe feedings, a special walk-through lemur experience and the largest man-made safari trail in the world.
Who knew that you could enjoy all the benefits of a forest bath - so beloved by the Japanese - in the heart of the desert? Eight grandiose gates lead into the splendid Al Ain Oasis with its 150,000+ palms, still watered by the traditional falaj irrigation system, dating back 3,000 years. Enjoy a revitalising break from the hot sun and baking streets: new scientific evidence shows that forest bathing - basically just being surrounded by trees - reduces stress and improves overall health and wellbeing.
The charmingly old-fashioned National Museum on Khalid bin Sultan Street brings Al Ain’s heritage, culture, and ancient history bursting to life. Important archaeological exhibits include weapons, jewellery, pottery and coins excavated from the 4000-year-old tombs at nearby Al Hili and Umm Al Nar, while the fascinating ethnography galleries focus on the daily life of the Bedouin and settled people.
Wondering how to best experience UAE's food culture? Take a foodie tour of the UAE with us.
Having got a real feel for the region, fuel your adrenalin with a four-wheel drive through the beautiful surrounding mountains. Scramble to the top of rugged Jebel Hafeet, the country's highest peak and snap some unforgettable views of the seemingly endless desert. Then wiggle your toes in the steaming, therapeutic springs at the base of the mountain, perfect for bathing tired, dusty feet.
An iconic place to rest…
Set in exotic landscaped gardens, the sophisticated new Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort Al Ain offers the ultimate retreat in the heart of vibrant Al Ain. With free Wi-Fi - and meticulously considered small details that make a big difference throughout all its stylish rooms, three swimming pools, tennis courts and inspiring choice of dining options, it’s the perfect base from which to explore all the fabulous surrounding attractions.
Psst! Planning to visit Abu Dhabi as well on your UAE tour? Check our pocket guide to Abu Dhabi for more tips!