Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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Abu Dhabi, one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates, is an archipelago of islands along the edge of the Arabian Gulf. That is why, surprisingly for a desert city, you'll find water attractions everywhere in Abu Dhabi: Mangrove marshes border its eastern shore, and there are flat, sandy beaches at every turn. All that water means water sports galore on your itinerary of things to do, all within a few minutes by car from downtown's sightseeing. But you can also drive about 90 minutes out of Abu Dhabi and find the stunning vistas and orange-hued dunes of the Rub' al-Khali (the Empty Quarter), the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. In between your beachy morning and dune-trek afternoon, you can shop for couture in a gleaming mall, eat a delicious shawarma sandwich made in a tiny storefront, or visit the inspiring Grand Mosque, the final resting place of the founder of the United Arab Emirates. This capital city glistens with wealth: You’ll see Maseratis idling next to you at the traffic lights. Abu Dhabi is investing in culture and tourist attractions, too, with branches of the Louvre and the Guggenheim currently under construction. A day in Abu Dhabi will give you a taste of the life in the Gulf and its sights, in all its beauty and complexity.

Featured Shore Excursions