Flying through Abu Dhabi? There may have been a time when Irish travellers opinion of stopping over in the UAE capital wouldn’t fill you with any more excitement than the opportunity to stretch your legs and to bask in the glory of a toilet with head-room (6ft3, the struggle is real) before catching your connection.
Fast forward to 2017 and things couldn’t be more different, something I recently got to find out first hand on my first visit to this breathtaking city in its own right.
1. It’s Hot And Sunny All Year Round
Getting off the plane after a pretty damn comfy seven-hour Etihad flight, the hot air hits you immediately. Depending on your tolerance and preference for warm weather, it can get a little bit overbearing in June/July as temperatures regularly top 40 degrees!
Never fear though as most indoor facilities include wind tunnel-esque air con as standard.
The lowest the temperature ever drops is in January at 20 degrees.
From October right through to March, temperatures are in the Goldilocks zone for us sun-sensitive souls. Perfect for a dip, a laze or something more active (we’ll get to that).
2. Flights From Dublin Are Cheap And Plentiful.
The UAE’s capital is also the home of one of the world’s biggest global airline operators, Etihad. Direct flights from Dublin to Abu Dhabi are frequent, and they’re cheap too! Check out our latest fares here.
3. Luxury At Every Turn, Affordable Too
The Crowne Plaza, The Ramada (both of them) and the Rotana on Yas Island are all stunningly decadent with room prices typically between €80 -€140 per night. One thing Abu Dhabi is not short of is gorgeous hotels so we’ll be able to find the perfect one for you pretty quickly!
When you equate the luxury you can find in Abu Dhabi with what that kind of budget can secure in major European cities, you may need to lie down…likely on Egyptian cotton.
4. Big Fun And Chepa Thrills From Dawn ‘Til Dusk
Abu Dhabi has two monster theme parks – prepare for monster fun!
If you’re a roller coaster fanatic then the world’s fastest, Formula Rossa is unmissable. It catapults you from 0-62mph in 2 seconds (that’s quicker than any buyable supercar) and reaches 149mph 3 seconds later! Nothing coasting about that. It even gave ex-F1 World Champ Fernando Alonso a bit of a scare…
Personally, I actually preferred Flying Aces. the other roller coaster in Ferrari World which has loop-the-loops, corkscrews and an insane view of the city as those ominous clanks hoist you ever closer to the thrill of the drop.
The queues were non-existent too so we went on it six times in an hour! Epic fun.
If getting into the water is more your thing then next door to Ferrari World is Yas Waterworld. Just the 45 rides to experience there (I told you, you need longer than a couple of days in Abu Dhabi).
5. Mangroves & Beaches To Explore and Enjoy
I was astonished to learn that surrounding the city are these gorgeous mangrove forests which you can take a tour of via boat.
Abu Dhabi is much more than desert as it turns out.
Similarly, you also wouldn’t associate the Middle East with tranquil, clear blue waters and pristine beaches but Abu Dhabi has one – The Corniche. Flawlessly maintained and overlooking Lulu Island (not to be confused with your mother’s favourite singer), this is an unexpected pleasure that becomes a highlight.
Strolling the beach ourselves we learned that it split into sections for singles, couples and child-friendly zones. That’s just good sense!
6. Architectural Marvels Everywhere You Look
This is probably something you’d be more expecting from the ludicrously wealthy region but it still amazes.
Modern architecture is at its very cutting edge in this city with the bizarre circular Aldar HQ building, the Etihad Towers soaring into the sky and the Sheikh Zayed Bridge all unmissable photo opportunities.
That’s before we even come to the astonishing Sheikh Zayed Mosque (make sure to cover your knees and elbows respectfully) and the Viceroy Hotel on Yas Island (make sure you have at least 14 desserts), which becomes Abu Dhabi’s crown jewel at night.
The Viceroy is iconic to F1 fans and the wider sports audience as it dominates the Yas Marinas circuit, glowing blue like a colossal jellyfish wrapping it’s tentacles around the track.
We were lucky enough to have a spectacular hosted lunch in the Viceroy and a tour of the hotel itself. While quite a bit more expensive to stay in, motor racing fans simply have to experience cars whizzing underneath your window.
The jet set life can seldom be sampled better.
The Yas Marinas circuit itself opened in 2009 as an all-purpose, state-of-the-art race circuit and I defy you to find a better one anywhere in the world. The centrepiece is obviously the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in mid-Nov (good luck getting a room for that week) but the opportunity to race around the track is available to visitors from €300 each depends on your choice of rocket ship!
7. Sir Bani Yas Island Safari
13,000 wild animals call Sir Bani Yas Island home and you can go and visit the giraffes, dolphins, geckos, cheetahs and sea turtles all here. Excellent!
8. The Moreeb Sand Dune Is Astonishingly Big
A full 300 metres tall and with a 50-degree incline (sometimes the temperature as well), this is something fairly mundane, transformed into a thing to marvel at thanks to the sheer scale of it! You can rent dune buggies here too, if you’re brave enough.
Abu Dhabi is still predominantly a stopover destination for Irish migrators setting out on their Australian Working Holiday adventure or exploring the best of South East Asia but if we haven’t convinced you to spend at least a couple of days here before your connecting flight, we frown deeply in your direction.