Exploring is fun isn’t it? Finding cool new sights and learning new things, it’s a dream really. But exploring without a car is really no fun at all. There’s the constant battle of blackmailing your nearest and dearest for a ride, saving up for an Uber… the struggle of finding transport usually leads to you cancelling your plans and settling for a day indoors at home with Nat Geo feeding your wanderlust needs.
Fortunately, the good folks over at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority have just launched a neat shuttle service that will take to the northern emirate for just AED20.
The plus point? The ride will be comfy one. The buses are all equipped with Wi-Fi, bottled water and even onboard maps – sweet.
While you start packing in your essentials – a camera and comfy shoes is a must – we have shortlisted three activities that are well worth checking out.
1. The Cove Rotana
More of a village than a hotel, the Cove Rotana has the feel of one of those all-inclusive Mediterranean resorts – an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all destination tumbling down into the sea that offers a range of activities, accommodations and amenities. Its appeal is essentially threefold.
Firstly, there’s the overwhelming sense of calm. Its low villa-style rooms, whether surrounded by lagoons or landscaped gardens of bougainvillea and incarvillea, occupy such a large area that the ambience is one of total repose, completely detached from the town and main highway that lie behind the dune on which the reception building stands.
Secondly, and in addition to the two excellent pools, there’s an enormous stretch of beach, onto which the sea crashes at high-tide with surprising force, and which hosts all manner of water sports, including paragliding and paddle boarding.
Thirdly, there’s the privacy of the large, high-ceilinged lagoon-side villas, with sitting room, kitchenette and its very own plunge pool on the terrace.
In terms of food, most people opt for the all-day dining standards of Cinnamon, although the Italian restaurant Basilico is one of the better places to eat in town.
Contact: +971 7 206 6000,
2. Al Nadiyah Beach
For all its sophistication and luxury, sometimes the best of the UAE can be found in its less polished environments. The stretch of public beach adjacent to the Bin Majed holiday resort might be located in the heart of the city, just as the coast-hugging E11 intersects with Sheikh Rashid Bin Said Road, but it is an ideal place to park up, unpack the sleeping mats and camp out under the stars – untroubled by neighbours or noise after the sun has gone down. It’s pretty easy to find. Approaching from Dubai on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, you take a right onto E11, drive for 8km until you reach the clock roundabout, U-turn and after 1.5km pick out Reedan Restaurant. Stock up on one of their fresh juices and, behind the dune, you will be astonished by the pristine beach and clear blue ocean water that awaits you on the other side. Pick your spot and settle in.
3. Wadi Shawka
If there is one part of the UAE that begs to be explored in a huge 4×4 with a tent, swimming gear and coolbox in the back seat, it’s Ras Al Khaimah. The most rugged corner of the country and home of the Emirati half of the Hajar Mountains, it is the off-roaders adventure playground, with a range of wadis and creeks to explore – whether on foot or behind the wheel of an all-terrain vehicle.
A great introduction to all that RAK has to offer is Wadi Shawka, one of the most epic places to go for a rock crawl or water crossing drive in Ras Al Khaimah – if not the whole of the UAE. It’s popularity is hardly a secret and on Fridays in particular there are a number of families and tourists gathering but certain areas of the Wadi are only accessible by a 4×4 and a skilled off-road driver, so with the right gear and an adventurous spirit, you should have the place to yourself in no time.
To get to Wadi Shawka from Dubai, you’ll need to take the E66 highway towards Al-Ain and then take E611 until, after 26km, you reach the Sharjah-Kalba highway (Maliha Road). Take that and after around 50km or so, you’ll find the Wadi Shawka sign – take the exit, left and the first T-junction and you’re soon in the midst of the wadi. There are a number of routes to take to explore the rocky terrain and creeks pouring down the mountains – some of which will have created deep pools in which you can swim. As long as you have a full tank of petrol, plenty of water and a GPS – and an awareness of the potential for flash-floods – you can spend the day here getting to know all the back routes.
Google Map reference: 25.035494, 56.021077
And if you fancy a little more adventure…make your way to Jebel Jais. The highest mountain in the UAE is home to the world’s longest zipline and it also offers a smaller zipline course as well as a viewing deck.