United Arab Emirates

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It was probably Dubai's grandiose extravagance which first led to the United Arab Emirates showing up on most travel radars. But there's a lot more to this collection of seven emirates and many of the best places to stay in the United Arab Emirates can be found in lesser known spots.

In recent years it's become a lot easier for visitors to see more of the UAE, outside the confines of the Western style resorts, so the UAE is now a lot more than a destination for winter sun and shopping.

Visitors should definitely shop in Dubai's souks, ride a camel in Abu Dhabi and go snorkelling or diving on the coral reefs of the gulf. And some of the western style resorts are still the best places to stay in the United Arab Emirates. But it's also worth heading out into the desert, to see the amazing desert dunes and the grand wadis of the north-east, or into the photogenic Hatta mountains.

The real magic of the UAE is how an Islamic state can find its peace with the nightclub parties which finish just before the calls to prayer, and the rampant fantastical consumerism. But the balance holds. And all this exists alongside traditional Bedouin customs and oceans of sand. This is probably one of the world's most diverse and interesting nations.

If you're interested in the UAE of pre-oil days you'll probably find the abandoned fishing village of Jazirat Al Hamra fascinating. This spot was first settled in the 14th Century, its inhabitants surviving on fishing and pearl diving, but the entire population upped sticks in 1968, leaving everything spookily empty, but well preserved.

Best Places to Stay in the United Arab Emirates

For a glamorous city break

Dubai is the obvious choice if you're looking for a luxurious city break. Here no excess is off the table; there are malls with not just a selection of cinemas, but also a ski jump slope. And of course there's also the world's tallest building, and 'The Palm' - the artificial island in the shape of a palm tree glittering with glamorous resorts.

  • The Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa is sleek, modern and luxurious, with many pools, stunning views, excellent restaurants and an immaculate spa.
  • The Address Downtown Dubai offers the ultimate in luxury skyscraper extravagance with seven swimming pools, a top notch spa and a slew of award-winning restaurants. And there's great views over the Burj Khalifa.
  • The Ahmedia Heritage Guest House offers something a bit more traditionally Arabic, with wonderful Persian style fabrics, antique four poster beds, a lovely courtyard and an art gallery.

For winter sun resorts

  • Atlantis the Palm crowns the Palm Jumeirah. Flamboyant and luxurious, this is the kind of resort which has so much on offer you'll not have time to leave - including its own aquarium and water park.
  • The Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is a bit less Disney, but with just as much luxury and spectacular sea views.
  • The Jumeirah beach hotel is that beautiful wave building you see in the Dubai brochures, with great views of the mighty Burj. This is easily one of the best places to stay in the United Arab Emirates for families - it also has its own water park, but it's a bit less hectic than Atlantis.

For desert adventure

  • The Qasr Al Sarab in Abu Dhabi is the perfect spot to fulfil your Arabian Nights fantasies, a luxurious desert palace in the heart of the Liwa Desert.
  • The Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach looks like a Bedouin camp, with its huge tent-like buildings, and this really adds to the feeling of remoteness. Of course you'll also find every luxury - good food, a huge complex of pools and spas and its own beautiful beach.
  • The Banyan Tree Al Wadi is similar but on a larger scale, and of course it's got a desert outlook rather than a beach one.
  • Alternatively try Dubai's Desert Palm, this emirate's version of a secret desert hideaway, but with a top notch spa, terrace overlooking the polo fields and more facilities than you can imagine.

Still not sure which to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in the United Arab Emirates, or contact, one of our friendly gurus for advice.

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The best hotels in the United Arab Emirates

See all » 20 hotels in Dubai

  • Barjeel Heritage Guest house

    Dubai (Heritage Village)

    A wonderful guesthouse in traditional Persian style with romantic bedrooms. Large rooms have four poster beds, killim rugs, and attractive furnishings. Lovely waterfront restaurant and terrace serves traditional cuisine. An excellent value choice.

    9 rooms from $74
    Value chic
    Sights nearby  -  Situated in the heart of Old Dubai, very close to the old Souk
    Views  -  Lovely views over Dubai Creek
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
  • XVA Hotel

    Near Al Faheidi Roundabout,Near Dubai Museum

    A fabulous alternative to the grandiose palaces of Dubai. An arty Arabian hotel filled with antiques, artwork, and understated furnishings. Chic rooms surround a charming inner courtyard and cafe. A wonderful choice for a more authentic taste of Dubai.

    12 rooms from $158
    Value chic
    Sights nearby  -  Situated in the oldest part of Dubai Creek
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.

See all » 2 hotels in Ras Al Khaimah

  • Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach

    Ras Al Khaimah (Al Jazirah Al Hamra)

    A Bedouin fishing village style luxury beach retreat in a remote setting. Rooms and suites filled with contemporary elegance and seaside romance. Excellent restaurant and spa, huge pools, and water sports galore. Luxury on a smaller scale than usual for UAE.

    32 rooms from $317
    Romantic Break
    Beach Life
    Spa  -  A complimentary shuttle will take you to the spa at Banyan Tree Al Wadi
    Views  -  Superb views over the Arabian Gulf
    Recommended by  -  Tablet
  • Banyan Tree Al Wadi

    Ras Al Khaimah (Wadi Khadeja)

    A veritable Bedouin oasis of luxurious exoticism. No expense is spared in this haven of bare-foot luxury in the middle of the desert. Honeymooners will be attracted by the private villas (the only accommodation type) with their own pools, and the private bbqs or sand dune evenings available.

    from $561
    Spa  -  10 treatment rooms, Rainforest hydrothermal experience with 15 different ‘stations’
    Honeymoons  -  A perfect honeymoon destination, especially in one of the larger villas
    Spa breaks  -  Banyan Tree spas are famed for their traditional holistic approaches
    Romantic Break
    Recommended by  -  Tablet

See all » 1 hotel in Abu Dhabi

  • Qasr Al Sarab

    Abu Dhabi (Hameem)

    Desert romance and sophisticated luxury in the dunes. Gorgeous rooms and suites in muted tones in the style of Arabian Nights, twinkling swimming pools dotted around the hotel, fabulous food, and an impeccable spa.

    206 rooms from $235
    Romantic  -  Good for couples.
    Romantic Break
    Kids Club  -  For little ones and teenagers too
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith
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