Where in the world can you kitesurf in warm sea waters, encounter antelopes in a desert safari and ski on snowy slopes…all in one city? It can only be Dubai, the unabashedly ambitious metropolis where nothing seems impossible. Sure, Dubai’s known the world over for its malls, blinged-out bars and restaurants and impressive skyline, but it’s also the unofficial adventure capital of the Middle East.
If you’re seeking experiences beyond the city’s lavish shopping, wining and dining, Dubai’s expanding roster of adventure attractions will keep you plenty busy. From gentle stand up-paddleboarding in the Persian Gulf to hair-raising 13,000-foot free falls, here’s a list of activities in Dubai that’s sure to pump your adrenaline.
Take an ear-popping elevator ascent to one of two observation decks for panoramic views from the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. At the Top's Level 125, at around 1,500 feet high, is the most popular observation deck, while you can pay more to go as high as approx. 1,820 feet on Level 148 for even more spectacular 360-degree vistas.
Test your courage under water- all 10 million litres of it- with Dubai Aquarium's multiple shark encounter packages. Options include Cage Snorkelling, the brand-new 'Shark Scooter' (which resembles a personal submarine), and those with or without diving certifications and lots of nerve can swim freely amongst the predators with an exhilarating Shark Dive.
If swimming with marine predators sounds a bit too intense, there's always stand-up paddleboarding in the sea at the popular Kite Beach. Newbies will learn everything they need to paddleboard like a pro with Dukite's competent instructors, and will have you feel like you're gliding on water in no time.
Take your tour up a tremendous notch by seeing Dubai via helicopter; there's no better way to see the city's skyline and spectacular man-made islands on the Gulf, such as The Palm Jumeirah and 'The World', a 300-island cluster that resembles a map of the globe. Flights range from the 15-Minute Fun Flight Tours to the hour-long Sensation Sixty, where you'll get to see every major point of interest from above.
Tap into you inner E.T. over a Dubai desert with a paramotor ride with SkyHub Dubai, where you'll be able to float and soar thousands of feet over the desert in an engine-powered paragliding machine. Do look down (if you dare) to spot packs of graceful gazelles running through the sands or take in the unusual sight of giraffes which belong to a conservation area.
The Alps have come to the sweltering UAE with Ski Dubai, a wintry indoor megaplex at the Mall of Emirates. Hop on the ski lifts and hit the slopes (there's five) with skis or snowboards within the 242,000 square foot space; there also a plethora of other activities on offer, including downhill zorbing, tubing, sledding, wall climbing and penguin encounters.
If riding in a hot air balloon while watching sunrise 4,000 feet over a desert sounds appealing, check out the Platinum Heritage Luxury Tours and Safari, an award-winning outfitter of desert adventures outside of Dubai. The Sunrise Hot Air Balloon and Wildlife Safari, one of several packages, include the breathtaking balloon ride, breakfast, a falconry encounter and a safari expedition in a stylish, classic 1950's Land Rover.
For the city's ultimate rush, book a tandem flight (and fall) with Skydive Dubai, which will take you 13,000 feet above the Dubai Marina and The Palm Jumeirah before a heart-racing descent. Packages include GoPro video coverage of your experience, so you can relive freefalling 120 miles per hour towards the Earth over and over...and perhaps have your friends and family question your sanity.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.