Dubai - From Stopover to Holiday Hotspot

Dubai - From Stopover to Holiday Hotspot photo

It was the emergence of Emirates Airlines as a major carrier around the turn of the Millennium, that bought the first wave of tourists to Dubai. Eager for a little desert-based luxury en-route to Asia, the Pacific and beyond, and looking to snare a bargain at Dubai's myriad mega malls, visitors lapped up the airline's excellent service and made the most of her expanding route network. Word soon spread and both Emirates Airlines' and Dubai's reputations grew.

Now a major tourist destination in its own right, Dubai continues to dazzle tourists with its big city ambition and high-end appeal.

Undoubtedly shopping remains firmly on the agenda of most holiday-makers landing at Dubai International Airport but there's plenty more to the City of Gold than shopping.

But for those looking to give the VISA card a workout, Dubai still has a ton of options — 96 malls at last count. If you're wanting to go big, look no further than The Dubai Mall. We're talking 1,000 plus retailers — including Bloomingdales and Galeries Lafayette — stocking everything from makeup and top-end fashion to electronics and homewares. Take a break from shopping and strap on the skates. Yep, that's right, The Dubai Mall has its very own Olympic sized ice-skating rink.

If you'd prefer your leisure time a little less active there's the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo under the very same roof. Rising to the third floor of The Dubai Mall, the Dubai Aquarium features a 48 metre, walk-through tunnel offering a fascinating peek into reef life. Its 10 million-litre tank contains more than 33,000 aquatic animals including the largest collection of sand tiger sharks in the world.

When you're all shopped out, select from a choice of Dubai excursions to suit your taste — activities range from the relaxing to the adrenaline fuelled, tailor-made to match your mood.

Take to the dunes in a luxury four-wheel-drive vehicle (complete with driver) and get a unique taste of the UAE away from the glass and chrome of her cities. Visit the region's original desert dwellers — the Bedouin — at their camp, where you can mount a camel for a different perspective of the local landscape. Cap of a fun-filled day with some sand surfing down some dramatic dunes before getting dropped back at your hotel's reception.

When the heat is on — and it's not often it's not in Dubai — head to Wild Wadi Water Park to cool those jets. Situated aside the dramatic Burj Al Arab, Wild Wadi is themed around Sinbad and his friend Juha and their mythical adventures on the Arabian high seas. Visitors can enjoy over 30 rides at Wadi Wadi including the jaw-dropping Jemeriah Sceirah — the tallest and fastest freefall water slide outside of North America.

No visit to Dubai is complete without taking to the sky and admiring the view from the world's tallest building — the iconic Burj Khalifa. Soaring 828 metres above the coast, visitors can enjoy 360 degree views of the Persian Gulf, the city's 21st century skyline and the desert beyond from the observation deck on the 124th floor.

Finish your day wandering the Old Souk and relaxing on the adjacent river bank as the dhows and water taxis ply the busy waters of Dubai Creek.