Al Wathba Abu Dhabi
Al Wathba offers a mix of nature, sport and cultural festivities. Between the tranquillity of Al Wathba Lakes, perfect for camping and barbecues, the intriguing fossilised dunes, the cycle track through the desert and the vibrant Sheikh Zayed Festival, there’s plenty to keep you occupied during your visit. Join me as we explore some of the places to visit in Al Wathba.
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Al Wathba Lake Park
Al Wathba Lake campsite is near the Wetland Reserve and is a great spot for a retreat or a get-together with family and friends. The picturesque setting of the lake, greenery and birds is enough to relax anyone wanting to get away from city life.
It’s a perfect spot for bird enthusiasts as grey herons, great cormorants, stilts, and many other types of birds make it their home, either permanently, for the winter or on their way to their final winter destination.
The area is well-equipped with shelters offering seating areas where visitors can relax and have a picnic. For those who enjoy outdoor cooking, the site provides barbecue pits and concrete barbecues, ideal for a gathering with friends.
Children can enjoy their time in a dedicated play area with sustainable wooden swings, seesaws, etc. while older ones can enjoy a game of volleyball.
If you plan on staying overnight, you can pitch your tent anywhere. If you go with a group with multiple tents, there are some areas where you can pitch your tents in a circle. There are also individual dedicated areas for RVs.
There are several toilets around the grounds with separate facilities for men and women. These are serviced and were kept clean. There are no showers. If you run out of essentials, there’s an ADNOC Oasis (shop only, no petrol) a couple of kilometres up the road.
If you like cycling, the lake is next to the cycling track and you can rent a bike and helmet at the beSport bike shop next to ADNOC Oasis for a reasonable price. See more below.
There are no entry or camping fees at Al Wathba Lake campsite but please respect nature and other campers by tidying up your rubbish and keeping noise levels down.
Let me now share my personal experience camping there. I was slightly worried that it would be noisy and packed with campers as I prefer somewhere quiet. However, I had recently read some personal experiences that dispelled that, so I decided to try it and had no regrets!
When I arrived in the early evening, I chose a spot between two groups of people without any tents. My assumption that they would go home soon after their barbecue proved correct. The next morning, when I walked around the lake, I noticed only a few tents and one RV. The only thing that woke me at night was a couple of herons fighting. Otherwise, I slept soundly until my alarm went off at 6:20 to enjoy the dawn skies.
My tip is to choose a spot equidistant between the toilets as the generators can be a bit noisy and next to people without tents. Also, get there before dark as there is very little light to set up your camp, except in one area.
Al Wathba Cycle Track
Al Wathba Cycle Track is a popular cycling destination in Abu Dhabi. It stretches through the scenic desert landscape, providing various loop options to suit different levels of skill and endurance. The options are 8, 16, 22 or 30 km and you can go at any time of day and night as it’s lit by solar power.
If you don’t have a bike with you, you can rent one from beSport near Wathba Lakes. Toilets and showers are available near the bike shop.
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve was established by Sheikh Zayed in 1998 and was the first protected area in Abu Dhabi. It was recognised as a Ramsar site in 2013 and added to the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas in 2018.
The reserve contains a mix of natural and artificial lakes. It is home to over 650 species, including a large population of Greater Flamingos, which can be as many as 4,000 in peak season.
Unfortunately, it’s temporarily closed to the public as it undergoes further development. When it reopens, you can visit and enjoy the nature trails there.
Al Wathba, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa
Set in the desert, this luxury resort offers the ultimate retreat. Choose from a king room with a balcony or a suite or villa with private plunge pool. Book now or see more.
Al Wathba Fossil Dunes
If you haven’t yet seen the fossilised dunes, this is one to add to your UAE bucket list. These natural wonders are quite mesmerising and are best seen close up.
Experts believe the formation of the dunes could go back as far as 120,000 years, or in other words, the Ice Age, and are a result of interaction between various sediments and the elements. Apart from their natural beauty on the landscape, they provide valuable insights into climatic and environmental history.
Some of the larger dunes are in Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Reserve, which is currently closed for development. However, as there are more than 1700 dunes and they cover such a vast area, you can still see plenty outside the park.
Just drive along the road on which the park entrance is located and look out on the same side of the road. Al Wathba Dunes offer a fantastic opportunity for photography but please be careful not to sit or stand on the dunes, which could cause irreparable damage.
Al Wathba Fossil Dunes location – take me to the map
Sheikh Zayed Festival
The Sheikh Zayed Festival in Al Wathba is an annual cultural event from 18th November to 18th March, honouring the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s efforts to preserve Emirati heritage.
The festival hosts dozens of events and performances, including parades, Union Day and New Year celebrations and weekly fireworks. Roaming performers, military bands, and Emirati singers provide an excellent vibe to wander around looking at the market stalls, taking a ride at the funfair, or even visiting the Dessert Museum! And with over 50 restaurants, you won’t go hungry!
The Sheikh Zayed Festival timings are 4pm to midnight and to 1am on public holidays and weekends.
The entrance fee is AED 10 and is free for children under 3, resident senior citizens and People of Determination.
Things you should know before you go to Zayed Festival
- modest dress is requested
- pets are not allowed
- it is not allowed to take food in
- wheelchairs, strollers, valet service and childcare services are available
- a free bus runs from Abu Dhabi main bus terminal to the festival grounds every half hour from 3pm and 10pm
- to get there by car, enter Sheikh Zayed Festival in Google Maps
Al Wathba Salt Lakes and Canals
You may come across Al Wathba Canal on Google Maps, but don’t waste your time trying to find it as it’s within a construction site.
I haven’t visited the salt lakes based on recent reviews so I recommend you check the most recent photos and reviews on Google Maps and decide whether it’s worth going. The photo below is not recent.
Other places that may be of interest are Emirates International Endurance Village where prestigious Arabian Horse events such as The President’s Cup take place and Al Wathba Camel Race Track.
Head out to the camel race track early morning and if there’s not a race on, there will usually be camels out practising. You’ll often see them mid to late afternoon too. Take me to the map.
If you liked this, you may also like my other posts on the Emirate of Abu Dhabi:
FAQ about Al Wathba
- What are the main Al Wathba tourist attractions? Al Wathba Lakes and camping ground, fossil dunes, Sheikh Zayed Festival, Salt Lakes, the desert cycle track and the resort.
- What is Al Wathba Festival ticket price? What is Sheikh Zayed Festival ticket price? It’s AED 10 and free for under two, residents over 60 and POD.
- Is Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Park open? No, it is currently closed but you can still see other dunes further along the road.
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