Abu Dhabi - Only 6 and a half hours away
Abu Dhabi is closer than you think...just 6 and a half hours and you'll be there. Etihad, the national airline of the UAE, offers a choice of cabins including Coral Economy class, Pearl Business class and on certain routes, Diamond First class. I travelled Pearl Business class with its superb dedicated check-in, no queues, no hassle and you even get to choose your seat. The Etihad lounge is equally impressive and I cannot say enough about the service in Pearl Business class... the staff were fantastic and made the experience so personable; luxury and comfort at its best. As for the entertainment system, with The E-Box entertainment system is never ending.
On arrival into Abu Dhabi we collected our luggage and were met by our ground handlers Arabian Adventures. Just a 20 minute journey to our first stop, The Park Hyatt Hotel located on Saadiyat island 500 meters off the coast of Abu Dhabi city, the 27 square kilometer island is currently undergoing some transformation to become a world class leisure, residential and cultural hub. It will soon be home to the Guggenheim and Louvre Abu Dhabi and is the perfect location to shut off and relax but close enough to go out and explore the rest of Abu Dhabi as its just 7 minutes from downtown and 50 minutes from Dubai.
The Park Hyatt is a modern hotel set on a 9km stretch of white sand and its great for families, couples and is in a prime location for golfers, opposite Saadiyat Golf Club where you receive preferential rates and tee-off times. The kids club is brilliant, offering activities both indoor and outdoor and its Beach suites are ideal for families, located on the beach and a 2 minute walk from the children's facilities. Take your pick of an evening from 3 restaurants all offering different cuisine. Fancy a spa treatment? Why not try out the signature golf ball treatment whilst overlooking the golf course in your treatment room.
We spent the afternoon with an English guide on a city tour where we visited one of the world's largest Mosque's; Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It features 80 domes, approx 1000 columns, 24 carat gold plated chandeliers and the world's largest hand woven carpet. Unlike other Mosque's in Abu Dhabi, the Grand Mosque is open daily for all to visit. I definitely recommend a visit here, even if it's just for a photo outside the beautiful building!
Next stop was Emirates Palace which is a huge palace style building which really gives you a sense of place. I was speechless upon arrival - this really is the ultimate 7 star hotel in Abu Dhabi. From the moment you are greeted by your butler you feel like royalty. Marble, gold plated vast corridors, lined with designer boutiques lead you to your room. Families will be allocated in the East Wing where the adventure pool is located featuring slides and a lazy river. Sarab Land (kids club) is also found here with indoor and outdoor activities. Couples will stay in the West Wing where there is a huge pool with a swim up bar. The pool service is second to none, with a small buzzer by your sun bed which you press should you need service. You can stroll along 1km of pure white sandy beach or take a complimentary camel ride. If you get bored of the beach take a short taxi ride (5mins) to the Marina Mall or take the kids ice skating. For food lovers this is the hotel to stay in, choose from 15 restaurants ranging from Italian to Chinese to Arabic. Hakasan (Chinese) had a cool and funky atmosphere, definitely worth a visit! If dinner isn't enough and you prefer a few drinks and a dance to follow, then try out Etoiles, the hotel nightclub. Hidden away you would never know it was there!
Our final evening was spent at The Shangri-La which is in a stunning location over looking the Grand Mosque. Connected by waterway to the souk, you can take a boat ride for traditional shopping in the Arabian market. The hotel itself is very Arabic in style and offers a good choice of restaurants. The infinity pool area is the perfect place to have a cocktail as the sun goes down and the Grand Mosque lights up.
For those who like a bit of adventure, Yas Island is the perfect place to visit, either day or night. A 30 minute drive of the UAE capital Yas Island is home to Ferrari World, the world's first Ferrari theme park and is the largest of its kind. Beneath its huge iconic red roof, attractions include Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster, reaching speeds of up to 240kmph in less than 5 seconds! And YES...I braved it!!! It's fast and furious fun for all ages. Yas Marina Circuit is also located on Yas Island and this is home to the annual Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It is 365 days of action as year round the track plays host to some of the world's top motor racing series.
Abu Dhabi is a fantastic destination that has something for everyone; stunning beaches, beautiful hotels and amazing attractions. It is well worth a visit and remember... only 6 and a half hours away!