Dubai is one of the most captivating cities in the world. Skyscrapers grow from the desert, islands develop from the sea, and grass flourishes in the sand. As stunning as the city is from the land, it’s even more breathtaking from above. Next time you’re in Dubai, leave your acrophobia at home and see the city from a fresh perspective. From skydiving over Palm Jumeirah and ballooning over the desert, to flying over the World Islands and circling Burj Khalifa in a helicopter, there are plenty of ways to see Dubai from the sky. Just remember, do look down.
When it comes to unforgettable aerial views, nothing quite beats Palm Jumeirah. The manmade island is one-of-a-kind and is instantly recognisable as one of Dubai’s most iconic and innovative accomplishments. Seeing it from above is the only way to fully appreciate its enormity. While many companies offer flights over the island, make the experience even more thrilling by taking in the view while you fall towards the Earth at 210 km/hr. Skydive Dubai is the UAE’s premier skydiving location and is world-renowned as one of the globe’s best.
Burj Al Arab
A little further down the coast lies another of Dubai’s most distinctive sights, Burj Al Arab. The sail-shape hotel is one of the best known in the world, thanks to its extraordinary opulence. Many choose to see the building up close during a boat tour, but even greater views can be enjoyed from the sky. Book a helicopter tour with HeliDubai and circle the building as the sparkling white sands of Jumeirah Beach and the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf provide a beautiful backdrop for a 360-degree view.
While we’re talking iconic structures, it doesn’t get any better, or bigger, than Burj Khalifa. As the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa has won many accolades for its innovative architecture. While it looks impressive from the ground, seeing it from above, towering over the skyscrapers of Downtown Dubai, is an even more captivating experience. To offer some perspective, at 830m, Burj Khalifa, is almost twice the height of the Empire State Building. You have to see it to believe it.
Dubai’s coastal desert location means that you can be on the beach one minute, and playing in the desert sands the next. A trip into the desert is a popular activity for visitors. While dune bashing is the sport of choice for many travellers, swap the 4×4 for a hot air balloon and see the dunes from another angle. Balloon Adventures Emirates offers group and tailor-made balloon flights that provide particularly stunning at sunrise. Hover over the sands and watch native animals such as Arabian Oryx and wild camels going about their day, as the majestic Hajjar Mountains loom on the horizon.
When Dubai rose from the desert it was a humble fishing village, gathered around the mouth of Dubai Creek. A trip to Dubai isn’t complete without visiting this historical area. While the waterway has been widened and construction has modernised it, Dubai Creek still maintains its original character. Follow the meandering river and gaze down upon people haggling at the city’s traditional souks and traders loading up wooden boats, from the comfort of a helicopter or seaplane. It’s a world away from the glitzy skyscrapers of Downtown Dubai.
Following the success of Palm Jumeirah, Dubai embarked on an ambitious project to build an artificial archipelago representing the globe. While the majority of the 300 World Islands are currently inhabitable, the sight is spectacular. They’re hard to reach, so the best way to see them is by air. Seawings offers a tour called ‘The World Journey’ which takes guests on a 40-minute seaplane tour from Dubai Creek to the World Islands, where the plane touches down and passengers disembark to enjoy a scenic boat journey on to Palm Jumeirah.
Just 20 years ago, Dubai Marina was nothing more than desert, but now it’s one of the most striking neighbourhoods in the world. Set along the coastline, hundreds of high-rise buildings tower alongside the snaking marina, making for a beautiful sight from the water, the beach and the sky. Dubai Marina is home to myriad significant buildings including the twisted Infinity Tower and Princess Tower, which, at 414m, is the tallest residential building in the world. One of the most up-and-coming areas in the city, it will soon be home to the world’s largest Ferris wheel, the Dubai Eye, which is being built as part of the Bluewaters Island project, just off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Residence.
Dubai is home to a number of world-class golf courses. Seeing them from above is an experience in itself as the lush greenways contrast beautifully with the sandy desert. An example of the prosperity of the emirate, the courses remain green all year round, despite the heat and sun of summer. Flying over top courses such as Emirates Golf Club, home of the Dubai Desert Classic, you may even catch a glimpse of some of the best world-ranking players teeing off.
Sheikh Zayed Road
Sheikh Zayed Road (its less impressive moniker being E11) is the longest road in the UAE. It stretches from Abu Dhabi to Ras al Khaimah, passing through the length of Dubai. For an all-encompassing sightseeing tour, take a flight down the length of the road from Dubai Marina, past the city’s world-famous malls, over the skyscrapers of Downtown Dubai and on to Dubai Creek and ‘Old Dubai’. Surely one of the best ways to see Dubai from the sky.
Much of Dubai’s allure lies in its pristine white sandy beaches. With year-round sunshine, the city attracts sun-seeking visitors in their thousands. Catch a glimpse of the beach from above, with people enjoying the sun and surfing the ocean waves, and the city towers casting a silhouette in the distance.
Header image: Palm Jumeirah © Seawings
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Dubai from London Heathrow, bringing these sky-high views closer to home.
Have you seen Dubai from the sky? Which of these sites would you recommend for the ultimate bird’s eye view of the emirate? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.