Travel Diary: 8 Days in Dubai
A day-by-day itinerary of what we did in a week in Dubai.
Stopover cities. I’ve been to them more than a few times, almost, but they simply cannot be lost in transit any longer. At the top of my travel bucket list for this year was to visit Dubai (every time we’re on a layover at the airport, I can’t help but wish we had a little more time to see the city for ourselves), so when Dubai Tourism invited us on our dream trip, we were literally jumping up and down in excitement.
The elation certainly didn’t end there either, as Dubai continued to go above and beyond all of our expectations once we were there. An opulently modern city drenched in not only the rich Arabian and Persian traditions and culture, but also unsurprisingly those borrowed from around the globe as an expat hub, Dubai had us pinching ourselves at every turn. It’s modern, luxurious, futuristic, ambitious, receptive, energetic and dynamic.
With an endless list of must-do’s, I’ve written a travel diary of sorts that includes our eight day itinerary in Dubai, including where we stayed, what we ate, where we went and what we did. Our stay in Dubai was nothing short of extraordinary.
Post 11-hour overnight flight from Perth to Dubai, we arrived at the familiar Dubai Airport where we’d spent many a stopover, but never walked through immigration despite having the destination on our bucket lists for years. This time was different. We were here to tick off another travel goal; explore Dubai (finally).
There was no better place to begin our experience than at the glamourous Palazzo Versace Hotel on the Jaddaf Waterfront, where we settled into our luxurious room and opted for an early breakfast at Giardino in a bid to stay awake. It worked.
After spending most of our morning enjoying the view of Dubai Creek from our private balcony, we ordered a light Middle Eastern lunch to our room (‘cause it was too good to leave just yet) and continued to successfully staved off sleep.
It was time to fight off the urge to do something else; shopping at Dubai Mall. When we arrived, I dragged Brad straight to Fashion Avenue where we, lucky for him, window shopped at Givenchy, Balenciaga, Chloé, Chanel and Max Mara, to name a few. Hello heaven.
When we made it through to the other side, an achievement in itself at one of the largest malls in the world, we headed out to the sparkling Dubai Fountain for our first close encounter with the Burj Khalifa. Needless to say, it’s rather magnificent at almost 830 metres.
Back at the Palazzo Versace Dubai, we donned our finest for a special evening at Enigma for a ‘Taste of Persia’ by Michelin starred Chef Mansour Memarian, which truly was a culinary experience that included a herb salad with liquid nitrogen (how dramatic!) and the most appetising savoury yoghurts I’ve ever had. Needless to say, we slept very well that night.
Sleep-in. Enjoy breakfast at Giardino, again (the pastry selection had me at hello). Get ready for a day of extravagance and entertainment. Yeah, that pretty much sums up our lazy morning.
We knew today was going to be spectacular, but when we arrived at the exclusive Jumeirah Mina A‘Salam for Friday Brunch, somewhat of an institution among expats in Dubai, it was as lavish as lavish can be. The next few hours were a blur of never-ending delicious food from around the globe and bubbly with the very best of company (aka. @bradjarman) with a view of the lagoon and Burj Al Arab. How truly indulgent.
Back at Palazzo Versace, we nursed our full bellies by the pool and decided to skip dinner for lack of room.
To end our day of elaborateness, we went to the incredible La Perle By Dragone show, which proved to be an extravaganza of waterfalls, floods and rain (yes, you heard correct!), acrobatics, flying and diving, and gravity defying acts. Needless to say, it had us on the edge of our seats the entire time.
To say we were excited for today’s jam-packed itinerary would be an understatement, so when our walking tour of Al Seef and Bastakiya began with Arabian Adventures, we had cameras at the ready to capture every moment. The Old City of Dubai is surprisingly not ancient at all as the traditional buildings of the area unfortunately were not constructed with longevity, but it was charming none the less to see and I’d highly recommend taking a walk around.
There really is no other way to cross the Dubai Creek than on a traditional abra boat, and while the journey only lasted five-minutes or so, it was a great experience (and super affordable!). In fact, if we ever get the chance to go back I’d do the longer tour up the Creek.
The fabric, spice and gold souks of Dubai are as bustling and frantic with tourists and locals alike, as you pulled from one direction to the next. The extravagance of the gold souk and the richness of the spice souk were incredible to experience, as of course I’ve never quite seen anything like it. Oh, the things I would do to be able to get my hands on spices like that!
After a morning of exploring, we had lunch at Beach Canteen at Dubai Food Festival, which features a large array of different cuisines from food trucks and stalls. I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve ever had donuts as mouthwateringly delicious as the ones we had here. They were so good!
It was time to take to the sea, the Persian Gulf to be exact, on a boat tour with Hero Dubai. Brad and I boarded our own little boat, and spent the next hour or so driving ourselves from the fishing harbour to the Burj Al Arab to the new World Islands and back again. Unfortunately, it was overcast and choppy, and a beautiful sunset was replaced with us being soaked as we made it back to the harbour, but it was a fun experience nonetheless.
After a freshening up, we headed downstairs for an Italian dinner at Palazzo Versace’s Vanita’s. Goodness knows, we deserved all the pasta we consumed that night.
We spent our final morning at Palazzo Versace by making the most of the beautifully warm pools surrounded by palm trees, the Dubai Creek and, of course, the grand hotel building itself, before checking out and heading to our next exciting destination.
You can only imagine how thrilled we were when we pulled up to Bab Al Shams, our luxurious desert oasis we’d call home for the next two nights. As we arrived early, we decided to lounge by the sparkling pools (to get some work done) and go for lunch at Al Forsan before checking in to our room.
Despite being determined to lounge around for the rest of the afternoon (we were absolutely exhausted and jet-lagged, truth be told), we couldn’t help but explore the grounds of Bab Al Shams featuring Arabian architecture, hideaway outdoor lounges and shallow rock pools. It truly was a desert paradise.
An evening under the stars with authentic Arabian cuisine, live cooking stations and traditional entertainment was in store for us tonight at Al Hadheerah, and we were pinching ourselves all night over being able to have such a magical experience. The fresh food, the friendly and attentive service, the desert setting; everything was simply impeccable. A night to remember.
Despite vowing to sleep-in and make the most of a lazy day, we woke early to catch the first rays of the day. The light during wintry Dubai is warm and soft, and the haze of the desert makes it even more beautiful, so we wanted to make the most of it while we’re here. We went for an AM swim in the pool to wake us up and then headed to breakfast at Al Forsan. Oh, and yes, the cappuccinos were delicious – score!
We spent most of the day on the lounge chairs by the pool (no surprises there), getting work done between dips to cool down. If only work was like this back home!
On our second and final night in the desert, we decided to have a special evening at Al Sarab Lounge at Bab Al Shams, a rooftop lounge overlooking the Dubai Desert, and it did not disappoint, not one bit. As the sun set beautifully against the Arabian landscape with live oud music only enhancing the ambiance, Brad and I took delight in a light Middle Eastern dinner and a bottle of French rosé. It was yet another beautiful night to remember in Dubai.
After checking out of Bab Al Shams Resort, it was time to go to our next iconic destination.
If there’s one thing you have to do to complete your Dubai experience, it’s enjoy Morning Tea at the tallest restaurant in the world, At.mosphere at the iconic Burj Khalifa. 122 stories high, you’ll not only experience the best views across Dubai, but also exceptional service (our waiter was so warm and friendly!) and an array of appetising food.
Once we’d enjoyed our decadent breakfast of fruits, French pastries, cheeses and crepes, to name but a few, we wandered to the lounge for a 360° view of the city around us. Even on a hazy day, it was still quite astounding. Hot tip: Go to the restroom; it’ll surprise you with the most sensational views as well.
We checked-in to our final hotel, the famous Atlantis The Palm, and went straight to Giorgio Locatelli’s for lunch (gnocchi and linguine for us, please!), one of their many celebrity chef restaurants.
After a lunch, we decided to explore the hotel more, which also includes The Lost Chambers Aquarium, Aquaventure Waterpark and an array of Beach Clubs. Needless to say, boredom is not a thing at this resort. Back at our hotel room, we unpacked and soaked in the magnificent view of the Persian Gulf from our very own balcony.
Included in our reservation, we enjoyed an evening at the Imperial Club Lounge where we managed to snap up a window seat for ourselves that looked out to the pretty sunset across the island. Another relaxing evening, we swapped a big dinner for canapés and cocktails (since we’d been pretty much non-stop eating for the entire trip – not that we’re complaining!). The only thing that could make the evening any more perfect would be a long soak in a deep bath tub, and we sure did that too. Pure bliss.
It seems this trip included a series of much needed sleep-ins, so after yet another we went back to the Imperial Club Lounge for a late buffet breakfast. While busy, the buffet was stocked with all the very best breakfast foods (fresh juices, baked goods, salads, dim sum, live cooking stations and so much more), and we were once again impressed with the coffee (score!).
Beach. Pool. Relax. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
It was time for the ultimate desert adventure, something we’d both been looking forward to as soon as we knew we were coming to Dubai. It took us less than an hour to get to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, where our safari began with Platinum Heritage.
Wind in our hair, we drove through the sand dunes of the desert and spotted exotic wildlife along the way. We, of course, had to jump out and take photos along the way as well, although we ended up covered in sand (and all of our equipment). Despite the cloud cover and wind, it was a truly magnificent experience and we managed to get a good shot or five.
After the safari, we arrived at a Bedouin camp where we spent the rest of the night enjoying the lively atmosphere, an array of activities, Arabic coffee, a traditional dinner and Emerati entertainment. Here we go again, another self-proclaimed ‘pinch me’ moment.
Our final day in Dubai began at the Imperial Beach Club at Atlantis The Palm, where we enjoyed the warm sunshine and almost had a fright over how bitterly cold the water of the Persian Gulf was – almost as freezing as home!
One last breakfast at the Imperial Club Lounge, ‘cause it was just too delicious! We even decided to quickly grab our laptops from our hotel room and retreat back to the Lounge, the perfect spot to get some work done (and not just for the coffee!).
Another day of relaxation meant it was time to take full advantage of the Royal Pool, where we chilled out for most of the afternoon thanks to a late check-out (thanks, Atlantis!).
We hadn’t yet been host to an afternoon tea, so once again we headed back to the Imperial Lounge (I know, I know, but who could say no?) where I filled up on scones with jam and cream, and another cappuccino. Alas, I’m a coffee addict.
It was then time to go back up to our hotel room, pack our suitcases and have one last glance at the beautiful view from our balcony.
You know what goes well with checking-out? A cocktail. And that’s exactly what we did during our last canapés and cocktail hour at the Lounge (again, again, again). Like I said, I love a good hotel Club.
Just when we thought our Dubai trip couldn’t get any better, we attended Cirque de Cuisine at Atlantis The Palm, a culinary entertainment concept that had a wandering from one world famous restaurant to another to enjoy their delicious signature dishes, delicious drinks and live entertainment. We began the night at our personal favourite, Nobu, where we satisfied our sushi craving and then went onto Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay and world famous underwater restaurant, Ossiano (the desert bars there were what dream are made of – oh my goodness!). It truly was a remarkable evening and the perfect ending to a fabulous trip.
We found ourselves back on familiar grounds at Dubai Airport before midnight, where we showered and even got a little shut-eye before we boarded the flight home.