Hatta has been making headlines this week after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced plans to transform the town into a major tourism destination, with an inland beach, lake and cable-driven mountain railway.
Dubai's mountainous little sister, Hatta is an exclave of the emirate that sits on the border with Oman, and benefits from some fantastic natural scenery and a more laid-back pace of life than the UAE's big cities.
Less than a two-hour drive from Dubai, it’s a good pick for a weekend escape and close enough for a mini-daycation. In winter, Hatta is the go-to spot for hiking, biking, kayaking and adventure, while in summer it's worth a visit for its cooler climes.
And with several new projects in the pipeline, now is the time to go before Hatta becomes a bucket-list destination.
If you're planning a trip out east, here's everything you need to know before you go – from where to stay and what to do when you're there, to where to go for the best local food in town.
Is Hatta in Dubai?
Hatta is part of the Dubai emirate, but it is not located within the city’s main boundaries. Instead, it lies about 130 kilometres south-east of the city, high in the Hajar Mountains. Formerly part of Oman, the town was given to Dubai around 1850 when the Omanis realised that they were no longer able to defend it against Buraimi tribes. These days, it's a popular spot for families living in Dubai to escape to in the summer thanks to its cooler temperatures. Till today, the town retains much of its Omani laid-back pace of life.
How to get there
Getting to Hatta involves a journey of around 90 minutes by car from Dubai and the Sharjah-Kalba route is typically the fastest. From Abu Dhabi, you're looking at a two-and-a-half-hour road trip. If you’re coming by public transport, you'll need to get to Al Sabkha Bus Station in Dubai where you can hop on the E16 bus. The bus takes a little more than two hours to reach Hatta.
Do I need a PCR test to go to Hatta?
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even domestic travel is more complicated. If you're travelling to Hatta, you don't need a PCR test to enter the region, nor to return to Dubai or the capital, thanks to the change in border-crossing rules.
What's the weather like?
Because of its location in the mountains, Hatta’s climate is a few degrees cooler than central Dubai thanks to its higher altitude. While this doesn't make too much of a difference in summer, you will feel it's a little less humid. In winter, it helps to remember that there's a temperature difference, especially if you're staying in one of the mountaintop locations where the evenings can feel quite cold – so don't forget to pack a sweater.
Where to stay in Hatta?
Hatta Caravan Park
As part of the relaunch for 2021, Hatta Resorts and Hatta Wadi Hub extended its overnight stay options with the Hatta Caravan Park, which is being billed as the first luxury caravan park in the region, and home to 11 bespoke caravans with a range of amenities, including a TV, kitchenette and free Wi-Fi access.
Each caravan is designed to house two adults and two to three children, and prices start from Dh1,350 per night.
While there were a few caravans available to book in 2019 for a short time, what's there now is a new experience with more accommodation options and fresh interiors.
Caravans start at Dh1,350 per night; visithatta.com/en
JA Hatta Fort Hotel
The oldest hotel in Hatta, this four-star resort is perfect for a family stay or a romantic break. Rooms and chalets are quaint, in keeping with the rest of the hotel, but you'll get plenty of space for your money. The two outdoor pools are temperature-controlled, so you can take a dip all year round. The Senses spa is a good place to relax and there's plenty of activities to keep the whole family happy, with everything from mini-golf, petanque and archery to air-gun shooting, a zip line and even a maze. There's also an indoor recreation centre with a pool table, air hockey, foosball and more.
Little ones will love the resident deer and fawns who live right beside the kids' covered play area. Picture opportunities await at the top of Hatta Fort Park, about 273 metres up, or in front of the mountain backdrop with the Hollywood-style Hatta sign in the background. The hotel is also dog-friendly, so you can bring your four-legged friends along, although this must be mentioned when booking your stay. The National went along to check out just how pooch-friendly the hotel is.
Rooms start at Dh405; jaresortshotels.com
Damani Lodges Resort
Nestled in a makeshift mountain town, the Damani Lodges are sleekly designed huts that are cosy and simple but very well equipped. You’ll have everything you’d expect from a regular hotel room including housekeeping services, comfy beds, Wi-Fi and modern bathrooms. Standard rooms sleep two adults, standard plus rooms can cater for two adults and a child while the mountain suites sleep a family of four.
The highlight of the stay here is being able to step out of your room on to your private decking area, where you’re totally surrounded by nature. You need a dune buggy to reach the chalets, drivers are on hand 24 hours a day. You can also order food from any of the on-site options and it will be delivered directly to your door.
Rates are from Dh630; the resort closes annually from early May to early October; visithatta.com/en/damani-lodges
Sedr Trailers Resort
If you're looking to really get away from it all, this is the place for you. Nestled high in the mountains, you can only get here by specially approved 4x4 vehicles operated by Sedr Trailers staff. They'll transport you and your luggage up into the mountains and help you get settled in your converted Airstream trailer.
The gleaming silver trailers sleep two adults and one child and come with a kitchen, dining area, bathroom and outdoor terraced area. There's a communal fire pit that the staff will light on a daily basis and a BBQ area if you want to grill your own food or there's an on-site food truck if you'd rather get take out.
Perfectly tranquil, the trailers are located by the banks of the bright blue Hatta Dam. Book a kayaking package if you want to explore the water or simply enjoy being by a lake and surrounded by mountains, this is what Hatta is all about.
Rates start at Dhs695; resort closes annually from early May to early October; visithatta.com
Hatta Dome Park
Hatta Dome Park features 15 dome-shaped, luxury tents with panoramic views of the Hajar Mountains. The tents on-site are all identical in layout and offer the same mountain views. They are 40 square metres in area and come with a full range of amenities, including a television, Wi-Fi and a mini-fridge. Each of the rooms are designed to accommodate up to two adults and two children, with a king-sized bed as well as two single sofa beds. Visitors will also be provided with a private barbecue area and fire pit within a large terrace space.
Rates for Hatta Dome Park start at Dh999. The resort opens seasonally and books up quickly – so try to plan as far in advance as possible. www.visithatta.com
If you're more of a wild spirit, Hatta's dedicated campsite is a good place for you to pitch your own tent. Take in the serene landscapes from the comfort of your own tent, or caravan. Hatta Camping grounds are the perfect spot to bed down for the night, offering easy access to all of the activities in and around Hatta Wadi Hub. There's barbecue areas for toasting marshmallows and nearby food trucks if you'd rather not cook your own food.
Rates from Dh129 per tent on weekdays; www.visithatta.com
The Palm House Hatta
Looking for a farmhouse to call your own? The Palm House Hatta give you exactly that. This converted farmhouse has four bedrooms, a private pool and is a beautiful fusion of modern and tradition. There’s a fully fitted kitchen and dining area, an authentic majlis that comes with chalkboard walls that the kids can scribble on, a games room with a snooker table and a gorgeous palm garden for wandering in.
Rates start from Dhs2,000 (weekdays), Dhs2,500 (weekends)
One of the larger private farm villas in Hatta, Sama Hatta is a three-storey hideout offering views of the Hatta Wadi Hub and surrounding farmland and mountains. There's even some resident camels so you can embrace your farm-life side. Sleeping up to nine people, the stone villa has a pool with a fountain feature, a kitchen and living room, and a sandy garden that's perfect for barbecues.
This beautiful stone style villa is a unique venue located in the heart of the village, within close proximity to the shops and the Hatta Wadi Hub activity park.
Stays from Dh2,000 for up to nine people
Perched on a hilltop with amazing views of the mountains, the luxurious Hatta Terrace offers a contemporary three-bedroom villa that can sleep up to eight adults. There's a fully-equipped kitchen, a private heated or chilled infinity pool and a camping spot and barbecue area. Children are welcome and cribs can be provided, but it's a no-go for anyone looking to bring along their dogs.
From Dh4,000 per night; www.hattaterace.com
Hatta Mountains Lodge
Nestled in the mountains, the aptly named Hatta Mountains Lodge is a modern three-bedroom villa offering fantastic views and plenty of privacy. The lodge is well equipped with a large outdoor terrace and two swimming pools complete with stylish cabana areas for poolside lounging. There's also a children's play area, an aviary, BBQ facilities, outdoor seating and a billiards table. Indoors, there's a large lounge and living area and kitchen space for preparing meals.
From Dh2,000 on weekdays, for up to six people; www.visithatta.com
Hatta Haven is a stylish villa surrounded by views of the Hatta mountains and feature a beautiful outdoor heated pool and an adjacent sunken BBQ pit and seating area. It has three large bedrooms, a kitchen and indoor seating areas and is a great place to stay for families or groups of friends.
Stays from Dh2,200; www.visithatta.com
Happiness Farm Hatta
The Happiness Farm is located less than five minutes further along the Dubai-Hatta Road than JA Hatta Fort Hotel and can be rented on a daily basis. There are four bedrooms, but the farm can sleep groups of up to 16 at a push. The decor is busy but quaint, and children will be happy in the outdoor play area while grown-ups can enjoy the little games room complete with a pool table, air hockey table and a dartboard.
The garden is a great place to while away an afternoon and ideal for enjoying al fresco dining. There's even a tandoor oven for grilling. If you visit at the right time of year, you can pluck fresh fruit right off the trees. It's a great location if you're planning to do some of the activities at Hatta Wadi Hub and the nearby Tanoor Laham is a great option for a traditional Emirati dinner.
Rates average $626 (Dh2,298) per night for the whole farmhouse; www.airbnb.com
Sunrise Farm Hatta
This little farmhouse is a good pick if you want to make the most of Hatta's gorgeous outdoors. As well as an outdoor pool on an elevated platform, there's a huge al fresco majlis with amazing views of the pool, palm trees and mountain range. Inside, there's sleeping space for up to six people, and you can even bring your dog along. There's a small kitchen for prepping meals or you can grill up a feast on the barbecue. If you visit in the colder months, the fire pit area will make sure everyone is warm enough to sit outside and take advantage of the incredible stargazing on offer.
Weekday rates from Dh1,000; weekend rates from Dh1,500; email email@example.com
What to see and do in Hatta
While there's plenty to see and do in Hatta year-round, keep in mind that it's a seasonal destination where things often close or scale back in the summer months. Hatta Wadi Hub and all related activities tend to close from May each year, and reopen in October.
Hatta Wadi Hub
If it's adventure you're after, Hatta Wadi Hub is a must-visit. This purpose-built facility is surrounded by mountains and offers a whole host of adventure and activities. Take your pick from downhill carting, zorbing, a human slingshot, axe throwing, archery, free-fall jumps, adventure rope courses, wall climbing or trampolining. The centre can also arrange kayaking and hiking trails in the nearby landscapes.
Among the new activities for the 2021 season is a 500-metre inflatable obstacle course (the region’s largest) and Rovers, a four-wheel off-road electric scooter experience, which allows guests to explore the rocky mountainous terrains in a new way.
Another addition this season is the introduction of e-bikes by Hatta Mountain Biking at Hatta Wadi Hub. These bikes reduce pedal pushing through the use of automatic forward drive.
Prices vary per activity and the centre closes from May to October; visithatta.com
True adventure seekers can get set to strap in and take in the Hatta scenery from the air. Paragliding experiences are available during the winter season, with 15-minute flights taking participants over the rocky mountains. The experience of floating through the air via a parachute and seeing the world below your feet is one to remember. The activity is for anyone aged 18 or over, but younger children can also take part if they're accompanied by an adult.
Open daily from 10am-6pm, from Dh650 per flight. Bookings via firstname.lastname@example.org
Hatta is one of the best spots in the country for exploring on two wheels. The Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre has developed around 50 kilometres of biking trails spanning a network of various terrains and distances. Colour-coded to reflect the trail's difficulty, beginners can start with the easy trails marked in green while experts will want to tackle the black routes.
Riding is free if you bring your own bike and the trail centre is open 24 hours a day, with free parking, so you can easily leave your car. If you want to hire a bike, or get some expert instruction, the team at Hatta Wadi Hub can help you out. Download the app to help you navigate the trails and don't forget to pause to take in your surroundings – you'll see natural lakes, craggy mountains and deserted grasslands. And if you're keen to make a night of it, you can use the Hatta Trail Camp site where you'll find flat ground, toilets and shower blocks.
Open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year; hattamtb.ae
Horse ride through the mountains
Venture out on horseback for a very different vantage point of the Hatta mountainscape. Hatta Golden Horse offers sunrise and sunset rides on Arabian horses. The rides are suitable for everyone, even if you've never been on a horse before. Riding stops during the summer months and restarts every October.
You have to book at least one day in advance and rides start from Dh100 for a one-hour ride; @hatta_horses
Get active at JA Hatta Fort Hotel
Even if you're not staying at JA Hatta Fort Hotel, you can visit as a day-guest to try some of the activities on offer. The nine-course mini-golf course is ideal for adults and kids alike and is set beside the hotel’s resident deer pen. There's also a giant chessboard, archery and air gun shooting, a climbing wall, zipline and a huge maze.
Most activities are free for hotel guests, fees apply for visitors; jaresorthotels.com
Hatta Honeybee Garden & Discovery Center
One of the exclave's best-kept secrets, Hatta Honeybee Garden is well worth a visit. Best approached via 4x4, or very slowly with any other vehicle, this peaceful garden is the region's first queen bee rearing station. Don some bright yellow beekeeper suits and head into the garden with the experts to learn everything you need to know about bees. As well as getting up close with the insects, you'll see the types of trees that produce honey, various beehives and can opt to take part in candle-making or beehive frame-building sessions.
Tickets are from Dh50 per person; hattahoney.ae
Picnic at Wadi Hatta Park
Pack a picnic and head to Wadi Hatta Park for a family day out. Here, you'll find more than 900 trees, lots of green open spaces, a beautiful mountain backdrop, children's play areas, a running track and pits with sheltered picnic tables. There's also a pretty walkway and lots of water features dotted throughout the park. Didn’t pack your picnic or need a coffee? Head to Al Yamm Cafe where you can sit outside and enjoy great vistas.
Hike through Hatta Mountain Conservation Area
Dubai's only mountain refuge for endangered animals and plants, this region has the largest population of the endangered Arabian tahr in the country. It's also a great hiking spot. Trek through the foothills of the mountains, climbing over rugged terrain. Stop to take a few pictures at Hatta Lake – a striking blue sheet of water amid the sandy-coloured surroundings. As you hike, keep an eye out for the elusive Arabian sand cat. Security clearance from the municipality is required to enter the reserve but the areas around the dams are open to the public.
More information is at Hatta Mountain Conservation
Kayak on the dam
See Hatta from the water with a trip on Hatta Dam. Shockingly blue and surrounded by jagged mountain creeks, this is the ideal place for an afternoon of water-based fun. Hire a kayak, pedal boat or water bike and work up a sweat as you soar across the azure surface. Or book a tour boat with a driver who’ll fill you in on fascinating facts about the region. Even better, you can bring your pup along on the kayak with you. Check ahead if it's open or not, as the activity is seasonal.
Rental prices start at Dh60; hattakayak.com
Visit Hatta Heritage Village
The Hatta Heritage Village is popular with tourists who want to see the not too distant past of life in the Emirates. This restored traditional village is one of the oldest in the country, dating back to about the third century BC. Carefully reconstructed stone houses and water wells sit among two watchtowers, a traditional majlis and a fort. There’s also a nice collection of old photographs detailing traditional life in Hatta, a basket-weaving area and a museum space showcasing old tools and weapons. The Al Sharia palm tree farm next door has a great example of the ancient falaj irrigation system.
Entry is free; visitdubai.com
Find some vintage music
Interestingly, Hatta seems to have a thriving vintage CD and cassette business. There’s more than a handful of tiny music stores in the town, all with faded window posters that are packed floor to ceiling with eclectic music collections. Try Audio Records next to Jabal Hatta Hypermarket if you want to pick up some traditional Khaleeji tunes or fancy giving lesser-known Omani artists a whirl. If you look hard enough, you’ll also find English offerings, typically sold without a track-list which makes for very interesting road trip tune-age.
Are you a bargain hunter? If so, you'll love the random finds available in Jabal Hatta Hypermarket on the Dubai-Hatta Road. Stocking everything from toys, clothes, kitchen equipment, luggage, sweets, groceries, beauty products and more, it's also got some Hatta souvenirs. Not worth a visit on its own, but definitely worth stopping by for any last-minute staycation snacks or purchases such as board games and colourful pool floats from Dh20.
See the world's largest inclined mural
Perhaps the last thing you might expect to see in the middle of the Hatta mountains is some street art. But you can picnic under the world's largest inclined mural, which is a portrait of the founding fathers of the UAE. Located near Hatta Dam, guests staying in the Sedr Trailers Resort will pass the painting on their way to camp. Part of Dubai's Street Art Project, the mammoth image portrays Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
Hike to the Hatta sign
Hatta's Hollywood-style sign sits on one of the highest peaks in the Hajar Mountain range. It's visible from several spots around Hatta, thanks to its huge 60-metre tall letters. Reachable only by foot, you can trek up to the sign from Hatta Wadi Hub. It will take around 30 minutes. At nighttime, look out for the Hatta sign lit up against the night sky.
Visit Hatta Hill Park
Built in 2004, Hatta Hill Park is spread across the mountainside and is a popular spot for picnics and barbecues. There's plenty of space for children to run and play, plus running tracks and sports fields. At the highest point of the mountain park is a tower, which offers great vantage points of the surrounding Hajar Mountain range and the village.
Go birdwatching at Hatta Swan Lake
Not too far from Hatta Heritage Village is Swan Lake, a huge pond that attracts several local birds. From house sparrows and Indian silverbills to kingfishers, herons and swans, birds descend on the water to swim and feed. Bring your binoculars, sit back and relax. It's also a great place for families and picnics. Just be sure to take all your rubbish away with you and don't feed the wildlife. Entry is free and the lake is accessible 24 hours a day.
Where to eat
Located above the pool at JA Hatta Fort Hotel, this place is a good pick for breakfast or lunch. The buffet breakfast comes with fresh honey from the nearby Hatta Honey bee farm. For lunch, take your pick from soup, sandwiches, curries, pastas and other international dishes. Little ones have their own menu to chose from.
Located inside JA Hatta Fort Hotel; call 04 809 9333 for reservations
Hatta’s most upscale restaurant offers a nicely relaxed atmosphere. Located inside the JA Hatta Fort Hotel, it’s open for dinner only and the menu has an eclectic collection of dishes including a seafood platter, lobster thermidor, steaks, curries and more. There’s also a separate vegetarian menu.
Located inside JA Hatta Fort Hotel; call 04 809 9333 for reservations
Sports Athletic Restaurant & Cafeteria
Don’t expect anything fancy at Sports Athletic, but do expect to get some bargain bites. Located on the Dubai-Hatta Road, the menu reads a bit like a fusion of every fast-food outlet you can think of – burgers, sandwiches, french fries, fried chicken, shawarma, noodles and biryani. Prices start from only Dh10 and the portions are mammoth.
Located on the Dubai-Hatta Road
Hatta Wild Cafe
You'll find this funky spot inside Hatta Wadi Hub, serving up some of the best coffee in town. As well as a wide range of speciality coffee, there's also light bites, pastries and desserts as well as delicious smoothies and milkshakes. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has been spotted having coffee here, so you know you're in good company.
Inside Hatta Wadi Hub; @hattawildcafe
Tanoor Lahm Restaurant
If you’re looking for traditional Emirati food, you could do worse than this cosy cafe. Just beyond the JA Hatta Fort Hotel, Tanoor Lahm is nondescript and unpretentious. It serves lentil soup, kebabs, and chicken or lamb tanoor that’s inspired by traditional cooking methods wherein meat is roasted underground for at least 12 hours. Don’t let the classroom-style chairs and plastic tablecloths put you off, this place is well worth a visit for meat eaters and the prices are reasonable.
Inside Hatta Heritage Village you'll find Al Hajarain, an authentic Emirati restaurant serving local dishes including biryani, fattoush, machboos, and pulav. Set in the tranquil and historical area of Shari'a in Hatta, it's a good spot to get in touch with the region's culture. There's a strong focus on using local ingredients, and prices are very reasonable too. In the winter months, you can opt to sit outdoors on the terrace for the best views. And if you have little ones who are fussy eaters, there's also international options on the menu.
Al Beri Cafe
Opposite Wadi Hatta Park next to the lake, Al Beri Cafe is a great place to stop for a huge variety of coffees, teas, hot and cold drinks, ice cream and more. The home-made virgin mojitos at this food-truck style cafe are the thirst quencher you'll need on a hot day.