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Expat Panda’s 3 hidden & inexpensive gems in Dubai

December 13, 2018 5 Comments

When it comes to visiting Dubai- the United Arab Emirate’s most famous emirate- people generally visit the same expensive places to take the same repetitive photos and have the same customary experiences. While I am not insulting anyone who chooses to do those things, because they are certainly necessary especially for 1st time visitors, there are alternatives for those who wish to see different elements of Dubai! Here are 3 of Dubai’s hidden gems for you to explore on your next trip here!


  1. Al Barari Farm (Nadd Al Sheba)

When I first looked at the photos of this place, I was stunned to find out that it was within the city limits of Dubai. Just look at it!


Nestled within a lush surrounding of greenery and streams, Al Barari has a spacious restaurant which you can visit for a sumptuous meal. Afterwards, you can stroll around and take photos which will shock people when they realize that you’re in Dubai. Its a peaceful place where one can hear birds chirping and water flowing which makes for a good escape from the frenetic pace of Dubai.


I first visited this place with 2 other bloggers and not a single criticism of the food or setting was made (amazingly enough!). I highly recommend going for breakfast and do make a reservation because they get busy on weekends.


2. Hatta Dam (Hatta)

When I first posted a photo of Hatta Dam on my Instagram, people thought I was in New Zealand! While not that far away from Dubai, Hatta Dam is around 1.5 hours out of the city but is still considered part of Dubai. Dubai undoubtedly has that WOW factor which many people crave when they  travel regarding the towering skyscrapers and stunning night lights. However Hattta Dam gives you that wow factor in terms of the natural scenery.


The dam snugly sits at the bottom of a mountainous valley and while swimming is prohibited, you can do all sorts of surface water sports from kayaking to a paddle boat (Between 60-120AED). It’s an extremely relaxing way to spend an afternoon on the water. Bring sunscreen & cash with you as well as snacks as there aren’t many eating facilities close to the dam.

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Note: You will need to take the E102 Sharjah-Kalba Road via E611 Emirates Road route and not the E44 which crosses through Oman and is only open for GCC citizens.


3. Turtle Lagoon (Madinat Jumeirah)

I always recommend Madinat Jumeirah to people who visit Dubai because its so picturesque. It’s a complex of stores, hotels and restaurants built around canals. One of these canals serves as a home for rehabilitated turtles at the Jumeirah Al Naseem Lagoon. The turtles swim freely through the canals all day so its a hit and miss as to whether you will spot them or not but the surrounding areas are packed with good restaurants so its worth a meal at Tasha’s or Black Tap and then have a walk around the lagoon to see the turtles. Jumeirah rehabilitates turtles with physical ailments and releases them back into the Arabian Gulf once they are well.


Note: Check the official page so you can chance when is their feeding time and where you can find them (they move depending on the time of year).




Bonus Destination:


The Green Planet (City Walk)

While technically not off the beaten path and located adjacent to a popular mall, The Green Planet is still a unique Dubai attraction that is often overlooked by visitors simply because they don’t know about it. Its actually a large bio-dome and once you walk in, you get an exotic sensory experience of walking through a rainforest- even the temperature and humidity is controlled to feel exactly as you would if you were in a natural rainforest.


Birds fly through the entire building and you may come across other critters as you wander through the biodome. Its definitely something worth experiencing if you don’t think you will have an  opportunity to go to an actual rainforest. Even if you’re not into nature or creatures, the photo opportunities here are endless.



Note: The Green Planet is the only site on this list which isn’t free and costs 95AED per adult and 70AED for children under 12.



What you do when you come for a holiday to the UAE is entirely up to you, but I would like to think that should you want to move past the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, you can some alternative suggestions on this blog!

Do you have any recommendations for more off the beaten path places I should visit in Dubai? Let me know below!



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  • FrauReis December 13, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you for your post. My family and I are visiting next week and would be spending Christmas in Dubai. It’s our first time, while I’m excited about the glitzy part I would love to see other parts too. Will be checking out the farm and the biodome for sure. Thank you

  • Riana Ang-Canning December 16, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    Your photos are so beautiful! I’ve never been to Dubai but would definitely want to check out these places when I eventually get there. Thanks for the tips!

    PS: You may want to look into your site design. I’m on a laptop (unsure if it’s different on mobile). But when scrolling through your post, the menu bar expands and drops down to cover about half of the webpage and it doesn’t move. So it means having to read your post with only half of the screen available. Just thought you’d want to know!

    • expatpanda December 17, 2018 at 5:35 am

      Hi Riana, I am glad you enjoyed my post about Dubai. Thanks for letting me know about the layout of my site, I am not sure why it was doing that (it isn’t supposed to!).

  • switz3865 January 20, 2019 at 7:36 am

    The turtle lagoon and Green Earth look amazing! I’ll be sure to stop by when I’m in Dubai in November! Thanks for sharing! Much better suggestions than Trip Advisor!

    • expatpanda January 20, 2019 at 7:37 am

      That’s a wonderful compliment! I am glad you find my suggestions useful 🙂

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