Abu Dhabi is the richest and largest of the seven emirates that together make up the United Arab Emirates, with awe-inspiring culture, powder-white beaches, natural delights and world-class hotels and restaurants that make it the perfect destination for everyone, from honeymooners to families.
Within Abu Dhabi is the nation's green capital, Abu Dhabi City, where industry and financial services form the basis of this globally important business hub. It's not all work, work, work however, as the city and its surrounds are fast becoming a world-class leisure destination, set to rival Dubai's long-established Jumeirah Beach as the region's go-to holiday hotspot. Nowhere is this more apparent than Saadiyat, a sandy island located just 500 metres off the Abu Dhabi coast. As well as boasting some of the region's best beachfront hotels, Saadiyat also features the Gulf's first tidal and ocean golf courses, a world-class shopping and commercial hub and several kilometres of pristine white sand beach.
Alongside the gleaming skyscrapers and five-star resorts, visitors to Abu Dhabi will find a rich culture and history, firmly rooted in the heritage and traditions of Islam, which is evident in the spectacular palaces, mosques and forts found throughout the emirate, as well as the colourful, traditional souks, which sell everything from spices and textiles to handicrafts and carpets. Most spectacular is undoubtedly the world's third-largest mosque Sheikh Zayed, all white domes, crystal chandeliers and a sprawling, hand-woven Persian carpet that stretches out to cover a space for more than 40,000 worshippers. Then there's names such as The Louvre and the soon-to-be-opened Guggenheim on Saadiyat Island, while historians will revel in the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Bida Bint Saud – home to a collection of 5,000-year-old stone tombs.
Beyond the capital lie vast salt flats and gravel plains, which merge into the enigmatic desert landscape of the Empty Quarter. This spectacular sea of sand dunes covers much of the Arabian Peninsula and can be explored on a four-wheel-drive desert tour or camel trek. Towards the Oman border lie the oasis towns of Al-Ain and Liwa Oasis, welcome stop-offs from the desolation of the desert. But venture into the desert itself and you'll find the undulating dunes perfect for evocative camel rides and adventurous days spent sandboarding and quad biking. Nature’s delights continue on Sir Bani Yas Island, where gazelle, giraffe, oryx and even cheetah roam among the 4000-hectares of pristine wilderness, and in coastal forests the dense mangroves provide a stunning backdrop for kayak paddles and wildlife spotting. All of this is made even easier with the 'Extraordinary Abu Dhabi Pass', which is included within your boarding pass when travelling with Etihad. It unlocks great savings on over 50 attractions, restaurants, spas and theme parks.