Most of our perception of UAE (or any other ‘gulf-country’) would be like – bustling mega-cities amidst vast spans of arid desert. But that is not entirely true. UAE, in general, and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, in particular, has plenty of attractions that are 100% natural and pretty unique (like the Fossil Dunes). And one of those spectacular places in Abu Dhabi is mount Jebel Hafeet. At an elevation of 1249 m (4,098 ft), Jebel Hafeet is the highest peak in Abu Dhabi and the 2nd highest in UAE (the highest being Jebel Jais). This, along with many other reasons (elaborated below) makes a road trip to Jebel Hafeet high on your UAE bucket-list.
Although being among the tallest peaks in the ‘gulf-region’, Jebel Hafeet is actually famous for something else – the drive! The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road has been rated as the greatest driving road in the world by Edmunds.com and is also frequently listed among the top 10 best roads in the world by The National, Lonely Planet and many more. And this was one of the main reasons why we wanted to check it out. To know more about this Al Ain mountain and why must you too visit this amazing attraction, keep reading.
About Jebel Hafeet
Jebel Hafeet is a 1249 m tall mountain on the border of the United Arab Emirates and Oman. In Arabic (جَبَل حَفِيْت), the name literally translates to “empty mountain” or “barren mountain”.
Why visit Jebel Hafeet?
- A spectacular sunset
- A serene sunrise
- A breath-taking view of the city
- And above all, the absolutely amazing drive up the mountain (more about this is mentioned below)
Where is Jebel Hafeet?
Jebel Hafeet is located to the north of Al Ain city, in the Eastern Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (google maps location).
How to reach there?
When you are in UAE and if you have a valid driving license, reaching any place is fairly simple. The road network in UAE is immaculate, giving you a wonderful driving experience everywhere.
Jebel Hafeet can be reached from all the major cities of UAE – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain etc. Below I have mentioned the routes that you can take to reach there from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain.
Note: the best way is to drive in your own (or rented) car, but there are also some private-bus service available from Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi to Jebel Hafeet
Jebel Hafeet is just a couple of hours drive from Abu Dhabi city. In fact, it actually took us less than 2 hours. And that is due to the Abu Dhabi – Al Ain highway (E22 expressway). E22 is the only highway in UAE that has a speed limit of 160 km/hr (~100 miles/hr), all other highways being 140 km/hr. The ride was fabulous!
Al Ain city to Jebel Hafeet
If you are already in Al Ain city, then the top of the mount is merely a 30-40 mins drive!
Dubai to Jebel Hafeet
It takes slightly more than 2 hours from Dubai to Jebel Hafeet.
When is the best time to visit?
Just like any other place in UAE, the best time to visit Jebel Hafeet is from October to February. It’s not just that the weather is awesome during that time of the year, but also that the sky remains super clear sky (due to lesser dust-storms or sand-storms), giving you better photos!
If you plan to go there in December-January, make sure to carry some winter wear, as the temperature falls below 15°C after sunset.
Things to do at Jebel Hafeet
For me, the prime attraction of our entire Al Ain trip was the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road. Trust me, it is 12 km of pure awesomeness! With 60 turns (many of them being hairpin beds) and three lanes (two climbing and one descending), the road ranks amongst the top 10 best drives in the world.
The best part of have 2 ascending lanes is that you can be on the rightmost lane and peacefully drive while enjoying the view, without obstructing others’ way.
Trivia: the climax chase of the Bollywood film Race (2008) was shot on this mountain road.
Jebel Hafeet Night Photography
If you are also a photography enthusiast, then our suggestion would be that you time your journey so as to reach the top of Jebel Hafeet around 4 PM. This will give you ample time to find a good spot and set-up your camera to capture one of the most breathtaking sunsets you will ever see.
And after dusk, once the sky gets darker, then comes the real essence of Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road – a chain of sodium-vapour lamps light up the entire road like a golden necklace. And the hairpin bends become ideal for long-exposure and light-trail photography!
Jebel Hafeet Park & Hot Springs
At the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet is a lush green park – Jebel Hafeet Park, also known as Green Mubazzarah Park. The park is spacious and perfect for an evening-outing. These are also campsites available in and around the park for campers!
The unique thing about the park is – Al Ain Hot Springs! You can dip your feet in the water, which gives a very relaxing feel. But, be careful as the water can be really hot at times. Plenty of localities spend their time here to unwind.
Jebel Hafeet Desert Park
The mountain is actually a part of a reserved desert park – The Jebel Hafeet National Park. It includes the Hafit Graves, Mezyad Fort, and related oases. The aim was to preserve and restore the fauna, flora, natural environment, and geology of the place, but at the same time, to attract tourists so that they can learn about the area.
Al Ain Oasis
Located in the centre of Al Ain city and covering 1200 hectares, Al Ain Oasis is one of the largest oases in the UAE.
Our Road Trip to Jebel Hafeet from Abu Dhabi
Due to the global pandemic situation, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi imposed travel restrictions for going out and coming in. And thus, travelling outside the Emirate became cumbersome. As a result, we decided to explore the Emirate of Abu Dhabi itself, and after a weekend at Al Wathba Desert’s Fossil Dunes, we planned a road trip to Jebel Hafeet on the next weekend.
And to be honest, I was really excited about driving on E22 expressway and ascending the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road. I guess this was primarily because it would be my first time driving on a mountain road. And, also that I was looking forward to try and hit 150 km/hr on E22!! (kiddish, I know 😉 )
We started from Abu Dhabi city around 10.30 am and within 2 hours we reached Al Ain city. Driving on E22 expressway was a satisfying and fulfilling experience in itself.
We took a lunch break in Al Ain city. We tried the traditional chicken mandi and stew with roti, and both of them were super yummmyy!
Once re-energized, we started on our journey to the top of Jebel Hafeet. Well, to be honest, I was a bit nervous in the beginning since it was my first mountain drive, but once we started ascending, the confidence grew and the nervousness vanished. After a few minutes, I was really enjoying the drive and the view!
The top of Jebel Hafeet is basically a huge parking area and a small cafeteriea. After roaming there a few minutes (basically checking out the best spot to setup my camera), I pulled out my tripod to captute a sunset timelapse!
Other points of interest around Jebel Hafeet
Al Ain city, only 30 km from Jabel Hafeet, has plenty to place to visit and things to do.
- Al-Jahili Fort
- Al Ain Zoo
- Hili Archaeological Park
- Al Ain National Museum
- Wadi Adventure Park
Hotels near Jebel Hafeet
- Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet – this one is right on top of Jebel Hafeet!
- Green Mubazzarah Chalets – at the foothills
- Ayla Grand Hotel – right in the centre of Al Ain city, highly rated and highly recommended
- Hili Rayhaan by Rotana – we stayed here, wonderful experience – highly recommended.
- Aloft Al Ain
In the end…
Overall, a road trip to Jebel Hafeet one of the best we have done in UAE. The weather, the road and the ambience make it a wonderful experience. We would highly recommend you to visit there!
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