Destination Dubai

With plenty of sparkle at every turn, Dubai certainly knows how to shine, but look further than the world-class restaurants, designer shopping and spectacular hotels and you will find a city that also has an abundance of unique charm.

Take advantage of the varied landscapes to enjoy extreme sports, have dinner on the beach, or simply take the opportunity to wander around this much-talked about destination, making your own mind up about what exactly makes it tick and forms its universal appeal. There are endless options when it comes to experiencing Dubai and here are a few ideas:

See the sands

The Dubai sand dunes are truly magnificent and what better way than to marvel at their riot of colour than to test your skill on a desert safari? By hiring a jeep, you have a unique vantage point and can enjoy an action adventure while taking in the spectacular landscape which abounds.

There are a variety of operators organising guided and self-drive tours and these can be taken at various times throughout the day and evening. The high temperatures mean that it is important to arrive fully equipped with sun protection and water, even if you are likely to be in an air conditioned vehicle for much of the time.

Going for gold

The souks throughout the city are world famous, with gold being a particular attraction and available at good prices, providing you barter. The Gold Souk is great for all that sparkles and you can take a water taxi to Deira to explore the more traditional souks where spices, jewellery, clothing and much more is on offer for a bargain price. Trading hours are generally 10am until 10pm and it pays to shop around, with competition keeping prices reasonable.

Surprise yourself

For fifteen years, the city has celebrated summer with its own flamboyant spectacle; the Dubai Summer Surprises, usually held in mid-June. Since its beginnings in 1998, the city has pulled out all the stops to host a festival across its beaches, infrastructure and shopping centres. With a festival atmosphere that is infectious, head to one of the many shows put on or avail of excellent discounts across the entertainment scene.

Learn to ski

Yes it may seem bizarre, but in the land of desert and sand dunes, there are also opportunities to ski, principally with Ski Dubai an indoor resort in the Mall of the Emirates. With 22,500 square metres, the ski area is immense and even has visiting penguins! Lessons are limited and should be booked in advance.

Explore the deep sea

There is no pretty reef to explore in Dubai, but it does instead boast some incredible wreck diving opportunities suited to the more experienced diver. When booking dives, make sure you visit a PADI registered school such as The Pavilion Dive Centre, where instructors are qualified and will help you get the most out of the experience.

At around 50 euros a dive, prices are perhaps higher than those at other dive sites across the world, but you will not be disappointed. With strong currents and fairly low visibility, wreck diving is not for amateurs, but dedicated divers will be rewarded with some wrecks dating back to before the first Gulf War.

Take to the skies

There really is no better way to see every part of the city than to experience it from above, while taking a once in a lifetime helicopter trip. Offering panoramic views, this exhilarating trip takes either 15 or 25 minutes and takes in the coastline and city from a vantage point that is second to none. Don't forget your camera!

Scale dizzying heights

Whether you love or hate it, there's no denying the impressive nature of the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which stands tall at 828m, dominating the skyline. From the 124th floor, visitors can enjoy jaw-dropping views and take in a range of exhibits explaining the building, which features 160 floors and was constructed using more than 26,000 glass panels. Allow at least an hour and purchase tickets in advance to benefit from fast tracked admission.

Experience Zuma

Dubai is not short of exceptional restaurants, but widely regarded as one of the very best is Zuma, a Japanese eaterie where reservations are essential. The unique atmosphere, mouthwatering cuisine and vibrant surroundings make for a memorable dining experience. Zuma can be found in downtown Dubai, in the heart of the international financial district and once you have arrived, you won't regret it!

Messing around on the river

There are many ways to relax during a visit to Dubai and one of the best is to take advantage of a river cruise, such as the Bateaux Dinner Cruise, which takes in the major sights and affords great views of Dubai Creek whilst also providing exceptional food and drinks. Sailing takes place daily and guests should be aware that smart casual dress is mandatory. An adult ticket costs around  £69, while child prices are less.

Shop until you drop

No trip to Dubai on holiday is complete without at least a brief overview of its incredible shopping opportunities and especially those at Dubai Mall, where even the most reluctant consumer can be gently persuaded to part with their money and feel a sense of awe. This five-floor, man-made paradise has over 1,265 shops and even has its very own ice rink and aquarium vying for attention. Allow a few hours to explore this vast space and see if you can resist its allure.

So there it is in a nutshell  a city that never sleeps, yet has the energy to keep going at an astounding pace, living life to the full and demanding that its many enthralled visitors do exactly the same, making memories and having the time of their life!

David Wilcox is a travel writer for TravelSupermarket. He combines his passion for writing and travelling to talk about all things relating to travel.

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