Liwa desert safari – Explore the empty quarter desert

August 16, 2020 Updated

The Liwa Desert is a part of the world's largest sand desert , the Empty Quarter. Don't let the eerie name scare you off from exploring this exciting place. If you are quite skeptical, read this comprehensive guide that's packed with tips and information from Arabiers' Liwa Desert guides.

01

The Empty Quarter desert

As the world continues to develop, one of the places that still stay true to its origins is the Empty Quarter desert with its infinite dunes and untouched beauty. More than 7 decades ago, before oil was discovered in UAE, the famous explorer Wilfred Thesiger traversed the sands of Liwa. His book, the Arabian Sands in 1959 mentioned the beauty that emanates from the silence and the towering dunes that add to the personality of the empty Quarter. The only thing that has changed within these 70 years is that Liwa is more explorable now than it was back then. Enjoy a 90 minute drive from Abu Dhabi to off-road amidst the famous dunes, walk through the lush Liwa Oasis or stargaze under the Liwa desert's unpolluted sky. A trip to UAE would be incomplete without a visit to one of the world's most exalted terrains.

02

Travelling to Liwa

Self-driving to Liwa

If your plan is to just visit Liwa desert without off-roading across the dunes you can drive there by normal car. However, there are no Liwa-based operates that offer off-roading experiences to the Empty Quarter. If your main goal is to off-road to the Empty Quarter, it is advisable to book an off-roading experience from Dubai or Abu Dhabi.


Travelling from How far to – Tal Mor'eb How many minutes
From Abu Dhabi (AUH Airport) 242 km 2 h 25 min
From Dubai (DXB Airport) 362 km 3 h 30 min
From Hatta (Hatta Fort Hotel) 476 km 4 h 40 min
From Ras Al Khaima (RAK Airport) 458 km 4 h 23 min
From Sharjah (SHJ Airport) 386 km 3 h 43 min
From Ajman (Mall Ajman) 392 km 3 h 51 min
From Fujairah (Fujairah Beach) 469 km 4 h 34 min
From Al Ain 338 km 3 h 11 min

Tour operators & 4x4 transfers

There are certain reputed tour operators and guides that offer morning, afternoon, evening and overnight Liwa Safari experiences. These operators also provide pick up from all parts of UAE.


Public transports

From Abu Dhabi

Bus services are offered from Abu Dhabi's Central bus stand near Al Wahda Mall to Liwa's Mezairaa Bus station. Operating times from Abu Dhabi are 9.20 am and 9.00 pm which reach Liwa at 12.49 pm and 12.29 am respectively. Buses leave Liwa's Mezairaa station at 5.10 am and 4.15 pm, reaching Abu Dhabi at 8.38 am and 7.43 pm respectively. A one way ticket costs 30 AED.

Timings are subject to change and please make sure you call toll free number of AD Trafic department, 80088888 to double confirm the timings

From Dubai

There are no direct buses from Dubai to Liwa. You can board a bus to Abu Dhabi from Dubai and then go to Liwa by bus. There are 3 buses operating from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.

  • E100 - Al Ghubaiba Bus Station to Abu Dhabi central bus station (Main station near Al Wahda mall)
  • E101 - IBN Battuta Bus Station to Mussafah Shabiya Bus Station, Abu Dhabi
  • E102 - IBN Battuta Bus Station to Mussafah Shabiya Bus Station, Abu Dhabi

Timings are subject to change and please make sure you call Dubai RTA call center toll free number 800900 to double confirm the timings Even if you take a bus from

Even if you take a bus from Abu Dhabi to Liwa Mezairaa station you can visit the major city attractions and other event venues. Mentioned below are the popular Liwa attractions, their distance from Mezairaa station and the cost of transport from the station to the attractions.

  • To Moreeb dune festival facility - 26 km & Approx 30 minutes ride (Will be costing approx 55-60 AED)
  • To Liwa Oasis - 82 km & Approx 60 minutes ride (160-170 AED)
  • To Liwa fort - 82 km & Approx 60 minutes ride (160-170 AED)

Taxis are available at the bus station. But they are costly because most attractions are far from the bus station. Budget Travelers who prefer travelling by local taxi or buses are advised to opt for rental or book a transfer with a local tour operator to save money.

Taxi

Mentioned below are the taxi fares in Liwa for the timings 6.00 am to 10.00 pm and 10.00 pm to 6.00 am.

6 am to 10 pm 10 pm to 6 am
1.82 AED per km 1.82 /km per km
Flag-fall 5 AED Flag-fall 5.5 AED
Booking 4 AED Booking 5 AED

03

Where to stay in Liwa

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort By Anantara

2019 Travelers' Choice

Inspired by a desert mirage, the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab is nestled in the midst of the Liwa desert far away from civilization. From its arabesque exterior structure to the interior details, everything will transport you to a typical desert fairytale setting. Apart from offering stunning views of the desert, the resort offers gym, outdoor pool, tennis court and spa facilities. The interior features mellow tones and lush textures to bring out the luxury desert feel. The resort's many suites are equipped with sliding glass doors that overlook the desert panorama. Some of the other luxuries on offer are a rain shower, deep bath and pillow menu. The adventurous should drop by the resort's Desert Excursion Centre organises off-roading, camel trekking, desert walks, archery, mountain biking and more. Those who are vacationing with kids can make use of the kids club to take some time off from parenting and enjoy a romantic evening in the desert, experience a rejuvenating massage in the Anantara Spa or take a dip in the resort's vast outdoor pool.

Phone: +971 2 886 2088

Visit Qasr Al Sarab site

[email protected] / [email protected]

Resort Tilal Liwa Hotel - Madinat Zayed

A worthy contender in Liwa's list of top accomodations, don't think less of it because of it's 4 star badge. Other than the breathtaking views of the Empty Quarter, the resort's infinity pool and sunbathing terrace are a hit among it's guests. The spacious air-conditioned rooms of Tilal Liwa resort sport an Arabesque decor with certain rooms having furnished balconies that overlook either the desert, the pool or the garden. All rooms are equipped with satellite TV and toiletries. The resort has 2 restaurants that serve local and international fare. The Al Liwan exudes a laid-back atmosphere where diners can enjoy views of the lush garden. For those who enjoy live cooking, Al Badiya's open kitchen will be a hit. Other activities on offer include sand boarding, desert safaris and steam baths.

Phone: +971 2 894 6111

https://www.danathotels.com/zayedcity/tilalliwahotel

04

Liwa desert safari offers

Liwa morning desert safari


The private morning Liwa desert safari is an ideal option for travelers on layovers or on brief visits to UAE. This Safari tour offers sand boarding in the desert dunes, dune bashing and spotting the unique Liwa camels. This tour can be tailored according to the guests requirements and time availability.

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Liwa overnight desert safari


Team up with an experienced Liwa desert guide and explore the Liwa desert in multiple ways. The Gulf region's largest desert is an amazing place to enjoy an overnight desert safari package. Start the experience with a thrilling desert drive that is followed by a visit to a Liwa camel farm. Here you can see and photograph a species of camel specific only to Liwa desert, the black Liwa camels. After a memorable sunset view absorb the desert's quiet and calm atmosphere at night as you stargaze and devour a scrumptious BBQ dinner. Wake up your mind and body with a sunrise view and Arabic coffee followed by breakfast. Return back to your hotel after a laid back dune drive.

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Full day Liwa desert safari


Follow your skilled Liwa driver-guide into the outskirts of the Empty Quarter's Liwa desert. Highly advised not to visit alone for first time visitors, the Liwa desert is packed with gigantic dunes and shifting sands which you will explore in this Full day safari. Experience dune bashing, visit a camel farm where you can spot Liwa's signature black camels and take part in so many other activities that will etch some amazing memories into your mind.

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Luxury Liwa overnight desert safari – Camp nujum & Arabiers


Organized by Arabiers' desert experts, this overnight Liwa desert safari includes a camping experience in camp Nujum. Your tour will start from Dubai or Abu Dhabi all the way until Liwa's gigantic dunes. Activities included in this Safari are the dune bashing in Rub Al Khali and visit to Liwa Camel Farm after which you will arrive at the Qasr Al Sarab desert resort. From there travel by camel to camp Nujum where you can view the beauty of a desert sunset. Observe watching traditional activities like falconry and saluki hunting. Additional activities that guests can enjoy are archery, sand boarding and horse riding. Arabic style barbecue and food cooked in the live cooking station will be your dinner for the night. This is an amazing opportunity to experience the traditional spirit of the desert Emirate.

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Self-drive Liwa desert safari


This self drive Liwa Safari is a good way to try something new and starts with a pick up by your Liwa desert guide. Enjoy a 3 hour long drive to the Liwa desert, stop by the Liwa Oasis and the camel farm. Upon reaching the Liwa dunes your guide will teach you the ropes on how to drive over the dune. After you are confident enjoy a unique kind of thrill as you manuever the vehicle over the world's largest dune under the watchful eye of our guide.

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Liwa sunset Champagne


Take a break from the tumult of the Abu Dhabi metropolis as you escape into the Empty Quarter's Liwa desert. Begin the experience with a thrilling note as you dune bash over Liwa's gigantic sand dunes. By the time you reach the summit of the world's largest sand dune your adrenaline levels will be soaring. Relax in the comfortable Arabic setup with carpets and floor cushions. Anticipate and savor the sunset with a flute of Champagne. You can also choose to visit Liwa fort and Liwa Oasis. This Safari can also be customised by adding a meal at the breathtaking Qasr Al Sarab Resort.

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Liwa camel trekking


Liwa doesn't offer any Camel trekking safaris like those offered in Dubai and Abu Dhabi desert. However, there is a 14-day camel trek expedition that is held annually. Organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center,the expedition's sixth meet up was held in October 2019 at the Abu Dhabi international Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition. Over 700 individuals registered for the expedition that starts from Liwa and ends at the Heritage Village by HHC in Global Village. The trek is led by the CEO of HHC. The previous meetup of the camel trek set records with trekkers covering a total of 700 kilometres by camelback over a span of 10 hours per day. The individuals who take part in this Expedition are nicknamed as the desert knights because of their determination and their craving to experience the Emirati heritage.

Liwa desert biking


Desert biking organized by Qasr Al Sarab Resort by Anantara allows you to explore the sand dunes at a relaxed pace. You will be given a fat bike, a type of bicycle with fat tyres adapted to ride across the desert terrain that is suitable for beginners and advanced riders. You can pedal to the summit of the dunes and come reeling down, cycle past desert villages and stop when you come across a herd of camels. Individuals 14 years and above can choose from a variety of trek routes.

Liwa desert luxury Private Desert Dinner


If you want to enjoy some private time in the desert, the suitable option for you will be the Private Desert Dinner and Liwa desert safari organized by the Qasr Al Sarab desert resort. Get cozy in your private candlelit dining area on the summit of the dunes with a private butler at your service. Diner can be a choice of Middle Eastern or international cuisine or you can go the extra mile with a customized dinner menu (which can be specified at the time of booking). Before your dinner you will enjoy a dune bashing session on a 4x4,stop at a camel farm and witness the sunset. You will also be able to visit the Liwa Oasis and Liwa Fort.

05

Comparing UAE deserts

Deserts Unique and special for Facilities and special resorts How far from Abu Dhabi City (From grand mosque) How far from Dubai city (Dubai mall)
Liwa Desert
  • Part of the Empty Quarter
  • Home to the world's largest sand dune

Home for reputed Qasr Al Sarab desert resort
No desert camps

2 hours 3 hours
Al Faya Desert
  • Mountain backdrop with Red sand
Home to quad biking spots, dune buggy spots and a few base camps 2.5 hours 1 hour
Al Khatim desert
  • Home to numerous mega dunes
  • Abu Dhabi's most popular desert

Famous for the Arabian Nights village and various desert camps

40 minutes 2 hours
Al Awir
  • The hosting place for evening dinner and entertainment show for Dubai Desert Safari

Houses various desert camps offering a range of qualities

40 minutes 2 hours
Lehbab

The spot for Dune driving, quad biking and dune buggy riding offered in Dubai desert safari

Numerous dune buggy and quad biking spots
No resorts

37 minutes 2 hours
Mlehia desert The spot for overnight stay, dune driving, quad biking and dune buggy riding for Sharjah desert safari guests The Mleiha Archaeological Centre and Mleiha desert camp are located here 1 hour 2.5 hours
Al wathba desert Hosting ground for Camel Racing Festival, Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival, Al Wathba Fossil Dunes, Al Wathba cycling track, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve & horse riding The Jumeirah Al Wathba desert resort is situated here 40 minutes 2 hours
Dubai desert conservation reserve The first national park in UAE to encounter the Arabian Oryx. Al Maha luxury desert resort and tour operators (Alpha tours, Arabian Adventures,Lama tours and Platinum heritage) are situated here. 2 hours 40 minutes

06

Safety and accidents

Facts about the liwa desert accidents

  1. 1. Speed can sound fun but it is actually quite deadly, especially in a desert terrain. Most advertisements display individuals making sudden manouevers and drifting their dune buggies, quad bikes or 4x4. These moves are performed by professionals and should not be attempted by novices who aren't familiar with the terrain.
  2. 2. Some desert guides in Liwa tend to drive recklessly. If you come across any you are advised to immediately abort the trip for your own safety and inform your tour operator or lodge a complaint with the tourism police at the numbers +97128002626 and +97125127777
  3. 3. If you are experiencing the desert safari with kids make sure to buckle up the kids in a baby seat during dune bashing sessions and keep them in your line of site at all times.

Basic safety guidelines for Liwa desert

Camping in the Liwa desert might seem like a walk in the park but there are so many safety guidelines that have to be followed to ensure the safety of the campers and the environment. To avoid any fire related accidents make sure your guide brings along a fire extinguisher and first aid kits. Heaters and and lights should be placed at a distance from the tent material and should not be left switched on when the camper is not inside the tent. Camping novices and solo travelers are advised to join camping groups whereas advanced campers can set camp a bit further as long as they are aware of all measures and travel with a group of friends who are also educated in camping related practices.

The tourism police Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Department of Transport advise all visitors to drive their quad bikes or vehicles safely. Anyone who fails to do so will be facing fines. Visitors who are driving are also advised to refrain from using their phones or avoid any driving distractions while driving. Keeping a safe distance between the other vehicles, driving at a safe speed within the mentioned limits,using low-beam lights and maintaining a clean glass/mirror are some of the other safety tips given out by the Abu Dhabi department of Transport.

Individuals taking part in quad biking are required to take the assistance of an expert when choosing their quad bike. They should also make sure to wear a sturdy helmet and drive in designated areas. Performing stunts with the quad bike, driving fast and when tired are all No-Nos.

07

Luxury Liwa desert safaris

Currently, all Arabiers' Luxury Liwa desert safaris take place at the renowned Qasr Al Sarab desert resort in Liwa. The resort is a perfect blend between luxury and cultural beauty that seamlessly integrates with the desert environment. The location is ideal for families, couples and solo travelers. This Safari begins with a pickup from any corner of UAE. The first activity will be dune driving in the dunes of the empty Quarter. You will also stop by the Liwa Oasis and a Liwa camel farm where you can see the Liwa camel species. The second part of the tour begins when your guide drives you to the Qasr Al Sarab desert resort where you can choose to stay the night or enjoy a delicious dinner.

Click here to see Virtual tour of Qasr Al Sarab

These are the Luxury Liwa desert safaris that are offered currently

01

Luxury overnight desert safari

Book now

02

Liwa desert luxury Private Desert Dinner

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8

Climates in liwa

The UAE is dominated by a desert climate and a journey to the Liwa desert needs to be well planned with the climate in mind. You need to meticulously research which months and days are ideal for a pleasant Liwa desert experience and plan your trip accordingly. Summer in UAE which starts from May and goes till September is characterized by increased humidity levels and hot winds that result in unbearable heat in the Liwa desert.

Insider tip

  • 'When to visit Liwa?' is a question asked by many with a simple answer. Climate-wise, winter months from September to April (take a look at the temperature chart below) are good for not just desert safaris but all kinds of outdoor activities. However, hotel rates and flight tickets are very costly during these months. If you are a budget traveler then the best time to visit will be the summer months as hotel fares and flight rates are at its cheapest but the climate will be unbearably hot. You can bag a few good deals at the end of April or end of September as temperature is manageable and so are the hotel fares and flight rates.
  • If you don't like much crowds in the sightseeing spots and wish for a low crowd level in the desert too then plan your safari on a weekday. Desert safaris in the weekends (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) cater not only to tourists but also local Emiratis and expats residing in the UAE.
Weather vs Hotel Prices Jan Feb Mar Apr Average Temperature (0F) Average Hotel Prices May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec 74.8 53.2 55.8 60.4 66.4 73.0 76.6 81.7 83.7 78.1 71.2 63.5 87.1 78.3 57.4 96.4 104.2 106.7 107.6 103.3 101.1 92.1 83.5 76.3

9

Events in Liwa

Liwa's most famous and anticipated event is the Liwa Tel Moreeb Festival that is attended by the owners of the region's most powerful four wheelers and bikes. The festival consists of many activities like drag racing, bike races,Motorcross track challenge, horse racing, camel racing, freestyle drifting,classic cars competition and more. The showstopper of the event is the climb to the summit of the world's largest sand dune, the Tel Moreeb dune. It's name translates to 'the terrifying mountain' which is a fitting name for its 300 meter height and 50° angle.

Insider tip

  • If your visit to UAE falls between December 26 and January 11 then you can experience this adventurous event along with your desert safari. You will visit the Rub Al Khali desert during the morning hours. After lunch, you can enjoy the event until dinner time.
  • Avoid attending the event on the opening days as the crowd level is high. If you want to enjoy watching the activities with a manageable crowd level attend the events between 5th and 8th of January.
  • If you are able to plan your visit to Tel modern festival on New Year's eve then you can also see some fireworks along with the event activities.

Other famous events in Liwa

Liwa Dates Festival

Dates: annually, from July 17 to July 27

The Liwa date festival aims to preserve an integral part of the Emirati heritage, Palm trees and Ratan(half ripe dates). The festival is a good place to spectate popular competitions and activities that showcase Emirati heritage. At present, the Liwa dates festival is famous and is attended by not just individuals but also companies that are passionate about this aspect of Emirati heritage.


Al Gharbia Watersports Festival

Dates: annually, April 21 to April 30

Hosted in a vast expanse of 20,000 square metres, the Al Gharbia watersports festival has many unique activities lined up. Some of the activities are the traditional Dhow race, beach football, parachute sailing, rowing rice, kayak boat race and more. It is also when the UAE sailing National championship (Regatta race) and kite surfing competition take place. It also hosts many outstanding Emirati heritage activities that have a close tie to the marine habitat.

Checkout our liwa event calendar