What do you think of when you think of Dubai?
Towering skyscrapers, architecture that defies engineering, larger than life lifestyles and infinite glitz and glamour?
You’d be right but, as with many places, there’s much more to Dubai than meets the eye.
For a start, Dubai itself is just a small part of a much larger emirate, home to people to a much more down-to-earth way of life. As you approach the Omani border, you’ll find Hatta, a quiet mountain town where warm welcomes are abound and the bright lights of Dubai feel like they’re a lifetime away.
What to do in Hatta
Abuzz about Hatta
If there’s one thing we love about travelling, it’s trying out new things. So when we were given the chance to suit up and check out Hatta’s hives up close, of course we were the first ones to put up our hands!
Feeling quietly-confident under our protective gear we enjoyed learning about the bees and the process the beekeepers go through to breed new queens, all whilst they buzzed around us.
As any good bee-visit should, we finished by tasting some of the locally produced honey (delicious) and their royal jelly too (not so tasty, but with plenty of health benefits we were assured) and bee pollen (pretty dreadful if I’m honest but again, healthy).
It was surprisingly relaxing listening to the drone of the bees – the sound filling the air whilst we stayed safe under our suits – and altogether a great experience that we’d have missed out on had we stayed tucked up at home!
If you too would like to get up close and personal with Hatta’s bees, drop the JA Hatta Fort Hotel a line and they’ll help organise a trip out.
Located just past the old town of Hatta, you’ll find Hatta Dam. This reservoir serves not only to service the area with fresh water but so also a great spot for getting active.
You can rent a kayak or paddle boat from Hatta Kayak and enjoy a dose of fresh, cool air out on the water and soon hiking trails will be open, allowing visitors to check out the nearby mountains by foot.
If you’re new to the United Arab Emirates or are just stopping by on a visit, you’ll want to learn more about the more traditional life of yesteryear. Though Dubai city is a buzzing metropolis now, it hasn’t always been that way.
The Hatta Heritage Village is built around the original Hatta fort and its accompanying turrets and the village itself provides an interesting history of the area. Here, visitors learn about how Emiratis lived, work and survived in such challenging environments. Entrance is free and all tours are self-guided so you can take your time and explore at your own pace.
If you’ve explored other Emirati heritage villages, this one probably won’t add a lot in the way of new understanding but the fort is gorgeous and well worth a visit, even if only in passing.
Although we didn’t have a chance to take to the tracks, Hatta is becoming known for its unique trails that cater for all levels of riding ability in the lower Hajar Mountains. Bikes are available to rent and there are toilets and basic camping/picnic facilities available at the start of the trails.
Where to Stay
Though Hatta is a comfortable drive from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, there’s enough to do out there that you’ll want to book in an overnight stay. Plus, with the JA Hatta Fort Hotel offering so much in the way of attractions, a trip to Hatta wouldn’t be complete without paying them a visit!
JA Hatta Fort Hotel – Mountain Views in Dubai
The resort itself is a bit of a Dubai institution, known by some as ‘the Peacock Hotel’. This is the type of place that families return to year after year, looking to reconnect and take a break from everyday life.
The recent renovations bring a beautiful breath of fresh air to the property whilst the hotel manages to retain its old-school charm. Having visited ourselves, I can absolutely appreciate why return time and time again. The staff treat you more like family than guests and the moment you pull into the front gate, all your worries get left behind. In a place like Dubai where it sometimes feels like places are out to one-up each other, there’s something comforting about a place like the JA Hatta Fort Hotel.
As you would expect from a property that is finishing off their renovations, there are still nods to how the resort used it be. The JA Hatta Fort Hotel being what it is, nobody really minds though – if anything, it almost adds to the charm of the place.
Set on 80 acres of manicured garden and lawn, this hotel is like an oasis rising amongst the mountains. When we first arrived we couldn’t help but kick our shoes off and take a little walk along the lawn. It’s fair to say that fresh grass is one of the things we really miss from back home so soaking up their expansive lawns was a real treat for the senses!
The chalets themselves have been tastefully redecorated and provide ample space to make yourself at home. With complimentary tea/coffee facilities, bottled water, WiFi and satellite TV, along with a mini bar for those times you can’t bare to leave the comfort of your bed, there’s not much the rooms don’t take care of.
You’ll need access to refreshments in your room too – the bed was amongst the biggest we’ve had in the UAE and a haven of comfort that was hard to leave!
Plenty to Keep Everyone Busy
For some, a holiday is an opportunity to kick back, relax and do very little but eat, sleep and swim and whilst we can appreciate why some would want to do that, it’s not for us.
We like to strike the balance between relaxing and finding plenty to do. In reality, we’re normally pretty busy on holiday.
The JA Hatta Fort Hotel was a dream come true for us in this regard thanks to the wide range of activities they offer onsite. With two pools, tennis courts, archery, target shooting, mini golf, a jogging track through the mountains and an array of animals, guests are spoilt for choice, no matter how they prefer to unwind.
Delicious Dining Options
A little unsure of what to expect of the food at JA Hatta Fort Hotel, we went in with open minds and very quickly had them made up for us – the food there is top-notch.
With two main options on site, there’s Cafe Gazebo, a relaxed pool-side restaurant where breakfast and lunch are served and the swanky (and newly renovated) Jeema where evening diners are really treated to incredible food.
Though we enjoyed all of our meals at the hotel, it was dinner that really stood out for us both. Nathan opted for the buffet whilst I ordered from the al a carte menu – both options were superb. My butter chicken was incredible and came with the most delicious parathas and Nathan commented that although the buffet was amongst the smaller ones he’s seen in the UAE, it was also one of the tastiest. It was certainly a case of fewer dishes done incredibly well.
How to Get There
Hatta is located near the border that joins the UAE with Oman and because of its distance from the city, requires a car to get there.
The drive itself is easy, taking less than 1.5 hours from the heart of Dubai or approximately 3 hours from Abu Dhabi. In the process you’ll pass through towering sand dunes and mountain ranges but be careful not to take the road from Dubai whilst you’re checking out the views around you! Only GCC Nationals are granted permission to pass through Oman at this check point so pay careful attention to the map below.
Our visit to Hatta was refreshing and a little surpising. So close to Dubai’s buzzing city, it feels like a world away. A calm, humble town, ready to take visitors in and show them another side of the UAE.
What more could you ask for?
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Thank you to JA Resorts & Hotels for hosting our weekend and for the use of some of their photos. We had a fantastic stay! As always, all thoughts are our own. To find out what others think, check out Trip Advisor.