Luxury holidays to Abu Dhabi aren't often an obvious choice, as the country isn't a particularly well known destination. After a recent visit, part of me wants to keep it that way and not let it get too busy - but then I wouldn't want to be selfish…
Last week, I travelled to discover what the capital Emirate has to offer. I had been to Dubai many years ago and wasn't sure what to expect from it's neighbouring country. Conclusion? It's pretty different. The 200 or so islands are all natural, one of which, Saadiyat Island, is due to become a cultural hub, with The Louvre and Guggenheim planned for it. What's more, the beach on Saadiyat Island is eight kilometres long, and the best you'll find in Abu Dhabi.
In town, the huge Sheikh Zayed mosque houses 40,000 worshipers and boasts impressive Swarovski crystal chandeliers.
What's there to do in Abu Dhabi?
The desert is sensational, and it was definitely worth getting up at 5am to drive out into, to watch the sunrise and dune bash. The colours are unforgettable - the deep red of the iron oxide in the sand, the sea blue sky…
Activities are plentiful wherever you are; whether that's spotting the Arabian animals on Sir Bani Yas Island; falconry, archery and camel-trekking in the Empty Quarter; swinging a golf club or relaxing on the beach or in one of the numerous spas….
Test your adrenalin levels at Ferrari World and the soon-to-open WaterWorld! Ferrari World is the world's largest indoor theme park, and features a host of rides and attractions, including Formula Rossa - the fastest roller coaster in the world reaching 240 km/hr in under 5 seconds!! (I did survive!).
Food is clearly important in Abu Dhabi - we ate ridiculously well throughout our stay, sampling the cuisine at the likes of Hakkasan and Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse and Grill. Scotts of Mayfair is opening shortly, too - though you don't need to go to one of these names to enjoy good food, as even the hotels' buffets (most with live kitchens) were to die for. The infamous Friday brunch (think humongous buffet starting at about 11am and going on 'til late afternoon) is seriously impressive and seriously good fun, too.
Conclusion: Abu Dhabi is the perfect destination for winter sun and for exclusive escapes - the temperature rarely dips below 22 degrees, and it's only a seven hour flight from London. So our only question is: what are you waiting for?