Located nearly 130km southeast of central Dubai, Hatta’s craggy mountain cliffs, scattered springs and lush valleys offer a stark contrast to the glassy facades of the city. Hike up the Hajar mountains and you will encounter breathtaking views of the historical village. The area was once called Al Hajerin, or Al Hajeran, in reference to the two mountain peaks guarding its north and south borders. Flanked by the mountains, Hatta enjoys a cooler climate than its coastal counterparts. The summits of the Hajar mountains reach 800 to 1600m and were first formed under the seabed in ancient times. Their imposing presence includes beautiful rock formations and crevices, sculpted by years of geological activity.
Explore the central Hatta Fort, built in 1896, and one of the most significant architectural monuments in the UAE. The detailed structure served as a residence and defence facility with a large internal courtyard and an 11m-high watchtower. The building, which was restored in 1995, is made of mountain stones and mud bricks, while the ceiling is constructed using palm fronds, trunks and mud. The two round watchtowers overlooking the mountain village were built in the 1880s. They are located 2.5m above ground level with a small door and semi-circular staircase leading to the roof. Guards would use ropes to scale the towers and enter through the doors.A short walk from the village is the palm tree farm known as the Al Sharia site. Take a tranquil walk under the trees and explore the falaj, which extends several kilometres under ground before appearing on the surface. Near the village is the Hatta Hill Park, built in 2004. The nearly 64sqkm area is popular for picnics and barbecues, as well as a tower, which makes for an excellent vantage point.
A fertile land, its favourable climate and falaj – ancient irrigation systems – once nurtured thriving agricultural and farming communities. Get familiar with the life of ancient villagers who depended on the cultivation of palm trees and dates for their livelihood. These low cost, desert-dwelling trees were enough to sustain daily life; dates would be harvested for domestic consumption or dried and sold. Palm leaves were woven into mats, fans and carpets, while tree trunks were used to construct tents and houses.Farming continues to be a major activity in Hatta and, today, more than 550 farms operate across the nearly 140sqkm area, representing 10 per cent of the land. While local heritage lives on through small farms within the village, the future is protected at new bird and animal conservation areas. Visitors can even step into the shoes – and protective gear – of a beekeeper for a day at the Hatta Honey Bee Garden.
The landmark Hatta Dam was constructed in the late 1990s, and the reservoir took two years to fill. It brought much-needed respite to Hatta’s residents, giving them access to a sustainable water supply. Hatta Dam is now one of the main attractions in the area, with the bright, turquoise water set against the earthy rock for a picturesque vista. Visitors can drive along the dam and stop at viewpoints for photographs, or trek across it and down the hilly terrain. For a closer look, kayak across the quiet lake formed by the dam, bringing you into the heart of the panorama.
From mountain biking to hiking and camping, Hatta is the ideal destination for thrill-seeking nature lovers. There’s possibly no better way to experience the meandering pathways of hills, wadis and farmland in Hatta than from the back of a mountain bike. Multiple trails for beginner to advanced-level riders have been set up by the Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre, spanning across 52kms. The trails are free to ride and are self-guided with clear markers. Brave visitors can choose to tackle the trails on their own or join the many hobby groups, some of which meet for weekly rides. Give yourself two-three hours for a riding session, with stops to enjoy the lush surroundings. The Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Centre remains closed over summer but the trails itself stay open for adventurers all through the year – just remember to carry all your essential supplies and plenty of water.
A popular spot is behind the much-visited Hatta Dam, one of the largest water bodies in Hatta. Behind this you’ll come across rough rock, with stunning vantage points to take in the picturesque landscape, and some wildlife sightings. If you’re lucky you might even spot the elusive Arabian sand cat. Hiking experiences can also be booked at the Hatta Wadi Hub, located close to the popular stay options by Meraas – Hatta Damani Lodges and Hatta Sedr Trailers.
Visitors to Hatta can try something a bit different – kayaking through the vast Hatta lake. Tourists and residents can rent kayaks or paddle boats from a kiosk at the reservoir for a relaxing ride across the clear waters of the turquoise-hued lake, where they’ll encounter natural inhabitants including fish and birds. You can venture into unseen areas through curved passageways hidden behind the mountains and not visible from the reservoir viewpoint. Meanwhile, Hatta Wadi Hub is the town’s home of action and adventure. Open in winter, there are plenty of exciting free and paid activities on offer. Try your hand at archery and axe throwing, or get your heart pumping with downhill carting, adventure rope courses and freefall jumps. Make time to go twin ziplining with a friend, whizzing past the dramatic mountain scenery together.
The landscapes of Hatta possess some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the UAE. Enjoy the changing scenes from desert to mountain on your way into Hatta. Once there, head south towards the Hatta Dam, which is an indelible sight: calm turquoise waters set against the rough-hewn mountains. Another major draw is the Hatta Heritage Village in the central town. This restored museum is an example of true Emirati life in historic times. It comprises 30 buildings, including huts and houses, reconstructed as they were hundreds of years ago. The Village also houses relics and documents of past life, where you’ll learn about Dubai’s Arabian heritage from food to folklore.
After a long day of exploring, pitch up a tent and sleep under the stars at the dedicated Hatta Campsite. When it’s time to refuel, guests can cook up a feast in the barbecue area, or stroll down to the food trucks at the Hatta Wadi Hub. For a more luxurious twist, book a stay at the Hatta Damani Lodges or Hatta Sedr Trailers, both providing chic accommodation nestled in the mountains.
The Hatta Fort Hotel is great if you’re looking for a resort-style experience. The hotel has its own restaurants, spa, mini golf and more, while every room and suite comes with mountainside views. Larger groups visiting Hatta can choose from one of several farm house rentals, including The Reef and Happiness Farm, each complete with top-notch facilities such as BBQ areas and a pool for the kids to splash around in.