Now that I’ve had the chance to visit Abu Dhabi I feel a little sad about all the times I was in transit there and never left the airport! Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to stopover between Europe and Australia as it offers an enticing mix of culture, shopping and golden beaches.
Below is a review of everything we enjoyed on our first 24 hour stopover in Abu Dhabi in 2016. You may also like to read this more recent post on the best things to do in Abu Dhabi.
Where To Stay
We stayed at the 5-star Yas Hotel on Yas Island. (Now known as the W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island.)
Only a 10-minute drive from the airport this hotel is perfect for a luxury layover in Abu Dhabi. The architecture of the building, which straddles the Yas Marina and F1 circuit, is absolutely striking and makes a stylish statement about the property before you’ve even checked in.
We treated ourselves to a suite which was wonderfully spacious and decorated in chic tones of grey and white that went well with the blue of the marina outside.
Things in the room that made me squeal were the giant bathtub, walk in closet, elegant furniture and ESPA products (to match the hotel’s ESPA spa).
We didn’t have time for breakfast at the hotel but did enjoy a gorgeous Arabic-meets-Mediterranean dinner (with all the hummus and kebabs we could manage!) on the terrace at Atayeb. The staff were fantastic and it was lovely to sit outside and watch the LED lights on the hotel’s exterior change colour.
What To Do
Visit Yas Beach
Perhaps you just want to do very little on your layover? In that case the W Abu Dhabi Yas Island is a great option as it has not 1 but 2 rooftop pools – one is adults only in case you’re desperately seeking some tranquility.
Hotel guests are also treated to free sunbeds at Yas Beach which I’m gutted we didn’t have time to check out as I’ve just looked it up now and it looks sublime.
This is one for those who like an action-filled layover and aren’t afraid of fast rides! Ferrari World is not just any old theme park – it’s home to the fastest rollercoaster in the world. Formula Rossa whizzes you from 0 to 240 km/h in less than 5 seconds. It’s eye-wateringly fast and gives you such an adrenaline kick that you’re advised to wait at least 15 minutes before going back for a second ride!
As Justin and I love fast rides we had a go twice and thought our faces might blow off each time! We also rode the 2 other ‘coasters (Flying Aces and Fiorano GT Challenge) twice each and Justin also took the opportunity to race a Ferrari on the Yas Formula 1 Circuit – a simulator version that is!
There are some family-friendly rides too so this is a great place to come if you’ve got kids – apart from some sections of the big roller coasters it’s all indoors so you don’t have to worry about the heat. The park was incredibly peaceful on our visit but you can purchase gold passes if you’d like to queue jump. Find out more about tickets and rides here.
If you’re coming to Ferrari World then you’ll probably pass through the Yas Mall as the two are attached. This mall is fantastic for shopaholics as it’s got all the great stores of the world (including British high street heroes like Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and Topshop) but hardly any people!
I thought the Yas Mall was as good as any of the malls in Dubai but much, much quieter. It was great. There was also a Shake Shack and I love an excuse to sip their milkshakes.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The stand out attraction of a stopover in Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This multi-million dollar mosque is the largest in the UAE and the most ornate I have ever seen. We visited at dusk as I had read the light was pretty spectacular at that time of day and it was genuinely magical to watch the sun set behind the minarets as the call to prayer rang out.
I paid $2296 for return flights from Sydney to London Heathrow with Etihad Airways in September 2016. Etihad offer a number of stopover deals including 2-for-1 deals on hotels.
Rooms at the W Abu Dhabi -Yas Island start from $200 AUD.
It’s super quick and cheap to get a taxi from the airport to Yas Island, then once you’re at the hotel you can hop on a free shuttle, the Yas Express, which runs between the mall/Ferrari World, Yas Central and the Yas Viceroy from 9am to 9pm.
Available to anyone travelling on an Etihad flight you just need to book your ride online in advance and then the air-conditioned bus whizzes you and your luggage 75 mins down the road to Jumeirah Beach. I was seriously impressed by the cold water, towels and USB sockets on board. We also used the service to return from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and they checked us in and took our luggage off our hands at Dubai so we didn’t need to see it again until Sydney!
Have you experienced an Abu Dhabi stopover? Are you tempted to now?
Disclosure: I received a media discount for our stay at Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi (as it was named at the time) and entrance to Ferrari World. All flights, food and other activities were self-funded and any recommendations are my own.
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