Over-the-top luxury hotels and malls, a Ferrari theme park and even a branch of the Louvre are all good reasons to book an Abu Dhabi flight...
From humble beginnings as a fishing village 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi has, with the discovery of oil, become one of the most thriving and wealthy cities in the Middle East. As well as incredibly lush parks and gardens for a desert city, there's some of the best shopping on the planet and top cultural attractions such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi and a branch of the Guggenheim Museum.
One of the newest reasons to book flights to Abu Dhabi is the Ferrari World theme park, which opened in 2010. Situated on Yas Island under a 200,000m2 roof, it's the largest indoor amusement park in the world and contains the world's fastest rollercoaster - the rip-roaring Formula Rossa, reaching a top speed of 240 km/h in five seconds.
For shopping, the Abu Dhabi mall is bursting with high street and designer stores. Elsewhere, the Norman Foster-designed Souq at Central Market, composed of lattice woodwork and stained glass, is a clever modern interpretation of the traditional Middle Eastern market. The Carpet Souk offers a fascinating glimpse of Abu Dhabi's more traditional side and provides the canny shopper with the chance to haggle for an unbeatable souvenir.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest in the world. Conceived by the founder of the UAE himself, Sheikh Zayed, the creamy white structure of 80 domes held up by more than 1,000 pillars can hold an astonishing 40,000 worshippers. Appropriately attired visitors can tour the equally stunning interior of gold, marble and crystal outside prayer times.
Outside the city, Jebel Hafeet Mountain provides peerless views of the city and beyond. Further afield, other popular attractions include the stunning beaches of Al Gharbia, the fabulous Gulf vistas of Jebel Dhanna and the rolling dunes of the Rub' al Khali desert. Centred around a stunning green oasis, the city of Al Ain makes a lovely cool retreat from the desert furnace.
As a stopover to numerous locations worldwide, cheap flights to Abu Dhabi abound, but a growing number of attractions make it increasingly tempting to stay longer.
In recent years there has been an explosion of non-stop flights to the Emirate state, including Etihad with its Manchester City themed logo jets as sponsors of the Premiership team...
The Abu Dhabi based carrier flies from London Heathrow and Manchester with daily services and will soon add a Scottish departure point, making it even easier to reach. British Airways also flies direct from London Heathrow. Non-stop flights take around seven hours between the UK and the Emirate.
Of course, if the direct flights do not suit you, there are regular connecting flights from regional airports via Paris with the French carrier Air France. KLM also operates via Amsterdam, Brussels Airlines via Brussels and Lufthansa via Frankfurt. And you can use Emirates or Qatar Airways on any of their daily services via Dubai and Doha respectively. Add an extra two hours upwards for flight duration and don't forget to consider connecting in London or Manchester.
Abu Dhabi International Airport is located on the mainland, but it's not far from the centre of Abu Dhabi city itself...
Flights to Abu Dhabi arrive at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), which is around a 40-minute taxi ride from the city centre. You'll find clearly signposted taxi pick-up areas outside the arrivals halls of terminals 1, 2 and 3. The meter starting fare is AED25 and AED1.6 per kilometre of the ride.
Many hotels also operate shuttle buses to and from the airport - inquire when booking. The air-conditioned A1 bus also plies the route, 24 hours a day at 40-minute intervals. The ride takes about 45 minutes, with a one-way fare of AED4.
Abu Dhabi specialises in luxury accommodation, but with fierce competition and the economic downturn, bargains can be found...
While its position as an aviation hub means you can find cheap flights to Abu Dhabi, locating budget accommodation of any sort is unlikely - that's not really what the place is about. However, with a drop in visitors to the region, some of even the most luxurious hotels in the emirate are offering discounts of 50% or more.
So it's worth spending time choosing your hotel - especially given that, with fine dining, shopping, luxurious spas and even private waterparks onsite, many visitors to Abu Dhabi don't stray far from their accommodation. Note also that Abu Dhabi's licensing laws restrict the sale of alcohol to venues within hotels.
Exemplifying the top of the hotel range is the sumptuous, self-described “seven-star” Emirates Palace, with luxury highlights including a 1.3km beach of imported white sand, on-call butlers and 52in plasma TVs in every room. Rivalling the Emirates Palace for ultra-luxury, the Shangri-La has its own Venice-like network of canals complete with gondolas.
Outside Abu Dhabi city, there are luxury desert resorts, such as the five-star Anantara Qasr al Sarab, offering wilderness adventures, sophisticated spa treatments and all-round secluded relaxation.