The towers of Dubai in the morning fogs of winter
Ian Packham

What to do in Dubai in January

Dubai in January combines Goldilocks weather with the calming lull that comes after the Christmas rush. A reduction in visitor numbers means no fight for the best spots on the beaches or in the city’s museums, whilst the emirate’s surprising range of wild spaces are also at their best in the cooler climate of this time of year. To experience the very best of Dubai in January, check out our recommendations for what to do!

Set your sights on the crystal clear waters

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Taking a new year’s dip in many other parts of the world requires a layer of goose fat and a good amount of foolhardiness, but not so with the weather in Dubai in January. Sea temperatures at this time of year remain above 22°C, peaking at 26°C. Take advantage of this by joining a stand-up paddleboard lesson & tour or experiencing the man-made islands of Palm Jumeirah by kayak.

Slip on a wetsuit and you can disappear beneath the waves too. Snorkeling and diving sites can be found off the UAE’s sleepy and little developed east coast on the Indian Ocean at Fujairah, an easy drive from downtown Dubai. The clear waters here are home to a huge number of species, from resident fish to visiting shark and sea turtles.

Guaranteed sightings of many of the coast’s species can be enjoyed without having to get wet at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Containing a 10 million liter tank with 400 sharks and rays, as well as enclosures with crocodiles, otters and penguins, crowd pleasers don’t get much better than this.

It’s also worth having the aquarium tucked up your sleeve in case of rain. Though rare, with skies darkening just once or twice in the month, showers can be heavy. They are short lived however, with just 10 mm of precipitation recorded overall during the month.

Dust off your shades

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Even if you’ve got no plans to hit the waves, your swimwear is still going to be a vital addition to your packing list for Dubai in January, with the beaches that line the city’s Arabian Sea coastline ripe for a visit. With average daily temperatures of 24°C and highs of 32°C, there’s plenty of opportunity for some time on a sun lounger.

Should you prefer your sands untamed, the desert dunes at Dubai’s edges are probably the top adrenaline adventure going, especially since many amusement parks shut down for annual maintenance and improvements around this time of year. Head out in the comfort of an air-conditioned 4WD on a morning safari, with the chance to sand ski and ride a camel, or really get the blood flowing through your veins with a 4x4 quad bike ride through the desert.

Save any trip to the At the Top observation decks of the Burj Khalifa for the afternoon – or better yet, sunset. Though one of the top things to do in Dubai in January, chilly (for Dubai) nights of 16°C often lead to blankets of fog rolling in off the coast and masking views that usually stretch for miles during the first hours of the day.

Take a walk on the wild side

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Within sight of the Burj Khalifa’s panoramic windows sits the Ras Al Khor wetland reserve. Occupying the western end of the basin in Dubai Creek, it has become an important stopover for migratory birds since its creation in 2007, and one of the top places in the emirate to explore its natural side. You may even see an Ethiopian hedgehog, although the main drawer has to be its flock of 500 greater flamingos.

However, when it comes to wetlands, few can compete with Al Marmoon Desert Conservation Reserve in the Saih Al Salam desert, since it makes up almost 10% of the emirate’s total area. As well as hides where it’s possible to catch sight of Egyptian nightjars, reptiles and mammals, it has one of the world’s largest cycle trails, stretching 84 kilometers.

Alternatively, head for the similarly named Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve on the border with Sharjah. The UAE’s first national park, this is the place to seek out Arabian oryx on game drives before discovering traditional arts such as falconry and archery.

Check out the special events in Dubai in January

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With the world’s largest shopping mall – the Dubai Mall – ancient marketplaces and outlet villages, Dubai has a reputation as one of the best shopping destinations in the world. Attracting lovers of retail therapy from as far afield as North America and Asia, the thousands of stores have something for every budget, whether you’re a hard nosed backpacker or staying at the ‘seven star’ Burj Al Arab.

Even more incentive to refresh your wardrobe or splash out on jewelry, electronics and books is January’s Dubai Shopping Festival thanks to a wealth of discounts. Held since the earliest days of tourism in the emirate, the festival has its allure to those less absorbed in the world of retail too. Food events, concerts and firework displays are all part of the fun.

You might even find a new pair of running shoes, which would come in handy given the timing of the Dubai Marathon in January. The biggest mass participation sporting event in the Middle East, its 26-and-a-bit mile course is tackled each year by roughly 30,000 participants, including the greats of long distance running. Be prepared for an early start though, with the race gun firing about 7AM to avoid the heat of later in the day!

Experience Dubai in January with Go City

Beyond the discounts of the Dubai Shopping Festival there are other ways to make incredible savings when visiting Dubai in January. Travel with Go City and immediately gain huge reductions on many of the city’s top attractions and things to do. They range from the observation decks of the Burj Khalifa to desert adventures and even tours of the opera house. So if you’re considering a trip to Dubai during January, be sure to add Go City to your list of vacation musts.

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