Leaving city lights behind, Travel+Leisure India & South Asia heads to Hatta, the rugged neighbourhood of Dubai, with Bollywood’s actor of the moment and stereotype-breaker, Siddhant Chaturvedi. By Bayar Jain
Produced by Aindrila Mitra
Photographed by The House of Pixels
Assisted by Babu Bhimappa
Styled by Chandani Mehta
Assisted by Arshi Farid, Aditi Jaiswal
Hair by Gautam Arora
Make-up by Poonam Surve
Location: Hatta, Dubai
The last time I visited Dubai was to see the iconic Expo 2020 Dubai where the world displayed its technological prowess under one roof. I found myself under futuristic domes, in the company of robots and massive exhibits. A year later, I’m back in the emirate. This time, I find myself amidst mountains and oases, trailers and caravans, and an array of adventurous offerings. I land up in Hatta, a village located nearly 130 kilometres southeast of central Dubai, high in the Hajar Mountains.
The 90-minute-long drive from Dubai International Airport to Hatta serves as the apt initiation to this mystical land. The skyscrapers that are emblematic of metropolis disappear from sight and give way to a rocky terrain as we move closer to the destination. The whoosh of cars is replaced by the chirping of birds and crickets. When we arrive for our cover shoot, it is quiet, almost like the destination is lying in wait for team Travel+Leisure India & South Asia and actor Siddhant Chaturvedi. And just like that, under the blazing sun, we discover Hatta—an eco-tourism destination packed with fun and adventure.
The region’s iconic symbol, the Hatta Sign, keeps watch as we navigate the terrain. Reminiscent of the ‘Hollywood’ signage in Los Angeles, this Middle-Eastern variation stands tall at 60 metres, jutting out of the ranges. We skip the 30-minute-long hike from Wadi Hub at Hatta Resorts to this Instagrammable photo-op spot. Instead, we venture ahead to another iconic landmark of the city: Hatta Dam.
The only man-made structure on this otherwise natural landscape, Hatta Dam is a calm water body set against the mountains. The teal waters glisten under the sunlight, as does a large mural of the UAE’s founding fathers, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, painted on the dam’s walls. Popular during cooler months, the dam is frequented by hikers making a pitstop for photographs. Others stop for water adventures in the lake formed by the dam. The lake is easily accessible from Sedr Trailers Resort, the region’s first ‘trailer hotel’, where visitors can camp along the banks of Hatta Dam. Think kayaks, canoes, paddle-boating, donut boat rides, pedalos, and more. For those looking for a less active holiday, Hatta’s Swan Lake fits the bill. Boasting several duck and swan species, this serene location is best explored aboard a swan shaped pedal boat. Alternatively, kick back and relax over a picnic, while occasionally offering the water birds light nibbles.
A little further ahead from the lake is Hatta Heritage Village. Presumably dating back 3,000 years, this restored mountain village is a masterclass in Arab culture. The Hajar mountains run in the backdrop of the village. Hatta Falaj, for instance, gives a peek into the water systems of the 1800s. Life-sized prototypes, documents, and sculptures, and visuals of traditional craftsmanship such as jewellery, weaponry, and clay pottery add to the spectacle. Spend an afternoon here to get accustomed to the land’s social customs like wedding rituals, folklore, and traditional games.
More contemporary games, however, await at Wadi Hub at Hatta Resorts. An adventure and camping park, it is the ideal destination for thrill seekers. Walking through the wadi on suspended footbridges that lead to a canopy and to soak up the surreal views is quite an experience. Or buckle up for a swift twin zipline ride down a mountain on a 350-metre cable. Launch from multiple slides straight into plunge pools at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour, or take it slow by gliding down a grass slide in a tube.
Mountaineers can satiate their desire for adventure by scaling a specially constructed climbing wall that features lanes of varying difficulties for guests of all levels. Those who want something more than bungee jumping can opt for the cannon, a catapult designed to achieve speeds of nearly 100 kilometres per hour. If heights are not your best friend, hop on the large (or small for kids) trampoline or roll down a hill in a giant zorbing ball. Better still, huddle up for a friendly football zorbing tournament. Cocooned in a giant hamster ball covering only the head and torso, leaving the legs free to run (or flail!), this game transforms a global sport into child-like craziness and fun.
For quintessential Emirati fun, give archery a hand. At Wadi Hub at Hatta Resorts, the UAE’s favourite sport can be enjoyed at a specially-built zone featuring five lanes and a target distance of 10 metres. Those with better hand-eye coordination can crank up the expertise level and head to the axe-throwing range instead. A first in the region, this range allows guests to practice with 680 grams of whirling wood and metal for half an hour before hurling it straight to the leader board.
Keeping in mind younger audiences, Hatta Wadi Hub has also opened a new multi-purpose adventure ropes course. Mountain carting, another new addition, is the ideal adventure-sport for the uninitiated; all one needs is a proclivity for fun! The activity involves taking a downhill ride on three-wheeled carts, all the while enjoying the serene landscape that Hatta has to offer.
Mountain biking is another way to enjoy the landscape. The mountainous terrain is home to more than 50 kilometres of cross country cycle routes of varying grades. Ranging from five-minutes long routes to those that span for an hour, these routes familiarise you with Dubai’s largest and most dynamic national park.
Hiking, too, is a great way to explore Hajar Mountains. Currently spanning a little over 32 kilometres across five routes, the hiking trails in Hatta are increasingly drawing visitors. These, too, come divided into varying levels of difficulty: green grade, for novice walkers and runners; blue, for those on the intermediate level; red, for those who are proficient in hiking; and black, for experts who can brace physically demanding and technical routes. Irrespective of the grades, you will be treated to spectacular views of mountains and wadis along the way.
However, there is more to Hatta than just adventure. The Hatta 360 Observatory is a testament to this. Dating back to 1880, this structure was once a military tower to fend off attackers from neighbouring countries. Today, it serves as a viewing deck. The Hatta Hill Park, built in 2004, offers similar laid-back vibes, complete with a children’s playing field, running tracks, and ample space for picnics and barbeques. What’s more—Hatta Honey Bee Discovery Centre employs a modern collection of beekeeping equipment and the world’s best bee breeds to give a lesson on the wonders of honey via a workshop. Hatta Honey is considered one of the biggest honey producers of the region.
Post sunset, the craggy land around me acquires a whole new hue. The browns of the mountains turn grey; the skies seem to shimmer with diamonds. I sit by my tent, watching two cats play under the moonlight. In the distance, I hear frogs croak. Who would believe I’m in Dubai?
The following day, as we sit in our bus ready to bid adieu to Hatta, I notice a group of men engaging in a friendly gel ball—a painless, less messy version of paintball—duel. Further ahead, couples are kayaking on the lake formed by Hatta Dam. The tourism team explains, “Despite being closed during peak summer months, we’re often sold out the moment we reopen for the season!” Turns out we weren’t the only ones to discover Hatta that weekend; the world has already unearthed this gem. And yet, we felt all the luxuries of a peaceful and exclusive holiday. That’s Hatta in a nutshell, a refreshing escape.
Emirates offers multiple direct flights to Dubai from all the major cities in India. Hatta is located approximately 1.5 hours from Dubai International Airport.
Sedr Trailers at Hatta Resorts is considered the region’s first trailer hotel. Available on a first-come-first-serve basis, the accommodations are complete with modern bathrooms, Wi-Fi, TV and comfortable bedding. Doubles start from INR 21,850.
Domes at Hatta Resorts creates a luxury glamping experience for its guests. Located at a short walk away from Wadi Hub at Hatta Resorts, the 15 dome-shaped, well-equipped permanent tent structures come with a private barbeque and fire pit. Doubles start from INR 21,850.
Related: We Savoured The World At Expo 2020 Dubai With December Cover Star Samantha