Weekend from Sand to Sky to Sea, driving Mercedes ML 350

This trip is a real treat, especially for visitors or new arrivals – we go from red dunes, up and over high mountains, and then down the other side, ending up at the beach of Khor Kalba. The route does not require expertise in off-road driving, but the focus will be on navigating the different terrains.

In a nutshell, driving on established tracks, start from here:

Bidayer, Big Red, dune in UAE

Drive over these:

Eagle's Nest across UAE mountains

And end up here:

Mercedes on Khor Kalba beach in UAE

This is one of the best “intro to UAE” drives because it crosses all four of the main off-roading terrains in the region: sand dunes, sharp mountains, dry wadis, and sandy beach.

And all on easy, well-established tracks. Just follow the GPS track and map below!

Download the KML file for your GPS by clicking here. Once downloaded, you can import the file into your GPS device and take it on the road, or double-click that file and it will open automatically in Google Earth if you have that installed (all adventurers should! Google Earth).

View Khor Kelba in a larger map

The beginning of the drive is just east of one of the most popular dunes in the UAE: Bidayer, also known as “Big Red”.

The route proposed will keep you off the dunes and on the tracks – still, 4×4 is required: the Mercedes ML350 had no hesitation whatsoever and navigated the soft sandy track with ease and even without deflating the tyres.

But just nearby the route will be lovely dunes, and so feel free to deviate as you like, as long as you are well-prepared. For us, we stayed close to the mountains and avoided the open dunes.

farm in UAE

And we’ll follow the electric lines, which serve as handy navigation markers. It seems even camels follow them…

Camels in UAE

Soon, leave the sands and cross the small mountains east.

Mercedes ML 350

And then head towards the real mountains, the Hajar.

Fort in Sharjah

Where you will meet the border fence, which you can follow all the way across the mountain range.

Mercedes ML 350

And up to the summit

Hajar Mountains

Hajar summit

Down the other side, we leave the tight mountains and the border fence, into the open wadis.

Wadi in UAE

Wadi farm

Always nice to take breaks for a little exploration

Wadi water

UAE flowers

UAE donkey

And then reaching destination at the seaside town of Khor Kalba.

Khor Kalba corniche UAE

It seems that Kalba beach access is currently off-limits, as this bridge is closed.

Khor Kalba beach bridge

So I will have to caution that you may have to head along the coast further north in order to find a nice swimming spot.

Khor Kalba UAE

Horses along Khor Kalba beach

Beach Khor Kalba

All in all, a fantastic drive across a variety of terrains!

beach camping UAE

Please, whatever you do, take your trash out with you 🙂

taking trash out

View a pdf file of the original article, as published, or read the archived newspaper article on The National website here.

My disclaimer is here.