Abu Dhabi Layover Guide with Etihad Airways

In recent years, Abu Dhabi has gained its popularity of being one of the best transit or a layover destination. All thanks to Etihad Airways that connects most of the major cities of the world. Not just you can clear the US immigration at the Abu Dhabi airport itself but also proximity to major attractions from the airport allows you to tick off one more destination from your bucket list.

The chances are pretty high that you might transit through Abu Dhabi if you are flying with Etihad Airways. And if like us, you don’t fancy the idea of being stuck in the airport for 6 – 20 hours, then this post is for you. Here’s a quick guide to make the best use of your layover time whilst flying with Etihad Airways.

There are quite a lot of things that you can squeeze in your 6 – 20 hours of layover. So, let’s get started.

Marvel the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Abu Dhabi Layover Guide with Etihad Airways

One of the most beautiful and Instagram-worthy places to visit in Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It is also one of the largest mosques in the world with a capacity to host 40,000 worshippers at a time. The design and the layout are however inspired by Mughal, Moorish, Persian and Pakistan’s Badshahi Mosque architecture which together reflects as an influencing art and dexterity.

The mosque also houses the largest hand knitted carpet that took 2 years to complete.The carpet was made by approximately 1,200-1,300 carpet knotters.There is also a stunning chandelier in the main prayer hall which is one of the largest chandeliers in the world having a dimension of 10 meters in diameter and 15 meters high.

A visit to this mosque is an absolute must. The evening is by far the perfect time to capture some great photographs of the mosque with its reflections in the surrounding reflective pools.

Bike on Corniche Road

What better way to spend time than to bike around the beachfront and the Corniche Road? A beautiful promenade dotted with cute cafes and restaurants. The food options are many and varied and, are sure to tantalize your taste buds. The promenade also houses many parks and children’s play area. The Corniche beach is also an amazing place to spend time. The beach section for General Public is free and open to all whereas you have to pay a fee to enter the family or the single’s section.

You can also visit the Avenue Mall at the Etihad tower for some high-end shopping and just shop till you drop.

Take a Sea Plane Ride

Take to the skies and enjoy the panoramic views of Abu Dhabi in a 25-minute seaplane ride. It is an absolute thrill to take off from the sea in a seaplane. You can see the famed buildings and landmarks of Abu Dhabi like the Ferrari World, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, and its gardens, the beautiful Corniche Road, and the beach. A perfect photo op for the aerial view of Abu Dhabi. It is a guided tour and is one of the best ways to see Abu Dhabi if you do not have much time on your hands.

Check out the Seawings website for scenic tour options.

Visit Ferrari World at Yas Island

Abu Dhabi Layover Guide with Etihad Airways 1


For all the F1 fans and adrenaline junkies, this is the place to visit. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the only Ferrari branded theme park in the world and also happens to have the fastest roller coaster in the world, Formula Rossa, with a top speed of 239 mph. It also happens to be the largest indoor theme park and has 20 different rides on offer. You also get to see how Ferraris are made in a virtual tour of the Ferrari factory in Maranello.

There are simulators and go-karts to keep you occupied. If you have never seen an F1 track then head to the nearby Yas Marina Circuit which is the venue for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The circuit has five grandstand areas and its development includes a theme park, water park, hotels and beach, twining together to make up a perfect treat to enjoy. The best part is you can drive around Yas Island behind the wheel of a Ferrari California.

Go for a Desert Safari

Abu Dhabi Layover Guide with Etihad Airways - Desert Safari

If you have more than 6 hours on you, then going on a desert safari is a great idea. It requires about 5 to 6 hours to complete. Drive in an air-conditioned 4X4 with an expert guide. The tour includes dune bashing, visit a camel farm, visit a desert camp with dinner, bonfire, and belly dancing show.

You can also do some sandboarding during the dune bashing. It is one of the best ways to explore the Bedouin life that Abu Dhabi has on offer.

Drink in the View at Observation Deck

The answer to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is Abu Dhabi’s observation deck which offers sightseeing from Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Hotel. Nothing better to call it a day by devouring in some delicious food on the menu and drinking in the views watching the world beneath you.

There are a lot of other things on offer at Abu Dhabi which you can explore like museums, forts or just ramble around the city admiring the beautiful architecture.

I hope our quick guide helps you to make the most of your layover.

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  1. Interesting things to do.

  2. Looks amazing.

  3. Loved the Grand Mosque, I actually went from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for only one reason – to see the Mosque! 😀 Nice photos, one can imagine its grandeur. And you are right, there are few more things to see, it is worth to spend a weekend there. Thanks for sharing!

  4. The desert safari sounds the most intriguing to me because it’s so exotic! My husband has a short layover there next month so I will send him this post!

  5. Now this makes me want to get a flight through Abu Dhabi just so I can do all this on a layover! I would love to see that rug in the mosque, sounds incredible. Also, how fun to fly on a seaplane in between flights LOL. I would really enjoy the dessert safari and visit to the camel farm for sure 🙂

  6. Ferrari world and Desert Safari would be my top 2 choices! Btw, US immigration can be cleared here itself! Wow! That’s cool.

  7. Went via Abu Dhabi to Tanznia last year. Didn’t have time for a proper layover, but if I do next time I will certainly look in to some of these options. Agree about Ethiad – possibly the best airline I’ve flown with to date, and I’ve flown with quite a few!

  8. I have never been there and I wonder if I can visit Abu Dabhi. But I would love to experience that country too. Maybe someday. I think that you had a wonderful experience there. More travels to come.

  9. This looks like so much fun! I’ve done a couple of layovers in Abu Dhabi before, but they’ve either been too short, or through the night, so I haven’t been able to get out and have all the adventures you did. Here’s hoping I can do this the next time around!

  10. You really show how to make the most of a layover in Abu Dhabi, your photos of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque really show how beautiful it is. I know the dunes in the desert are huge, sandboarding from them would be pretty spectacular. I had never heard of Cornish Road but it sounds like a great place to chill out after a visit to Ferrari World!

  11. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Abu Dhabi, but have not had a chance to visit. We always travel with the kids and would love to share this part of the world with them. I especially want to see the mosque. SUCH a stunning spot.

  12. Grt post. Loved it and very informative. How do we get transit visa.

  13. Great tips for a layover. Abu Dhabi is not short of places to see and things to do. Might as well do some of these instead of boring yourself to death in the airport.

  14. Love your photos, Swati and Sam. Abu Dhabi is always getting me speechless. Everything looks so glamorous and beautiful!

  15. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is amazing! Thanks for including the facts about it-fascinating! If I had a layover that and biking Corniche Road would be on my list.

  16. Thank you for sharing these great tips. I agree – been stuck at the airport for hours not fun at all. I am always looking for some things to do “on the ground.” Bicycling sounds like a lovely idea. Sorry for newbie question (haven’t traveled through Abu Dhabi yet), would it be too hot to do so during the day? My airline of choice so far was Qatar. Perhaps, one day Etihad offer some nicer deal and give me the opportunity to stop by in Any Dhabi ;). Looking forward to for this to happen. Happy travels!

  17. You are layover guru’s love this post, so many fun things to do and epic places to snap those all important selfies. I have never been to Dubai but would love the opportunity and your post has sold it to me.

  18. I would love to visit Abu Dhabi sometime! Out of the activities you listed, I think I’d be most interested in the sea plane and the desert safari. Both seem like such cool experiences and unlike anything I’ve done before. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Abu dhabi is such a beautiful place. I would love the sea plane and the desert Safari experience. Whenever we make business trips to USA , there is often a layover at Abu Dhabi. Now I know how to make use of that 🙂

  20. What a fantastic layover! I would love to visit the mosque and the Ferrari world 🙂 any approximate idea on the cost of such a layover?

  21. The mosque is just as stunning as I imagined it would be! It’s such an interesting part of the world. Great photos, thanks for sharing. Happy travels 🙂

  22. I would Love to visit the Grand and Largest Mosque. How intricate that carpet will be which took years to be completed. The other thing which is fascinating me is sea plane. I think that will be so much of a fun.

  23. Abu Dhabi is high up on my bucket list. There’s so much to do there. Although I’ve been to Dubai, I have only been to the airport in Abu Dhabi – on a short layover. Did you need a visa to go out though?

  24. The Grand Mosque looks beautiful. I would love to see that in person! I’m not sure when I will have the opportunity to visit Abu Dhabi… but I definitely hope to one day!

  25. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is captivating and dazzling. The sea plane ride and desert Safari must surely be an electrifying experience. I can’t help but gape at the thought of the view of Abu Dhabi beneath me from the observation tower.

  26. Squeezing in the prominent attractions of the city within the layover period definitely sounds like a great idea to check off another city from the bucket list. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is no doubt the highlight of the visit we would make sure that we could atleast make a visit to this marvel and the next would be the desert safari. Good to know that the key attractions are in close proximity to the airport making it easier to cover as much possible in small time period.

  27. I was actually in Abu Dhabi in a layover, in November. Unfortunately I only had about 2 hours between planes so I couldn’t get out of the airport and visit. I do remember however the beautiful views over the city when we landed and how I wish I would have time to visit the White Mosque. But i guess there is always next time.

  28. Abu Dhabi has selected few options to explore! I was lucky enough to chance upon seeing the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, it truly was grand! The YAS Islands offerings are great too, but require longer time. I spent a day at the Ferrari World and still couldn’t get done with all of it!


  29. Abu Dhabi is a great place to kill time during a layover. The airport isn’t too far away from many of the city’s attractions, especially the Grand Mosque. I missed out on Ferrari World last time I was there, so I would head straight there for some Ferrari action!

  30. I have been to Dubai many times and once I went from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for a meeting, but didn’t do anything there. What a shame. I really missed all of them. I should fly with Etihad to make it up. The airline is a good one

  31. You know I have been in that airport for transit, on our way to Australia. I have never really thought about staying longer and exploring but you post made me realise that there is a lot to do there and it a beautiful place. I definitely keen to spend a couple of days there next time during my layover.

  32. The mosque and bike rides look amazing! What a nice way to spend a layover. I think the desert safari would require more than a brief layover!

  33. I’ve only been laid over there once, and luckily the airline put us up in a hotel. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to leave the airport, these activities look great.

  34. I am one of those people that have only ever been in the airport here during my layover to Australia. I have never really thought about staying here for a couple of days but after reading your post, I realised that there is a lot of things to do. I think I might have to reconsider stopping next time I fly to Australia.

  35. Great suggestions for a layover! The mosque is stunning. The desert safari looks like it might need more than a layover.

  36. Now that Abu Dhabi is becoming so popular as a layover destination, it’s great to get some ideas for things to do there. I would definitely make a desert safari my priority. In fact, I might even try arrange a long layover for that purpose! The sea plane looks cool too! Your list has something for everyone.

  37. Oh that sea plane ride looks fantastic! What a wonderful photo. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is on my bucket list if I ever make it to that part of the world. 😉

  38. I’ve been to Dubai twice and would love to visit Au Dhabi too. Your suggestions sound really interesting and appropriate for a layover.

  39. I love long layovers because they give an opportunity to (at least briefly) explore a place you might not visit otherwise! Abu Dhabi would be a great city for a quick stop – I like the activities you mention in this post. Personally, I’d probably go for the desert safari. Thank you for these tips!

  40. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque looks absolutely spectacular. I love architecture so I think this would be something I’d definitely visit. But on top of that, I think flying a seaplane and doing a desert safari would be really fun activities. I’ll keep this in mind if I make it to Abu Dhabi.

  41. I love to see Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the photos are amazing! I often thought of traveling to Abui Dhabi or Dubai. Next time my flight has a layover there I will take the time to it check it out.

  42. Your post made me remember the awesome we had in Abu Dhabi. I fell in love with the architecture of Sheikh Zayed mosque. I guess you have covered them all . Keep it up.

  43. Cool! Is it true that luxury cars here are so common you just see them “gathering dusts” by the roadside? 😛 Nah, really..I’d love to be behind the wheel of a Ferrari! Many people won’t have trouble getting out of the airport without a visa. So I wonder, for people like me who need visas practically everywhere, does Etihad or other airlines actually sponsor a visa like Qatar, for example?

  44. Great ideas for a quick stop. I’d be straight on the seaplane for an aerial view then off to the desert afterwards! The mosque looks absolutely beautiful. I love Arabic and Persian art and architecture – this looks like a great place to see them.

  45. If I had to pick one reason to go to Abu Dhabi, it would be for the desert safari. Most definitely. My next pick would be the stunning Arabic architecture of Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

  46. Abu dhabi is pretty under-rated, glad to see more people visiting the city. More so, considering if someone is in Dubai, it is a muct to drive down to Abu Dhabi. The Ferrari World was like a dream and we had only one day to cover it. Needless to say, we couldn’t. The post brought back all our memories back! 😀

  47. I know what you are talking about. I was stuck in Sharjah Airport layover and was dying to see the city. Sadly, I didn’t plan in advance and regreted later. Abu Dhabi seems like an interesting place. Too good to waste inside a clinical airport.

  48. Way too many great options to complete in a quick layover. The mosque looks so magnificent. I know it is a new structure but I think after a 100 years it will be considered a heritage site.

  49. I would personally plan a long layover in Abu Dhabi to get this experience! I’m sure the pictures don’t do the ornate mosque justice!

  50. Sheikh Zayed Mosque is definitely one of the most beautiful buildings ever. I hope to see it in person one day soon. Great tips for a layover!

  51. I was literally just talking to a friend about Abu Dhabi today! I’ve only recently added it to my must-visit list. I’m always a little nervous to leave the airport on a layover, even if it is quite a few hours long. But you certainly enticed me with your tips! I might just have to try leaving the airport on my next layover!

  52. Ohhh. a 25 minute sea plane ride looks like where you would find me. I’d be afraid of missing my next flight on a layover, but your suggestions are fantastic!

  53. Great ideas. How much time would be required if we wanted to do them all?
    Grand Mosque happened by chance… thanks to a kind friend!

  54. I totally want to visit Abu Dhabi. So many things to do. I didn’t know about the sea plane and this is something I would love to do

  55. Must say! you have mentioned the best things in this list! we did the Ferrari world tour and sea plane ride it is certainly alot fun, better than dubai in many ways! Which do you prefer Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Cheers

  56. We have a 13 hour layover in Abu Dhabi both ways and are trying to determine if we should book an outside hotel stay for these vs lounge stay or airport hotel?

  57. That Sheikh Zayed Mosque looks breath taking. For some reason it remind me of the inside of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are 100% on my to go to list. Also as an owner of a Jeep Wrangler I would also love to go driving through the dessert.

  58. Wow, I am amazed of the beauty of Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Visiting it or going for a Desert Safari would be my top choices. And one more thing: Congratulations for your photography skills! 🙂

  59. The mosque looks so elegant and magnificent. With so much to do over a layover, I would not mind booking my connecting flight the next day so that I get ample time to explore Abu Dhabi. I m wondering is a visa is needed to get out of the airport.

  60. Abu Dhabi looks beautiful from your pics. I have been in transit through it but never more than a few hours. I would love to visit the Mosque it looks stunning and also to do the desert safari.

  61. I have sat in many an airport on a layover and normally look for the shortest amounts of time and sit somewhere and read a book. This really needs to stop and I need to look for these longer ones and explore. Its amazing that you can head out in the desert, flight on a sea plane etc. during you layover. The Mosque looks so pretty too. Thanks for inspiring me.

  62. I’ve never flown Etihad so haven’t ever had the opportunity to have a layover of any length of time in Abu Dhabi, but when the opportunity arises I for sure will jump at it! Sheikh Zayed Mosque is one structure I’ve wanted to see up close for years now – it’s so ornate and beautiful, unlike anything else really.

  63. I would have loved to take this opportunity when I had a layover in Abu Dhabi but I was there only for 1.5 hours each way, so there wasn’t enough time to do anything but run from one gate to another. I did however plan on returning to Abu Dhabi one day and explore it. I would love to see the White Mosque.

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