Although Sharjah is quite built-up, there are plenty of spots to get a bit of greenery in your life.
Head for the National Park – the largest in the emirate at more than 600,000 sq m – where you can walk, run or rent a bike to reach the far corners.
Or for something more wild, drive out of the city through rugged landscapes and take in the impressive views of Wadi Shi, which offers plenty of places to explore for those who enjoy a hike.
Meanwhile, the Wasit Wetland Centre offers views of feathered residents both domestic and migratory at a huge nature reserve, which is made up of sand dunes, mud flats, salty lagoons and freshwater pools.
So whether you're just looking to lay back on the grass or want to reconnect with nature, then Sharjah has plenty of parks and nature spots – here are the top places to visit...
Al Fayha Park
A little green oasis in one of the emirate’s more densely populated areas, this large park is very neat and tidy, though perhaps not Sharjah’s most aesthetically pleasing. It is a welcoming place for families, with children’s swings and other play facilities. The park also has soccer and basketball facilities plus a small snack stop. Entry is free but you will need a municipality card.
Free. Open 6am-10pm. Ibn Khaldon Street, Sharjah, (56 843 9266).
Al Noor Island
This stunning isle is one of the emirate’s real must-sees. Visit the Butterfly House - its top attraction - to learn more about these beautiful flying insects than you ever thought possible, then curl up with a good book at the Literature Pavilion. Wander among the visually stunning egg-shaped OVO sculpture and installations by some of the world’s most famous artists - beautifully-lit after sundown - and stroll down the 3.5km boardwalk through tropical landscaped gardens.
Open Sat-Wed 9am-11pm, Thur-Fri 9am-midnight. Khalid Lake, Buhairah Corniche Road, Sharjah, www.alnoorisland.ae (06 506 7000).
Arabian Wildlife Center
This facility prides itself on being the only zoo in Arabia that exhibits all extant and extinct animals naturally occurring in the Arabian Peninsula. Resident beasts include those living in the reptile, fish and insect houses, plus venomous snakes, camel spiders and scorpions. The bird aviary set in a wadi leads visitors on to the impressive collection of mammals, including baboons, wolves, hyena, cheetah and the rare Arabian leopard.
Dhs15. Open Sat-Wed 9am-5.30pm, Thurs 11am-5.30pm, Fri 2pm-5.30pm. Al Dhaid Road, Sharjah, www.sharjah-welcome.com (06 531 1999).
Khor Kalba Conservation Reserve
This oasis of wildlife surrounded by the brutal Hajar Mountains is a cornucopia of varied topography, boasting beaches mangrove, mountains and woodland within. Visitors can choose from the Kalba Bird of Prey Centre, Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre, Al Hafiya Picnic Park and watersports providers. In 2013, its mangroves became the third UAE site to be recognised as globally significant by an international convention on wetlands due to its rare Socotra cormorants. Stay at the magnificent Kingfisher Lodge to spend a night overlooking overlooking both the ocean and mangrove forest.
Open 24 hours. Kalba, Sharjah.
If Sharjah does not have quite as many green spaces as some of its neighbouring emirates, don’t the ones that get it right seem all the more special? Groups who visit the park for morning walks or weekend family socials will tell you that this is one of the emirate’s’ top spots. This family-orientated facility is clean, safe and neat. Ladies who want to bring their children - or their running shoes - during the daytime will tell you how safe they feel. Entry is free but you will need a municipality card.
Open 6am-10pm, Al Nahda, Sharjah
Posh Paws Animal Sanctuary and Petting Zoo
Animal-lovers, or those with little animal-lovers in tow, should be warned: visitors could be in danger of leaving this facility with a car-load of cute cats, adorable dogs, rabbits, hamsters or even tortoises. We are not trying to talk you out of adding to your household animal quota - quite the opposite - we just want you to know the inhabitants at this sanctuary carry a collective cuteness rating of 10 out of 10. Posh Paws relies on donations, so the least you can do is put your hand in your pocket.
Dhs20 adults, Dhs10 ages 2-16, free under-2s. Open daily 8am-12pm, 3pm-6pm. Al Khawaneej, Dubai, www.poshpawsdubai.com (056 604 4091).
If you love aquariums, this is a must. love Reef sharks, manatees, clown fish - yes, just like Pixar’s adorable Nemo - and turtles are some of the residents of UAE waters which also spread their fins across 20 tanks at an aquarium containing more than 200 species of marine life. The best feature here is the underwater tunnel which puts you right in the midst of these majestic creatures. Animal feeding and informative talks take place regularly. Kids will also love the touchscreens and interactive displays. And the cover prices also allows entry to the adjacent Sharjah Maritime Museum.
Dhs20 for adults, Dhs10 for children. Open Mon-Thur 8am-8pm, Fri 4pm-10pm, Sun closed. Al Meena Street, Sharjah, www.sharjahaquarium.ae (06 528 5288).
Sharjah National Park
Feeling lazy? Lie back, relax and look out along verdant landscape that stretches out towards the horizon. The more active can walk, run or rent a bike to reach the far corners of this huge park, the largest in the emirate at more than 600,000 sq m. You can even hop aboard a train for a small charge. Well-spaced barbecue units mean it never feels too crowded when busy on weekends during the cooler months, while the lapping water of the lake is very relaxing. Children will enjoy the slides and rope ladders of the jungle gym.
Dh2. Open daily 8am-10pm, Al Dhaid Road, Sharjah, (06 545 8996).
The drive from the city is something in itself to behold, offering impressive views of rugged landscapes and that surrounds this wadi area, which is actually part of Oman - though you don’t need to pass through a checkpoint to reach it. Plenty of places to explore for those who enjoy a hike or mountain bike ride. Some choose to camp overnight, though we would recommend staying at one of the many comfortable hotels in nearby Khor Fakkan.
Open 24 hours. Shis, Sharjah.
Wasit Wetland Centre
If there is a better spot in the emirate for nature-lovers, we have yet to find it. Bird-watchers in particular flock (sorry) from across the UAE to view the feathered residents both domestic and migratory of this huge nature reserve, which is made up of sand dunes, mud flats, salty lagoons and freshwater pools, inhabited more than 60 species of bird. Educational events for groups of children and families include tours of the centre, games and other activities. Take the buggy through the wetlands for an interactive and fun day out.
Dhs15 adults, free ages 12 and under. Open Sun-Thu 9am-6.30pm; Fri 2.30pm-6.30pm; Sat 11am-6,30pm; Sun closed. Wasit, Sharjah, www.epaashj.ae/learning-centres/wwc (050 213 3915).