Fly over Dubai, and you’ll notice something unusual about the shoreline—the Palm Islands and the World, some of the world’s largest artificial islands. From above, these islands resemble a trio of palm trees and a roughly circular world map, golden on the otherwise azure surface of the Persian Gulf.
First constructed in 2001 as part of one of the city’s mega development projects, the islands are always in various stages of development, especially the World, which is set to replicate the entire world and cover 5.5 miles (9 km) of reclaimed land. Although the palms are mainly home to a mix of leisure, residential, marina and commercial structures, visitors need not own property (or even stay in one of the hotels) on the completed Palm Jumeirah or any of the other islands to get a good look at this manmade wonder. Tours by speedboat, rigid-inflatable boat and jetski take visitors from the Dubai Marina to the Palm Jumeirah archipelago, where it’s possible to see the luxe hotels tower above the water and spot the Burj Al-Arab from afar.
The undeniably best views of the Palm Islands and the World are from the air. Flightseeing tours aboard a helicopter or seaplane provide the perfect bird’s-eye views—and photo ops—of these impressive archipelagos. Heading to the Observation Deck at the Burj Khalifa or to the top of one of the city’s many other high-rises skyscrapers is another way to see the sprawling development from above.
The completed Palm Jumeirah stretches 3.2 miles (5 km) by 3.2 miles. Although there is no public transit in place to reach the Palm Gateway Monorail Station on the coast, from here, travelers can take a 10-minute ride out to the tip of the palm to see the length of the artificial island from a good vantage point. Taxis can also drive out to palm leaves. Dubai’s famed Atlantis hotel, Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark and Lost Chambers Aquarium are set on Palm Jumeirah.