Do you have a need for speed? If you like the feel of your foot to the floor and the wind in your hair, Abu Dhabi and Dubai should be at the top of your bucket list.

Cities in the United Arab Emirates are usually synonymous with more sedate luxury experiences – super sized shopping centres, opulent hotels, sprawling day spas – but there’s a new wave of adventure activities that will have you on the edge of your seat. Here’s our favourite adrenaline-inducing activities:

Clock up some speed at the Circuit

If you’re a Formula One fan, this is the one thing that should be on your bucket list. Once a year the Yas Marina Circuit hosts the real deal, with the Formula One race bringing in thousands of visitors to watch the cars race around the track, but the rest of the year, you can have your own F1 experience. This is one of the only places in the world where you can take a Formula One car out on a Formula One track. Formula Yas 3000 race cars have a 3000cc V6 engine, and you’ll clock up some serious speed in them. Drivers are kitted out in racing gear, taken through safety and technical briefings and led out on the track with a professional driver in a lead car. You’ll be feeling those G Forces around the track’s famous corners, and go under the Viceroy hotel straddling the track, for around 20 minutes of pure adrenaline. Learning how to handle the car is part of the fun, as is watching the professional driver in front of you take the turns with incredible skill. If the F1 is not your style, the Circuit also has track days with Aston Martins, Jaguars, Ferraris and Supersport SSTs.

The world’s best theme park

If you’re after a more controlled thrill, but are still a car fanatic, just down the road from the Yas Marina Circuit is Ferrari World. That’s right, a theme park dedicated to Italy’s fast and furious sports car. The indoor theme park is open year round, and is located inside the biggest space frame structure in the world. It’s huge – there are roller coasters, driving simulators, go cart tracks, museums, stores, restaurants, kids areas, and plenty of Ferraris inside. Make a beeline for the Formula Rossa roller coaster, which hurtles you around at 240km/hr and lets you experience the same G force as an F1 car, before testing out your skills on a driving simulator.

Ride the sand dunes

A safari is perhaps the wrong way to describe the experience of slipping and sliding down the face of a steep Arabian sand dune. You’ll skirt along the edge, slide down the sides and rev up to the top of the spectacular sand dunes in a four wheel drive – it’s not for those with a weak stomach, but it’s certainly a lot of fun. There are plenty of sand dune safari tours that depart from Dubai, most taking place in the late afternoon, ending at a traditional Bedouin camp for an Arabian meal. If you’re thinking of booking into a few different experiences, it’s worth investing in the iVenture Card. Pre-loaded with tickets for a host of different attractions, the cards often let you skip the queue, have special discounts and mean you don’t need to deal with the hassle paying with cash or card. There are premium experiences that cost extra, like helicopter rides and limo transfers, but there’s plenty of included activities to keep you busy.

Take The Leap of Faith

It’s not surprising in a city that likes to make a splash that there’s a theme park with a water slide passing through a shark tank. Aquaventure at Atlantis The Palm hotel’s famous ride is called The Leap of Faith for a reason. An almost vertical drop down nine metres, shooting through a clear acrylic tube, passing right through a shark tank, is not for the faint-hearted. Sitting at the top of the Tower of Poseidon, the ride is the crowning glory of the park, you’ll occasionally hear the shrieks of its passengers on their way down. Don’t worry, it’s quick and pain free, so try to keep your eyes open for the shark spotting if you give it a go. Admission to Aquaventure is also included in the iVenture Card.

Aquaventure The Leap of Faith

Sky diving, sort of.

If you want to ease your way into jumping out of a plane, the iVenture Card includes access to iFly, an indoor sky diving experience that will see you floating, rather than falling, through the air. A massive vertical wind tunnel will become your playground – pros can flip, twirl and plunge through the air, but most first timers get a taste of moving up and down more than three metres through the air.

All the way At the Top

Want to be on top of the world? Burj Khalifa is the tallest tower in the world, and has the ultimate birds eye view of the city. Cars will look like tiny ants when you look down on the streets from At the Top, the observation deck on the 124th floor. This might not sound scary, but the open air terrace’s glass walls don’t seem that thick when you’re peering down below. Hold onto your camera if you’re brave enough to push it through the eye-level gaps that look out to open air. Remember to pre-book your tickets online, as the timed entrance sessions sell out.

Not enough? There’s also parasailing, skiing and even shark diving to keep you occupied!

Try Dinner in the Sky

Feel like tackling your fear of heights while enjoying a three course meal? Dinner in the Sky UAE suspends 22 diners 55 metres above the ground from the Dubai International Marine Club. Strapped in and suspended above ground, with your feet floating, you’ll get to enjoy the view on your 360 degree swivel chair, if you dare, if not, make the most of your meal and try not to look down!