The biggest of all Dubai’s recent mega-developments, the Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest man-made island, and has doubled the length of the Dubai coastline at a total cost of over $12 billion. Often billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, the island is designed in the shape of a palm tree, with a central “trunk” and a series of sixteen radiating “fronds”, the whole thing enclosed in an eleven-kilometre breakwater, or “crescent”, lined with a string of massive five-star resorts including the vast Atlantis, the swanky Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and super-chic One&Only The Palm. It look pretty on the map, although the shape and scale of the overall design can only really be appreciated from the air. At ground level the main impression is off overcrowded suburbia, with closely packed villas lining the fronds, and a series of ugly apartment block strung out along the central trunk.
For an overview of the island, take a ride on the five-kilometre-long Palm Jumeirah Monorail (daily 10am–10pm; trains every 20–30min; 15dh one way, 25dh return; Nol cards not valid) which shuttles between Atlantis and the Gateway station on the mainland, taking five minutes to complete the trip. From Gateway station it’s a five-minute walk (clearly signed) through a multi-storey car-park to Palm Jumeirah station on the Dubai Tram network.