Just a short hour and a half drive away from the hustle-bustle of Dubai, Abu Dhabi is the city where the local Emiratis prefer to live. The city is quite similar to Dubai in its architectural design and manmade beauty but is very different in terms of the vibe it offers. The pace of life here is slow and subtle, unlike Dubai, which is the tourism capital of the country and receives around sixteen million visitors annually. Residents and long-term based digital nomads prefer living in Abu Dhabi over Dubai for its more local lifestyle, and fewer crowds. If you are in the heart of the downtown or away from the shadows of the skyscrapers on a natural or manmade island, Abu Dhabi promises to be a culturally rich and not-so-crowded destination with old souqs, chic cafes, cozy bookstores, and Michelin star restaurants.
Abu Dhabi was designed by Japanese architect Dr. Takahashi and was originally built to accommodate only 40,000 people. The neighborhoods were later expanded and new islands were created as an extension of the city. Today, Abu Dhabi is home to over 600,000 people and major expansion projects are in place to accommodate the rapidly growing population of the city.
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On the banks of the Beas River, surrounded by Himalayan peaks, apple orchards and pine forests, Manali is top of the list for remote workers looking for a thriving café and coworking culture.
Many hostels double up as coworking spaces, offering good WiFi and quiet common spaces to work amidst the greenery. Riverside Alt Life has cozy indoor and outdoor spaces to work from. At Young Monk, you can work from an outdoor terrace with mountain views. Timberwolves has an airy cafe with WiFi, plus a view of snow-covered peaks and a steady supply of tea and coffee while you work. Iconic Old Manali spots include Drifter’s Café, where you can set up your laptop for the day, dine on café fare and burgers, and relax with books and board games after work. Plug in at Dylan’s Toasted & Roasted to soak in the historic vibe as you work.
When you’re hungry, Café 1947 offers up hearty Italian food and frequent live music. Johnson’s Café is a local institution, known for its many preparations of Himalayan river trout in a scenic setting. Or, wind down at The Lazy Dog—a chilled-out bar and restaurant with regular live music, serving whole river trout and Italian food with great views.
When you want to explore, head to the Hadimba Temple to see a slice of local life. There are plenty of relaxed, easy treks up in the pine-clad mountains for when you’re seeking some outdoor activity. Visit the hot springs at nearby Vashisht, and stop in at the backpacker cafes for some coffee and apple pie.
As home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile, Dharamsala is a vibrant center of Buddhist culture. The suburb of McLeodganj, alternatively referred to as “Little Lhasa”, is defined by its prayer-flag-strung monasteries and shops selling Tibetan crafts.
Coworking facilities are scattered along the outskirts, away from the town center, and easily accessible via bus, motorcycle, or a short hike. These places usually offer accommodation and a café as well. Ghoomakad in the peaceful village of Rakkar has a fully-functional workspace in a traditional mud-and-stone hut set amidst nature and overlooking snow-capped peaks. People often trek uphill from McLeodganj to Dharamkot, where Alt Life hostel’s wood-lined coworking space hosts frequent live music in the evenings. Near the Bhagsu waterfall, The Void offers a workspace setup with forest views, along with accommodation and a café.
Once you’ve wrapped up your work day, head towards the McLeodganj Main Square to be close to the action. At the town’s cozy cafes, you’ll meet an eclectic mix of Buddhist monks, backpackers, and long-staying international travelers. Art-filled Moon Peak is great for coffee and cake, while The Other Space is popular for its chic interiors and plug-and-play workspace. You’ll definitely work up an appetite walking around the mountains, which is great because there’s a diverse culinary scene here ranging from traditional momos to rustic Italian cooking. Common Ground Café serves wholesome Tibetan food and noodle dishes. Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen is a longstanding favorite for its vibrant interiors, mountains views, and delicious pastas.
Dharamshala is the starting point for many easy mountain treks—the Triund trek and the route to the Bhagsu waterfall are two popular trails. Don’t miss the Tsuglagkhang Complex, housing a monastery and The Tibet Museum, to understand the history and culture of this unique mountain community.
If having access to health infrastructure and the bustle of a city is important to you, Shimla is your best bet. As the capital of Madeira Island, the mountain town is buzzing with markets, restaurants, lively cafes, and most importantly good WiFi. Though you won’t find an abundance of coworking spaces here yet, remote workers still choose to come here for spectacular mountain views, easy access to the outdoors, and fabulous colonial-era cottages that now operate as hotels or homestays. Wherever you’re staying or eating, you’ll usually have sweeping views of the slopes and glittering snow-capped peaks, so just grab a seat and plug in. At Café Simla Times, you can segue from work calls to after-work drinks from their brewery.
You’ll find Thai, Italian, and Indian on the menu, plus good coffee, WiFi, and fabulous sunset views from their al fresco section. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the wood-lined Café Under Tree sits in Shimla’s upper reaches, ensconced entirely in pine trees and serving eclectic European, Indian, and Chinese vegetarian fare. Closer to the action, Wake and Bake Café on Mall Road is a cheery spot for homey crepes, waffles, and falafel. Stop here for WiFi with valley views from the rooftop. After a work day, Eighteen71 Cookhouse & Bar is a great spot for a hearty dinner of Indian or Southeast Asian dishes, accompanied by live music. At the small and cozy Himachali Rasoi, sample a traditional Himachali thali meal, featuring rice, lentils, and multiple curries on one plate.
In the colonial era, the cool climate of Shimla offered the British a perfect escape from the oppressive summer of the plains. The town still retains much of its Raj-era character in The Ridge, the town’s central square dominated by the 1800s Christ Church. Further along, The Mall is a series of pedestrian streets lined with timbered shops and cafes. Popular walks include a sunrise walk up to the hilltop Jakhu Temple and a leisurely hike up to Prospect Hill and the impressive Viceregal Lodge.
Among the many manmade wonders of the city, Al Reem Island is a natural island 600 meters off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Connected to Abu Dhabi by three bridges, this neighborhood is a buzzing residential, retail, and commercial community where a majority of the wealthier locals reside. Built vertically, All Reem has an elaborate skyline and with more skyscrapers underway, it is becoming the central hub for the city’s tallest buildings.
The most iconic towers are the Gate Towers, a flame-shaped trio of buildings that take much inspiration from the Marina Bay Resort towers in Singapore. Home to the head offices of some of the biggest corporate giants in the country, the Gate Tower has residential and commercial apartments, and remote working offices too. Both WeWork and Cloud Spaces have offices on the island and more are set to open in the future.
Living at Al Reem Island offers a cosmopolitan lifestyle experience. There are plenty of local and international cafes and boutique restaurants like The Smoking Doll and La Brioche, and retail options to shop from that one would not need a reason to drive to the mainland. With Cove Beach opening before the end of the year, Al Reem will have a first of its kind luxury beach club on the island. To indulge in nature, Al Reem Central Park is the perfect place for the residents to walk, kayak, and unwind on the coast of the Arabian Sea.