Travel

Must-See: 7 Underrated Middle East Travel Destinations

night-photographer

Maimoona NalkhandeTravel,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Who doesn’t enjoy a good holiday? It seems, though, that we’re hardwired to think true travel is far away: Europe, US, Far East. The Middle East, aside from the political and civil turbulence, is highly underrated. It is a completely distinct experience – with varied food, culture, and history. This gets it to every traveller’s ‘must-see’ list.

Additionally, for some countries that are recovering from conflict, a bit of tourism/volunteering helps the economy get back on its feet [so, do head there when things are calmer].

Here are a few places in the Middle East travel destinations that you will fall in love with:

1. Tel Aviv, Israel

Middle East Travel Destinations

The second most populous city of Israel after the ever-popular Jerusalem, a 45-minute bus ride from the capital will lead you to the splendid land of Tel Aviv. Whether it’s the incredible music gigs, the awe-inspiring art or the aesthetic beaches, Tel Aviv encompasses a gorgeous blend of serenity and humbleness.

Apart from being home to the Israel Opera and Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the city has also been thriving in areas of technology and financial development.

Experiences you shouldn’t miss

Nahalat Binyamin: The Nahalat Binyamin Arts & Crafts Fair takes place every Tuesday and Friday along the pedestrian mall. Skilled craftsmen, artists, musicians and performers of varied talents bring forth the best that Tel Aviv has to offer. What’s more, all this joy comes free of cost!

Neve Tzedek: A perfect place to bring someone special for a walk along the small streets and alleyways, watching beautiful restored buildings, you’re sure to have a heart-warming conversation that will bring you closer to loved ones.

2. Hurghada, Egypt

Giftun Islands
Giftun Islands

Far from the busy streets of Cairo, little bundle of wonders can be found about the streets of Hurghada. Hurghada offers fun activities like scuba diving and kite surfing.

Travellers are generally reluctant about undertaking trips to lesser known destinations, but these are where the magic happens. Hurghada, however, offers direct flights to various international airports, so you don’t have to worry.

Experiences you shouldn’t miss:

Giftun Islands: Ideal for boat excursions, Giftun is a great place to relax with rays and waves. Tourists often narrate their incredible scuba diving adventures. The island is well-equipped with coral reefs, an excellent taste of the Red Sea’s beauty.

Astronomical Tours: If like me, you live in a city that compels you to sleep under starless skies, Hurghada will come as a sweet surprise. The city provides  astronomical tours after dusk into the desert, where you can spend a dreamy night amidst the stars.

 3. Salalah, Oman

Interior of Taqah Castle
Interior of Taqah Castle

The second largest yet most beautiful city of the Sultanate of Oman, Salalah, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful places in the Middle East; it has castles, caves, tombs and mountains – history and adventure.

Experiences you shouldn’t miss:

Taqah Castle: A great way for you to get a glimpse of the past, the Taqah Castle provides a reflection of an old Middle-Eastern lifestyle. Restored with historically-rich exhibits, Taqah is a wonderful stop on the outskirts of Salalah.

Al Mughsail Beach: Your visit to Oman is incomplete if you don’t visit the beach. Amongst the many, Mughsail has natural fountains and exotic marine life.

4. Beirut, Lebanon

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A paradise for street photographers, this Lebanese delight is something you will never get enough of. Be it the overwhelming hospitality of the locals or the aromatic Lebanese street delicacies, Beirut gives you numerous reasons to stay once you’ve arrived.

With the wide range of historical locations, Beirut continues to be every historian’s dream and every globetrotter’s long-lost love.

Experiences you shouldn’t miss:

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque: A definite stop on your bucket list for Beirut, this blue-domed mosque with high minarets has become a fixture in Beirut’s skyline.

Gemmayzeh Street: Brace yourselves for one of the best nights out. Art galleries, restaurants, pubs and the constant music gigs makes this street a popular one for tourists and residents alike.

5. Pamukkale, Turkey

ruins
Hierapolis City ruins

The name Pamukkale translates as ‘cotton castle’. This place has a picturesque travertine formations, abundant hot springs, temples, bath houses, necropolis and the remains of an idyllic Greek-Roman spa city, Hierapolis.

Science may not have given us a time machine yet, but travelling to Pamukkale definitely does a good job.

Experiences you shouldn’t miss:

Hierapolis City ruins: Every history lover’s fantasy, the Hierapolis City highlights the remains of a colonnaded street, the Byzantine church, Temple of Apollo and the Martyrium of the Apostle Philip. For those who don’t appreciate historical sights, this place will make you realize why you should.

Travertines: A set of ‘frozen stones’, natural terraces and pools of gleaming white calcium precipitate from the cooling mineral water. Once rippling and splashing with water, they are now largely dry and brittle, but still a sight of amazement. The place accommodates absolutely adorable motels and tea bars too.

6. Socotra Island, Yemen

Wadi Durhar Canyon
Wadi Dirhur Canyon

The island of Socotra in Yemen boasts of raw and rare visions. This isolated island is home to a huge population of vegetation that is found nowhere else on planet Earth. Often regarded as ‘The Land of the Lost’, Socotra is an exotic habitat where time stands still.

This unspoiled beauty will remind you to cherish life in all of its forms.

Experiences you shouldn’t miss:

Wadi Dirhur Canyon: Set amidst a gorgeous wild-limestone cutting, this canyon is an astounding landmark on the grounds of Socotra. If you’re looking for a camping experience, this place is exactly where you need to be.

Diksam Plateau: Diksam stands strong for redefining beauty in truly frightening proportions. The plateau comprises of a dramatic and austere setting encompassing dragon-blood trees, one of the rarest vegetation on earth.

7. Isfahan, Iran.

Siospele Bridge
Siospele Bridge

A magnificent city that royally portrays the richness of ancient Persian culture, Isfahan offers an uncommon insight into the roots of Middle Eastern history and culture, with its great mosques, bridges, and other historical sights.

Isfahan is also home to charming Iranian bazaars that provide you with the opportunity to shop for wonderful memoirs.

Experiences you shouldn’t miss:

Siospele Bridge: If you’re worn out walking along the beautiful streets of Iran, get yourself a delicious kebab wrap and sit down in the park near the Siospele Bridge. The finest place to witness an Iranian sunset, this calm, less-chaotic travelling experience will provide you with a great opportunity to interact with the locals and share stories that you can relish for a lifetime.

Flower Garden: The flower garden is a well-designed masterpiece crafted by experts. With its wide variety of flowers and trees, this place is bliss for tourists of all ages. A small walk across this garden might as well prove to be the highlight of your trip.

Whatever country you are based in, the Middle East is definitely a source to fulfill your wanderlust. For those who live within the Gulf and haven’t come across these places yet, what have you been waiting for? It’s time you appreciate things closer to home.

Have you travelled to any of these destinations? Tell us about it in the comment below – What did you enjoy most?

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