Tucked away away at the northern tip of the UAE lies the country’s most underrated emirate, Ras Al Khaimah.
You won’t find the gargantuan skyscrapers, shopping malls and bars that dominate Dubai and Abu Dhabi but you will be struck by a cultural authenticity that is hard to find in the other emirates.
Make no mistake: Ras Al Khaimah abounds in archaeological sites, historical structures and natural beauty – from mountains to deserts and pristine white-sand beaches.
Factor in year-round sunshine, first class resorts and friendly locals – and you have an up and coming UAE holiday destination.
Discover the top 10 things to do and see in Ras Al-Khaimah with our handy guide…
The National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah
Located in the western part of Ras Al Khaimah city in a fort that was the residence of the ruling family until the early 1960s, The National Museum houses a collection of archaeological and ethnological artefacts. Visitors will learn about architecture, pearl diving, date agriculture, farming and fishing in the various galleries.
Scaling the Hajar Heights
The spectacular Hajar Mountains in the eastern part of the emirate, were formed over 70 million years ago and stand nearly 2,000 metres above sea level.
The mountain range offers breath-taking scenery and a welcome respite from the heat of the beach resorts, with temperatures around 10 degrees cooler than sea level. For those who wish to spend the night under the stars, there are a number of established camping spots or, to really get into the Arabian spirit, why not camp Bedouin-style in some remote wadis?
No visit to Ras Al Khaimah is complete without taking a trip into the desert – the true heart of Arabia.
Virtually every tour operator offers a half or full day desert safari tour: after dune driving you can have your hands henna’ed, then make like Lawrence of Arabia and ride a camel, before enjoying a desert sunset, Arabic barbecue and a bit of belly dancing.
Seven tenths of the world is covered in water and as satirist Dave Barry once quipped: “Staying on top of the water is like standing outside the circus tent.”
As enjoyable as activities above the water are, it’s what lies beneath that is of real interest – particularly in Ras Al Khaimah, arguably the finest emirate in the UAE for snorkelling, diving and exploring the marine life.
Adrenaline junkies will also be in seventh heaven: jet-skiing, fly-boarding, wake-boarding, parasailing and banana boat rides are all on offer along the 64km coastline.
Explore Jazirat Al Hamra Fishing Village
This abandoned fishing village, just outside of Ras Al Khaimah, is one of the oldest and best preserved coastal villages in the UAE (with roots dating back to the 16th century) and serves as a reminder of life before the oil boom. One caveat: watch out for ghosts – some of the abandoned buildings are believed to be haunted.
Al Marjan Island
Al Marjan, a series of four connected man-made islands, is located in the west of Ras Al Khaimah. Extending a vast 4.5km into the sea, the island covers an area of 2.7 million square metres. With waterfront homes, quality hotels and resorts, marinas, private resident beaches, leisure, retail and recreational facilities, this ambitious development represents the direction in which RAK is headed.
Most visitors flock to Ras Al Khaimah to fly and flop but the underrated emirate is also a great destination for golfers, thanks its enviable climate and world class golf courses including Al Hamra Golf Club. Designed by renowned golf course architect, Peter Harradine, the course incorporates both open water lagoons and desert landscapes resulting in a stunning par 72 championship course – measuring 7,325 yards at full length
Discover Dhayah Fort
This 16th-century mud-brick fort was built in a strategic hilltop position facing the Gulf to defend the region from attack by the British and was the last holdout, before eventually falling in December 1819.
More recently it housed the royal family until 1964 when, following a very short period as a local prison, it opened to the general public as a place to celebrate Emirati history.
A world record-breaking zip line measuring 2.83km – equivalent to over 28 football pitches – and reaching speeds close to 150km per hour is the latest addition to Ras Al Khaimah’s claim to be the adventure capital of the Middle East.
Via Ferrata – which means iron street/path in Italian – includes three courses along the rocky facades of Jebel Jais, aka the UAE’s highest mountain.
If you think you have what it take, secure your spot at www.jebeljais.ae/book-now/
Opened in the 1990s, Saqr Park is the largest public park in Ras Al Khaimah, and is known for its vast areas of greenery. It is the perfect spot for big kids and little kids alike to relax and unwind featuring, as it does, green spaces, playgrounds and other facilities.