Best 15 places to visit in Ras Al Khaimah, see a different side of the UAE
Why visit Ras Al Khaimah?
There’s more to the United Arab Emirates than the glittering cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. One of the seven regions which constitute the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the emirate of Ras al Khaimah offers a welcome escape from the bustling city life of other emirates like Dubai and Sharjah. Considered more “authentic” than its better-known siblings,
Ras Al Khaimah city is an extremely diverse location featuring a variety of landscapes from white sandy beaches to majestic mountains, and from turquoise blue seas to magnificent sand dunes. It is also a great place for enthusiasts of history and outdoor adventures.
Ras Al Khaimah is very unlike the other emirates. Its authenticity is well preserved because the ruling family decided it didn’t want to commercialize the region using oil money.
It offers glimpses of authentic Arabian culture and is ideal for a day trip of staycation from the busier and glitzier emirates.
How to get to Ras Al Khaimah
To get to Ras Al Khaimah from Dubai, you can either use the shuttle service which costs around AED 20, or the al-Hamra bus service which costs around AED 25 for a one-way trip. These are incredibly cheap and very convenient for travelers on a budget. It’s only 45 minutes from Dubai airport to Ras Al Khaimah.
Abu Dhabi is around 250 km away from Ras Al Khaimah and the bus ride costs around AED 35-40. Other options include taxis and private cars which are comparatively more expensive and luxurious. A taxi costs between AED 200 and 250.
A private 1-way transfer between Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai is a simple and convenient way to see a different side of the UAE when time is short.
Where to Stay in Ras Al Khaimah
And if you’re planning a staycation, Ras Al Khaimah offers a variety of options ranging from luxurious 7-star hotels and beach resorts to budget-friendly lodges and apartments.
The Ritz Carlton in the Wadi Desert is spectacular, as is the impressive Waldorf Astoria on the beach. Two new hotels opened in 2022 and are world-class. They are the InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Resort and Spa and the Mövenpick Resort Al Marjan Island. The Cove Rotana Resort is another of the most luxe resorts while the Hilton Garden Inn and BM Beach Resort can be booked at comparably more affordable rates.
Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert– This fabulous resort is in a protected nature reserve and is only 45 minutes from Dubai. It boasts adventure activities and tranquillity in a desert oasis. The rooms are incredible!
Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah – A private white sandy beach, water playgrounds, and a golf resort are just a few of the many world-class facilities at this highly rated, travel-sustainable property for families and couples.
InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Resort and Spa – An astonishingly beautiful infinity pool and balconies form suites and villas almost touching the sand – this new resort and spa is a luxe relaxation experience!
Mövenpick Resort Al Marjan Island – With 6 specialty bars and restaurants, 3 outside pools, a wellness hub, and 4 treatment rooms, lose yourself in this upscale 5-star resort‘s luxurious pampering and dining options.
Cove Rotana Resort – World-class beach and poolside bars and excellent service at this hip resort. Located on an inlet facing the Arabian Sea, there are 4 bars, 2 restaurants, and 600m of beachfront. There are also private villas available.
BM Beach Resort – On its own private beach looking out to Marjan Island, the beach resort has three swimming pools, multiple bars, and accommodation is in simply furnished modern chalets and cabanas. A fun 4-star experience!
Let’s have a look at the top 15 destinations to visit on your trip to Ras Al Khaimah.
1. Hajar mountains
The majestic Hajar mountains constitute a major part of the rugged and raw landscape of Ras Al Khaimah. This mountain range is the highest in the Arabian peninsula stretching from Northwestern Oman to eastern UAE.
Featuring some of the most picturesque scenery, these mountains will take your breath away with rust-colored rocky landscape and red sand dunes. To admire the breathtaking views of these magnificent mountains you can either camp at various sites or trek through the mountains.
Other activities that can be enjoyed while on a trip to the Hajar mountains include hiking, rock climbing, and visiting the historical and archaeological sites. The Hajar mountains are also known for their special igneous rock which is being studied by scientists and geologists for their unique features. The most well-known part of the Hajar Mountains is Jebel Jais.
2. Jebel Jais
Jebel Jais, the tallest mountain in UAE, is a part of the majestic Hajar mountain range which stands at an altitude of around 2,000 meters above sea level and offers a wide range of adventurous activities for thrill seekers.
Featuring the world’s longest zipline, stretching over a distance of around 2.8 km across the canyons of this iconic mountain, Jebel Jais is an ideal destination for adrenaline junkies.
Other fun activities for tourists include a sky tour to get an aerial view of Jebel Jais, hiking, and toboggan rides. I highly recommend experiencing not only the world’s longest zipline but also the amazing sunset from the Jebel Jais viewing deck park for the most spectacular views of the Hajar mountain range.
3. Wadi Shawka
Wadi Shawka is one of the most popular places to visit in Ras Al Khaimah. It is nestled in a valley in the Hajar mountains. The valley is home to many abandoned settlements which are UAE-protected heritage sites.
Adjacent to the Shawka dam, this region also features some of the most picturesque landscapes like natural hot pools formed due to rainfall over the rugged terrain of the valley. Ideal for trekkers and adventure seekers, this place is a must-visit if you’re looking for some off-road adventure.
However, if you don’t feel confident heading off into the mountains, consider hiring an experienced guide or at least using a GPS system as it is easy to get lost in the curving and winding trails of the valley. This Desert Drive and Wadi Shawka pool tour is a fun adventure day out for some canyoning, swimming, and picnicking.
4. Jazirat al Hamra
Jazirat al Hamra is a small rustic village previously inhabited by people involved in the pearl diving and fishing industries.
One of the oldest coastal villages of the Middle East, Al Jazirat Al Hamra was eventually abandoned. Shrouded in a layer of mystery as well as desert sand, there are various myths and theories about why this town was abandoned.
The most remarkable feature of the small village of Jazirat Al Hamra is its coral-colored houses, mosques, and shops which are believed to be haunted.
This small rustic fishing village is considered an important heritage site of Ras Al Khaimah and is a must-visit for travelers wanting to catch a glimpse of the rich history of the Middle East.
Shimal is another small village located at the foot of the Hajar mountains.
This site of ancient pre-Islamic tombs dates back to the Umm Al Nar period from around 2000-1300 BC and is on the list for recognition as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is also one of the most important archaeological sites as pottery, stone vessels, beads and traditional weapons belonging to ancient Arabs have been unearthed here.
This village is also home to one of the most important tourist attractions, Husn Al Shimal fort which is perched on a rock. The fort gives excellent views of the whole village below and will give you a breathtaking glimpse of the entire Shimal region.
A local guide is a great way to really understand this important historic site.
6. Dhayah Fort
Dhayah Fort is a defensive military tower with roots dating back to the Bronze Age. With a strategic hilltop position facing the Arabian Gulf, Dhayah Fort rises magnificently between Jebel Jais mountains and gardens of date palm trees, in the center of a lush green oasis.
This iconic landmark of Ras Al Khaimah has played an important role in Arab history.
Although the climb to the Dhayah Fort is uneven and rocky, it’s definitely worth a visit to explore the fort and witness the panoramic views of the ruined fortifications and watch towers below.
Dhayah Fort is only one of the many defensive fortifications you can see in this area and across the UAE in general and it’s worthwhile to try and visit at least one Fort on a visit to the UAE. The Dubai Fort (now the Dubai Museum) is the most accessible if you can’t get to this lovely Fort in the mountains overlooking the sea.
7. Al Qawasim Corniche
Considered the most beautiful road in Ras Al Khaimah, the Corniche follows the waterfront and its mangroves for 3 kilometers.
This long promenade is a focus of city life and at night is particularly lively. The promenade is lined with cafes and restaurants. You’ll find walkers, joggers, cyclists as well as families heading to the children’s park on the Corniche.
The RAK eye, a huge Ferris wheel that even provides dining options, as well as the national flagpole are part of the Corniche which was named after the clan who controlled the trade in this area in the 18th century.
8. National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah
The National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah is an ideal destination for history lovers as it features ethnological and archaeological artifacts and traditional weapons belonging to the ruling family.
The fort which houses the museum was previously the principal residence of the ruling family. Constructed using coral blocks and stones, the building was destroyed twice by the Portuguese and the British.
Over the years, it was renovated and the building was established as the headquarters of the Emirates police and prison. Finally, in 1987, the government decided to convert it into a museum.
The exhibit rooms display artifacts donated by the ruling family as well as the residents of Ras Al Khaimah along with the objects collected through surveys, archaeological excavations, and scientific research projects. The exhibits showcase various discoveries from the initial settlers through to the late Islamic period.
The ethnographic section of the national museum exhibits ancient traditions and customs of the emirates like pearl diving, fishing, architecture, and agriculture.
9. Saqr Park
Saqr Park is a perfect destination for a day out with the family, located on Airport Road in Ras Al Khaimah. It is the largest public park in Ras Al Khaimah and features an artificial lake with waterfalls where you can enjoy boating on pedal boats.
Offering a plethora of activities like water rides, skate park, swings, climbing frames, and lots of other games for children as well as adults, this amusement park is sure to fill your family’s day with lots of excitement and fun.
And if you’re looking for peace and relaxation, Saqr Park also has a lush green garden filled with date palm trees where you can tie a hammock and read a book or just indulge in the serene beauty of the park.
The park is busy on weekends, especially in winter.
10. Al Marjan island
Another one of the most incredible places to visit in Ras Al Khaimah is Al Marjan Island. This man-made archipelago comprises four islands located in Al Jazira Al Hamra.
Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Arabian Gulf and Jebel Jais, this marvel of modern engineering features a huge waterfront, shopping malls, incredible beaches, and an all-inclusive resort.
The Marjan island resort and spa offer a wide range of activities from soaking up the sun at the private beach to swimming and indulging in other water sports. It also has activities for the little kids, making your family trip truly memorable.
11. Ras Al Khaimah Mangrove System
Kayaking through the mangroves in Ras Al Khaimah makes you realize how rich the waterways are for life in the Emirates.
There are four amazing animals you can see among the mangroves. The first is the pink flamingo which feeds on the small shrimp and crustaceans that thrive in the mangroves. You can also see the western reef heron, the great spotted eagle, and the Kalba collared kingfisher.
The 3-hour adventure includes all safety equipment and an experienced instructor. You can book a mangrove kayaking experience with Challenging Adventure,
12. Suwaidi Pearl Farm
The Suwaidi pearl farm was opened by Abdulla al Suwaidi to keep the ancient tradition of pearl farming in Ras Al Khaimah alive.
Situated on Al Rams road, this pearl farm is a great place for a day trip as you can learn about the techniques involved in pearl farming and appreciate the astounding natural beauty around the region.
A guided tour of the farm will take you on a journey through the history of pearl farming to the ancient techniques used by Arabs and then introduce you to modern scientific innovations in the field.
You can also take a kayak tour around Al Halil island and see flamingoes, turtles, and camels.
13. Shopping Malls
If you want to take a break from the ancient wonders and historical backdrops and indulge in a bit of retail therapy, then you can head to one of the three large malls at Ras Al Khaimah.
Al Hamra Mall, Manar Mall & RAK Mall are great places to go on a shopping spree as they offer literally everything under the sun. From designer outlets to cinemas, entertainment centers, and even water sports, the malls at Ras Al Khaimah have it all.
They are also a good place to get a bite to eat if you don’t want to save money for those evening bars and restaurants.
Ras Al Khaimah is home to some of the most serene beaches in UAE like Al Jazirah Al Hamra beach, Flamingo beach, Al Mairid beach, and Al Rams beach.
These pristine beaches with white sands and tranquil shorelines offer several relaxing facilities.
You can indulge in water sports, stroll along the shorelines, play volleyball, make sand castles or just relax, unwind and listen to the soothing sound of the waves. Beaches at Ras Al Khaimah are also ideal for watching some most spectacular sunsets.
15. 1484 by PURO
Although you’ve got no shortage of incredible places to visit in Ras Al Khaimah, what about somewhere amazing to stop for a while, eat and catch an amazing view?
1484 by Puro is the highest restaurant in UAE perched at an altitude of 1,484 meters above sea level.
So if you’re tired and hungry after a hike up the Jebel Jais, you can catch a breath and indulge in an enticing culinary experience at 1484 by puro. It serves delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is one of the best places to visit in Ras Al Khaimah.
Frequently Asked Questions
Except for its incredible beach resorts, the other parts of Ras Al Khaimah are not the glamourous playgrounds of the Emirati Princes. Otherwise, there are ghost villages, deep mountain valleys, pristine beaches, camel racing, and echoes of the past in the pearl museum, Dhayar fort, and Husn Al Shimal Fort.
It’s only 50 minutes from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah and it makes for a great day trip or staycation from the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. You can even take a dip in a mineral-rich hot spring on your way there!