9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Ras Al-Khaimah
Ras Al-Khaimah is many Dubai locals' top escape from the city. The United Arab Emirates' most northern region, Ras Al-Khaimah is backed by the mighty Hajar Mountains, which roll down to the shore dramatically, making this a great base for exploring and sightseeing in a rugged area. Historically, this region is very important, with archaeological excavations here revealing that this area has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. The Ras Al-Khaimah National Museum does an excellent job of explaining this long-reaching history.
Although much of the city is modern, the wonderfully atmospheric Jazirat al-Hamra area is a major tourist attraction as it gives a taste of the peaceful Emirati life of the pearl divers and fishermen before the mid-20th-century oil boom.
See also: Where to Stay in in Ras Al-Khaimah
1 Ras Al-Khaimah National Museum
The Ras Al-Khaimah National Museum is in a fort that was the residence of the ruling family up until the early 1960s. The museum houses an excellent collection of archaeological and ethnological artifacts. The Qawasim Room on the first floor is particularly interesting, with a collection of documents, manuscripts, and treaties between the rulers of Ras Al-Khaimah and Great Britain. There are also exhibits of traditional weapons belonging to the ruling family, and archaeological displays about the earliest settlers in the area up to the late Islamic period. The museum's ethnographic section introduces traditional life in the emirate, including architecture, pearl diving, date growing, farming, and fishing.
Location: Off Al-Hisn Road
2 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. As a defensive military tower, the Dhayah Fort played an important role in the history of Ras Al-Khaimah. Other ruined fortifications and watchtowers can be seen to the south of the hill. A battle in 1891 between the emirate and British forces resulted in the destruction of much of the fortifications here. The panoramic views from the fort's ramparts are well worth the trip here, and for anyone interested in history, exploring the fort itself is one of this small emirate's top things to do.
Location: 20 kilometers north of Ras Al-Khaimah city
3 Jazirat al-Hamra
If you like ruins, this abandoned fishing village, just outside Ras Al-Khaimah city will be right up your alley and provides a very photogenic sightseeing opportunity. Jazirat al-Hamra has been left to slowly decay with its traditional coral-block architecture now a reminder of the simple local life before the oil boom. The Emirati inhabitants here would have made their living out of pearl diving and fishing, but the villagers all left in the 1960s, and the dry desert climate has helped preserve the buildings. The entire place is infused with a lost-in-time atmosphere.
Location: 20 kilometers south of Ras Al-Khaimah
4 Jebel Jais
Jebel Jais, part of the Hajar Mountain Range, is the United Arab Emirates' tallest mountain, with its summit at 1,934 meters. A recently opened 20-kilometer-long road to the top (not quite to the summit) snakes in a switchback all the way up the mountain's flank, with viewing platforms along the route to take in the beautiful far-reaching vistas. There are future plans to build a resort (complete with sports facilities) on the summit, but for now the drive up, purely to take in the spectacular views, is the top attraction.
Location: 55 kilometers northeast of Ras Al-Khaimah
5 Khatt Springs
Khatt Springs is an area of mineral-rich hot pools, where the water is noted for its relaxing and therapeutic properties. The resort lies amid a palm-tree strewn oasis, backed by mountains. The healthy waters are a top get-away-from-it-all holiday draw for locals as well as tourists.
As well as soaking your cares away in one of the steaming pools, the surrounding area is home to approximately 170 archaeological sites. Items uncovered in the area by archaeologists include prehistoric tombs and 19th-century mud-brick fortification towers, pointing to the long and continuous settlement of this area.
Location: 26 kilometers southeast of Ras Al-Khaimah
6 Hajar Mountains
The rugged and raw Hajar Mountains dominate the Ras Al-Khaimah scenery and create a beautiful area to head out into nature on a day trip. The surrounding desert has ever-changing, rust-colored sand dunes, while in the mountains, the awe-inspiring jagged landscapes are the kind of big-sky country that most visitors don't expect to find in the United Arab Emirates. The Hajar are of tremendous interest to geologists as they have the world's greatest surface exposure of ophiolites (igneous rock from the oceanic crust).
7 Ras Al-Khaimah Beach
Luckily, Ras Al-Khaimah has plenty to offer if you've had enough of museums. The shoreline here is all backed by luxury resorts, and most will allow non-guests to use their facilities with a day pass. The beach has a swath of golden-toned sand and is well cared for. Due to the fact that the resorts all run their patch of beach, facilities are excellent, with sun loungers, sun shades, cafes, freshwater showers, and pretty much everything you need for a day of topping up your tan. Various water sports are also on offer, including kayak hire and jet-skis.
Address: Corniche Road
North of Ras Al-Khaimah city, near the Hajar Mountains, the little village of Shimal is the site of several hundred pre-Islamic tombs and a settlement that has been dated from 2000-1300 BC. The area is one of the most important archaeological sites in the United Arab Emirates, though visitors will probably have to be avid history-lovers to appreciate the site. Pottery, stone vessels, weapons made of bronze and copper, and beads have all been uncovered from archaeological digs. One of the most important discoveries here was a large circular tomb from the Umm al-Nar period. The small Islamic-era Husn al-Shimal Fort is perched on a rock outcrop above and offers a good view of the entire area.
Location: 12 kilometers north of Ras Al-Khaimah city
9 Iceland Water Park
Iceland Water Park is heaven on a scorching hot day, with an Arctic theme for its rides. If you don't fancy the bustle, steer clear of weekend days when the park is packed with families all trying to escape the heat. This is Ras Al-Khaimah's top family-friendly attraction, with water slides, an Olympic sized pool, and a pool area for smaller children. There's also a decent swag of eating choices in the food court. Compared to the newer water parks in Dubai and other Emirati cities, facilities here are rundown and old, but the admission price is also much less, so it's a great choice for budget-conscious families.
Address: Corniche Road
Where to Stay in in Ras Al-Khaimah for Sightseeing
If you're visiting Ras Al-Khaimah for the first time, the best place to stay is along its 64 kilometers of beachfront, including the relatively new tourist-orientated development of Al Hamra and the artificial island of Al Marjan. From the coast, you can explore Ras Al-Khaimah's cultural and historic attractions, such as Jazira al-Hamra and the Ras Al-Khaimah National Museum. Since the attractions are spread out over a large area, traveling around Ras Al-Khaimah is best done by car. Here are some highly-rated hotels in these areas:
- Luxury Hotels: A five-minute drive from Al Hamra Mall and the Ice Land Water Park, Rixos Bab Al Bahr is a popular all-inclusive resort on Marjan Island, with pyramid-shaped towers presiding over sprawling pools. The old fishing village of Jazira al-Hamra is less than ten minutes away by car. Overlooking a peaceful private beach, near great shopping and golf, Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa offers an all-inclusive package and impressive facilities, and the Cove Rotana Resort is a village unto itself, with Nubian-inspired villas that are great for families. In Al Hamra, about 15 kilometers south of the city, the Waldorf Astoria scores rave reviews.
- Mid-Range Hotels: At the top of the mid-range hotels, DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island, with a private beach and impressive spa, offers excellent value and lies five minutes from the Ice Land Water Park and a short hop from Al Hamra Mall. Golf and shopping are within walking distance of the Al Hamra Palace Beach Resort, while the Marjan Island Resort & Spa has plenty of pools, four restaurants, and a private beach with sunbeds.
- Budget Hotels: Ras Al-Khaimah offers few budget hotels, but if you're watching your wallet, Al Hamra Village Golf & Beach Resort, near a golf course and shopping mall, offers excellent value, with a pool, sandy beach, and children's playground among its many amenities. Also good value, is the Beach Hotel by Bin Majid Hotels & Resort, and if you want to stay closer to the city, the Mangrove Hotel by Bin Majid Hotels & Resort overlooks mangroves and the creek of Ras Al-Khaimah, only five minutes from the city center.