10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions 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. Find out more about the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Ras Al-Kaimah.
See also: Where to Stay in in Ras Al-Khaimah
1. Jebel Jais
About 55 kilometers northeast of Ras Al-Khaimah, 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.
Near the top of the road, a series of landscaped terraces with viewing platforms and cafes offer up spectacular views that tumble over craggy peaks down to the coastal plain, making this prime territory for photographers, particularly in the late afternoon when the orange-hued rocks glow.
2. Ras Al-Khaimah Beaches
Ras Al-Khaimah has plenty for sun seekers and relaxation fans. The emirate's long shoreline is strung with luxury resorts all offering their own private patch of golden sand. Most will also allow non-guests to use their facilities with a day pass. The beaches are well cared for and packed with facilities, including sun loungers, sun shades, cafes and restaurants right on the sand, 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.
3. Jebel Jais Flight Zipline
The world's longest zipline (stretching for 2.8 kilometers) on Jebel Jais has become one of the United Arab Emirates' major adventure activities and a main draw for adrenaline junkies visiting the country. From the take-off point, near the summit of Jebel Jais, the zipline whips down the mountain, with zipliners traveling at speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour. As well as the thrill of the flight itself and the stupendous mountain scenery, a major highlight is landing on the halfway platform, which is suspended in mid-air.
4. 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, as well as 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.
To learn more about the region, the Private Full-Day Tour of Ras Al-Khaimah delves into its cultural and historical sights, as well as showcasing its scenic coastal scenery, with plenty of photo stops along the most scenic parts of the Corniche and at the marina along the way. Major included sights are the museum, Dhayah Fort, and Jazirat al-Hamra. All transport including pickup and drop-off from Ras Al-Khaimah hotels is included.
5. Dhayah Fort
This 16th-century mud-brick fort, about 20 kilometers north of Ras Al-Khaimah city, 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.
6. Jazirat al-Hamra
If you like ruins, this abandoned fishing village, about 20 kilometers south of 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.
7. 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).
8. Khatt Springs
About 26 kilometers southeast of Ras Al-Khaimah, 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.
About 12 kilometers 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.
10. 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 waterslides, 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.
Official site: www.icelandwaterpark.com
Where to Stay in Ras Al-Khaimah for Sightseeing
If you're visiting Ras Al-Khaimah for the first time, note that the resorts are spread out over a vast distance, along the emirate's 64 kilometers of beachfront, including the relatively new tourist-orientated development of Al Hamra and the artificial island of Al Marjan. Budget accommodation can be found in Ras Al-Khaimah city.
- 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.
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 has a private beach, multiple restaurants, and opulent interiors.
- 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 in the Marjan Island tourist development.
Golf and shopping are within walking distance of the Al Hamra Residence & Village, which is known for its beachfront and good family facilities, while the Marjan Island Resort & Spa is another family-friendly choice with plenty of pools, four restaurants, and a good slice of private beach.
- Budget Hotels: Ras Al-Khaimah offers few budget hotels, but the Bin Majid Beach Hotel is a good-value beach resort with friendly staff, a decent private beach, and pool, while Double Tree by Hilton is right in Ras Al-Khaimah city center and has modern rooms, a good restaurant, and a rooftop pool.
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Beach Resorts: Ras Al-Khaimah's beaches are the reason most tourists visit. Elsewhere in the United Arab Emirates, Fujairah is all about sun and sand as well, while the resort beaches of Ajman are popular with families on a weekend break from Dubai.
Mountain Scenery: Jebel Jais is the United Arab Emirates' tallest mountain, and the viewing deck near the summit offers up great mountain vistas. For more craggy mountain views head to Al Ain for the drive up Jebel Hafeet, or head to Hatta to kayak on Hatta Dam amid stunning Hajar Mountain scenery on a day trip from Dubai.