The northernmost emirate in the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah is as popular for its sandy beaches as it is for its rocky mountains. Besides the luxury resorts, you can also enjoy the day in the beautiful city where you’ll find rich culture and adrenaline-fueled adventures.
From the coolest activities to the resorts to stay in, here are amazing things to do in Ras Al Khaimah.
Have some adrenaline-pumping fun at Jebel Jais
We can create a huge list of all the activities at this popular mountain peak alone. Jebel Jais is the highest mountain peak in the region and is home to a number of fun adventurous activities. There’s the popular Jais Sky Tour, Jais Flight, Jais Sledder, Jais Rope Course, and more. For those who want to learn to rough it out in the wild, there’s The Bear Grylls Explorers Camp (you can read our review here), or you could pick a “simpler” route and go hiking or just soak in the views at the Viewing Deck.
One of the closest hiking spots to Dubai, Wadi Shawka is just an hour away. Shawka has several varied routes including paths great for beginners. You can choose from a quick ramble or make a day of it and include the Shawka pools, too. Whichever you pick you’ll enjoy impressive, panoramic views (aka several ‘Gram opportunities). Head to the Shawka Dam and either take the stairs directly to the summit or choose one of the trails, easily visible from the small parking area. The trails are well marked out, making it difficult to get lost and safe for families with children. It’s dog-friendly, too but keep them on a leash as you don’t want them to wander too far.
Pearl fishing is revered as one of the UAE’s treasured traditions, and this little fishing village in Ras Al Khaimah keeps the tradition alive. Suwaidi Pearls is run by Abdulla Al Suwaidi, whose grandfather was one of the last remaining pearl divers in the UAE and during your visit, you will go on an adventure that dates back long before oil trade took over the UAE. It includes a ride on a traditional pearling boat that takes you a 10-minute journey past the pearl farm to a two-storey boat anchored next to the 4000-square metre farm. You’ll learn about the vast history of the region, previously known as Julphar, and how the dangerous art of pearl diving was once the heartbeat of the community. You’ll also be educated on how Suwaidi Pearls now farms an impressive 40,000 pearls a year using modern methods, while still keeping the time-old traditions alive. You’ll even be able to open your own oyster, in the hope of finding a precious pearl. Once your tour (roughly two hours) is complete, you’ll take the boat through the mangroves to see the local wildlife, watch camels bathing in the water or, if you’re lucky, spot a turtle or two. Adventurers can also take a kayak and make their way through the mangroves that way.
Take a walk down memory lane at Al Jazeera Al Hamra
If you want more pearls, visit Al Jazeera Al Hamra – the only remaining historical pearling village in the entire Gulf region. Sadly, the rest were demolished with the discovery of oil. In the old neighbourhood, you can find a fort and watchtowers, a mosque with a special minaret, souq and a courtyard with houses. The houses are of various styles from small to two-story buildings, courtyard homes, two-story buildings and a large courtyard residence that belonged to the wealthy pearl merchant.
‘Camp’ overnight at the gorgeous Greece-inspired Banan Beach
Banan Beach now at Al Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah, is just an hour from Dubai where guests can enjoy a weekend away from the hustle and bustle in a place that looks (and feels) more like Santorini than RAK. The camp resort is set on a beautiful beach and features infinity pools, bars and restaurants, plus a self-cooking barbecue area. If you haven’t visited before, Al Marjan Island boasts crystal clear waters and pristine white sandy beaches, giving you all the European escape feels without the hassle of leaving the country. Read more here.
When it comes to dining in the desert, no one can top the luxurious experience on offer at Sonara Camp Al Wadi. There are three offers to pick from: the sunset experience, the sunset and dinner experience, or you can opt for an experience with a chauffeur. Depending on what you pick, there are fun activities such as sandboarding, camel rides, live entertainment, a fire show and more. For little ones, there’s a movie under the stars, soft archery and even a kid’s menu.
Al Wadi Desert, Ras Al Khaimah, Adventure Center, The Ritz-Carlton, daily 4pm, prices vary. nara.ae
Tuck into the UAE’s highest afternoon tea
Love afternoon tea? Well, this restaurant in the northern emirate will take your experience to new heights – literally. 1484 by Puro in Ras Al Khaimah is the highest restaurant in the UAE perched on the popular Jebel Jais mountains. How high up? Well, the restaurant is 1,484 metres high above sea level (hence the name, get it?) , and the restaurant has just launched the UAE’s highest afternoon tea. Guests will be able to sip on a refreshing cup of tea and a delicious spread of pastries and sandwiches. The restaurant has floor-to-ceiling glass windows so you will be able to soak in the views of the stunning Hajar mountains while you indulge. The afternoon tea will cost you Dhs370 per stand and can serve up to three people. It is available from 12pm to 6pm on weekdays (Monday to Friday)
1484 by Puro, Jais Adventure Park, Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah, afternoon tea 12pm to 6pm Mon to Fri. Tel: 07 244 5018. puro.ae /@1484_puro_ae
Enjoy sips at Neo Sky Bar
Ras al Khaimah’s first and only rooftop bar, Neo Sky Bar brags extraordinary 360-degree views of the twinkling city and the glistening ocean. Neo offers guests delicious light nibbles and Mediterranean fusion tapas with an extensive selection of cocktails, bubbles, and beers as they relax in the bar’s upbeat yet chilled atmosphere. Throw in some live music (every Friday and Saturday) and you’ve got yourself a picture-perfect evening.
Neo sky bar, Movenpick Al Marjan Island, weekdays 5pm to 12am, weekends 5pm to 1am. Tel: (0)7 246 0134. movenpick.com
Float across the Ras Al Khaimah desert in a hot air balloon
We all love a hot air balloon tour which offers us a bird’s eye view of our beautiful country. And now, you will be able to soak in Ras Al Khaimah’s natural beauty as the emirate has unveiled new hot air balloon rides. ActionFlight is ready to glide guests over the rolling dunes, seven days a week, inviting desert lovers and adventure seekers to enjoy the morning sunrise from a soaring new vantage point. ActionFlight includes complimentary transportation from anywhere within the emirate, with additional transfer options available from other emirates for an additional fee plus breakfast at a stunning majlis. If you’re looking for even more action, a bird of prey show featuring native Arabain falcons, owls, and hawks takes place afterwards.
For another aerial view of the gorgeous city, make a beeline to the RAK Eye. Located on the Corniche, you can enjoy views from a 37-meter-high ferris wheel. The cabins are equipped with AC and there’s music inside. If you want a VIP experience, pick the cabin with snacks (Middle Eastern and Western cuisine) and drinks. Regular tickets are Dhs25 per person and Dhs20 per child, and for the VIP experience, it’s Dhs50.
If you want a dose of heritage and history, a visit to Dhayah Fort is in order. It is the only hill fort remaining in the UAE and dates back to the Late Bronze Age (1600 to 1300BC). While visitors head to the fort now for the spectacular views, back then it was used by the locals for fortification. The monument is of historical importance and is the place where the battle between the British troops and local Qawasim tribes took place in 1819. If you’re visiting, better wear your comfy shoes as you’ll have to climb 239 zigzagging steps. In the end though, you’re rewarded with those spectacular views of mountain ranges, palm trees and the lands of Oman. Want to learn more? You can get a great history lesson from the brochure here. At the base of the fort, visit the large Wadi Souq tombs which date between 2,000 to 1,300 BC.
Celebrate the emirate’s history at The National Museum
Ras Al Khaimah is said to be one of the few places in history that have been continuously inhabited, making it one of the longest-settled places in the world. You can explore an impressive collection of artefacts at The National Museum which has been excavated from over 1000 individual archaeological sites and antiquities are scattered around the emirate. Ticket price is just Dhs5.
The National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hisn Road, Old Ras Al Khaimah, Tel: (0)7 233 3411. rakheritage.rak.ae
Visit the mysterious Al Qassimi Palace
Well, okay… it’s probably isn’t as mysterious (read, spooky) anymore – not since the four-storey property has been ‘officially’ open to the public. Prior to this, the mysterious building lay vacant for 35 years and no one really knows why. It was rumoured that the family of the late Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Humaid Al Qasimi who it was built for, moved out after one night claiming the property was haunted. Inside you’ll venture around the 35 rooms, which have been designed with marble floors, glass chandeliers and a few peculiar artworks. There’s also a room with a huge pyramid structure that sits at the top of the mansion.
Al Qassimi Palace, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Road, Al Dhait North, Ras Al Khaimah, prices start from Dhs50. Tel: (0)52 828 2222.
Soak in the sun at Flamingo Beach
We know you’re probably asking ‘Is a beach worth the drive all the way to Ras Al Khaimah?’ especially given that there are so many beautiful beaches in Dubai. Well, since RAK is known for its abundance of nature and wildlife, you may be lucky to spot this colourful resident at the mangroves in Mina Al Arab which is just a stone’s throw away from this namesake beach. Keep your eyes open and if you may even spot a camel or two taking a dip in the waters. Head here at sunset to catch a vibrant sky or for a fun day at the beach with little ones. The warm waters are perfect for playtime or if the kids want to learn to swim.
Flamingo Beach, near clock roundabout on the way to Ras Al Khaimah City and Al Hamra
Enjoy a peaceful walk in Al Rams
For a true getaway from the bustling cityscape, head to Al Rams. The area is one of the oldest coastal settlements in RAK overlooking Jebel Jais and Dhayah Fort on one side and the Arabian Gulf on the other. Go with a loved one or the family and enjoy the lush palm grooves, natural sand bars and islands. For some more heritage, soak in the old village architecture or pay a visit to the local shops and markets and sip on strong traditional Arabic Coffee. The corniche is open every day, and access is complimentary.
RAK Natures Treasures is a natural history museum where you can find inner peace surrounded by nature. Visitors can expect a private collection of over 2,500 perfectly preserved gemstones, fossils, seashells, preserved insects and bugs, taxidermy animals and birds and herbs and spices from all over the world. Go with little ones who will be able to enjoy the cactus garden, reptile room, fish ponds, veggie farming, greenhouse, turtle pond, flamingo wetland, a petting zoo and miniature goat playground. There’s even a natural salt cave where you can relax and meditate and if you don’t want to leave, you can stay over in wooden huts under the stars.
RAK Natures Treasures, Al Manamar Road, open Wed to Mon 8am to 8pm, Tel: (0)55 750 5556. @raknaturestreasures
Visit the hot springs at Khatt Village
Located in the south of Ras Al Khaimah, Khatt Village is known for its hot springs and thermal pools. The little village was home to villagers back in the Ubaid period who used the warm waters from the natural springs for healing and therapeutic qualities. The sulphurous waters from the springs have a temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius and have a combination of intense heat and high mineral content known to aid in skin ailments, relieve rheumatic diseases and muscular problems. You’ll also find the 1880 Burj al Naqbi tower and a mud-brick watch tower here.
Khatt Springs, Khatt Village, Ras Al Khaimah, Dhs50
Images: Getty Images, Social and Visit Ras Al Khaimah