Why You Should Visit The Emirate Of Ras Al Khaimah Now

There is a magical time to visit a destination, just before everyone else discovers it but after some development of hotels and attractions. Ras Al Khaimah is very much in that golden era now, with several new luxury hotels opening over the last year. So if you are considering visiting, 2023 is the year to do it! When you think of the United Arab Emirates, most people think of Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Still, a third emirate is becoming increasingly popular with travelers despite being a very different destination from the other two.

While Dubai is known for its skyscrapers, shopping, and attractions, Ras Al Khaimah has the opposite vibe. Known as the nature Emirate, it features a wide choice of luxury hotels, beautiful beaches, and stunning scenery. Ras Al Khaimah is also a fantastic location for a twin-center vacation with Dubai. After partying in Dubai, you can unwind and take in the scenery in Ras Al Khaimah while paying less for a hotel than in Dubai. It is also a little cooler than Dubai, extending the season with the most comfortable temperatures.

Ras Al Khaimah is around an hour from Dubai Airport and costs around $60 in a taxi. However, consider hiring a car to get there as it is a short drive from Dubai, and it would make sightseeing easier to do independently. In addition, there is far less traffic in the Emirate than in Dubai, making it a pleasure to drive around. Qatar Airways will also resume flying to Ras Al Khaimah airport from November 2023, adding connections from many cities via Doha to the Emirate.

Activities in Ras Al Khaimah focus on scenery, nature, history, and thrill-seeking. The must-see attraction has to be Jebel Jais mountain, even just for the scenic drive to the top, which takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes from the beach hotels. If you are not much of an adrenaline junkie, there is a beautiful restaurant at the top, 1484 by Puro restaurant Jebel Jais. Here, you can enjoy sophisticated food while taking in the stunning mountain panorama.

For something more active in the mountains, hiking and cycling are popular, along with the world’s longest zip line, superman style, a series of six ziplines, and the sledder.

Another way to see the imposing scenery and learn about the history of the Emirate is to take a boat to the Suwaidi Pearl Farm.

Arriving on a traditional boat, you will hear how pearl free diving was done in the past with little more than a nose plug to help them. On the way, you can enjoy the mangroves and keep your eyes peeled for the free-roaming camels and flamingos in the area. You may even be chosen to try your luck opening one of the oysters to see if there is a pearl inside.

Another place to visit to see how pearl fishers lived is the Al Jazeera Al Hamra, the only historical pearling village still in existence in the entire Gulf. Also, it serves as the location for the annual Fine Arts Festival, which is worthwhile to attend even if you are not particularly interested in art due to the variety of events during the show. A mosque, souq, fort, watchtowers, and several courtyard homes can be found at Al Jazeera Al Hamra. It’s a perfect spot to try some of the souk’s traditional foods, such as kanafa, which is made of shredded filo with creamy cheese and rosewater syrup. It is reminiscent of a cheesecake but more crispy than creamy.

You can also do a tour of the Mohammed Bin Salem Mosque, which dates back to at least the 18th century, and the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah. Finally, Sheikh Zayed Mosque is possibly one of the oldest places of worship in the United Arab Emirates. The external façade has been restored, but its architecture remains of the era of Sheikh Saqr bin Rashid Al Qasimi.

In terms of nightlife, there are many fine restaurants and bars to choose from within the hotels. Prices are generally lower for food, but alcohol will often be more since, so far, Ras Al Khaimah still has the 30% tax on alcohol, unlike its neighbor Dubai which is dropping the tax.

If you want to experience something more authentic, then the Sonara luxury desert experience is perfect. Set within the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi grounds, although not allied with the hotel, the experience is far more luxurious than many desert nights. The evening starts with drinks and canapés and watching the sunset. Plenty of activities include flying birds of prey, camel rides, sand dune surfing, and entertainment.

The main meal is a generous feast of local dishes served family-style at your table, followed by a more international selection of desserts. As dinner progresses, the two acts are both spectacular. The first is a balance and juggling act, but the firebreather steals the show.

While Ras Al Khaimah does not have the mega malls of Dubai, there are still a couple of malls worth visiting with plenty of well-known brands. For example, the Al Hamra mall is within walking distance from the Waldorf hotel. In addition, some hotels run a shuttle to the Dubai malls if you still want more.

You will be spoilt for choice regarding hotels at the luxury end of the scale in Ras Al Khaimah. The good news is that hotels are usually significantly cheaper than the equivalents in Dubai. The beach hotels are also away from the central city, so the ambiance is a relaxed beach resort rather than a bustling city.

The Waldorf Astoria hotel is the original luxury hotel here but still feels modern with a sense of grandeur. There are family and adults-only pools, a vast white sand beach, and plenty of dining options, from fine dining to beach casual.

Families are well catered for, with a kids club and even a program to give them a taste of the hospitality industry. There is a spa here, too, with Margaret Dabbs foot and hand treatments, Voya’s organic, sustainable seaweed products, and QMS Medicosmetics skincare. Treatment rooms are out of the ordinary, with rooms overlooking the beautiful gardens through one-sided windows. For a romantic treat, there is a couples’ treatment suite with its own jacuzzi.

Guests that don’t want to just lounge on the beach will not be disappointed with plenty of activities available, such as water sports and tennis. In addition, the 18-hole Peter Harradine-designed championship golf course is at the Al Hamra Golf Club, located adjacent to the resort.

Mövenpick Resort Al Marjan Ras Al Khaimah is one of the newest 5* hotels opening in the second half of 2022. The resort has a contemporary beach vibe, with some parts feeling distinctly Mediterranean, more of a Santorini than a Middle East look. The hotel features a variety of dining options, including a bustling rooftop bar, Ula, a stunning Mediterranean restaurant with Santorini-inspired decor, a French cafe, and the Beach House, a seaside restaurant.

Beautiful beach villas with private pools and beach access are available that would be perfect for a honeymoon or memorable holiday. The lower category are roomy and contemporary, with neutral decor and blue accents reflecting the sand and sea.

The Intercontinental Hotel is also very new, having opened in late 2022. The hotel has six different dining experiences, from 360-degree sea view dining at Levant & Nar to New York vibes at NoHo. For an adults-only experience, an entire hotel wing is dedicated to the Intercontinental club rooms with a separate pool and lounge.

For something completely different, the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert is set amongst the red sand dunes with Pool villas, a hydrotherapy spa, and access to a nearby golf club and beach. Opening later in 2023, the Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah Resort will feature Maldives-style overwater villas.

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