The natural emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, perfect for a winter getaway and a real bucket list destinationBy Shana Devleschoudere
With its pristine beaches, lush mangrove forests, towering mountain landscapes and authentic Arabian culture, Ras Al Khaimah is the beating heart of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Epicureans, adventurers, athletes, families with children, culture and value seekers, nature lovers... all will experience an unforgettable vacation in Ras Al Khaimah.
A tourist destination of choicehigh
There is no better place on earth to escape the cold and dreary winter than this emirate which Time Magazine has named "World's Greatest Places of 2022" and CNN as "Travel's Best Destinations to Visit in 2023" .
Winter is the perfect time of year to explore Ras Al Khaimah's remarkable heritage and discover its rich history, which dates back 7,000 years to the Bronze Age. The emirate is literally dotted with historical sites, forts and ruins. Four sites - Julfar, Shimal, Al Jazeera, Al Hamra and Dhayah - have been recognized by UNESCO on the provisional list of World Heritage Sites.
Ras Al Khaimah is easily accessible by several daily flights from Brussels and Luxembourg and is only a 45-minute drive from Dubai International Airport.
Thrilling mountain adventures
At 1,934 meters, Jebel Jais Mountain, the highest peak in the United Arab Emirates, is the jewel in Ras Al Khaimah's crown. In addition to numerous hiking and biking routes, you'll find Jebel Jais Adventure Park, or the true adventure center of the Middle East. It offers adventurers of all ages unforgettable experiences. These include Jais Flight, the world's longest zip line, Jais Sky Tour, a series of six exhilarating 5km zip lines, or Jais Sledder, the longest sledding run in the region.
The Bear Grylls Explorers Camp conducts training courses that teach outdoor heroes practical survival skills in the emirate's most inhospitable locations. The camp has 16 sustainable huts made from recycled materials. It is the world's first Bear Grylls accommodation where visitors can stay overnight, mountain bike, hike and climb.
Jebel Jais is also home to the highest campsite in the United Arab Emirates. Visitors to Camp 1770 are treated to picturesque mountain views every day. It is the ideal starting point for multi-day hikes on the emirate's many mountain trails. Tourists also have the opportunity to experience the local cuisine of the hill tribes and practice meditation and yoga.
Enjoy an ideal beach vacation
For those seeking relaxation rather than adventure, Ras Al Khaimah's vast white sandy beaches are the perfect place to spend the winter in peace. Whether you choose to paddle quietly along the turquoise waves, spend the day in the sun or camp along the golden coastline, an invigorating experience awaits you.
Ras Al Khaimah offers visitors more than 40 first-class accommodations. These range from luxurious beach hotels and experiential stays to affordable family hotels. World-class hotels and resorts from renowned brands include Waldorf Astoria, Hilton, Rixos, Rotana, The Ritz-Carlton, Radisson, Hampton and two recently opened hotels: InterContinental Mina Al Arab and Mövenpick Resort Al Marjan Island with the largest floating water park.
Why not try glamping at Longbeach Campground, which combines classic camping spirit with luxurious amenities and fun beach activities? Stretching along a 300-meter-long beach, the glamping resort offers pretty tents and an all-inclusive activity package that includes access to the pool, outdoor spa, water sports and a floating theater.
A grandiose desert
Ras Al Khaimah is the ideal place to experience the serenity of the Arabian desert. Those wishing to experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the desert can visit the Al Wadi Nature Reserve and take breathtaking desert tours on camelback, go horseback riding at the Al Wadi Equestrian Center, take private archery lessons, and watch a falcon show, among others.
Visitors who wish to dine quietly under the stars after an active day can enjoy a delicious luxury dinner at Sonara Camp in the Al Wadi Desert in the pleasant company of herds of antelope and gazelle.
The emirate hosts a number of prestigious global sporting events, such as the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, the UAE Cycling Championship and the UAE Tour. In addition, several editions of the Tough Mudder, the Spartan Ras Al Khaimah Race and the Desert Warrior Challenge, as well as the International Golf Championships have been held in Ras Al Khaimah. These events highlight the growing popularity of the emirate as a regional sports destination and sports tourism attraction.
The natural emirate aims to become the most sustainable vacation destination in the region by 2025. Pillars such as environment, culture, conservation and quality of life are driving its development. Over the next few years, a number of ecolodges, glamorous venues and high-end resorts (such as the Wynn Resort and Nobu Hotel on Marjan Island) will open, as well as many impressive attractions.
So those who love camping under the stars, sunbathing on pristine beaches, exploring the rich local culture or checking exciting mountain adventures off their bucket list have only one destination this winter: Ras Al Khaimah!