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Ras Al-Khaimah is many Dubai locals’ top escape from the city. Most people are here for the beach but, backed by the spine of the Hajar Mountains, which roll down to the shore, Ras Al-Khaimah is also a great base if you’re looking for more active things to do.
Jebel Jais (Jais Mountain) is the main tourist attraction, and in recent years has become a major activity center. Whether you want to zipline down the mountain or tackle some climbing on its slopes this is one of the best places to visit in the UAE for adventure seekers.
Ras Al-Khaimah’s city and coastline resort strip may be in permanent beach vacation mode but 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.
Away from the city both Dhayah Fort and the wonderfully atmospheric Jazirat al-Hamra area provide further peeks at Emirati life before the mid-20th century oil boom.
Find out more with our list of the top-rated attractions and things to do in Ras Al-Khaimah.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Relax on Ras Al-Khaimah’s Beaches
Most visitors to Ras Al-Khaimah beeline direct to the beach. The emirate’s long shoreline is strung with luxury resorts all offering their own private patch of golden sand. Most allow non-guests to use their facilities with a day pass but if you want to make your Ras Al-Khaimah stay all about the sun and sand, book a hotel or resort with beach access.
The beaches are well cared for and packed with facilities, including sun loungers, sun shades, cafés and restaurants right on the sand, freshwater showers, and pretty much everything you need for a day of topping up your tan.
Nearly all the resorts offer water sports facilities with equipment rental such as kayaks, paddleboards, and Jet Skis, and activities such as windsurfing available.
2. See Sunset on Jebel Jais
About 55 kilometers northeast of Ras Al-Khaimah, Jebel Jais is part of the Hajar Mountain Range and is the tallest mountain in the UAE, with its summit at 1,934 meters.
A 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 far-reaching vistas of surrounding barren cliffs.
At the top of the road is Viewing Deck Parka series of landscaped terraces (with cafés and other services) from where visitors can gaze out over the craggy peaks, all the way down to the coastal plain.
It’s prime territory for photographers, particularly in the early evening when the orange-hued rocks glow in the light of the setting sun.
Official website: www.visitjebeljais.com
3. Zipline Down Jebel Jais’ Slope
If you feel like throwing yourself off a mountain, head to Jebel Jais. The mountain is home to the world’s longest zipline, called the Jebel Jais Flight, which stretches down the slope for 2.8 kilometers. It 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, zipliners whip over the craggy, boulder-strewn contours of the mountain below, traveling at speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour.
As well as the thrill of the flight itself and the stupendous mountain scenery along the way, a major highlight is landing on the zipline’s platform, which is suspended in mid-air.
A further zipline adventure on the mountain, called the Jet Sky Touroffers a less-speedy experience with a better opportunity to pause and take in the scenery on a series of seven ziplines, connected by platforms suspended to the side of the mountain, on a five-kilometer course.
Official website: www.visitjebeljais.com
4. Hike Up to 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.
5. Take a Road Trip into the Hajar Mountains
Away from the coast, the rugged and raw Hajar Mountains dominate Ras Al-Khaimah’s scenery.
Road-tripping into the Hajar area offers some of the best scenery in the UAEwith the jagged and barren mountain landscapes sprawling outward as the roads climb higher into the interior.
For an easygoing road trip, take the main E18 highway heading south inland from Ras Al-Khaimah city and then turn onto the E87 highway, which cuts through the heart of the Hajar Mountains.
The E11 highway heading north from Ras al Khaimah city towards Dhayah Fort also takes in a swath of mountain scenery.
6. Climb or Hike on Jebel Jais
The lower slopes of Jebel Jais are a major destination for keen hikers and climbers in the cooler winter months.
Six hiking trails, ranging from easy to moderate, have been laid out on the mountain’s lower slopes, all beginning at one trailhead on the main road leading to the mountain.
All of the trails offer great views; chance encounters with mountain goats; and the opportunity to experience the mountain on a closer, more intimate level.
For climbers, Jebel Jais has a Via Ferrata (a climbing route of steel cables, permanently fixed into the rock face), which runs on the lower slopes of the mountain.
Access to the Via Ferrata route is by guided climbing tour only. The hiking routes can be tackled independently.
7. Take in Local History at 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 transportation including pickup and drop-off from Ras Al-Khaimah hotels is included.
8. Stroll through the Abandoned Village of Jazirat al-Hamra
This abandoned village with its slowly decaying houses of traditional coral-block architecture sits about 20 kilometers south of Ras Al-Khaimah city.
Jazirat al-Hamra was a fishing and pearling village that was founded in the 16th century. With the demise of the pearling industry and the beginning of the oil boom, the village’s inhabitants abandoned it in the 1960s. Since then it has sat mostly eerie and empty as resorts and new town areas have mushroomed around it on the coastal plain.
Due to the dry desert climate, a lot of the coral-block architecture is well preserved, so visitors can get a real sense of what traditional Emirati village life would have looked like.
The village mosque has also been fully restored in recent years.
9. Soak in 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.
Khatt lies amid an oasis, backed by barren mountains. The hot-spring waters are pumped into pools (segregated by gender). The facilities are a bit tired these days, but if you just want a quick soak in the hot water to soothe tired joints from traveling, they’re still worth a stop.
The village is home to the restored towers of Khatt Fort, and the surrounding countryside is of major interest to archaeologists with tomb sites dating back to the Chalcolithic era and 19th-century mud-brick fortifications unearthed on excavations here, pointing to the long and continuous settlement of the area.
10. View History at Shimal
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.
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-oriented development of Al Hamra and the artificial island of Al Marjan. Budget accommodation can be found in Ras Al-Khaimah city.
- 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.
- Tea Cove Rotana Resorts 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.