Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost Emirate forming the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, and is fast becoming a popular tourist destination. At just an hour’s drive from Dubai, it is a relaxing, yet luxurious place to holiday, offering a flavour of traditional Emirati life alongside the service and luxury one expects from a trip to the UAE.
Ras Al Khaimah is much less developed than Dubai or Abu Dhabi, and is a stunningly beautiful part of the country, with mountains, beaches and desert to explore.
The UAE is a fantastic destination for a holiday, at just seven hours flight time from London. Visitors to Ras Al Khaimah, or RAK, as it is widely called, will find plenty to do. There are a huge range of activities and visitor attractions here, for families, couples, thrillseekers and sightseers, which are varied, high quality, and great value too. Here are my tried and tested recommendations of the very best Ras Al Khaimah has to offer.
Dhayah Fort is one of the most important historic sites in the emirate, which sits at the top of small hill with fantastic views across the mountains and out to sea. The Fort remains unchanged, but it was restored in 2001, with the creation of a good path running up to the top. This is a great place to visit in the early morning or late evening, as it is hot work climbing up the hill at other times in the day. It’s quite hard to find, so be sure to check a map properly before heading out, and take directions with you. Allow an hour for a visit. It’s free, too.
Jebel Jais is the highest mountain in the UAE, and a short drive from Ras Al Khaimah. In fact, you can see the mountain range from the city and even from the beaches on a clear day. This is a really interesting drive to take. The road is new, smooth and safe, and the views are interesting and, at times, exhilarating.
Beach-based hotels generally offer water sports for guests, and there is generally a good choice of activities available. The water is warm, and safe, so you don’t need to worry too much about falling in. Jet skiing is great for beginners, and wake boarding is really fun, too. Donut rings and banana boat trips are great fun for a family activity. You’ll most likely find kayaks and paddle boards for hire, too. Most providers don’t take advance bookings, you have to turn up on the day, but availability is generally very good.
Head into the desert for some dune bashing and a taste of the real desert. Your guide will take you on an exhilarating drive up and over the dunes, which is quite an adventure. You’re guaranteed to see lots of camels, too! For a more relaxing experience, you can book a desert safari with camel riding, henna tattooing and a sunset barbeque with shisha and belly dancing, which is an unforgettable encounter.
For the ultimate adventure, visit the Jazirah Aviation Club and head up in a two-person microlight to see RAK from above. This is aviation at its most raw and thrilling. You’ll most likely fly over the man-made Marjan (meaning, coral, in Arabic) Island and over the clear, turquoise sea, where you can see turtles swimming and flamingoes gathering. If you are keen, you can take control for a while and experience flying for yourself. A truly memorable and exciting experience.
Luxury and relaxation
Ras Al Khaimah is well-furnished with spas, and you’ll find a lovely spa in each of the top-end hotels. For a really special experience, try a trip to the spa at Banyan Tree Al Wadi, which is based on a desert retreat. Treatments are completely divine, in the most opulent desert surroundings. If you’re lucky, you’ll find Oryx greeting you as you leave the treatment room! Well worth the 20 minute drive from RAK city.
Shoppers will find a number of malls to visit in RAK. Our favourite was the Manar Mall. Do venture into the old town though, as there are some really interesting shops to visit there, as well as a gold souk. There are a huge number of excellent fabric shops and tailors here. I had some lovely silk dresses made for around 300 AED. The quality of workmanship was fantastic, and the turnaround time was 24 hours. Really worth a visit.
Getting to and around RAK
Getting around in Ras Al Khaimah is easy: taxis are plentiful and cheap, and car hire is easy and inexpensive. Drivers are generally happy to wait for you, too, so do check at the start of the journey. If you are planning on hiring a car, do take printed maps and a sat nav, as signposting isn’t always clear. If you’re planning on traveling further afield, be aware that you generally can’t take a hire car across the border into Oman.
Ras Al Khaimah is easily reached from London, and we flew with boutique airline Royal Brunei, who offer a superb service. The flight time is around 7 hours to Dubai, and taxis to RAK from Dubai are regular and inexpensive. It should cost around 200-350 AED each way. Both Business and Economy classes with Royal Brunei are great. The service is fantastic, really charming, personal and gracious. Another plus is that Royal Brunei run brand new Boeing Dreamliners throughout their long-haul service, which offer fully flat beds in Business class and plenty of space in Economy. There’s a good and plentiful choice of food and drink available on board, making the flight a relaxing and enjoyable experience.
There are some excellent value packages to RAK available online at the moment. Southall Travel are currently offering a 3 night stay to RAK, travelling with Royal Brunei at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa in a Deluxe Beach Villa for £579 per person, including Economy flights, or £1979 per person, including Business class flights.
With thanks to Ras Al Khaimah Tourism and Royal Brunei for their assistance with this trip.