Even though this archipelago of islands is only around 780 square kilometres, there are plenty of opportunities to make like a Bedouin and escape ‘city life’ in the far corners of Bahrain. Okay, so the longest journey you’ll make is around an hour but you’ll feel as though you’re somewhere else entirely. These are the boat and road trips we recommend you make, as the mercury drops and the weather is perfect again…
Tree of Life
This lonely mesquite tree, which in Arabic is known as Shajarat Al Hayat, is thought to be over 400 years old and is a major tourist attraction because it continues to live in such arid conditions; the Prosopis genus it comes from is known to have one of the deepest root systems. No trip to Bahrain is complete until you’ve seen this notable landmark, even though in recent years its trunk has been damaged by graffiti markings (but a visitor’s centre and fencing is planned to protect it). Now there’s a themed walk around it, also showing other remarkable trees of the world.
Distance from Manama: 35 kilometres
Half way to Saudi
Many of us will never experience the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia unless we have business there, marry into a Saudi family or are of GCC nationality – there is no such thing as a tourist visa. So the half-way point along the 25-kilometre causeway connecting one Kingdom to the other is as near as we’ll get. There, you’ll find a 65 metre-tall, 360-degree observation tower and a restaurant where you can chill out and look out across both countries. Even if you drive across just for the views out to sea, it’s worth it. And the crossing toll is only BD2 per car.
Distance from Manama: 12.5 kilometres
Al Jazayer beach
Strangely for an island, access to a beach isn’t always easy to come across in Bahrain. Not beautiful, pristine public ones anyway. Usually, you’ll need to pay a premium to get on to a private beach club strip. But in the south west, just past the Bahrain International Circuit, you’ll find Al Jazayer beach, which is around three kilometres of lovely public shores. Once you’re done lazing about on the beach, you can also rent a chalet or set up a makeshift barbecue. At the moment it’s a little rocky and littered, but there are projects underway looking to upgrade the area and turn it into a prime destination with hotels, leisure activities, shops and more.
Distance from Manama: 39 kilometres
Bahrain’s official camping season begins this month, which means you can tap into your inner Lawrence of Arabia and head out into the desert wilds to bed down for the night. If you fancy something a little fancier than a sleeping bag and a two-man tent, however, then we suggest you get in touch with the team at Al Wedyian Camps who have the monopoly on ‘glamping’ in Bahrain. They offer around 15 variously sized tents across three sites in Bahrain and each features bathrooms, flat-screen TVs and more posh props. Officially register for camping season at www.southern.gov.bh. Visit www.campinginbahrain.com.
Distance from Manama: 40 kilometres
Discover Bahrain’s highest point at 134 metres above sea level. Jebel Al Dukhan or ‘Mountain of Smoke’ is so named because of the haze that often surrounds it on humid days. The open area around it is most popular as a camping site but, according to the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, pre-historic artefacts have been recovered nearby and the mountain is encircled by a number of caves.
Distance from Manama: 40 kilometres
Durrat Al Bahrain
Down in the south you’ll find this master development encompassing 21 square metres and a cluster of 15 islands which, once it’s finished, will host over 2,000 beachfront villas, luxury hotels, parks, retail malls and restaurants, and an Ernie Els designed golf course. Right now, there isn’t that much going on but it’s a beautiful place to behold and the private residences boast many desirable amenities, as well as personal decks and infinity pools. Meanwhile, there’s also a US$1.3 billion marina where you’ll find plenty of activity in the form of sailing, jet skiing and cruising on a motor yacht. The catch? You need to be invited by a resident in order to access the development.
Distance from Manama: 54 kilometres
Al Areen Resort & Spa
We’ve covered beaches, cultural sites and residential complexes, but now we’re looking for some hidden luxury. Look no further than the Al Areen Resort & Spa where lavishness knows no bounds. This opulent resort boasts elegant villas where bedrooms, private pools and Jacuzzis are available, alongside an epic spa with unique hydrotherapy services. The resort also has some stunning restaurants, which are newly licensed, serving some excellent food. For couples, we particularly recommend a weekend jaunt with a meal at award-winning romantic, pan-Asian restaurant Keizo. Visit www.alareenpalace.com.
Distance from Manama: 43 kilometres
On the sea
Although an archipelago of 16 islands stretching 52 square kilometres overall, it’s only the main one we can access. After a 45-minute boat trip from Bahrain you can stay at the Best Western Hawar Resort Hotel, enjoy water sports and spot all the bird species and other wildlife that have made Hawar their home. In fact, back in 2002 Bahrain applied to have the landmark recognised as a World Heritage Site because of its unique wildlife population. The application was unsuccessful but the site remains one of Bahrain’s most interesting attractions.
Distance from Manama: 25 kilometres from Al Fateh Corniche
Al Dar Islands
For a great day out or weekend ‘away’, then Al Dar Islands is where it’s at. Here you can laze about on the beach with a beverage and bite from the restaurant. Or book your party into a private chalet and spend all weekend living the island life. On top of that, you can play volleyball, hire a pedal boat or kayak, dolphin watch, or book a boat trip. Our favourite activity, however, is the pearl collecting trip into shallows rich in oysters. Harvest as many as you can, learn how to open them, and potentially take home your very own pearl. Visit www.aldarislands.com.
Distance from Manama: Ten-minute ride by sea taxi from Sitra
This tidal island only appears for a few hours a day but it’s very popular with weekend boaters looking for a beach to chill out on. It’s relatively quiet during the weekdays if you fancy pretending you have your own private island. Other than a sparkling strip of sand, and stunning views of the surrounding azure waters, the island doesn’t boast much else so make sure you take food, drinks and other necessities. To get there, you’ll need to hire a boat or book a tour through a registered company unless you have your own boat.
Distance from Manama: 26 kilometres by speed boat
Bahrain is notorious for its lack of public beaches but there are some private stretches of shores worth forking out the cash for
One of the island’s newest five-star resorts is Art Rotana, located on the secluded Amwaj Islands. Its outdoor areas boasts an infinity pool and sparkling stretch of beach, as well as a kid’s play area complete with its own water park. We highly recommend a day out here.
Sun-Thu BD20 (adults), BD10 (kids); Fri-Sat BD50 (adults), BD15 (kids). Art Rotana, Amwaj Islands (1600 0111).
This popular beach club is known for throwing a decent outdoor pool party. The expansive space is host to a pool with a swim-up bar and a small beach, as well as restaurants and a spa.
Sun-Thu BD8; Fri-Sat BD10. Al Fateh Corniche (1731 2700).
Novotel Al Dana
This hotel resort has a beautiful outdoor temperature-controlled pool, complete with a swim-up bar area, and a stretch of beach you can laze about on. On Saturdays, you can head over for a barbecue lunch with beach and pool access for BD21 (with soft drinks) or BD28 (with unlimited house beverages).
Sat-Wed BD20 (adult), BD10 (kids); Thu-Fri BD25 (adult), BD12.5 (kids). Novotel Al Dana Resort, Sheikh Hamad Causeway (1729 8008).
Experience the French savoir-faire at Sofitel’s beach, which you can access with all the family for a great day out at the pool and beach. The hotel’s restaurants also provide some great fare for lunch or dinner.
Sun-Thu BD25; Fri-Sat BD40. Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Spa & Spa, Zallaq (1763 6363).
If we were to recommend one beach resort to take visitors to then this would have to be it. The Ritz-Carlton resort is famous among beach lovers on the island for offering excellent facilities in the lap of luxury. The sand strip is large, and you can even wander over to the island, which juts out into the bay, or rest by the vast tropical pool area. The spa and wellness facilities are also fantastic and boast a great Turkish hammam. The only catch is that access for non-members is subject to availability. You can pick up your day passes at the Sports Club reception.
Sun-Thu BD25++ (adult), BD12++ (kids); Fri-Sat BD50 (adult), BD25 (kids). The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel and Resort, Seef (1758 0000).