Under-rated destinations in Middle East that you must visit!

Forget the glitzy skyscrapers and head for hidden treasures! The Middle East is a tapestry woven with vibrant cultures, ancient wonders, and landscapes that will leave you breathless.

Beyond the usual suspects like Dubai and the Pyramids, hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. So, ditch the mainstream and pack your bags for these incredible, and often budget-friendly, destinations:

Read more: Travel Guide to Saudi Arabia from India 2023

Oman: Adventure Awaits in the Land of Frankincense

OmanThink towering sand dunes whispering secrets of ancient trade routes, rugged mountains perfect for trekking, and turquoise waters teeming with marine life. Oman offers a taste of everything, from historic forts like Nizwa to the otherworldly beauty of the Empty Quarter desert. Don't miss snorkeling in the Bimmah Sinkhole, a natural wonder unlike any other.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 10 days

  • Best Time To Visit: October to April, when the weather is pleasant and sunny. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot and humid.

  • Key attractions: Nizwa Fort, Jabreen Castle, Bahla Fort, Jebel Akhdar, Wahiba Sands, Salalah, Muscat, Bimmah Sinkhole, Empty Quarter desert

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of hotels and resorts to choose from in Oman, to suit all budgets. Some popular options include The Chedi Muscat, Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Six Senses Zighy Bay, and Antara Muscat, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa.

  • Oman is a visa-free country for Indian citizens for up to 30 days. However, it is important to have a valid passport and travel insurance.

  • The currency in Oman is the Omani Rial (OMR). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for OMR at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Hindi is widely spoken in Oman, so you won't have any trouble communicating with the locals.

Petra: Walk Through Time in the Rose City of Jordan

Petra, Jorden Imagine carving an entire city into a sandstone cliff. That's Petra, an archaeological marvel that will leave you speechless. Explore the iconic Treasury, wander through the Siq canyon, and marvel at the intricate carvings that whisper tales of the Nabataeans. It's like stepping onto the set of an Indiana Jones movie, minus the snakes!

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 2-3 days

  • Best Time To Visit: Spring (March-May) or autumn (September-November) when the weather is mild. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot.

  • Key attractions: The Treasury, Al-Siq, Monastery, Royal Tombs, Roman Theater, Petra By Night

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of hotels and resorts to choose from in Petra, to suit all budgets. Some popular options include the Mövenpick Resort Petra, Petra Marriott Hotel, and the Petra Guest House.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Jordan. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport. The currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar (JOD). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for JOD at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Arabic is the official language of Jordan, but English is also spoken widely.

Beirut: Beirut You to It!

Beirut, Lebanon Img: Britannica

Lebanon's capital is a city reborn, pulsating with energy and charm. Explore the historic souks, indulge in mouthwatering mezze platters, and soak up the sun on the Mediterranean coast. Don't miss the Roman ruins, the vibrant art scene, and the nightlife that will keep you dancing till dawn. Beirut is a cultural kaleidoscope waiting to be explored!

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 3-4 days

  • Best Time To Visit: Spring (March-May) or autumn (September-November) when the weather is pleasant. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot and humid.

  • Key attractions: Souks, Roman Baths, National Museum, Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque, Beirut Corniche, Hamra Street, Byblos, Baalbek

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of hotels and resorts to choose from in Beirut, to suit all budgets. Some popular options include the Four Seasons Hotel Beirut, Le Royal Beirut, InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut, and the Al Hamra Hotel.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Lebanon. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport.

  • The currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese Pound (LBP). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for LBP at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, but French and English are also spoken widely.

Read more: Travel Guide to Lebanon from India 2023

Cairo: Unveiling the Pharaonic Magic

Cairo, EgyptImg: Britannica

Sure, the Pyramids are iconic, but Cairo is so much more! Get lost in the labyrinthine alleys of Khan el-Khalili bazaar, haggle for treasures, and marvel at the Alabaster Mosque. Take a felucca ride on the Nile, visit the Egyptian Museum's mummies, and step back in time at the Coptic Cairo churches. Cairo is a sensory overload in the best way possible!

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 4-5 days

  • Best Time To Visit: October to April, when the weather is pleasant and sunny. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot and dusty.

  • Key attractions: Giza Pyramids, Great Sphinx, Egyptian Museum, Khan el-Khalili Bazaar, Alabaster Mosque, Citadel, Al-Azhar Mosque, Coptic Cairo

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of hotels and resorts to choose from in Cairo, to suit all budgets. Some popular options include the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo Marriott Hotel & Casino, and the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Egypt. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport.

  • The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian Pound (EGP). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for EGP at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Arabic is the official language of Egypt, but English is also spoken widely.

Explore: Dune Adventures: Best Desert Safari Destinations in the world

Istanbul: Where East Meets West in a Whirlwind of Culture

Istanbul, TurkeyThis city straddling two continents is a feast for the senses. Hagia Sophia's architectural marvel, the bustling Grand Bazaar, the opulent Topkapi Palace – Istanbul has something for everyone. Take a boat cruise on the Bosphorus, savor Turkish delights, and get swept away by the whirling dervishes. Istanbul is a cultural melting pot that will leave you wanting more.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 4-5 days

  • Best Time To Visit: Spring (April-June) or autumn (September-November) when the weather is pleasant. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot and crowded.

  • Key attractions: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, Dolmabahçe Palace, Süleymaniye Mosque, Galata Tower, Spice Bazaar

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of hotels and resorts to choose from in Istanbul, to suit all budgets. Some popular options include the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, Çıragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul, and the Pera Palace Hotel.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Turkey. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport.

  • The currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for TRY at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Turkish is the official language of Turkey, but English is also spoken widely in tourist areas.

Read more: 10 Reasons to visit Türkiye (formerly Turkey)

Bahrain: Island Paradise with a Storied Past

BahrainThis archipelago nation is a haven for beach lovers and history buffs alike. Relax on pristine beaches, explore ancient burial mounds and forts, and delve into the vibrant pearl diving tradition. Bahrain is a laid-back island paradise with a rich cultural tapestry waiting to be unraveled.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 3-4 days

  • Best Time To Visit: November to March, when the weather is pleasant and sunny. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot and humid.

  • Key attractions: Al-Qala (Bahrain Fort), Manama Souq, Arad Fort, Riffa Fort, Tree of Life, Al Areen Wildlife Park, The Bahrain National Museum, Beit Al Quran, Muharraq

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of hotels and resorts to choose from in Bahrain, to suit all budgets. Some popular options include The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, Gulf Hotel Bahrain, and the Al Areen Palace & Spa.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Bahrain. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport.

  • The currency in Bahrain is the Bahraini Dinar (BHD). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for BHD at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Arabic is the official language of Bahrain, but English is also spoken widely.

Read more: Travel Guide to Bahrain from India 2023

Baalbek: Whispers of Roman Grandeur

BaalbekImagine towering Roman temples amidst fertile valleys. Baalbek in Lebanon transports you back in time with its colossal ruins of Jupiter, Bacchus, and Venus. The sheer scale and intricate carvings are a sight to behold, making you wonder about the lost civilization that built them.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 1-2 days

  • Best Time To Visit: Spring (March-May) or autumn (September-November) when the weather is pleasant. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot.

  • Key attractions: Temple of Jupiter, Temple of Bacchus, Temple of Venus, Bacchus Terrace, German Gate, Great Courtyard

  • Places to Stay: There are a few hotels located in Baalbek, but most visitors choose to stay in nearby Zahle or Chtaura. Some popular options include the Château Kefraya, the Palmyra Baalbeck Hotel, and the Duroy Heritage Hotel.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Lebanon. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport.

  • The currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese Pound (LBP). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for LBP at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, but French and English are also spoken widely.

Doha: Modern Marvels Meet Arabian Charm

Doha, QatarDoha is a dazzling display of modern architecture, from the Museum of Islamic Art's geometric masterpiece to the futuristic Aspire Tower. But beneath the gleaming facade lies a rich cultural heritage. Explore the Souq Waqif's labyrinthine alleys, indulge in a traditional dhow cruise, and experience the warm hospitality of the Qatari people.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 3-4 days

  • Best Time To Visit: November to March, when the weather is pleasant and sunny. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot and humid.

  • Key attractions: Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural Village, The Corniche, Aspire Tower, National Museum of Qatar, Msheireb Museums, Al Zubarah Archaeological Site

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of luxury hotels and resorts to choose from in Doha, as well as more budget-friendly options. Some popular options include the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, Shangri-La Doha, and the Alwadi Hotel Doha - MGallery.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Qatar. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport.

  • The currency in Qatar is the Qatari Riyal (QAR). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for QAR at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Arabic is the official language of Qatar, but English is also spoken widely.

Read more: 10 Must-Visit Tourist Places in Qatar for Your Itinerary in 2023

The Dead Sea: Float in Nature's Spa

The Dead SeaExperience the surreal sensation of floating in the hypersaline waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. Pamper yourself with mineral-rich mud masks, soak in the otherworldly scenery, and witness the sunset paint the sky in mesmerizing hues. It's an experience that will stay with you forever.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 1-2 days

  • Best Time To Visit: Spring (March-May) or autumn (September-November) when the weather is pleasant. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot.

  • Key attractions: Floating in the Dead Sea, mud baths, Masada fortress, Ein Gedi nature reserve, Qumran caves

  • Places to Stay: Some popular options on the Israeli side include the Ein Bokek Hotel, the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, and the Leonardo Club Dead Sea. Some popular options on the Jordanian side include the Marriott Dead Sea Resort & Spa, the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea, and the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Israel or Jordan. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport.

  • The currency in Israel is the Israeli New Shekel (NIS). The currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar (JOD). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Hebrew is the official language of Israel, and Arabic is the official language of Jordan. However, English is spoken widely in both countries.

Amadiya: Kurdish Gem Guarded by Mountains

Amadiya, IraqImg: The Adventures of Nicole

Nestled in the foothills of Iraqi Kurdistan, Amadiya is a charming village steeped in history. Explore the ancient citadel perched atop a hill, wander through narrow cobbled streets, and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views. Amadiya offers a glimpse into a different side of Iraq, one of warmth, hospitality, and cultural richness.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 1-2 days

  • Best Time To Visit: Spring (March-May) or autumn (September-November) when the weather is pleasant. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot, and the winter months, which can be cold and rainy.

  • Key attractions: Amadiya Citadel, Great Mosque, Mar Behnam and Sarah Monastery, Church of the Forty Martyrs, views of the Kurdistan region

  • Places to Stay: There are a few small hotels and guesthouses in Amadiya, but most visitors stay in nearby towns like Dohuk or Erbil. Some popular options in Dohuk include the Rotana Dohuk Hotel, the Kaya Spa Hotel, and the Dilshad Hotel. Some popular options in Erbil include the Divan Erbil Hotel, the Babylon Rotana Hotel, and the Crystal Hotel Erbil.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Iraq. You can apply for a visa online or at the Iraqi embassy in New Delhi.

  • The currency in Iraq is the Iraqi Dinar (IQD). You can exchange your Indian Rupees (INR) for IQD at the airport or at any money exchange counter in the city.

  • Arabic is the official language of Iraq, but Kurdish is also spoken widely in the Kurdistan region. English is spoken to a limited extent in some tourist areas.

Cappadocia: Fairytale Chimneys and Hot Air Balloons

Cappadocia, TurkeyCappadocia in Turkey is a landscape straight out of a dream. Hike through valleys dotted with otherworldly "fairy chimneys" – cone-shaped rock formations carved by centuries of erosion. Take a sunrise hot air balloon ride for breathtaking views of this lunar-like terrain. Cappadocia is an adventure for the soul.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 3-4 days

  • Best Time To Visit: Spring (April-May) or autumn (September-October) when the weather is pleasant. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot and crowded.

  • Key attractions: Hot air balloon rides, Goreme Open Air Museum, Uchisar Castle, Ihlara Valley, Kaymakli Underground City, Pasabag Valley, Devrent Valley, pottery making in Avanos

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of cave hotels and traditional stone houses to choose from in Cappadocia, to suit all budgets. Some popular options include the Sultan Cave Hotel, the Kayakapi Premium Caves, the Cappadocia Cave Resort & Spa, and the Museum Hotel.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Turkey. You can apply for a visa online or on arrival at the airport.

  • The currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY).

  • Turkish is the official language of Turkey, but English is also spoken in many tourist areas.

Read more: Travel Guide to Türkiye from India 2023

Shiraz, Iran: Cradle of Persian Culture

Shiraz, IranStep into a world of poetry, gardens, and rose-scented air in Shiraz, Iran. Wander through the sprawling Karim Khan Zand Complex, a stunning example of 18th-century Persian architecture. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Eram Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and savor the aroma of freshly brewed saffron tea in a traditional teahouse. Don't miss the chance to visit the tomb of Hafez, a renowned poet whose verses are still recited and cherished today.

Tips for Indian travelers:

  • Ideal Duration: 3-4 days

  • Best Time To Visit: Spring (March-May) or autumn (September-November) when the weather is pleasant. Avoid the summer months, which can be very hot, and the winter months, which can be cold and snowy.

  • Key attractions: Karim Khan Zand Complex, Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shah Cheragh Shrine, Eram Garden, Hafez Tomb, Sa'di Tomb, Persepolis, Pasargadae

  • Places to Stay: There are a variety of hotels and traditional guesthouses to choose from in Shiraz, to suit all budgets. Some popular options include Shiraz Park Hotel & Spa, Zayaat Traditional Hotel, Kianpars Hotel and Shiraz Grand Hotel.

  • Indians need a visa to travel to Iran. You can apply for a visa online or at the Iranian embassy in New Delhi.

  • The currency in Iran is the Iranian Rial (IRR).

  • Persian is the official language of Iran, but English is spoken to a limited extent in tourist areas.

Read more: Iran is now a Visa free Destination for Indian Citizens

More Hidden Gems:

  • Al-Ain Oasis, United Arab Emirates: Immerse yourself in the history and culture of the UAE's oldest permanent settlement, featuring ancient forts, lush gardens, and falaj irrigation systems.

  • Marsa Alam, Egypt: Escape the crowds and explore the underwater wonders of the Red Sea, known for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life.

  • Madaba, Jordan: Explore the "City of Mosaics," famous for its Byzantine and Umayyad-era mosaics, including the Madaba Map, a 6th-century mosaic depicting the Holy Land.

  • Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan: Delve into the rich history and culture of Kurdistan, visiting the ancient Erbil Citadel, exploring bustling markets, and enjoying the warm hospitality of the locals.

Bonus Tip: Pack your appetite! Middle Eastern cuisine is a delectable journey for the senses. From fluffy pita bread and smoky baba ghanoush to succulent kebabs and melt-in-your-mouth baklava, your taste buds will be thanking you.

Remember, these are just a few starting points. The Middle East is a tapestry woven with diverse cultures, landscapes, and experiences. So, ditch the stereotypes, pack your bags with an open mind and adventurous spirit, and embark on a journey to discover the hidden gems that await!

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