Unesco sites, international cuisine, world-class diving and paradisaical beaches are putting the Middle East’s only island nation on the map
Located in the Arabian Gulf, the Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands – the only island nation in the Middle East. Four thousand five hundred years ago, it was the capital of the ancient Dilmun civilisation. Today, Bahrain’s astounding attractions extend to world-class museums, three UNESCO World Heritage sites, white sand beaches, untouched islands, amazing wildlife and the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Discover the history
Bahrain is home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Dilmun Burial Mounds; a pearling site that stands testimony to the cultural tradition; and the Qal’at al-Bahrain fort, which dates back more than 5,000 years to the Dilmun civilisation. The fort is best viewed at sunset, when floodlights illuminate its ancient arches. There are also enlightening museums and the Al Fateh Grand Mosque, the largest in Bahrain.
Bahrain’s location in the Arabian Gulf means it enjoys year-round sunshine. With average temperatures in the 20s throughout the winter, it’s the perfect place to jet off for some much-needed winter sun. Whether you like relaxing by the pool, exploring ancient forts or trying a new water sport, Bahrain’s climate is ideal.
Lap of luxury
International hoteliers are flocking to the islands of Bahrain to take a slice of paradise. The kingdom is home to world-class hotels with fine dining, beautiful beaches and stunning spas. From the Ritz-Carlton’s beautiful beach area to the fabulous Play restaurant at the Jumeirah Royal Saray, Bahrain offers an enticing level of luxury.
A short boat ride away are the other islands that make up the archipelago of Bahrain. Explore one at a time or combine them into an island-hopping tour. The nearest are the Al Dar islands, home to a family-friendly beach resort with an array of water sports to try. For pure paradise head to Jarada Island, a stunning tidal island that appears and disappears with the ebb of the tide, or visit Hawar Islands, where you can look out for the dolphins who play in the calm Gulf seas while flamingos stalk through the shallow waters.
Bahrain has a thriving café and restaurant culture. Block 338 is a charming pedestrian quarter crammed with international restaurants and small boutiques. Bahrain is famous for its exquisite and extensive variety of food, whether it is traditional Bahraini cuisine, Mexican fusion or a brilliant biryani. Make sure you ask what’s on when you dine out, as many of the restaurants host live music and dancing events on different nights.
No trip to Bahrain is complete without a trip to one of the traditional souqs, the perfect place to pick up a souvenir. The largest souq is located in the centre of Manama, where you can wander along the aisles, breathing in the aroma of spices and haggling with the local traders. For those who love to shop, there are also modern malls aplenty, filled with fashionable restaurants and international brands.
For a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, why not try pearl diving? Historically, Bahrain was the centre of the world’s pearl trade, with local pearls considered to be among the best in the world. The pearling trade is part of Bahrain’s rich cultural heritage, and today you can head to Muharraq Island to explore The Pearling Trail – a UNESCO World Heritage site that includes 17 listed buildings and three oyster beds. Wander the old houses and palaces in Muhurraq or explore the treasures in Bahrain’s turquoise waters for yourself – any pearls you do find are yours to keep forever.