With sweeping mountain ranges, quiet beaches, and an expansive desert full of wildlife, Ras Al Khaimah is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Dubai and a brilliant base for adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Although you can tackle RAK as a day trip from Dubai, there are so many places to visit in Ras Al Khaimah that you’ll need a few days to see it all.
Ras Al Khaimah: Where is it and why visit?
Ras Al Khaimah, or RAK for short, is one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is located on the Persian Gulf, about an hour’s drive northeast of Dubai.
Within the emirate, rising up from the sea is the Hajar Mountain range. With sea, desert, and mountains, Ras Al Khaimah has ample natural resources to develop into a must-visit tourist spot and is fast becoming the adventure capital of the UAE.
There are many tourist spots to visit in Ras Al Khaimah including Jebel Jais, the highest peak in the UAE, and home to Jais Adventure Centre, which has not only the world’s longest zipline at 2.8 km but also the first Bear Grylls Survival Camp.
The name Ras Al Khaimah translates to “head of the tent” reportedly after a large tent was erected by an early chieftain as a navigation marker.
Due to its location further north and higher up, temperatures tend to be a few degrees cooler than in Dubai and even more so up in the mountains – making it the perfect getaway from Dubai.
The best way to get to and around RAK is by renting a car and self-driving. A 4×4 is not necessary unless you plan to go off-roading in the desert. Highways and roads are paved and well-maintained.
There are three major highways connecting Dubai to RAK: E11 (Sheikh Zayed Road), E311, and E611. Google Maps will help you navigate to your destination and back.
The best option is the E611 as it is a relatively new road with less traffic and offers plenty of camel spotting opportunities. As you get closer to RAK, you’ll see the desert sands change colour from brown to a magnificent reddish hue and the emerging silhouette of the Hajar Mountains.
Tours and Public Transport to RAK
If you’d prefer not to drive, a taxi service from Dubai to RAK will cost 250 to 300 AED.
Al Hamra Bus also runs a service from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah and return. From Dubai, you catch the bus from Union Bus Station every 1.5 hours between 8:00 AM and 9.30 PM. It will drop you at RAK Al Hamra Station where you’ll need to connect to local bus or taxi services.
One way this journey from Dubai to RAK is 27 AED and takes one and a half hours; the same applies in reverse RAK to Dubai. See timetable here.
If you are happy to tackle Ras al Khaimah as a day trip from Dubai, there are several tour operators who can assist you with Dubai pick-ups and will do all the driving, with all your attractions included in the price – more on this below.
Getting around within RAK
Within the emirate, taxis are cheap but can be expensive if using them as transport to Jebel Jais. As of mid-April 2022, a new internal bus service has been launched, serving many of the malls and larger communities.
Ticket prices for a one-way trip are 5-10 AED depending on the distance.
Top things to do in Ras Al Khaimah
With 65 km of coastline, a large stretch of desert, and the Hajar mountain range that spans the emirate, RAK has many tourist attractions and things to do. Even more so for the outdoor enthusiast. Here are a few top picks for you:
RAK for Adventure-Lovers
1. Jais Adventure Centre
Adventure lovers are in for a treat on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain peak at 1,934 meters (6,345 feet) and one of the top-rated RAK tourist places. From adrenaline-pumping activities to family-friendly hikes, there is so much to explore on the Jebel (which means “mountain” in Arabic).
There are many activities to choose from at Jais Adventure Centre. You can soar like a bird on the world’s longest zipline at speeds of up to 160 kph, traverse the mountain the via Ferrata, test your balancing skills on the suspended ropes course, and zipline from platform to platform, or toboggan down a twisting mountain track.
2. Hiking Jebel Jais
If adrenaline-pumping activities aren’t your thing, then you can opt for a day hike. There are six official hiking trails on Jebel Jais, from easy walks suitable for children to strenuous treks. You can also sign up for guided hikes through licensed outfitters. Never go hiking alone, and always carry plenty of water. Read up on mountain safety here.
3. Rock Climbing
The Hajar mountain range makes Ras Al Khaimah the best place in the UAE to go outdoor rock climbing. There are climbing clubs and outdoor adventure companies that provide all the gear for you. You can do lead climbing or sports climbing where the protection is permanently bolted to the mountain.
If you have your own tent, you can pitch it for free in the desert, on Jebel Jais, and on certain public beaches.
If you prefer to have a more organized experienced, Challenging Adventure has a campsite with a hot spring. Also, it offers many activities such as hiking, archery, rock climbing, and a cultural walk up to the majlis of the local Al Hebsi tribe.
Learn more at challengingadventure.com
Jebel Jais is also home to the world’s first Bear Grylls Explorer Camp. You can channel your inner Bear Grylls at the explorers’ camp and learn mountain survival skills. Their campsite has cabins resembling shipping containers with bunk beds and en-suite bathrooms. Each cabin also has a picnic table and bbq grill. You can bring your own food or order a bbq pack from 1484 Puro.
Learn more at beargryllscamp.ae.
If you prefer to Glamp on the beach, then Longbeach Campground has 300 meters of beach for you and different luxury tent options. They also have their own pool and poolside bar and offer many watersports activities.
Learn more at Longbeach Campground
For desert camping, The Dunes offers a desert camping experience with bbq dinner and entertainment, camel rides, sandboarding, and more. There are different luxury tent options to choose from, such as the dome tent, an elevated tree tent, or a platinum pod.
Admitted – it’s not AS luxurious as some of the Dubai glamping options but still promises a wonderfully authentic UAE glamping experience.
Learn more at thedunesuae.com
Exploring RAK – Nature & Culture
For those who want to explore the natural beauty and the culture of RAK, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are a few options of places to visit in Ras al Khaimah:
1. Pearl Diving Farm
Pearl farming was once a significant industry in the Gulf, and RAK was the pearl trading capital. You can learn about the rich history of pearling in the UAE by taking a boat cruise and touring the pearl farm at Suwaidi Pearls.
In 2005, the grandson of one of the last remaining pearl divers in the Middle East reintroduced Arabian Pearls to the world by opening the first Arabian pearl farm and making it accessible to the public. You can choose to do the boat tour only or add lunch to your itinerary.
2. Kayak Through the Mangroves
Mangroves (shrubs that are tolerant to saltwater) cover much of the coastline of RAK and are teeming with fish and wildlife. Climb into a kayak and paddle through the mangroves that meander from the coastline and into parts of the inner city, mostly concentrated around the corniche.
You can learn more about the mangroves of RAK at visitrasalkhaimah.com
3. Scuba Diving
There are over 20 wrecks off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah, and they are accessible by scuba diving. Al Jazeera Diving & Swimming Centre is a Padi dive centre and the only certified dive resort in Ras Al Khaimah. They offer scuba diving courses, snorkelling excursions, and fishing trips.
4. Horseback Riding
As a symbol of pride and nobility, Arabian horses have played an important role in Emirati culture. Ras Al Khaimah’s love of the Arabian horse goes back centuries with the Bedouins and their equestrian talent.
You can ride an Arabian horse into the desert at Al Wadi Equestrian Centre, located in the Ritz Carlton resort. You can take lessons or leisurely wander through the dunes or gallop over the sands. For ages 4 and up.
Learn more at ritzcarlton.com
5. Camel Racing
Camels have long been considered a source of nutrition and luxury, and camel racing is deeply embedded in nomadic Bedouin and Emirati traditions.
The races occur in the winter on Friday mornings between 6.30 and 9.30 am in the camel racetrack close to the Ras Al Khaimah airport. Be sure to get there early. Each camel is outfitted with a robot jockey. The UAE has banned human jockeys under 15 from competing in camel races.
Learn more at visitrasalkhaimah.com
6. Ras Al-Khaimah National Museum
The Ras Al-Khaimah National Museum is one of the most important places to visit in RAK if you want to soak up local history. It is located in an old fort that was once a residence of the ruling family, then a police headquarters, and then a prison before it was finally converted into the National Museum in 1987.
Touring the exhibits will give you a glimpse of the region’s traditional lifestyle such as farming, pearl diving, architecture, fishing, date growing, and weaponry. Note, it is closed on Mondays.
Learn more at rakheritage.rak.ae
7. “Ghost Village” at Jazirah Al Hamra
The abandoned “ghost village” of Al Jazirah Al Hamra has remained relatively unchanged since its inhabitants left in 1968. Almost 2000 people are believed to have lived in the village when they suddenly picked up and left.
It was populated from the 16th century and is the last surviving pearl diving and seafaring town on this side of the Gulf. Meander through the small village, and you will see that the buildings were built using coral. You might even recognize the area as a filming location for Hollywood films for actors such as Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds.
Al Jazirah Al Hamra has been home to the annual RAK Fine Arts Festival since 2019.
Learn more at visitrasalkhaimah.com
8. Dhayah Fort
Dhayah Fort was the last point of resistance against the British attack in 1819. The site has 2 mudbrick forts: one small fort on top of the hill and a larger crumbling one below.
The upper fort was restored in 2001, and you can reach it via a zigzagging staircase of over 200 steps. Once you reach the top of the fort, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of luscious palm gardens, sparkling blue seas, and towering mountains.
Learn more at visitrasalkhaimah.com
The beach is one of the best places in Ras Al Khaimah to relax after a busy day of activities. You can chill at your hotel beach resort and swim in the inviting water of the Arabian Gulf.
If you still have energy, you can try kite surfing, wakeboarding, or flyboarding, all popular water adventure sports in RAK.
Where to Dine in Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah has lots of options ranging from hotel fine dining to casual beach shacks and food trucks.
Here are a few dining options that also come with a spectacular view:
Located at the Jais Adventure Centre at 1484 meters above sea level, 1484 Puro is the highest restaurant in the UAE, modernly designed, and the perfect place to relax and fuel up before or after your adventure-seeking activities. You can admire the breathtaking views of the Hajar Mountains while enjoying “international cuisine with a twist”.
See the menu at puro.ae/1484-by-puro
Right across from Flamingo Beach is a two-story complex with over 10 restaurants for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The mezzanine level is al fresco and has wonderful views of the beach and the Arabian Sea. There are restaurants offering everything from local Arabic cuisine to burgers, sushi, burritos, and more.
Al Hamra Marina & Yacht Club
Along Al Hamra Marina are several restaurants to choose from ranging from fish and chips to coffee shops, and a licensed restaurant serving international cuisine. Great place to kick back and enjoy the sunset.
Learn more at alhamrawaterfront.com/the-deck/outlets
To experience where many locals go, head to Qawasim Corniche. Named after Al Qawasim clan, who controlled trade throughout the region in the 18th century, the corniche really comes alive at night. It offers many restaurants and cafes and sheesha lounges. Choose from local, Middle Eastern, and international cuisines.
Ritz Carlton Al Wadi
Dine in the desert at the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi and choose from the rustic Farmhouse restaurant or the expansive and luxurious Sonara Camp (a second branch of the highly successful Sonara luxury glamping in Dubai).
The narrow and windy drive to the hotel will reward you with gazelle, oryx, and camel sightings. Dine al fresco and watch the wildlife graze on the desert shrubs around you.
New attractions coming to Ras Al Khaimah in 2022 and beyond
There are many exciting new things coming to RAK in the next few years. New resorts and new adventure offerings are all currently being developed.
Earlier in 2022, RAK announced that “gaming activities” would be allowed and are planning a project on Al Marjan Island that will mark the first by casino giant Wynn Resorts in the Middle East – watch this space!
Day Tours to Ras Al Khaimah
If you’ve not got long in your Dubai itinerary to spend in Ras Al Khaimah, we suggest booking a day tour to Ras Al Khaimah.
Using tour booking services such as Viator or Get Your Guide, you can make hassle-free online bookings with a variety of third-party suppliers. For example, why not try:
- An afternoon desert safari and evening BBQ dinner in RAK (just quietly, we think the dunes in RAK are BETTER than Dubai! Yup, we said it – why not try this over a Dubai Desert Safari). Supplied on Get Your Guide.
- This is a Desert tour with a mountain twist – taking you to Camel Rock and Fossil Rock, you’ll not only get to experience traditional dune bashing and sandboarding, but you’ll also take a 4×4 tour into the rocky mountains and stop at Wadi Shawka for a dip. Supplied on Get Your Guide.
- Eyes set just on the Jebel Jais zip line? This company can help you with transfers and timed tickets. Supplied on Viator.
- Staying in RAK and want to see more of the sites? Enjoy this local guided cultural tour of the city, taking you to key landmarks with a personalised guide. Supplied on Viator.
Where to Stay in Ras al Khaimah
Fancy making it a longer trip to Ras Al Khaimah?
If you’re staying more than a few days in Dubai, we always recommend trying to split your time with one of the other Emirates. Whilst theme parks thrills and incredible architecture can be found in Abu Dhabi, nature and adventure lovers may prefer heading north to RAK.
Abundant with beautiful 5-star resorts, many offering half-board, full-board, and all-inclusive packages; Ras Al Khaimah’s resorts are certainly keen to lure you away from the bright lights of Dubai with a more relaxing beach setting, close to the action and adventure of the mountains and desert (and usually cheaper!)
There are three main areas you can stay in Ras al Khaimah – along the coast, in the city, or in the desert.
Best places to stay along the coast in Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah emirate wraps itself along around 65 kilometres of coastline. Most luxury resorts are on the man-made archipelago of Marjan Island. Here you’ll find:
- Rixos Bab Al Bahr (Ultra all-inclusive)
- Doubletree by Hilton Resort and Spa, Marjan Island
- Radisson Resort Ras Al Khaimah Marjan Island
Al Hamra is one of the most luxurious coastal areas of the emirate. A mixed residential and hotel development, some fabulous places to stay here include:
Further along the coast, you’ll come to The Cove Rotana Resort, a wonderful hidden gem behind the dunes, including private villas with pools.
Keep heading north, and you’ll come to Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort with a lovely long stretch of beach and multiple pools – it’s a family favourite!
Best places to stay in the Ras Al Khaimah Desert
You simply can’t go past luxurious The Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert for one of the best UAE desert experiences. Tented villas with their own private pool and a plethora of secret eco experiences on hand.
We’ve also mentioned above some of the overnight glamping options you can try if you’re on a tighter budget and still want to try a magical overnight experience under the stars.
Best places to stay in Ras Al Khaimah city centre
We’re going to be honest, just not as glamorous if you’ve got the choice of the beach and desert. Staying in the city, though, will likely save you some dirhams. Try:
- Doubletree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah (not to be confused with the larger resort on Marjan Island!)
- Citymax Hotel Ras Al Khaimah
More Frequently Asked Questions about Ras al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah is the 4th largest Emirate in the UAE and the 6th largest city. It covers 2,486 square kilometres, less than 4% of the total land size of the UAE, but the most mountainous of the emirates
Whilst Ras Al Khaimah can be reached in a mere 45 minutes from DXB, heading all the way to the top of Jebel Jais is more like a 2.5-hour journey as you head all the way across the Emirate and up the windy mountainous road.
For enjoying the outdoor activities of Jebel Jais and the Hajar Mountains, it’s best to visit in the coldest winter months December to February.
The mountains can be up to 10C cooler than temperatures experienced in coastal Dubai, meaning you can often still have an enjoyable experience in the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring, particularly if you visit closer to sunset.
Yes, there are three designated camping areas on Jebel Jais. These are recommended for beginners where you will have access to facilities such as bathrooms and BBQ pits.
Experienced campers and those with a 4WD can head off-road for their own slice of paradise watching the sunrise if they have the right equipment.
Despite what other tourist guides to the UAE may tell you, the popular family water park Iceland permanently closed in 2018. We have no further information at this stage if the park will be redeveloped and reopened.
Ready to undertake an adventure trip to Ras Al Khaimah? Undoubtedly a different side to the UAE to be experienced and something we’d highly recommend, especially if you are a return visitor to the UAE looking for unique new experiences.
Each year the offering of exciting new attractions in Ras al Khaimah continues to grow to provide a new perspective on this incredible country.
Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Dubai, a handy guide on what to pack, and top tips for first-timers on the do’s and don’ts, laws, and customs to be aware of.
- Check out this incredible list of 150+ places you should visit when you’re in Dubai.
- Pick up a Dubai Pass from iVenture or a Go City Dubai Pass to save up to 50% on top Dubai attractions.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!!!
- Discover the best areas to stay in Dubai, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
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