31 Best Places to Visit in the Middle East
The Middle East is an incredible region to explore with ancient ruins, unique architecture, beautiful beaches, important holy sites, vibrant bustling cities and spectacular landscapes.
There are lots of countries in the Middle East including Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
All countries are different with unique cultures, tourist sites and facsinating destinations.
Millions of tourists and religious pilgrims visit the Middle East every year but narrowing down a list of of the best places to see in this region is tough as there is so much choice. You can visit ancient ruins, see world famous tourist attractions, explore busting cities, or go off the beaten track to discover deserts and some of the most stunning natural wonders in the world.
If you are thinking about planning a trip to the Middle East for the first time, our list will give you some ideas for places to add to your itinerary. Most of these locations can be visited independently or on an organised tours in the Middle East.
View our list of amazing places to visit in the Middle East and get inspried to visit this facsinating region.
1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture and a lively nightlife scene. Dubai is famous for luxury resorts, Atlantis, The Palm and the Burj Khalifa - the tallest structure in the world.
Standing 828 metres high, the Burj Khalifa located in down town Dubai can be seen for miles around. Even if you have seen images on of the Burj, you will still marvel at this masterpiece when you see it in person. It is huge! The Burj Kalifa is one of the best places to see in Dubai and inside you go to the top to see spectacular views, or go shopping or eat at one of the many restaurants.
This is a must visit destination for any traveller, so it should come as no surprise to find this structure firmly in place on the list. The Burj Khalifa was opened in 2010 and contains a range of facilities including an outdoor observation deck, perfect for if you fancy seeing the structure up close and personal.
Make sure that you take the time to explore the Burj Khalifa Park and the Dubai Fountain, both of which are located very close to the Burj Khalifa.
If you are lucky enough to be in Dubai for New Years Eve then you will be treated to a spectacular fireworks display. Also if you think Dubai is too expensive to visit think again, view our top tips how to travel in Dubai on a budget.
2. Petra, Jordan
The ancient temple of Petra attractions millions of international tourists every year. This is one of the most famous and historical buildings in the world which has been listed as one of the new wonders of the world.
If you are keen to travel to Jordan, Petra should be top of the list of places to see. Getting to Petra is also an experience in itself, there are lots of Jordan tours which show you the highlights of the country including travelling through the desert, camping out under the stars and also visiting ancient temples and ruins.
3. Hanging Gardens of Haifa, Israel
Israel is home to thousands of important religious and tourist sights but for something a little different the terraces of the Bahá'í Faith, also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa, are are an essential place to see.
These beautiful gardens are located around the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel in Haifa and are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Israel. The gardens are located high above the city and are kept in pristine condition throughout the year.
3. Baalbek, Lebanon
When the Roman Empire was in full swing it stretched all the way from Western Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Baalbek, is a city located east of the Litani River in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley, about 85 km northeast of Beirut. Here you can find some of the most impressive Roman ruins in the world, and most are still in great condition.
This is a major tourist attraction in Lebanon and it is fantastic to see the well preserved ruins which are a lot less touristy than other places like Rome for example. This really is a hidden gem and such an underrated world destination!
4. Jerusalem, Palestine
Jerusalem is one of the oldest and most famous cities in the world. Located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, it is considered holy to the three major religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
There are so many ancient religious sights here including the Old City, the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mount and the Dome of Rock.
The Dome of the Rock was built in the 7th century and is a beautiful building located in central Jerusalem.
This is one of the most popular holiest sites in the world and very recognisable due to the huge gold dome roof. You can enter the Dome of the Rock and see the holy Foundation Stone.
5. Cairo, Egypt
Cairo is Egypt’s huge sprawling capital, set on the Nile River. Cairo is a really special place to visit for international tourists as there are so many world famous sights and attractions here.
A popular bucket list staple, visiting the Giza pyramid complex is something many travellers long to do. This archaeological site located in Egypt is one of the most famous icons in the world, and once you experience the awe-inspiring magnitude of this example of ancient engineering, it isn’t hard to see why.
Giza, the site of the iconic pyramids and Great Sphinx, dating to the 26th century BC is somewhere you must vitist once in your life. The Egyptian Museum is also well worth visiting, this holds a trove of antiquities including royal mummies and gilded King Tutankhamun artifacts.
Cairo is bustling with Tahrir Square at the heart of the city, there are so many markets, shops, cafes and places to eat. You can also check out Gezira Island’s leafy Zamalek district home to the 187m Cairo Tower which has amazing panoramic city views.
To find the best flight tickets to Cairo, we recommend Wingie.
6. Palmyra, Syria
Palmyria is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre of ancient temples and ruins in Syria. This is an ancient Semitic city in present-day Homs Governorate, Syria. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic period, and documents first mention the city in the early second millennium BC.
Due to recent conflict there has been some destruction of this ancient site but most of it remains in good condition. Hopefully Syria will be more peaceful soon and international tourists will be able to return and see these incredible ruins.
7. Beirut, Lebanon
Beirut is the capital of Lebanon and one of the most cultured cities in the Middle East. Home to around 2 million people of all faiths and backgrounds, this city is very liberal and such a fascinating place to explore.
There are so many things to do in Beirut including sampling the local food, enjoying the nightlife, visiting the National Museum of Beirut, Sursock Museum and seeing the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.
Lebanon is now one of the safest destinations in the Middle East with a growing economy, friendly people and great value for money activities.
8. Jaresh, Jordan
Jerash is a city in Jordan, north of the capital Amman. Inhabited since the Bronze Age, it’s known for the ruins of the walled Greco-Roman settlement of Gerasa just outside the modern city.
These include the 2nd-century Hadrian’s Arch, the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Artemis and the huge Forum’s oval colonnade. The Jerash Archaeological Museum displays artifacts excavated from the site.
9. Musandam, Oman
Musandam is one of the most scenic and lesser-known places in the Middle East and it is stunning.
Located in Omani peninsula into the Strait of Hormuz, separating Oman from the United Arab Emirates. There is dramatic scenery, almost rivaling the Norweigan fjords. There are several dhow cruises and boat trips for tourists where you can see dolphins, sharks, rays and other marine animals.
If you want to travel to Oman, made sure you go here. Be sure to also visit Khasab, the capital, the 17th-century Khasab Fort houses museum displays.
10. Luxor, Egypt
Luxor is a city on the east bank of the Nile River in southern Egypt. It's on the site of ancient Thebes, the pharaohs’ capital at the height of their power, during the 16th–11th centuries B.C. Today's city surrounds 2 huge, surviving ancient monuments: graceful Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple, a mile north. The royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens are on the river’s west bank.
11. Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Iran
Naqsh-e Jahan Square located in Isfahan, Iran is one of the largest squares in the Middle East and the world.
It was constructed in the 17th century and includes some of the countries most important holy sites including the Shah Mosque and the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque. You can also see the impressive regal Ali Qapu Palace and the Isfahan Grand Bazaar.
12. Mzaar Ski Resort, Lebanon
When you think of the Middle East you probably think of desert and barron landscapes but Lebanon will change your whole impression due to the mountains and the six ski resorts located here.
When you look at our list of places to go in the Middle East, this is definately one of the most unusual places featured on our list but if you love adventure sports, you have to check out the Mzaar ski resort.
This is the largest ski resort in the Middle East and an amazing place to go skiing. The ski season here usually goes from early December to early April.
13. Bethlehem, Palestine
Bethlehem is a city located in the central West Bank, Palestine, about 10 km (6.2 miles) south of Jerusalem. Its population is approximately 25,000 people and there are some many religiously important attractions like the Church of Nativity.
14. Qadisha Valley, Lebanon
Kadisha Valley, also romanized as the Qadisha Valley and also known as the Kadisha Gorge or Wadi Kadisha, is a gorge that lies within the Becharre and Zgharta Districts of the North Governorate of Lebanon. The valley was carved by the Kadisha River, also known as the Nahr Abu Ali when it reaches Tripoli.
15. Salalah, Oman
Salalah is the capital city of southern Oman's Dhofar province. It's known for its banana plantations, Arabian Sea beaches and waters teeming with sea life.
The Khareef, an annual monsoon, transforms the desert terrain into a lush, green landscape and creates seasonal waterfalls. The Frankincense Land Museum, part of the Al Balid Archaeological Site, recounts the city’s maritime history and role in the spice trade.
16. Amadiya, Iraq
Amadiya is one of the most picturesque locations in Iraqi Kurdistan and popular summer resort and Hill station along a tributary to the Great Zab in the Dahuk Governorate of Iraqi Kurdistan.
What makes the city special is that it is situated 4,600 feet above sea level and surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides. The elevation of the city provides amazing views for miles around.
17. Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv is one of the most vibrant cities in the world with a young liberal atmosphere, nightlife, art, beaches and lots of amazing things to do. This city alone is worth booking a trip to Israel for, you will fall in love with this city. Need some convincing? Check out our top reasons to visit Tel Aviv.
18. Esfahan, Iran
Isfahan is a city in central Iran, known for its Persian architecture. In the huge Naqsh-e Jahan Square is the 17th-century Imam (Shah) Mosque, whose dome and minarets are covered with mosaic tiles and calligraphy.
Ali Qapu Palace, built for Shah Abbas and completed in the late 16th century, has a music room and a verandah overlooking the square’s fountains. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is known for its intricate tiling.
19. Golestan, Iran
Golestan Province is located in the north-east of Iran south of the Caspian Sea and the capital is Gorgan.
There are so many outdoors activities in Golestan including exploring forests, visiting hot springs, seeing waterfall and taking part in ecotourism.
The scenery here is really unique and amazing to see in person.
20. The Desert, United Arab Emirates
If you are planning a break to Dubai and the UAE then the desert is an awesome sight. The best way to experience this vast open space is on a desert safari.
This unforgettable excursion offers a stunning contrast to the glitzy and modern Dubai and allows you to see places like the Liwa Oasis, a large oasis area in the Western Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. With a short drive of 40 minutes from the city centre, the robust SUV will whisk you out to the desert.
Here, you will unfold the fascinating lifestyle of the Bedouins who mounted the camels for navigation. Don't be surprised when you stumble upon camels, rare flora and fauna even today.
You can try off-beat adventures like dune bashing and sandboarding, dive in the cultural activities such as henna designing, and capture the most picturesque sunset. Wrapped with warmth and hospitality, spend your evening in the beautiful campsite where you enjoy amazing shows like belly dance and devour a mouth-watering Arabic buffet.
There are an assortment of desert safaris, ranging from morning to evening, private to premium, that guarantees a unique experience just the way you like.
21. Erbil, Iraq
Erbil, also spelled Arbil, locally called Hewlêr by the Kurds, is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan and the most populated city in the Kurdish inhabited areas of Iraq. It is located approximately in the center of Iraqi Kurdistan region and north of Iraq.
22. Madain Saleh (Hegra), Saudia Arabia
Mada'in Saleh, also called Al-Ḥijr or "Hegra", is an archaeological site located in the Sector of Al-`Ula within Al Madinah Region in the Hejaz, Saudi Arabia.
A majority of the remains date from the Nabatean kingdom. The site constitutes the kingdom's southernmost and largest settlement after Petra, its capital. View more top things to do in Saudi Arabia.
23. Jeita Grotto, Lebanon
The Jeita Grotto is a system of two separate, but interconnected, karstic limestone caves spanning an overall length of nearly 9 kilometres (5.6 mi). The caves are situated in the Nahr al-Kalb valley within the locality of Jeita, 18 kilometres (11 mi) north of the Lebanese capital Beirut.
Though inhabited in prehistoric times, the lower cave was not rediscovered until 1836 by Reverend William Thomson; it can only be visited by boat since it channels an underground river that provides fresh drinking water to more than a million Lebanese.
24. Khor al-Udaid, Qatar
Khor Al Udaid is a desert marvel in Qatar and is located 80 km away in the south-east of Doha.
Travel here and you will see a remarkable landscape formed by a unique combination of geological and geomorphological features. Expect break taking scenery and the journey here is also an adventure.
There are no roads here so you travel by a 4X4 car with an experienced guide who will take you off-roading along rolling sand dunes.
25. Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque, is a traditional mosque in Shiraz, Iran. It is located in Gawd-i Arabān quarter, near Shāh Chérāgh Mosque. It was built during Qajar dynasty rule of Iran.
26. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. The largest mosque in the country, it is the key place of worship for daily prayers, Friday gathering and Eid prayers. During Eid, it may be visited by more than 41,000 people.
27. Socotra Archipelago, Yemen
Socotra, also called Soqotra, located between the Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Sea, is the largest of four islands of the Socotra archipelago.
The territory is located near major shipping routes and is officially part of Yemen, and had long been a subdivision of the Aden Governorate. One of the main draws for tourists here is the scenery and incredibe trees!
28. Farafra, Egypt
The Farafra depression is a 980 km² geological depression, the second biggest by size in Western Egypt and the smallest by population, near latitude 27.06° north and longitude 27.97° east.
It is in the large Western Desert of Egypt, approximately midway between Dakhla and Bahariya oases.
29. The Dead Sea, Israel
On the border with Israel, Jordan and Palestine, The Dead Sea is one of the world’s largest salt water areas. Due to the high contentration of salt it is possible to float motionless in The Dead Sea which looks great in pictures.
The Dead Sea in Israel is a hypersaline lake bordering Israel and Jordan. It is also the lowest point on dry land the planet over, at 400m below sea level.
The Sea is famous for the extremely high salt content in its waters, which makes floating easy. Similarly, the mineral-rich mud found on its shores is renowned across the world for its cosmetic uses, healing properties and wide range of health benefits.
Whether you choose to visit one of the many luxury spa resorts dotting the lake’s shores or simply want to experience a soak in the waters for yourself, the Dead Sea is undeniably a must-visit sight to see.
30. Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
Sharm el-Sheikh is an Egyptian resort town between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea.
It's known for its sheltered sandy beaches, clear waters and coral reefs. Naama Bay, with a palm tree-lined promenade, is filled with bars and restaurants.
Ras Muhammad National Park is a major diving destination, with marine life around the Shark and Yolanda reefs and the Thistlegorm wreck.
31. Kuwait Towers
The eye-catching design of the Kuwait Towers cements their status as a must-see attraction.
The distinctive towers stand facing out into the Persian Gulf and are understandably one of Kuwait’s most important landmarks. The main tower contains a restaurant and café, offering the perfect place to take time out of your busy itinerary and sit down for a bite to eat.
Plan a Trip to Discover the Middle East's Best Attractions
The Middle East really is a remarkable part of the world.
Take advantage of the wonders that this region has to offer and make your next getaway with our inspiration for places to visit!
If you think we have missed any spectacular places in the Middle East off our list please let us know in the comments section below.