A tiny country in the Middle East, Bahrain is often overlooked by many travellers searching for experiences in Dubai and Qatar. Although this country is small (the entire country is about half the size of Greater London) there is a number of things to do in Bahrain that make it well worth a stop in on your next visit to the Gulf. Read on to discover the best things to do in Bahrain.
1. Tree of Life
Starting off the list of best things to do in Bahrain with Bahrain’s arguably most famous attraction: The Tree of Life. Located in the middle of the desert, the Tree of Life or Shajarat-al-Hayat as it is also called, is a 9m tree that flourishes despite there being no evidence as to how. Aged somewhere between 400 and 500 years old, the Tree of Life is a popular Bahrain tourist attraction and a must do for everyone visiting Bahrain. You can find the Tree of Life in Bahrain here.
2. Bab AlBahrain Souk – Manama Souk
This area of the world is well known for its souks and Bahrain is no exception. Found in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, this souk is a mixture of the old and new with narrow alleyways and plenty of shops. Open everyday in the morning and evening (closed in the middle of the day), you can explore this marketplace where there are a range of goods on offer from clothing, to jewellery, to electronics to, well to put it nicely, a lot of touristy junk. You can find the Bab AlBahrain Souk here. While it isn’t as picturesque as some of the markets in Morocco and Turkey, it is still worth a wander through.
3. Royal Camel Farm
When visiting Bahrain you can’t go past the Royal Camel Farm. One of the best things to do in Bahrain, this farm was owned by the royal family and you can visit and hang out with the camels at your leisure as it is open throughout the day, everyday of the week. You can find the Royal Camel Farm here.
4. The First Oil Well
It’s definitely not unusual to associate oil and the Gulf – as the discovery of oil for many of these countries significantly changed their economic outlook. A popular thing to do in Bahrain for visitors is to check out the first oil well. Spudded in 1931 and first striking oil in 1932, this well is not only the first for this country but also the first oil well in the Arabian side of the Gulf. You can find the First Oil Well (no longer in use) here.
5. Dilmun Burial Mounds
This country is home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Dilmun Burial Mounds. Built in the second millennium BC, these sites provide evidence to the early Dilmun civilisation in the area. There are 21 archeological sites across Bahrain, which is why it has earned its reputation as one of the largest cemeteries in the ancient world. You can find the Dilmun Burial Mounds here.
6. Bahrain International Circuit
If you’re into Formula One, this is a place that needs no introduction. One of the famous attractions in Bahrain is, of course, the Bahrain International Circuit. Home to the Bahrain Grand Prix, you can visit the stadium and track throughout the year and is one of the most popular things to do in Bahrain. Heads up, $700 seats are free if you visit outside the Grand Prix! You can find the Bahrain International Circuit here.
7. View the World Trade Centre
One of the more unique buildings in Bahrain, the World Trade Centre stands as icon against the city skyline and is worth a visit just to snap a photo or two. This spot is especially stunning at sunset. Unfortunately tripods and digital cameras are not allowed near the building (or in view of the security) so keep that in mind (more on this below). You can find the World Trade Centre here.
8. Bahrain Bay – especially at sunset!
For beautiful views over the Manama skyline from the water, put Bahrain Bay at the top of your list. Found near the World Trade Centre, this spot is a great place to watch the sunset over the city with a number of restaurants and cafes lining the footpath (and a large shopping centre if you need to escape to the aircon). Add to the experience by taking a water taxi from The Avenues Shopping Centre to the Four Seasons Hotel (1 BHD each way) where you can enjoy the views across Manama from the hotel’s higher floors. You can find the approximate spot of the below picture here.
9. Qal’at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort)
Another UNESCO World Heritage spot to visit while in Bahrain, the Qal’at al-Bahrain (otherwise known as the Bahrain Fort or the Portuguese Fort) is a great spot for those interested in the history of the region. Situated just outside of Manama, this fort is evidence of human occupation as far back as 2,300 BC and later on when the Portuguese occupied the area in the early 1500s. In addition to the fort there is also a museum. You can visit the fort for free (museum requires tickets) and there is also a pleasant cafe (with Wi-Fi available if you need to order an Uber from here – more on getting around Bahrain below) here as well. This was another place that I had issues with having my tripod (see more on tripod use in Bahrain below). You can find the Qal’at al-Bahrain here.
10. Hotel Views over Manama
With all the high rise buildings in Manama, you can get some pretty good views over Bahrain’s capital city. I stayed at Ibis Styles Manama Diplomatic Area and enjoyed spectacular views across Manama from the hotel’s 25th (gym) and 24th (restaurant) floors. Where possible, I’d highly recommend choosing accommodation with impressive views as this one below.
How to get around Bahrain
Despite being a very small country, you will need motorised transport to get around Bahrain. You drive on the right in this country and the main city Manama is very busy; however, a car hire would allow you the flexibility and freedom to discover the above places as you like. Alternatively, you can visit the sites closer to Manama by Uber. Uber is connected to the taxis, meaning that it is a frequently available service. However, I am not sure how likely you’d be able to get an Uber to take you out further to places like the Tree of Life. There is also a public transport bus system in Manama and you can find out more about this here. When I visited I stayed in the Diplomatic Area, which meant I was in (a very hot) walking distance to Manama Souk, World Trade Centre and Bahrain Bay. I visited Qal’at al-Bahrain by Uber and the rest of the sights I experienced on a half-day desert tour from Visit Bahrain, which I very much enjoyed. This company also offers full day tours and city tours as well.
How long do you need in Bahrain
How long you need in Bahrain obviously depends on how much you want to see but due to the size of the country you can comfortably fit in a lot in two days. Spending one day exploring the places in and near Manama such as the Manama Souk, World Trade Centre, Bahrain Bay and Qal’at al-Bahrain and the next day exploring further afield like Tree of Life, Royal Camel Farm and the other sights.
Things to Know
Tripods and digital cameras in Bahrain
As a solo traveller, I take my photos with my digital camera and tripod. I found this difficult in Bahrain as at both the World Trade Centre and Qal’at al-Bahrain I was not allowed to use my tripod (and not allowed to use my digital camera at the World Trade Centre). This is understandably frustrating when you are travelling solo – neither places banned photos they just told me I needed to have a media pass (or that they didn’t allowed media) if I wanted to use this equipment – even though I insisted I wasn’t the media. Hopefully this will change as more tourists visit because it personally seem to come from a lack of understanding that using this equipment doesn’t automatically mean you’re in the media. For the Qal’at al-Bahrain photo as my tripod was already in place, I asked the guards if I could take just one photo. Try your luck but unfortunately it took a bit of convincing just to even be allowed the one photo.
When I visited in October I was told I had come during the hot season – and that Bahrain has two seasons – hot and very hot. While most days hovered around 32-35 degrees Celsius in the day it certainly felt a lot hotter – especially in the city. In the evenings and just before sunset the temperature was quite lovely. In peak summer (June-September) expect maximum temperatures close to 40 degrees Celsius but in peak winter (January-February) expect cooler minimum temperatures in the night of 14 degrees Celsius.
Uber in Bahrain
As mentioned above, Uber is available in Bahrain and is very helpful getting around Manama – especially to and from the airport. Taxis are on the Uber app which means there are plenty of cars available. If you do take a taxi the regular way and not through Uber know that taxis have to use their meters by law – so insist that they turn them on.
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