Disclaimer: We are not promoting travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, please follow CDC and other appropriate guidelines if you choose to travel during the pandemic. We made the difficult choice to travel and reunite in a third country after nearly 11 months of separation. This will not be the appropriate choice for everyone, but we took all of the necessary precautions and made the decision we felt was best for us.
If you’re planning a trip to UAE, we would highly recommend a sejour to Ras al Khaimah – we had an excellent time. There are great beaches and hiking, and it is easily accessible by car from Dubai. If you’re interested in more logistical information about Dubai please check out our Dubai + Hatta Mountains post.
- Getting to RAK
- You can fly, but for the hiking spots we checked out, I would recommend renting a car. You can also get to Jebel Jais on public transport but it is a bit of an undertaking and you would spend a lot of your day in transit.
- Ensure your driver’s license is acceptable in UAE
- The drive from Dubai to Ras al Khaimah is about 1.5 hours
- Make sure you take some time to check out the beautiful Persian Gulf beaches while you’re visiting Ras al Khaimah.
- If you’re driving and looking for lodging, we stayed on Al Marjan Island which is a man-made island south of Al Jazeera Al Hamra and we highly recommend it.
We left around 8 am to make the 1.5 hour drive to Jebel Jais. The desert scenery is surprisingly beautiful – coming from RAK you can easily see the Al Hajar mountains unfold in front of you.
Quick Facts about Jebel Jais:
- Highest point in United Arab Emirates
- Located in Ras al Khaimah Emirate (near the northernmost point and close to the border with Oman)
- There is an upper and lower segment for hiking
- About 1 hour and 15 minute drive from Ras al Khaimah (City)
- Also the location of the world’s longest zipline
- As I mentioned you can take a bus from Ras al Khaimah but I would recommend driving
- The roads are relatively well marked but I would recommend downloading an offline map for navigation (we like maps.me)
- When we went, there was some construction ,so be aware that may cause a few delays and create some dust
- If you want to get to the public summit then you should do the upper segment.
- Note about the Summit: The summit of Jebel Jais is actually privately owned so visitors can only access the public summit which is a bit lower and marked with a summit sign.
- A motivated hiker could easily do several of the lower segment trails and the summit trail in 1 day.
- If you’re driving to the trail start for the upper segment, it is a bit easy to miss. Look for the white covered tents on the right-hand side of the road.
- If you don’t feel up to the full 8k summit hike, you can also drive up to the end of the public road (you will see a security checkpoint) and park on the side of the road.
- You will then join the upper segment trail behind the Toro Verde building (left hand side) with about 4km left until the summit.
- Trail Map
Trail Tips/What to Bring:
- We found the trails of the upper segment to be very well marked and intuitive. This hike is mostly among rocks and desert so it isn’t easy to get lost.
- In our opinion, the trail map was not that accurate in terms of distance. Be prepared for it to take you a bit longer than expected to get to the summit.
- As you might expect, this is a hot, sunny place so bring appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
- This almost goes without saying, but be sure to bring enough water and some protein-rich snacks. There isn’t really any place to get supplies once you start a trail, so be prepared for that.
Ras al Khaimah Attractions
If you decide to spend longer in Ras al Khaimah there is plenty to do both in and around the city, especially if you decide to rent a car. Here are some of our favorite attractions:
Al Jazeera Al Hamra – This abandoned little town south of Ras al Khaimah is widely considered to be the most haunted spot on UAE. It is quite famous and several films have been shot there due to the eerie vibe. We didn’t see any ghosts (or many people) when we visited because there is quite a bit of construction, but if you’re into peculiar history I would recommend a quick visit.
Dhayah Fort – This historic fort was built several hundred years ago and is particularly famous as a point of last resistance against the British in 1819. If you are driving there you will want to be careful – if the GPS tries to take you along the route with the red X’s below, do not trust it – I would recommend taking the longer route to the north just for the sake of your vehicle (marked on the map below).
- The fort is a popular lookout spot – I would recommend timing your visit right before sunset for the best views.
- Be prepared for a bit of a hike – there are several hundred stairs leading up to the fort.
For a quick break from the city, I would recommend the park near the jogging trail off of Al Khor Road – there is a lovely view of the river island, and you can stop for a coffee or lunch. This park doesn’t really have a name, but you can navigate to Costa Coffee and you’ll see the trail.
One other place that we sadly missed due to COVID-19 was the National Museum of Ras al Khaimah – it is very positively reviewed and has such a unique history. In October 2020, they told us it would be opening soon, but double check before you go.
Something else of note – if you have to take a COVID-19 test during your time in RAK,we highly recommend Rak Hospital. We had an excellent experience there – the staff was so helpful, and we got our results in 24 hours without incident.
We hope you enjoy your trip to RAK – if you haven’t already, check out our post about traveling in Dubai and UAE logistics. As always feel free to reach out with any questions!
Safe travels and à bientôt!
Siddhartha & Bethany