The following list encompasses the best places to visit in the Middle East. The choices are based on a range of factors including historical significance, ease of access, safety and stability in the region as well as notable man-made creations.
So What Countries Make up the Middle East?
For the purposes of this list, the Middle East includes Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Turkey, Cyprus, United Arab Emirates.
Some Countries do not have items on this list due to safety concerns for foreigners or limited access.
What are the Best Places to Visit in the Middle East
Visit the Nabatean Capital of Petra
Petra is often at the top of the best places in the world to visit so it is a no-brainer to have it on the top of the best places to visit in the Middle East. This archaeological marvel stod hidden for hundreds of years and since its discovery, it has been attracting those who wish to marvel at its ancient grandeur. My Petra guide has everything you need to know about visiting this UNESCO site, from where to eat to where to stay and how to best spend your time at the site.
Read more about Planning a Trip to Jordan
Snorkel in Dahab
The Red Sea is known for some of the world’s best snorkeling. While it can be done in Aqaba and Sharm el Sheikh, Dahab is where hardcore divers and snorkellers go. The Blue Hole in Dahab is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations, with a diverse range of coral and fish species that can be observed up close. With a variety of snorkeling tours available in Dahab, visitors can explore the reefs and discover hidden gems in the underwater world, providing an unforgettable experience while at the Red Sea.
Read more about: day trips from Hurghada
The Holiest Place in the World Jerusalem’s Old City
Explore Jerusalem’s Old City on foot as the twisting streets give a glimpse into its past. There is a strange vibe in the Old City, where believers in Christianity, Judiasm and Islam all come to take in the birthplace of their religions. Save time to browse in the shops for souvenirs and seek out some of the best photo spots in Jerusalem.
Read this guide to planning a trip to Jerusalem before your visit.
Pyramids of Giza
With thousands of years of history, onlookers love to marvel at the Pyramids of Giza. These immense tombs are not only a mathematical marvel but have stood for thousands of years. Plenty of theories exist as to their creation, drawing millions of visitors to Egypt every year.
Read about the best time to visit Egypt.
Marvel at the Mosaics in Iran
There are so many beautiful mosques to visit in Iran that most Westerners have never even heard of. While mainstream media portrays violence and destruction, there are so many beautiful places to visit in Iran.
Luxor’s Valley of the Kings
The city of Luxor makes up one of the most amazing open air museum in the world. Whether it is the valley of the kings, the temples of Karnak, Hapshepsut’s buriel temple and more, this place needs more than a few days to explore all of its many sights. Ensure you take a hot air balloon over the Nile and see the city from above! It is also considered one of the prettiest places in Egypt and has plenty of great photo spots!
If you want to cover all of the East and West Bank of the Nile River and do not want to worry about the hassle of negotiating with driver’s all day, consider a tour like this one. While you are in Luxor, make sure to spend some time wandering the Souqs in search of the best Egyptian souvenirs.
Visit the Lowest Point on Earth the Dead Sea
The lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea, is located on Jordan’s Western border with Israel. It lies 400m below Sea Level (did you know that Sea Level is based on the Mediterranean Sea). Its position at the lowest point on Earth offers more than a salty dip attraction for curious tourists. The air has a higher oxygen concentration in this area and its mineral-rich properties bring people from all over the world who are suffering from various types of skin diseases and rheumatism.
The Dead Sea is vanishing at an alarming rate. This is mostly due to the added pressure put on the Jordan River and neighboring streams for a water source for Israel and Jordan. Some estimates state that it will be dried up in 30 years without some type of intervention. It used to be 57 kilometers in length and it is currently around 47 kilometers and its shores are shrinking about a meter each year. There are calls for bringing water from the Red Sea, but there are no projects underway to make this happen.
If slathering yourself with mineral-rich mud is on your bucketlist, get to Jordan and tick this one off before it is gone!
INFORMATION ON GETTING TO THE DEAD SEA:
Marvel at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa
Stretching into the sky is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. At 829m tall and a whopping 160 stories, it literally looks like it reaches the sky. Find everything you need to know about visiting the Burj Khalifa. Dubai during the day and Dubai at night are so different. Make sure you take a trip out at night and enjoy the way the city lights up!
Party in Tel Aviv
Whether you want to party or just want to hit the beach, Tel Aviv is the place to do it! Tel Aviv nightlife is more than just clubs. There are tours, shopping and great places to eat and people watch. Check out more things to do on my post on Tel Aviv at night!
East Meets West in Istanbul
As a culturally diverse and historically significant city of Turkey, Istanbul is dotted with many sites to explore and interesting things to do at any time of year. If you are going to visit in December, read this guide about Istanbul in December
Experience Bethlehem at Christmas
A spiritual center and the birthplace to Jesus, Bethlehem is a special place to be at Christmas. Thousands of Christian pilgrims descend to Bethlehem at Christmastime to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Whether you plan to visit at Christmas or any other time of the year, ensure you take some time to look at the Palestinian souvenirs made of olive wood that comes from nearby olive trees.
Jordan’s desert, Wadi Rum offers 360 degree views of out-of-this-world landscape and a peek into bedouin cultures. From massive sandstone to miles of soft desert sand it is an outdoor paradise for adventure seekers! Start your visit to Wadi Rum with a Jeep tour from the visitors center.
While it is called a Jeep tour, expect a ride on the back of a pick up truck by a local bedouin. These expert guides will show you the time of your life! From natural rock bridges and ancient carvings to sunsets from the back of a camel, Wadi Rum exceeds almost everyone’s expectations!
After exploring the landscape, visit a Wadi Rum bedouin camp and enjoy traditional Jordanian foods before camping under the stars. Some camps offer evening entertainment, others have luxury bubble tents. Whether you visiting on a budget or want a full 5* experience, there is a camp for everyone.
Wadi Rum is my personal favorite part of visiting Jordan and I suggest everyone spend a night at a camp.
Abu Simbel is a famous archaeological site located in southern Egypt, near the border with Sudan. The site consists of two temples: the Great Temple of Ramses II and the Temple of Hathor, both of which were built during the 13th century BCE. The Great Temple of Ramses II is particularly impressive, featuring four colossal statues of the pharaoh, each measuring over 20 meters in height. The temples were carved out of the mountainside and adorned with intricate hieroglyphics and reliefs, depicting scenes from ancient Egyptian mythology and history. Abu Simbel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must, for an history buff’s visit to Egypt.
Seek out the Best Roman Ruins in Jerash
About 1 hour’s drive north of Amman is Jerash, the best-preserved Roman town outside of Rome. The site is massive, for anyone who has the opportunity to explore Ephesus or other Roman towns, this site blows them all out of the water! From colonnaded streets to theatres to the massive Hadrian’s Gate, it can take a couple of hours to have a quick walk through the site.
FURTHER READING: How to get from Amman to Jerash
Balloon in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Turkey that is renowned for its unique landscape and ancient cave dwellings. The region is characterized by its distinctive rock formations, called “fairy chimneys,” which were formed by volcanic eruptions and weathering over thousands of years. These fairy chimneys, along with the region’s caves, were once used as homes, churches, and even entire underground cities by early Christians who sought refuge from persecution. Today, Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination, known for its hot air balloon rides over the fairy chimneys at sunrise, hiking trails that wind through the unique landscape, and the numerous underground cities and cave churches that visitors can explore.
Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is a stunning natural site located in the Denizli Province of southwestern Turkey. It is known for its unique travertine terraces, which are formed by hot springs cascading down the mountainside and leaving behind calcium carbonate deposits. The result is a series of dazzling white pools and terraces that resemble a frozen waterfall, giving visitors the impression of walking on snow or clouds.
In addition to its beautiful natural features, Pamukkale is also home to the ancient city of Hierapolis, which was founded in the 2nd century BCE and played an important role in the Roman Empire. Today, visitors can explore the ruins of the city, including its impressive theatre, temples, and thermal baths. Pamukkale is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is widely considered one of the most beautiful and unique destinations in Turkey.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a grand and awe-inspiring mosque located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. The mosque is named after the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and first President of the UAE. It is one of the largest mosques in the world, able to accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers at a time, and features intricate Islamic architecture, including 82 domes, four minarets, and over a thousand columns adorned with intricate floral patterns and calligraphy.
The main prayer hall boasts one of the largest chandeliers in the world, weighing over 12 tonnes and adorned with millions of Swarovski crystals. Visitors are welcome to explore the mosque’s beautiful grounds, including the stunning courtyards, reflective pools, and beautifully landscaped gardens. Sheikh Zayed Mosque is an important cultural landmark in the UAE and attracts millions of visitors each year.
Lindsay fell in love with Jordan when she first visited in 2016. She now goes back every year to explore more of this special place. Lindsay is also the owner of Amman Food Tours, a social enterprise that is women-owned and hires local female guides. This project provides meaningful employment for women in Amman.