Visiting the pyramids, staying in a glass tent in the desert, and climbing to the top of the tallest building in the world are all things that should be on your to-do list. The one thing they have in common? They are all located in the Middle East. (ICYDK: The Middle East is made up of 18 countries located around the Mediterranean Sea.)
Over the past few years, visits to the Middle East have exploded with hotspots like Dubai and Tel Aviv coming to the fore. But did you know that there are tons of beautiful places in the Middle East that are rapidly gaining ground? Places like Cairo, Istanbul, and Petra are full of history, cool experiences, and delicious food options, making them hotspots in the Middle East.
Whether you’re looking to enjoy the nightlife in Tel Aviv or seek out one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Petra, these Middle Eastern hotspots are definitely worth visiting in 2023…and beyond. Oh, and if you’re looking for an escape to a warmer climate in the middle of this freezing winter, all the more reason to book a flight to one of these regions, which are usually hot and arid in the weather. Check out the list below for all the travel inspiration.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
It seems impossible to mention Middle Eastern hotspots without mentioning Dubai. The bustling city is popular for its luxury hotels, unique tourist attractions and historic past. “An intriguing mix of old and new, Dubai is a popular place in the Middle East,” says Zara Skehavati, editor of Lonely Planet. “The Burj Khalifa is a must-see – standing as the tallest building in the world at 828 meters.” Choose to stay at the Burj Al Arab, dubbed the world’s first seven-star hotel, or Atlantis the Palm, a popular spot for The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Tel Aviv, Israel
“As one of the most popular cities in the Middle East, Tel Aviv has it all: beaches, culture, nightlife, restaurants and so much more,” says Zach Griff, senior reporter at The Points Guy. Spend your day lounging on one of the city’s pristine beaches, savoring local Israeli cuisine, or enjoying the vibrant nightlife as the sun sets. Griff recommends staying at the David Kempinski Tel Aviv, the city’s newest beachfront gem.
Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world, is a city appreciated for its world-famous archaeological sites. “Enjoy a Petra by Night show and head to the Treasury, where more than 1,500 candles illuminate the site,” advises Skehavati. After a few days in the historic city, fly to the Wadi Rum desert to the viral TikTok Aicha Luxury Camp – where visitors stay in luxury glass tents – to enjoy fantastic stargazing. While there, take a jeep tour, hike over the rocky bridges, and watch the breathtaking sunset and sunrise.
Located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures, which is why it is worth the detour. “With a storied history, eye-catching landscapes and magnificent structures lining the Bosphorus Strait, you definitely don’t want to miss it,” says Griff. Spend time browsing the more than 3,000 stalls in the Grand Bazaar, sample local Turkish cuisine while strolling through the Beyoğlu district, and visit the top of Galata Tower during your trip. Griff advises staying at the Four Seasons Istanbul At The Bosphorus for an opulent experience and the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus as another luxury alternative.
Full of history, cool experiences and tasty local cuisine, Cairo is a city often overlooked by tourists. It is close to the Pyramids of Giza, giving you the perfect city to retreat to after a long day of marveling at the ancient sites in the sun. Explore the labyrinth of Khan el-Khalili, a bazaar dating back to 1400 CE, and have Arabic coffee and tea at Fishawis, the city’s most famous cafe, or enjoy the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world. Egyptian museum. Spend your free time at the Nile Ritz-Carlton, a luxury property located in the middle of all the food, shopping and culture, with spectacular views of the famous river.
According to Skehavati, Muscat is a charming city with many attractions, so it’s only fitting that this hidden gem is next on your list. “Be sure to explore the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which features arched walkways, vibrant mosaic tiles, a Swarovski crystal chandelier and the second largest hand-woven Persian rug in the world,” she says. Other activities to consider include watching a show at the Opera or spending time shopping. The Chedi Muscat is a fantastic hotel, offering a range of magnificent views from colorful gardens to the beautiful Gulf of Oman.
“As one of the holiest cities for three monotheistic religions, Jerusalem offers a blend of cultural experiences for all,” says Griff. Although you can easily spend your time visiting the holy sites, be sure to take advantage of the restaurants, shops, and wide range of cultural activities in the city itself. To complete your stay, add a day trip to the Dead Sea, it is the lowest point on earth and is said to have healing powers in its mud, or Masada, an archaeological ruin and a point of view. Also, be sure to book yourself a stay at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem or Villa Brown Jerusalem to maximize your time in the city.