The Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain, to give its full name, is an archipelago made up of in excess of thirty islands strewn in the Persian Gulf. While it’s long been a place to ‘do business’ (it is extremely rich in terms of natural oil and gas reserves) it’s not really a place on many people’s holiday hit list. But in fact there are plenty of reasons it perhaps should be, and more and more people are discovering them.
Culturally, it’s an absolute gem, with UNESCO World Heritage sites and a well-curated history that’s supported by a range of excellent museums and galleries. The capital, Manama, is a unique melting pot of traditional and contemporary, with the ancient Old Town sitting in the shadow of soaring skyscrapers and modern architecture.
On the other side of the coin, its stunning beaches and spectacular desert interior landscape, dotted with lush palm groves, evokes the kind of mystery most often reserved for far less accessible destinations.
What to Do
Being an island nation, for tourists, one of the main draw cards is its magnificent beaches – more than 150kms of them, in total. There are beaches with water sports and sun loungers aplenty (and diving, jet skis and dolphin shows on the island of Dal Ar), as well as less-crowded ones where you can get away from it all and just lie back and drink cocktails and sunbathe. For families there’s the popular Paradise Lost Water Park.
For anyone looking for an immersive cultural experience, it is equally appealing – if not even more so. With an Islamic culture dating back several millennia, there’s a lot to discover in the architecture of the Old Town and the National Museum in Manama (including the exquisite rare manuscripts in the House of the Koran), as well as multiple important historical sites, including the UNESCO protected Qa’lat Bahrain. Conversely, all that tradition manages to elegantly sit side-by-side with the uber-modern architecture and soaring skyscrapers of a genuinely progressive city.
The landscape yields untold opportunities for adventure, with trips to explore mosques hidden in palm groves and dramatic scenery where the desert comes down to meet the sea. In the beautiful Al Areen wildlife park, you can get up close to a hugely diverse range of flora and fauna that thrives in the middle of the desert.
The traditional food of Bahrain reflects its diverse cultural influences but, as an island nation, it also retains its own unique cuisine. The exotic Middle Eastern spice flavours predominate throughout, with staples including meat, fish, dates and rice.
This is a place you can enjoy a real adventure for your taste buds if you open yourself up to unfamiliar dishes and the subtle (and not so subtle) overtones of its near neighbours: India, Iran and Iraq, which are present on so many Bahrani menus.
Naturally, seafood is in abundance, and alongside lobster, mackerel and shrimp, you simply must try the local speciality hamour, which is served smoked, grilled or mashed up with other ingredients. Another very popular option on a lot of menus (in fact it’s a national dish) is makiosus, which is fish blended with spiced rice.
If you’re a meat lover, try the delicious quzi, which is made from lamb and (of course!) rice, while the local version of biryani uses a unique combination of spices that makes it very different from the Indian version.
Desserts are very popular here and, along with the more familiar baklava and halva, give the local kunafa and umm alli a try as well. You won’t regret it!
There are really only two seasons here: summer and winter. The latter runs from November to April and is generally considered the most comfortable time to travel in terms of the weather. The average temperatures in winter range from about 20-25-degrees Celsius, whereas the summer months from May to October experience temperatures that often soar into the forties.
There is very little rainfall (only about ten days a year) and it generally falls in the winter months between December and March. Another weather feature to be aware of in this prevailing desert climate is the sand storms.
How to Get There
From the UK, a flight to Bahrain (BAH) Airport takes just over six hours. There are numerous airlines that service the route with multiple weekly flights, including Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines and KLM.
The best way to ensure you start your visit off in a seamless and hassle free way is to pre-book your onward transfers with Shuttle Direct online before you leave home. You can choose from either shared or private transfers and a friendly local driver will get you to wherever you need to go in under 15 minutes for central accommodation in Manama.
Travelling to the Kingdom of Bahrain? Don’t Miss…
- The immense Al Fateh Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world and this mind-boggling piece of architecture has capacity for more than 7,000 people. Built in 1987, while it is ostensibly a very impressive traditional Islamic building, the massive dome that sits atop the mosque is made entirely from fibreglass and is the largest of its kind in the world. Encompassing 6500sqm in total this is one mosque that’s not to be missed!
- Experiencing the sights, smells, sounds and ambience of the traditional ethnic markets is an exotic treat for the senses. At Bab Al Bahrain, aka the Manam souks, you’ll find a dizzying array of traders selling all manner of things from souvenirs, fabrics, clothing and shoes, to spices and all kinds of other foods. If you want to see a genuine slice of local life, this is where you’ll find it.
- The cluster of six themed man made islands known as the Amwaj Islands is an attraction of a very different kind and shows the incredible diversity of the country. Visiting here provides an insight into the luxury expat way of life and the six islands are a hub of entertainment, shopping and leisure amenities. See how the other half live…
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct has a reputation as the best in the business for airport transfers in a huge range of destinations all over the world. Book one of our shared or private transfers online before you leave home and, no matter what your budget or style of travel, we’ll have a professional local driver at the airport waiting to take you wherever you need to go. It couldn’t be easier.