Qatar is one of the most distinctive holiday destinations for travellers across the world mainly due to undisrupted air connectivity. This year with FIFA World Cup being held for the first time in the important GCC countries, the destination will undoubtedly attract a crowd of football fans eager to explore Qatar’s outstanding and attractive local offerings.
Qatar Tourism has been putting together some of the must visit attractions within 90 minutes to iconic sites and hidden treasures, especially outside Doha.
From amazing adventures in desert dunes, UNESCO heritage sites, ancient rock carvings, water parks, golden beaches, eco farms, lush green mangrove forests and so much more. It also revealed some of the facts which were hitherto unknown for people’s and visitor’s benefit.
Day trips endorsed
Banana Island Resort
The glistening crescent-shaped Banana Island is accessible by boat only. A 25-minute journey from Al Shyoukh Terminal in downtown Doha, the island beach, offers an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Guests can travel for the day or stay overnight at Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara.
Distance from Doha: 25 minutes
Heenat Salma Farm
Fans of organic, natural produce should visit Heenat Salma Farm for an eco-conscious experience. Growing 30 different crops, including fruits and vegetables, and produces dairy, eggs, honey and meat—Heenat Salma is a centre for hospitality, education and wellbeing. Visitors can stay overnight in tents around a central fire, instilling a sense of community.
Distance from Doha: 40 minutes
Bin Ghannam Island, known as Purple Island, is a hidden gem famous for its abundance of mangroves. The island’s association with purple comes from an ancient Kassite-controlled dye industry, which started 2,000 years ago, when the colour was coveted by Roman royalty for their clothing. Sunset is an opportune time to visit Purple Island.
Distance from Doha: 45 minutes
A green refuge on Doha outskirts, Baladna Park is a fun-filled family day out with a children’s adventure land, bumper boats, a petting zoo and reptile cave. The park is run by Baladna Farm, one of the largest cattle farms in region, and provides fresh milk and dairy products to Qatar’s restaurants and residents. The farm is open to members of the public, who can see the milking process in purpose-built farms that protect animals from harsh changes in climate.
Distance from Doha: 45 minutes
Dhal Al Misfir cave
One of the country’s most exciting natural sites, the 40-metre-deep Dahl Al Misfir is the largest accessible cave in Qatar. Estimated to have been formed thousands of years ago, the cave emits an otherworldly glow due to the gypsum deposits in the centre of the peninsula. These minerals give rise to ‘desert roses’ – clusters of crystals that inspired Jean Nouvel in his iconic design of the National Museum of Qatar.
Distance from Doha: 55 minutes
Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings
Nobody knows when these nearly 900 carvings, which are known as ‘petroglyphs’, were created. Discovered in 1957, these carvings feature shapes including fish, ostriches, dhow boats and cup marks, across a 700-metre area. Some suggest the art dates back over 2,000 years, while others put the date at just a few
Distance from Doha: 1 hour
Al Zubarah Fort
Al Zubarah Fort is an example of a traditional Arabic fortress. The walls overlook the ruins of a once bustling town that saw fierce tribal battles as empires fought for. Visitors who head up to the site will find a museum with artefacts, including cannonballs, coins and weights used by pearl divers when they plunged down 14 meters into the sea to find that one rare pearl.
Distance from Doha: 1 hour 15 minutes
Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas
On Qatar’s southwestern tip is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. A nirvana for lovers of sun, sea and sand, Hilton Salwa Beach Resort has 3.5 km of soft white beaches and landscaped gardens. The park features 18 attractions, with 56 rides and slides, from the
Sea Caves Water Park to the Desert Street Circuit Go Karting.
Distance from Doha: 1 hour 20 minutes
There are rare few places in the world where desert dunes greet the shores of the sea. The spectacular ‘Inland Sea’ or Khor Al Adaid, in the south of Qatar is one, and those with an afternoon to spare should consider visiting, accessible only by 4×4 vehicles. Visitors should coincide their excursion with the sunset or sunrise for the best photos.
Distance from Doha: 1 hour 30 minutes
Unknown facts about Qatar
Ancient in origin
While Qatar is a modern creation, its references date back to ancient times, when Roman writer Pliny the Elder referred to the inhabitants as “Catharrei” after a local settlement. Ptolemy, the ancient mathematician, astronomer and geographer, then produced a map with the peninsula labelled “Catara”, which is on display at Qatar National Library.
World’s best airline
Qatar Airways was awarded the ‘World’s best airline’ and Hamad International Airport was granted the ‘Best airport in the world’ at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2021. Travellers set to transit through Qatar can take advantage of the world’s best value stopover packages, launched by Qatar Airways and Discover Qatar, and supported by Qatar Tourism.
Favoured by world’s largest fish
Qatar also hosts one of the largest gatherings of whale sharks on the planet. The sharks appear from April to September off the northeast coast of the Al Shaheen restricted marine zone. These majestic creatures, often referred to as ‘gentle giants’, have been endangered since 2002. The largest fish in the world, these whale sharks can grow up to 20 metres long.
World’s longest cycling path
Sports and public health are a top priority in Qatar and there is a national bank holiday every February to mark National Sports Day. The Olympic Cycling Track is a testament to this, which bagged a Guinness World Record in the year 2020 for the longest continuous cycle path in the world, at 33 km long.