Visiting the pyramids, staying in a glass tent in the desert, and going to the top of the world’s tallest building are all items that should be on your bucket list. The one thing they have in common? They’re all located in the Middle East. (ICYDK: The Middle East is composed of 18 countries in the lands around the Mediterranean sea.)
Over the last few years, visits to the Middle East have skyrocketed with hotspots like Dubai and Tel Aviv at the forefront. But did you know that there are tons of gorgeous spots within the Middle East that are quickly gaining traction? Places like Cairo, Istanbul, and Petra are filled with tons of history, cool experiences, and delicious food options, which is what’s making them Middle Eastern hotspots.
Whether you’re looking to enjoy the nightlife in Tel Aviv or seeking out one of the seven wonders of the world in Petra, these Middle Eastern hotspots are definitely worth a visit in 2023 ... and beyond. Oh, and if you’re seeking an escape to a warmer climate in the midst of this icy winter, all the more reason to book a flight to one of these regions, which are typically hot and arid in temps. Check out the bucket list below for all the travel inspo.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
It seems impossible to mention Middle Eastern hotspots without bringing up Dubai. The buzzy city is beloved for its luxe hotels, unique tourist attractions, and historical past. “An intriguing blend of old and new, Dubai is a popular spot in the Middle East,” explains Zara Skehavati, an editor at the Lonely Planet. “The Burj Khalifa is a must-see — standing as the tallest building in the world at 828 meters.” Opt to stay in the Burj Al Arab, which is dubbed at the world’s first seven-star hotel, or at Atlantis the Palm, a spot beloved by 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 around on one of the city’s pristine beaches, enjoy local Israeli cuisine or head out to enjoy the busy nightlife scene when the sun sets. Griff recommends staying in the David Kempinski Tel Aviv, the city’s new beachfront crown jewel.
Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world, is a city beloved for its world-famous archeological sites. “Enjoy a Petra by Night show, and head to the Treasury, where over 1,500 candles illuminate the site,” advises Skehavati. After a few days in the historic city, take a sneak off to the Wadi Rum desert to the TikTok viral Aicha Luxury Camp — where visitors stay in luxe glass tents—to enjoy the fantastic stargazing. During your time there, opt to take a jeep tour, hike the rock bridges, and watch the breathtaking sunset and sunrise.
Situated at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures, which is precisely why it’s worth a visit. “With a storied history, eye-catching scenery, and gorgeous structures lining the Bosporus Strait, you definitely don’t want to miss it,” says Griff. Spend some time perusing the over 3,000 stalls in the Grand Bazaar, enjoy local Turkish cuisine while strolling the Beyoğlu district, and visit the top of the Galata Tower during your trip. Griff advises staying in the Four Seasons Istanbul At The Bosphorus for an opulent experience and the JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus as another luxury alternative.
Packing plenty of history, cool experiences, and tasty local cuisine, Cairo is a city that’s often overlooked by tourists. It’s near the Giza Pyramids, offering you a great city to retreat to after a long day marveling at the ancient sites in the sun. Explore the maze of Khan el-Khalili, a bazaar dating back to 1400 CE, and snag Arabic coffee and tea at Fishawis, the most famous coffee shop in the city, or enjoy the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the Egyptian Museum. Spend your off time in The Nile Ritz-Carlton, a luxe property located amidst all the food, shops, and culture, with spectacular views of the famous river.
According to Skehavati, Muscat is a charming city with plenty of attractions, so it’s only fitting that this hidden gem should be next on your list. “Make sure to explore the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which features arched walkways, vibrant mosaic tiles, a Swarovski Crystal chandelier, and the world’s second-biggest hand-loomed Persian carpet,” she says. Other activities to consider include watching a show at the Opera House or spending some time doing some retail therapy. The Chedi Muscat is a fantastic hotel, offering a range of tremendous views from colorful gardens to the beautiful Gulf of Oman.
“As one of the most sacred cities for three monotheistic religions, Jerusalem offers a mix of cultural experiences for everyone,” explains Griff. While you can easily spend your time visiting the holy sites, make sure to take in the dining, shopping, and wide range of cultural activities within the city itself as well. To round out your stay, add a day trip to the Dead Sea, it’s the lowest point of the earth and is said to have healing powers in its mud, or to Masada, an archaeological ruin and viewpoint. Also, make sure you book yourself a stay at The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem or in the Villa Brown Jerusalem to maximize your time in the city.