While Bahrain has all the traditional five-star tourist trappings – from sprawling shopping malls to luxurious resorts and sun-kissed beaches – scratching beneath the surface reveals an Arabian Kingdom steeped in rich cultural history offering hidden gems at every turn.
Whether you’re spending the afternoon picking up fresh produce while mingling with the locals at a bustling farmers’ market or diving for pearls in the crystal clear Gulf waters, the Kingdom is full of off-the-beaten-track spots that you won’t find in the guidebooks.
So tear up those traditional itineraries, get exploring and add some adventure to your Bahrain trip. With so many places to visit beyond the usual spots, you might just discover a hidden gem in the most unexpected of places.
- Local farmers’ market
Not only do these bustling markets offer a place to pick up the freshest of organic produce, but they are also an ideal spot to meet the locals. Hoorat A’ali, near the Gulf Air Club, is open on weekdays all year round and offers a dining area where visitors can tuck into a delicious Bahraini breakfast. Meanwhile, the Budaiya Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday, from December to April.
- The Tree of Life
Surviving for more than 400 years in isolation, the Tree of Life (Shajarat Al Hayat in Arabic) can be found in the desert near Jebel Dukhan. The mystery of its survival without water has captivated locals for centuries, and is the subject of many local legends.
- Pearl diving
For more than 2,000 years, Bahrain’s pearls have been prized as some of the best in the world, with diving a major source of income for many in the Kingdom. The traditional industry has left a lasting legacy, and many tourists now take part in excursions from Al Dar Islands to a secret destination. There, you can snorkel for the oysters that flourish in the shallow, clear waters – and if you’re lucky, they might just contain a pearl.
- Siyadi House
Siyadi House in Muharraq was built by a renowned Bahraini pearl merchant at the beginning of the 20th century – and although it looks like a relatively simplistic fort from the outside, past the front doors are intricate interiors featuring engraved walls and stunning geometric patterns.
- Bab Al Bahrain
This historical building in the central business district of Manama is the gateway to a district dotted with restaurants such as Gahwat Haji (Haji’s Traditional Café); Aloo Basheer (Basheer’s Potatoes); Mandali’s Kebab, and Samboosa Alawi. Stroll through the old halwa market and taste traditional sweets, along with Arabic coffee, offered by shopkeepers – the finest in Bahraini hospitality.
- Barbar Temple
A significant archaeological treasure is the Kingdom’s Barbar Temple. Mesopotamian in style and dating back to the third millennium BC, the temple bears similarities to those found in Iraq, although with many distinctive local characteristics.
- Diraz Temple
The Diraz Temple along the Budaiya Highway is yet another archaeological gem. Believed to have been built at the same time as Barbar Temple (the third millennium BC), the architecture of this structure is unique in the region, with huge cylindrical columns setting it apart from the temples of Mesopotamia.
- Tubli Bay
Taking a tour through Bahrain’s lush mangrove forests is a truly unforgettable experience that is worlds away from the fast-paced life of Manama city centre. The intertwined trees and shrubs are full of dozens of different species including birds, insects and animals, and can only be found on water – creating the ideal location for a one-of-a-kind eco-canoeing experience.