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Trail tales: The best hikes in the Middle East

Explore the region's rugged mountains, winding wadis and surreal landscapes on a journey through the diverse hiking trails of the Middle East

From the windswept dunes of Saudi Arabia to the winding wadis of Ras Al Khaimah, the Middle East offers an array of hiking experiences. Whether scaling rocky cliffs or strolling through verdant valleys, each route promises adventure amidst nature's boundless beauty.

Explore these stunning hiking locations in the Middle East, sure to ignite wanderlust for your next outdoor adventure.

Wadi Shawka

Nestled within the rugged Al Hajar Mountains of Ras Al Khaimah, Wadi Shawka is a hiker's paradise. Spanning approximately eight kilometres, this valley meanders from the village of Khari to the north of Shawka village and merges with Wadi Esfai and Wadi Ejili.

During winter, when rainfall occurs, Wadi Shawka transforms into a seasonal riverbed, adorning the landscape with lush oases and natural pools. Against the backdrop of rocky terrain and barren cliffs, this transformation offers a picturesque contrast. While hiking along the winding trails, remnants of ancient settlements reflect the region's strong agricultural past, now replaced by modern farms where you might encounter the occasional mountain goat.

Wadi Mujib

Known as the Grand Canyon of Jordan, Wadi Mujib stretches 70 kilometres across the kingdom and is home to the lowest nature reserve in the world — the Mujib Biosphere Reserve. As the Mujib River winds its way through the wadi, the canyon's elevation fluctuates from 900 metres above sea level to 410 metres below as it nears the Dead Sea. This variation fosters exceptional biodiversity in the area, boasting over 300 plant species, along with wild cats, goats, birds, the horned ibex and other rare creatures. The diverse topography affords hikers breathtaking views of towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls and opportunities for wildlife encounters.

The reserve offers a range of hiking trails suitable for different skill levels. The Siq Trail — an easy to moderate route — leads hikers between sandstone cliffs to the base of a majestic waterfall. The challenging Mujib Trail spans 15 kilometres, showcasing a variety of flora and fauna. For adrenaline enthusiasts, the Canyon Trail offers an exhilarating descent down a 20-metre-high waterfall.

Wahba Crater

Situated northeast of Jeddah, Wahba Crater in Saudi Arabia is the largest and deepest volcanic crater in the kingdom. Formed over a million years ago during a volcanic eruption, this vast crater is 3,000 metres in diameter and features a lunar-like landscape, evoking an otherworldly allure. Surrounding the crater, the Al Luhayan, Umm Rilan and Zabna mountains create a picturesque backdrop, offering stunning views of the landscape.

Beginners can enjoy a leisurely hike along the crater's rim, taking in the expansive vistas, while more adventurous hikers can undertake a challenging descent of 380 metres to the bottom. Here, they can marvel at the dramatic salt crust formations and other minerals left behind by evaporated water. During the rainy season, the crater's surroundings transform, with wild plants flourishing along its edges.

The Red Sea Mountain Trail

Mainland Egypt's first long-distance hiking route, this trail covers 170 kilometres through the desert and takes advanced hikers over 14 days to complete. Created and managed by the Maaza Bedouin tribe, it intertwines ancient trade, travel and shepherding routes into a unified modern trail. This journey ventures through one of the Middle East's most secluded and stunning wilderness areas, showcasing diverse landscapes, from expansive desert plains to deep gorges and high summits. Rich in history, the trail unveils remnants of civilisations past, including crumbling Roman towns and prehistoric rock art.

Alongside the main 170-kilometre route, easier alternatives provide accessible options for beginners. Additionally, six designated hiking hubs around the main trail offer smaller, albeit extensive secondary routes, each with its unique topography and history. These routes extend the trail's reach by 600 kilometres, creating one of the Arab world's largest contiguous hiking networks.

Atlas Mountains

Amidst the towering peaks of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco lies a rugged paradise that attracts outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. While Toubkal's 4167-metre summit is a magnet for experienced hikers, equally captivating trails lie beneath its crown. One such route winds through the village of Imlil, offering accessible paths suitable for all ages.

The ancient trails that run through Imlil, which were once trodden by shepherds and connected remote settlements, provide opportunities to engage with local communities and immerse in their unique hospitality. While journeying through mountain pastures, beneath craggy massifs and over panoramic passes, hikers are treated to a culturally enriching experience and a diverse tapestry of landscapes.


Nestled amid the lush forests of Jabal Moussa Reserve, Chouwen in Lebanon beckons with tranquil beauty and timeless charm. The Chouwen Lake Trail takes leisurely hikers through meandering paths along a crystal-clear river and natural pools, offering a serene escape just 40 kilometres from the vibrant energy of Beirut.

After approximately 90 minutes of trekking through the reserve, adventurers are met with the breathtaking sight of Chouwen Lake. This picturesque oasis, adorned with its striking turquoise hue, rests at an elevation of 600 metres above sea level, surrounded by dense forests of oak and pine. Following the trek, a refreshing swim in the lake or a picnic by its banks serves as a truly rewarding finale to the journey.


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