Doha is the Middle Eastern hotspot and is known for its luxurious buildings, culture-seeped history, and miles of land where the desert meets the sea. However, the city also has a wide range of unique activities and experiences that are an absolute must for any traveler, ranging from kayaking through the mangroves to visiting a falcon hospital to taking a hot air balloon ride over the Arabian Gulf.
Whether you’re thinking of doing a stopover, spending a few days in the city, or planning a visit for the upcoming World Cup, here are 17 unique experiences that you can only do in Doha.
Stroll the Souq Waqif
Regardless of whether you want to indulge in some retail therapy or eat authentic cuisine, you’ll find endless traditions within the Souq Waqif. The century-old trading market is on the edge of the Wadi Musheireb square, which connects to the Souq underpass, and features a multitude of different areas to purchase everything from falcons and spices to gold. It’s worth noting that you should stop by the central courtyard to eat some Emirati cuisine made by Qatari people (like fresh samosas, meat stews, and stuffed vine leaves) or stop by one of the many, many restaurants. While the Souq Waqif is open all day, it comes alive at night since you can avoid the daytime heat and humidity.
Take a Day Trip to Banana Island
Located just off the coast of Doha, Banana Island is just a short 25-minute ferry ride away from Doha’s downtown area. Visitors have the option of staying at the resort or booking activities for a daytime visit. The crescent-shaped island has its own private marina, reefs, and tons of underwater activities, including water skiing, banana boating, or water cycling in the crystal clear blue ocean. Those looking to alleviate some of their jet lag can opt to try a traditional hammam or get a relaxing facial with a view of the ocean as your backdrop. To end your day on the island, visit one of the restaurants, which have a wide range of cuisine types from traditional Arabic to Italian.
Visit A Falcon Hospital
Falcons themselves have long been revered in the Bedouin pasts of many and continue to be passed down from generation to generation in Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries. The creatures are part of the owner’s family and often compete in racing, and beauty contests, among other activities, so it only makes sense that there would be a hospital specifically for the birds. At the hospital, you’ll go behind the scenes of the falconry and watch what goes on within these specialized medical centers with care ranging from a simple nail trim to feather replacements—and more. The most common hospital to visit is Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital, which is located inside the Souq Waqif.
Kayak Through the Al Thakira Mangroves
Kayaking fans will adore the experience of paddling through the Al Thakira Mangroves, which is one of the most beautiful natural sites in Qatar. Located just a short distance from the industrial city of Al Khor, it’s one of the largest and oldest forests in the country. Those who visit can kayak through the forest and see a barrage of migratory birds, such as herons and flamingos, along with numerous types of fish. You also have the option of kayaking around The Pearl on a separate day, if you are a kayaking enthusiast. Note: If you plan to visit, make sure you book the expedition through one of the multitudes of tour operators.
Go Sand Dune Bashing at Sunset
If you’re up for an adventure, head dune bashing through Khor Al Adaid at sunset. This spot near the Inland sea, which is literally just a bit of water in the middle of the desert, is known to be one of the only places in the world where the desert meets the sea—and it’s also a preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site. The adventure-filled activity is not only super fun but unpredictable as the car will slide along the sand like a roller coaster (don’t worry—the drivers who take you are experts). When you go, make sure to choose a time close to dusk, so you can experience a breathtaking desert sunset after the ride.
Stop by The National Museum of Qatar
While there are a few museums to visit in Qatar, The National Museum is one that should be added to your itinerary. The building itself was designed by Jean Nouvel, a Pritzker Prize-winning architect, and is built in a formation that is meant to imitate naturally occurring crystal formations called desert rose. Throughout the museum, you’ll get to learn about the history of Qatar and how it was established. Also: it’s built around Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani’s (he was the former prime minister of Qatar) original palace, which you can get a sneak peek of from the museum.
Explore The Katara Cultural Village
For a cultural experience, you should make it your priority to explore the Katara Cultural Village. Created with the intention of showcasing the unique facets of culture in Qatar, the village is relatively new and features everything from an amphitheater to a beautiful gold mosque. Built with a maze of cobbled alleys, the extensive venue has events happening daily and a whole slew of delicious restaurants. You could easily spend a day there exploring everything the village has to offer, so make sure to carve enough time out to see all that you can.
Watch Camel Racing At Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack
Truth be told, camel racing is a pretty big deal in Qatar, which is precisely why it’s worth making the trek to see what it’s all about. The camel racing track at Al Shahaniya is located just an hour north of Doha and is a great place to catch races (during November to February when it’s the season) or watch the Camels practice in the arena. The animals themselves are known to be some of the most expensive and well-groomed, so it’ll be a memorable experience.
Spend a Day at The Zulal Wellness Center
If you’re looking for a relaxing day spent in a tranquil oasis outside the city, it’s best to incorporate a visit to the Zulal Wellness Resort. It’s not only Qatar’s first wellness resort, but also features a wide range of activities for adults and children, including wellness offerings with traditional holistic and Islamic practices, cooking classes, and more. The journey is just an hour by car from the city center or an hour and a half drive from Hamad International Airport.
Visit the Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque
Inaugurated in 2011, the Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque (which is also known as the Qatar State Grand Mosque) is the largest mosque in Qatar. It’s made with simple yet graceful architecture filled with beautiful arches and characteristics of Islamic architectural traditions. The mosque stands atop a hill and is a must-visit for those looking to appreciate the stunning architecture and rich history that each holds.
View The Doha Skyline from A Traditional Dhow Boat at Sunset
The Doha skyline is nothing short of magnificent, which is why you’ll want to take in the striking skyscrapers from the water on a dhow boat. The wooden boats are deeply routed in Qatar’s history and are a unique experience for those visiting the city for the first time. There’s a wide range of options to choose from, so do your research to find the experience (and time slot) that works best for your schedule.
Take A Walk At The Corniche
Dubbed as one of the most iconic attractions in Doha, the Corniche is a seven-kilometer crescent-shaped walkway overlooking the gorgeous ocean views. The spot offers picturesque views of the skyline and is a great place to spend the daytime or evening taking a stroll.
Hot Air Balloon Over the Golden Dunes and Arabian Gulf
For a once in a lifetime experience, opt to take in the sights in a hot air balloon. It’s a great activity to do as lovebirds or as a family visiting the city. You’ll get to encounter the cityscape from up above, along with the golden dunes and the stunning waters of the Arabian Gulf. However, if you plan to do this, make sure you take a trip to Qatar in the winter months as the summer is too hot for this activity.
Experience the Spa Under The Stars
Hosted on the 50th-floor helipad of the Marriott Marquis in Doha, the spa in the stars is an experience you’ll absolutely want to try. With sweeping views of the city’s skyline, you’ll get to enjoy a 90-minute massage underneath the shining moon and stars. It’s the perfect romantic evening for two and ends with a yummy six-course dinner at the hotel’s award-winning Steakhouse.
Food Tour Around The City
When experiencing a new city, trying the local cuisine is imperative. Opt to take a food tour to eat your way through Qatar’s food scene with the helpful hand of a guide. It’ll bring you to a barrage of street food spots, ranging from local hidden gems to well-known favorites.
Shop at Place Vendome
This mega Parisian-inspired development is a great stop for those looking to go luxury shopping. It’ll have over 500 stores, a barrage of yummy restaurants, and ample space to stroll. The spot also has five luxury hotels, so it’s a great place to stay as well.
Take a Yoga Class On A Helipad
If you’re a yoga lover, you’ll relish this one-of-a-kind yoga class on a helipad. It’s a dreamy way to end or start your day–thanks to the impressive city and sunset or sunrise views. These classes are hosted on weekdays with sunset options and monthly on the full moon at the Marriott Marquis in Doha by EVOLVE.