Truly Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations for Families in 2024

Asking us to narrow down our favourite places to visit in the Middle East is an incredibly tough ask – and so variable depending on exactly what you expect from your family vacation to the Middle East.

The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia with text overlay best middle east destinations for families

Whilst there’s the glitz and glamour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE, there’s also the fascinating history of Jordan and the Holy sites of Palestine & Israel to consider: the magnificent forests of Lebanon or the marvellous Red Sea waters to explore for nature lovers. If you seek the most beautiful Middle Eastern spots, the list expands again!

We have compiled our top 24 favourite Middle Eastern holiday destinations for you here, which we think you should try in 2024 when considering a family vacation to this magnificent but often misunderstood region of the world.

There are plenty more places that we couldn’t squeeze into our top list, so make sure you also check out the Inspiration and Ideas section of our website for more ideas. History-lovers will also enjoy our rundown of UNESCO world sites in the Middle East for plotting their adventures.

The Lost City of Petra, Jordan

  • Approx. 3 hours south of AMM

On top of our list of the best places to visit in the Middle East is one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World – Petra

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Petra, JordanFTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Petra, Jordan

What attracts visitors to Petra are the stunning archaeological attractions that age back over 2000 years. Think mosques, temples, and tombs. It is also famous for its rock-cut architecture and beautiful rose-coloured canyons. Some like to call Petra the “Rose City.”

Once the capital city of the Nabateans, during Hellenistic and Roman times, Petra was a crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia from around 400 B.C. to A.D. 106. It is referred to as “Lost” as, for centuries, the city sat in ruins, only to be rediscovered by a European explorer in the early 1800s.

You can walk through the narrow Siq, hike to The Monastery (the views are jaw-dropping good), try your hand at a cooking class, or interact with the Bedouin people. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and fascinating places to visit in the Middle East and tops many family bucket lists.


Dead Sea, Israel & Jordan

  • Approx 50 min drive from AMM (Jordan side)
  • Approx 2 hours from TLV (Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, Israel)
  • Approx 1-hour drive from Jerusalem to Ein Bokek

When it comes to fascinating natural wonders in the Middle East, the Dead Sea (Yam Ha-Melakh in Hebrew) is the biggest attraction.

At 437 meters below sea level (and rapidly receding), the Dead Sea is Earth’s lowest land point.

Wondering how it got its name? Well, it’s because of the high salt concentration in the water, which makes it impossible for fish and other marine life to survive. (It’s not the saltiest body of water in the world, though, at 34% salinity, it’s surprisingly still 5th!).

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Dead Sea, Israel & Jordan

The main attraction of this holiday destination in the Middle East is its health benefits. The salty and mineral-rich water has healing powers. It can heal skin allergies, inflammation, and dryness. That, and who doesn’t want a cool photo of themselves literally floating on water!

So, float around in the Dead Sea, click some Insta-worthy pictures while covered in black mud (because why not?), and indulge in a pampering spa session. 

A word of caution: the water can be harsh on open wounds, so plan your travels around Jordan or Israel accordingly. We would NOT recommend jumping in the water for young children as it can be too harsh on their skin.

From the Jordan side, you can also plan a visit to the nearby attractions, such as Mount Nebo, where Moses is believed to be buried.


Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

  • Approx 30 mins from DXB

Looking for a luxury resort-style family vacation in the Middle East? Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, is your spot! This palm-shaped island boasts some of the world’s most high-class hotels and resorts.

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

If you’re travelling with kids, Aquaventure Waterpark inside Atlantis Resort will be your trip’s highlight. Here, you and your little ones can brave the water slides, swim through a shark-infested tunnel, or simply float on a floaty in the Lazy River. 

Other family-friendly activities on Palm Jumeirah include strolling along the Palm Boardwalk, shopping at Nakheel Mall, taking in the scenery from The View at The Palm, eating out at a celebrity chef restaurant, or taking a helicopter tour to see this man-made beauty from above. 

You’re not far from many other tourist attractions and highlights of Dubai, including Dubai Marina, the theme parks of Dubai Parks & Resorts and Mall of the Emirates for indoor skiing.


Ras Al Khaimah, UAE

  • Approx 1 – 1.5 hours from DXB (Dubai)
  • Approx 1 hour from SHJ (Sharjah)

If the bright lights of Dubai aren’t quite your thing, or you’ve already ‘been there, done that’ and seek something new on your next stopover, then let us fill you in on what lies beyond the city’s borders: mountains!

Well, to be precise, pristine beaches, picturesque mangrove marshes, rugged mountains and golden desert all wrapped up in one package. And the best part is that you’re actually still really close to DXB!

Ras Al Khaimah, or as it is affectionately referred to, RAK, is the UAE’s adventure playground.

Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah UAE at sunset cars winding up mountain highway

The highlight here is Jebel Jais, part of the Hajar Mountain range that runs along the eastern most part of the Arabian Peninsula. The UAE’s highest mountain offers hiking trails, zip lining, and breathtaking views. If an adrenaline rush drives you, try the Jebel Jais Flight – the world’s longest zipline.

There are also a few beaches in Ras Al Khaimah where you can unwind with your family in the lap of luxury. When the kids want to have some fun, take them to the nearby Khuzam Family Park, which offers picnic areas, playgrounds, and even a mini zoo.


Cappadocia, Turkey

  • Approx 40 mins from Neversehir Pakadokya Airport (NAV) – closest
  • Approx 50 mins from Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) – more options

Welcome to Turkey’s dreamy tourist spot, Cappadocia. This is where hundreds of colourful hot air balloons paint the skies every morning, and the fairy chimneys take you back in time. 

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Cappadocia, Turkey

There’s so much to experience in Cappadocia; you won’t ever have a dull moment. Imagine living in a cave hotel, exploring underground cities, taking ATV safari tours, and experiencing the local culture with folk dances. The food is amazing, too. You have to try Cappadocia’s signature Manti.

The best time to be here is between April-June and September-October. Check out the weather forecast to make sure you don’t miss the hot air balloon ride – it’s unmissable!


Salalah, Oman

  • Salalah International Airport SLL

Middle East vacations don’t have to be all about deserts. One of the unique experiences you can enjoy in the Middle East is visiting Salalah and the Dhofar province during the Khareef – the monsoon season.

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Salalah, Oman

Salalah also has a rich cultural heritage, with a bunch of museums and historical sites to visit. 

What makes the lush green city an ideal family spot is its beaches! Dahariz Beach, Al Mughsail Beach, and Al Fizayah Beach are just a few where you can catch some rays.

Looking for more activities? Visit the ancient ruins of Sumhuram, explore the nearby mountains, or go on a desert safari (because it’s still the Middle East, after all!)


Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

  • The new Zayed International Airport (AUH) just 10 mins away

This is the one your theme park fans and thrill seekers should be pencilling in their planner, NOW! Think theme parks, luxury hotels, sandy beaches, and cultural attractions. Yas Island in Abu Dhabi is your spot if that’s what you’re after. 

yas island theme parks in abu dhbai one of the best destinations for a family holiday in the middle east

This man-made island is a top Middle East holiday destination for families. You can shop brands from the Yas Mall, walk, run or cycle around the Yas Marina Circuit. For those who enjoy golf, there is the Yas Links Golf Course, or foodies will be delighted with several different dining zones, including the Yas Bay Waterfront, Yas Marina and Yas Plaza Hotels.

What steals the show, however, is the world-famous indoor adventure parks, Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld and Seaworld. This is where you can enjoy crazy rides and car-themed experiences. For water babies, Yas Waterworld has slides, pools, and lazy rivers.

Thrill seekers can also seek out the largest indoor climbing wall in the world and the largest indoor flight chamber at CLYMB, or your older kids can try a fast lap in a performance vehicle at YMC.


Antalya, Turkey

  • Approx 10-30 mins from AYT to the beaches

Looking for a family-friendly beach getaway in the Middle East? Antalya, Turkey, has our wholehearted vote! This resort town on the Mediterranean coast has everything you need for a relaxing and fun-filled vacation – beaches, waterfalls, golf courses, nightlife – you name it!

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Antalya, Turkey

For sun, sand, and sea, the Konyaalti and Lara Beach are good choices. You can snorkel, parasail, or just get some tan on. And if you want to experience a natural wonder like a waterfall cascading into the sea, head to Duden Waterfalls.

Looking for some adventure? Try white water rafting at Koprulu Canyon or hop on a 4×4 jeep safari in the Taurus Mountains. 

Antalya also has several amusement parks, like Aqualand and Antalya Aquarium, that cater to all age groups. 


Doha, Qatar

  • Hamdan International Airport (DOH)

Next, we have the modern city of Doha. Made world-famous by the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there’s plenty more to see and do other than a huge string of sporting events (gotta use those stadiums, right?) if your scratch beneath the surface.

a dhow floating in front of the highrise skyline of Doha

If you’re coming to Doha for a taste of Middle East luxury, head to The Pearl-Qatar. It is an artificial island with fancy yachts, designer stores, posh restaurants, and turquoise beaches. It’s everything that dreamy vacations in the Middle East are made of!

However, for a more Middle Eastern feel, check out Souq Waqif and buy some authentic spices and souvenirs from there. If history is more your vibe, head to the stunning Museum of Islamic Art

Doha also has amusement parks for the little tourists, too. Helping you keep your cool indoors, you could try Gondolania Theme Park in Villaggio Mall; gamers will love Virtuosity, or, if the weather is still mild enough outdoors, Aqua Park Qatar.

If you’re giving yourself more than just a 24-hour stopover in the city, head out of the city to see some of the desert highlights, including Al-Zubarah Fort or the inland Sea – Khor al-Udaid.


Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan

  • Approx 1 hour from AQJ (Aqaba King Hussein Int Airport – closest)
  • Approx 3hrs 30 mins from AMM (Amman – more flights)

Camel rides, Bedouin camps, and stargazing – these are just a few of the experiences you can have in Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s perfect for families looking to immerse themselves in nature and experience the desert lifestyle.

You can camp under the starry night sky, take a jeep tour through the red sand dunes, and learn about Bedouin traditions and culture. For a unique experience, try glamping in one of the luxury camps offering modern amenities while giving you an authentic desert experience.


The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

  • Approx 1 hour from CAI (Cairo) – closest
  • Approx 40 mins from Giza Spinx International Airport (SPX) – closest

No list of places to visit in the Middle East is complete without mentioning The Great Pyramids of Giza. This iconic Wonder of the World is a must-see for families, with its rich history and impressive architecture.

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

You can take a tour inside the pyramids (for an additional fee, be careful of the touts!), ride camels around them, or watch the mesmerizing sound and light show at night.

Part of the Giza Plateau and surrounding area, you can also visit the Great Sphinx and the partially opened Grand Egyptian Museum (full opening has been pushed back many times but is expected in the Spring of 2024).


Red Sea, Egypt, Israel, Jordan & Saudi Arabia

  • Main airports include HRG (Hurghada, Egypt); SSH (Sharm El Sheik, Egypt), ETH (Eilat, Israel) and AQJ (Aqaba, Jordan)

If you’re looking for places to visit in the Middle East where you can swim with dolphins, explore coral reefs, and relax on pristine beaches, then the Red Sea is your go-to spot.

camel on the beach at the red sea egypt

With a coastline that spans across Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea offers endless water activities. You can go snorkelling, scuba diving, and even swimming with whale sharks. 

And when you need a break from the water, you can take day trips to nearby cities and historical sites, such as Eilat in Israel or Aqaba in Jordan.


Musandam Peninsula, Oman

  • Approx 2 hours 40 mins DXB to Khasab (allow time for border crossing)

For a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience in the Middle East, visit the Musandam Peninsula in Oman. This secluded region is famous for its stunning fjords, crystal-clear waters, and rugged mountains.

a boat in the Musandam peninsul exclave of Oman

You can go on a dhow cruise through the Musandam Fjords, where you’ll see dolphins swimming alongside your boat and amazing views of the coastline. Or take a kayak tour through the Khawr Najd Marine Reserve, where you can spot exotic marine life and explore hidden caves.

Families can also visit traditional fishing villages, enjoy yummy fresh seafood meals, and experience Omani culture firsthand. For a truly special experience, arrange an overnight dhow and sleep under the stars!


Socotra Island, Yemen

  • One weekly charter flight from Abu Dhabi approx 1 hour 45 mins
  • Yemenia have started flights from Cairo, with stopovers in Adena and Mukallá

A remote destination, Socotra Island in the Indian Ocean is a remarkable getaway. Far from tragically war-torn mainland Yemen, the isolated island of Socotra has a unique ecosystem that harbours rare plants and animals that do not exist anywhere else on Earth.

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Socotra Island, Yemen

The island has different terrains ranging from green valleys to sandy beaches to high mountains. 

Socotra Island is also an ideal place for stargazing because of its remoteness – but its remoteness is what keeps this one of the more challenging places to plan a family vacation in the Middle East.

Bear in mind the lack of mod cons on a trip like this and the fact that you must commit to a minimum of one week due to flight schedules before deciding if it’s the right type of adventure trip for your family.


Nile River, Egypt

  • Start is Luxor (LXR) or Aswan (ASW), a 1-1.5 hr hour domestic flight from Cairo (CAI)

The Nile River in Egypt is not just an essential water source; it’s also a popular tourist attraction for families, with over 300 vessels navigating the stretch between Aswan and Luxor. Enjoying the cruise facilities is half the fun – the important part is it will help you get between the key attractions of Upper Egypt in the most picturesque fashion!

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Cruise the Nile, Egypt

You can choose from various cruise options, ranging from budget-friendly to luxurious, and stop at different cities and sites along the way. These include Aswan, Edfu, Kom Ombo temples, Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings. 

Onboard activities may include belly dancing, Nubian folk shows, and cooking classes to keep everyone entertained during the cruise. But believe us, after exploring all of these stops along the way, you’ll just want to enjoy the pool and subdeck by the time you return to your boat!

For a one-of-its-kind experience, you could try sailing on a traditional Felucca boat (though do note your journey will take substantially longer than the larger cruise ships!)


Byblos, Lebanon

  • Approx 1 hour from BEY (Beirut-Rafic Al Hariri Int Airport)

Byblos on Lebanon’s Meditteranean coast is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Excavations can date the city back to the 6th millennium BC! History nuts, this is the place for you!

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - Byblos, Lebanon

In terms of activities, you can explore ancient ruins like the Citadel of Byblos and the Temple of Baalat Gebal or relax on the pristine beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.  Foodies will also delight in a visit to Byblos; think Rice Pilaf, Fattoush, Sfeeha, Kafta – yum!

Make sure to add to your itinerary from Beirut to Byblos stops at the Jeita Grotto for an incredible cave lake experience, and take the Télépherique du Liban cable car from Harrisa to Our Lady of Lebanon for some of the most spectacular coastal views in Lebanon.


Cyprus

  • Major airports Larnaca (LCA) and Paphos (PFO)

OK, we’re stretching it a little here as Cyprus is an EU member, but geographically – it fits perfectly in the Middle East region. It is a hugely popular ‘local’ holiday destination for many of our readers, and we’d be remiss to leave it off a list of awesome places to vacation in the Middle East!

a beautiful beach in Cyprus

Surrounded by the stunning turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, Cyprus offers visitors a much longer beach season than much of Europe. And for those coming from other Arabian Peninsula, a welcome relief from the summer heat, often a good 10-15C cooler.

Whilst renowned for its beautiful blue flag beaches and family resorts, it’s a history-lovers dream destination, too. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Paphos, head to the Troodos Mountains for some hiking among traditional villages and journey into Northern Cyprus.


AlUla, Saudi Arabia

  • Approx 20 mins from Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Airport (ULH)
  • 2-hour flight time from Riyadh (RUH)

AlUla, located in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, is rapidly becoming a popular Middle East vacation spot for families seeking an intriguing new adventure. This northern region of Saudi Arabia is home to ancient ruins and breathtaking landscapes that will take you back in time.

FTME Amazing Middle East Holiday Destinations - AlUla, Saudi Arabia

One of the main attractions here is Hegra – an ancient city carved into sandstone rocks that dates back to the 1st century BC. You can also visit stunning rock formations like Elephant Rock and see the world’s largest open-air museum at Madain Saleh.

AlUla is also perfect for adventure seekers, with activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and even hot air balloon rides. The tourism industry here is rapidly expanding, so stay tuned for a large number of local events, concerts and sporting events being added throughout the seasons to attract tourists.


Daymaniyat Islands, Oman

  • Approx 45 minutes from Al Mouj Marina; Closest Airport MCT (Muscat)

This one is for everyone who loves marine life and snorkelling. The Daymaniyat Islands (sometimes called Ad Dimaniyat) in Oman are a group of nine islands home to vibrant coral reefs, crystal-clear waters, and abundant marine species.

crystal clear blue waters of the Daymaniyat islands in oman

You can visit the islands by boat and snorkel or dive underwater to view schools of multi-coloured fishes, sea turtles, or even dolphins. And if you’re lucky, you may even spot a whale shark.

Note that you are not allowed on the islands themselves from May to October, as it is breeding season. The islands are not so much a hidden gem anymore, and the winter days can be filled with day trippers, but for something truly special, arrange to go camping overnight!  


Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan

  • Erbil International Airport (EBL)
  • Baghdad International Airport (BGW) is a 1 hr domestic flight

Erbil (or Hawler) may not be your first choice for vacations in the Middle East. But this capital of Iraqi Kurdistan is a blend of history, culture, and modern amenities; if beaches, deserts and flashy resorts aren’t your thing, and you prefer to really get under the skin of the places you’re visiting, Erbil is a great way to start your exploration of the lesser-known parts of the Middle East.

Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Citadel of Erbil, which is more than 6,000 years old, or stroll around the downtown for the lively bazaars and good Kurdish food. Minaret Park and Shanidar Park are go-to spots for families.

Also, check out the Lalish town. It is a significant pilgrim centre of the Yazidi religion. If you want some action, go to the Korek mountain. Here, you can paraglide and enjoy a cable car ride with beautiful views of the city under your feet.

We hope you’ve found some inspiration among this list for incredible new places to explore in the Middle East in 2024.


Please note we have edited this list slightly from when it was first published in 2019 to remove some destinations and add some up-and-coming places of interest.

We are continually monitoring the recommendations we make in our blog to ensure our advice is appropriate for families and fairly reflects the current safety and political situation. 

For all the places we mention in this article, we urge you to check the latest safety warnings before you travel. As of January 2024, this list is reflective of locations we believe to be safe and accessible for family visitors.


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Family Travel Middle East
Family Travel Middle East

The Family Travel in the Middle East team of travel writers are all parents based in the Middle East, sharing first hand experiences and reviews from across the region to help you plan your next family adventure.

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