Bahrain, which translates to “two seas”, is a Middle Eastern archipelago situated in the Arabian Gulf. The country is home to some of the most impressive architecture, famed monuments and dives into a pearling past. Tracing its roots to a rich culture and heritage, today the island nation has its own Formula 1 Grand Prix, a vibrant food scene, and souks. As a travel destination, Bahrain is perfect from all; from families with children to even solo women travellers. Liberal, heavy on heritage and culture and laden with picturesque sites, Bahrain needs to be your next travel destination.
A direct flight from New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Bengaluru or Thiruvananthapuram, Bahrain is just a hop skip and jump away. Pick any weekend to rummage through the country’s history hidden in the four walls of its various museums or gorging on local and international delights. For a quick weekend guide, click here.
Bahrain’s beaches are a mishmash of calm, picturesque and colorful evenings. Boasting of an exciting nightlife filled with parties and a cultural flank with local vendor’s market, art and photography exhibitions, among other activities, Diyar Al Muharraq’s Marassi Al Bahrain is the one-stop spot for all things fun. Al Dar Islands, located east of the capital Manama, is a mini island paradise with beachside chalets, water sports, and a dedicated kid’s zone. For those who’d prefer golden-white sands, the tiny tidal island of Jarada offers just that; the clear shallow waters are perfect for swimming and the beach remains pristine all year round courtesy the ebb and flow of the tide.
Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) is a must-visit automobile venue located in the desert region of Sakhir. It also holds events such as drag-racing, the GP2 Series and the annual Bahrain Grand Prix, BIC. On the menu are go karting, the Land Rover experience and an indoor gravity skydiving to name a few. Each session is adrenaline pumping and safe.
For all those who adore their spiritual side, Bahrain’s capital Manama has the country’s largest mosque, the Al Fateh Grand Mosque. A visit to this mosque has a dual advantage: one can enjoy its beautiful interiors and get a chance to say a little prayer too. With a capacity to hold 7,000 worshippers, the intricate decor is from different parts of the world. The marble flooring comes from Italy, glass from Austria and teak from India, engraved by local Bahraini craftsmen. The 952 hand-blown glass lamps inside the mosque are from France and the dome is one of the largest fiberglass domes in the world.
A potpourri of traditional Arabic food, Bahrain is a land of gastronomic extravaganza. While balaleet (vermicelli noodles infused in saffron or cardamom) is paired with omelette, baydh tomato (scrambled eggs and tomatoes blended in with spices) is an ode to the Middle Eastern shakshuka. Mihyawa, an unusual combination of flat bread with fermented fish sauce is recommended to those who favour seafood. No breakfast is complete without the sweet concoction of Chai Haleeb. The Arabic Gahwa paired with dates is the perfect morning kick-starter. Rasoi by Vineet, the country’s first-Indian dining restaurant is naturally also the first to come to mind when you think of Michelin starred haunts in the country. Located in Manama, it is known for its wholesome Indian meal and vibrant interiors. Block 338, a quintessential pedestrian quarter situated in the heart of Adliya is flanked by international restaurants and quaint cafes. Masso, an Italian restaurant is acclaimed for its farm-to-table cooking. Wolfgang Puck’s American steakhouse restaurant CUT on the 50th floor of Four Season Hotel Bahrain offers the chef’s signature dishes alongside stunning views of Manama’s skyline.
Restored traditional Bahraini houses line the streets of Muharraq. Spread across four courtyards, carved wooden doors, and perforated gypsum panels, Gulf Islamic architecture is exemplified in details of Sheikh Isa bin Ali House. Kurar House is known for embroidery, while Bin Matar House, the former home of a pearl merchant splendidly showcases the history of pearling in Bahrain. The collection of houses in the vicinity exhibiting different aspects of Bahrain’s rich heritage include Iqra Children’s Library, Heraf al Diyar and the Nukhida House(the first house to be restored along the Pearling Path).
Behind the historical monument of Bab Al Bahrain sits the famed Manama Souk. It is touted as the one-stop market for all Bahraini essentials from nuts, spices, sheesha bottles to gold. T-shirts are bought at bargained prices. Perfumes, herbs as well as electronic goods are popular among tourists. Al Jasra Handicrafts Centre is great for local handiworks. For those who prefer an indoor shopping experience, the Capital Mall, in close proximity to the Seef Mall is located in Al Seef District. Sample souvenirs from some of the finest Bahraini traditional and original handmade products ranging from food and spices to paintings, rugs, furniture, woodcraft, and pottery. Bahrain World Trade Center holds a luxury mall called Moda Mall with over 130 exclusive brand shops.
Bahrain has a little bit of everything. The National Museum, with its nine halls, six different sections and 4,000 years worth of history is a confluence of handicrafts, ancient documents, and archaeological finds. If you don’t fancy a trip to a museum, the Bahrain Fort is a great alternative to a historical site. The fort became Bahrain’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and is a must visit in the evening hours when it entirely lit up. And for a quick lesson in Islam, Beitl Al Qur’an is a 15-minute ride away from the fort. Established in 1900, the structure located in Manama is dedicated to the understanding of the holy book and Islamic heritage. Among the five divisions, the first is a gathering hall, while the second part is the library, which holds over 20,000 books and manuscripts in three languages – Arabic, English, and French – the majority of which are on Islam.
Since the nation is filled with pristine beaches and surrounded by clear azure waters, water sports are a daily activity. As mentioned above, Al Dar Islands, with its beautiful beaches also has activities that include boat trips. Manama has an assortment of tours that specialize in scuba diving and windsurfing activities. For something a little more unique, Bahrain is touted for its pearl-diving expeditions. Pearl-diving expeditions have opened to tourists recently in Bahrain after 80 years. Once registered with the official government website, a brief workshop is required to be attended. Following this, tourists depart from the port of Ras Rayyah and may collect up to sixty oysters. Better yet, travellers get to keep all their finds from the seawaters of Gulf.
For those who want to steer away from the bustling city, Bahrain offers some of the most luxurious hotels. The Ritz Carlton Hotel and Spa’s sea-inspired spa for ladies and gentlemen featuring a hammam with four plunge pools are perfect for relaxation. Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain calls itself a “regal Bahraini summer house replete with a coastal feel” and boasts of a private beach and 10 luxurious summer houses for its guests. The Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay reeks of architectural brilliance and rooms with views of the skyline. The Bahrain Hotel Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa is a blend of French art and traditional Bahraini styles with a spa that offers a vast array of seawater-based treatments, including hydrotherapy, massage, and wellness, ideal for relaxation. These and many others make Bahrain ideal for a lavish weekend.