Traveling to Socotra; A One Week Itinerary
In 2016, traveling to Socotra, I became the only tourist in Yemen. I had visited 194 countries in 10 years but it took me one year to visit my last 3:
My 3rd last country: Saudi Arabia – that was difficult – read about how I got my visa to Saudi HERE ,
My 2nd last country: Yemen – read the CRAZY story how I managed to get to Socotra HERE
My last country: Norway. Staying in Ice hotels, huskies, northern lights. All pretty epic, but it was easy. Yemen was the last hurdle.
Anyway, back to Yemen. The Yemeni mainland is supposed to be beautiful, I had crossed the border from Oman but I don’t count border hopping as visiting a country, so I had to delve deeper. I’d have loved to have visited Sanaa, Yemen’s beautiful, historic Capital, but with Saudi and Iran fighting their proxy war, it’s impossible. That left Socotra, the Yemeni island off the coast of Somalia and Yemen, and perhaps the most beautiful place on the world. Seriously.
Things to Do in Socotra, a One Week Itinerary
If you a diehard adventurer with an uncontrollable urge to travel and explore more of our amazing planet. This is the place for you.
I am thinking of a fascinating island far out in the Arabian Sea that will leave you speechless! It is the island of Socotra, an isolated, mysterious world with so much to offer. From odd-looking plants and trees to pristine turquoise-blue lagoons, and powdery-white sand dunes, Socotra is unlike any other spot on the planet. It’s truly where Avatar meets Jurassic Park.
Socotra Shoreline, Photo by Yuliya Draganova
The island however has never been an easy place to get to, and at present, it is nearly impossible. Socotra is a territory of Yemen, and since there is a civil war going on in the country, all flights to and from the island have been cancelled indefinitely. Even in the past, there were only a handful of flights from Sana’a in Yemen, and a few from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
When it opens again, the easiest way to travel there is to Fly into Sana’a, Yemen’s Largest City:
On the first day of your adventure, you will fly into Sana’a, Yemen’s largest city. After you get to your hotel you can rest a bit, and then take a walk around the Old City.. You will get a chance to experience the unique vibe and architecture of Sana’a before enjoying some delicious Yemeni food. After dinner, you will return to your hotel and rest before your morning flight to the island of Socotra.
Day 1, Arrival in Hadiboh and Detwah Lagoon
On the following morning, you will fly into Hadiboh, Socotra’s capital city. At the airport, you can hire guides who will be taking care of you for the rest of your time on the island.
Hadiboh, Socotra, Photo by Yuliya Draganova
Pretty much all tourists who visit Socotra need to make arrangements in advance for their tour of the island. This is not a place where car rentals and fancy accommodations are readily available. In fact, for the rest of your time in Socotra, you will most likely sleep in a tent, or very basic guest house and eat whatever the catch of the day is, prepared by your guides. WiFi is available in theory in Hadiboh, but it didn’t really work for me for anything outside WhatsApp!
Your first stop will be the unforgettable Detwah Lagoon on the northwestern tip of the island. Here, you will have a chance to swim in the turquoise-blue waters of the Arabian Sea, and take a walk on the beautiful white sand lining the shore. If you wish, you can climb to a nearby observation point and capture a more complete photo of this stunning coastline.
Detwah Lagoon, Socotra, Photo by Yuliya Draganova
As the sun starts to go down, you will make your way to a nearby campsite, and spend the night in a tent with the fresh air and sounds of the Arabian Sea.
Detwah Lagoon at Sunset, Photo by Yuliya Draganova
Day 2, Shuab Bay
As the morning sun returns to Socotra, you will enjoy a little more time surrounded by the beauty of Detwah Lagoon, and then head to the nearby village of Qualansiya. There, you will get on a fishing boat and depart for Shuab Bay, considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in Socotra, and perhaps the world. While on the boat, look around for pods of dolphins, as they are known to frequent this area.
Once at Shuab Bay, you will again have a chance to swim and soak in the sun while your guides prepare dinner.
After another day of turquoise blue waters, and pristine white sand, you will retire to your tent and rest under the night skies of Socotra.
Day 3, Dixam Plateau
After an idyllic early morning in Shuab Bay, you will return to the village of Qualansiya again by fishing boat, and continue on land towards Dixam Plateau. Located towards the center of Socotra, the Dixam Plateau is where you will get a chance to see up close Socotra’s native Dragon’s Blood Trees, which are found in abundance here. The peculiar blood-red resin they produce is the reason for the name. It is the resin that has been used throughout centuries as a medicine for various ailments.
After you spend some time at the Dixam Plateau, you will head down into the nearby Wadi Dirhur Canyon. Here, you will have a chance to take a relaxing swim in a fresh water pool before the night falls. Once again, you will sleep in a tent, this time between the walls of the canyon.
A fresh water pool in Wadi Dirhur Canyon, Socotra, Photo by Yuliya Draganova
Day 4, The Sand Dunes of Stero
As the first rays of the morning sun reach the bottom of Wadi Dirhur Canyon, you will prepare to leave for your next destination, the sand dunes of Stero. This is a stunning place on the southern coast of Socotra, where giant dunes of white sand sprawl along the shore. Their smooth wavy surface will make you feel like a kid again, enticing you to run, jump, and dive into the soft sand!
Children of Socotra playing on the sand dunes of Stero, Photo by Yuliya Draganova
After you swim and play in the dunes for a while, you will enjoy another dinner prepared by your guides, and then relax in your tent between the dunes and the Arabian Sea.
Day 5, Dunes at Archer
The next day, you will leave the dunes of Stero, and travel to the northeast part of Socotra to see the sand dunes at Archer. The interesting thing about the sand dunes here is that they are pushed up against the cliffs rising near the seashore. The wind coming from the Arabian Sea is responsible for creating these striking sand piles.
Sand dunes of Archer, Socotra during late afternoon, Photo by Yuliya Draganova
You will be able to enjoy the magnificent vistas of Archer until the last rays of the sun dip below the horizon. Then, you can once again rest at the nearby campsite, lulled by the sounds of the Arabian Sea.
Day 6, Ras Erissel and Ayaft Gorge
Your final day in Socotra will begin with time at the beach at nearby Ras Erissel followed by a trip to Ayaft Gorge.
At the gorge, you will find a very different side of Socotra, as lush vegetation here covers most of the land. The tall cliffs of the gorge protect and isolate this area from the desert climate found throughout the rest of the island.
Ayaft Gorge, Socotra Photo by Yuliya Draganova
One last time, you will spend the night in a tent surrounded by Socotra’s unique beauty.
Day 7, Fly to Sana’a
On your last morning on the island, there will be a little time for a short hike in Ayaft Gorge before leaving for the airport.
Your flight will take you back to Sana’a, where you can spend another day or two exploring the history and culture of this unique city.
On the streets of Sana’a, Yemen, Photo by Yuliya Draganova
We can only hope that someday soon the wars will be over, and differences resolved. Then we can visit Socotra, and get lost for a week in its mysterious, timeless charm!