10 Beautiful Places You Need To Add To Your Socotra Island Trip!

Table of Contents

Introduction to Socotra

Socotra is one of the most beautiful and otherworldly places on planet Earth. As a still relatively undiscovered destination, it’s on every intrepid traveller’s list at the moment and, honestly – rightly so! If you haven’t yet planned a Socotra Island trip, then you absolutely need to.

Socotra is a Yemeni-owned island off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. As a comparatively extremely safe destination, it receives high interest from the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, who have both understandably scouted it out as a very promising tourist destination.

Since it is still up and coming and, as yet, largely unknown to the tourist masses, the infrastructure is limited. As such, travellers should be aware that they’ll be getting quite a rustic experience at the moment; likely lots of camping, hiking and exploring in nature – not that that’s a bad thing! Speaking of which, Socotra has more endemic species than almost anywhere else in the world, only tipped by New Zealand, Hawaii, the Galapagos islands and New Caledonia!

As a small island in the Indian Ocean, Socotra has a surprisingly diverse landscape and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve visiting about six different countries in one. We were shocked to find that one minute we were driving past rolling sand dunes, the next rocky mountains, the next stunning wadis. It may feel like we’re saying that every single place in this post is beautiful and incredible. We love giving honest reviews so, honestly? We just couldn’t fault ANY of the landscape on Socotra. It was all truly immaculate.

If you don’t know much about the destination, find out what to expect here.

This article may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and they are often discounted, but we may receive a small commission if you use them to book.

A beach in Socotra with car tracks leading up to a jeep.
Beaches in Socotra

Responsible Travel on Socotra Island

As mentioned, Socotra is an up and coming destination, which means it is absolutely VITAL that we visit in a responsible way. We need to have in mind the protection of local ecosystems and people first and foremost. Like we said, the infrastructure isn’t yet in place for things like waste disposal. So how can we ensure we keep this beautiful place safe?

  • Pick up your rubbish – we need to leave no trace! You will see there is litter on Socotra because proper waste disposal isn’t available. Let’s help the locals by picking it up and disposing of it properly
  • Take natural toiletries – this is so, so important. The local ecosystems and coral reefs cannot survive if we subject them to the toiletries in standard cosmetics on a large scale, so revamp your washbag. Take natural cosmetics from brands like Ethique and ensure your sunscreen is fully compliant with Save the Reef regulations. We currently use Amazinc and love them!
  • Don’t touch reef animals – the ecosystems contain many rare endemic species so don’t get too close and risk harming anything.
  • Be respectful of the locals – yes, portrait photography is beautiful but please don’t stick your cameras in people’s faces unprompted! If you want a photo, ask, and it never hurts to have a conversation first to get to know people. In Socotra, it’s not permitted to take photos of women, so avoid this.

Getting to Socotra

To get to Socotra as a first time visitor, you need a tour. We booked ours through Socotra Specialty Tours, and they were excellent. Their local guides had a wealth of local knowledge and expertise, and they were incredibly easy to contact before, during and after the tour. They are also passionate about preserving the local ecosystems and we really appreciated that.

Socotra Specialty Tours will arrange your flights and visas for you, which is huge bonus too. The flights are charter flights, run by the U.A.E. government, and operated by Air Arabia. They run once or twice a week, depending on the season and feel like a completely normal flight. There are also flights from mainland Yemen, but we felt more at ease on the U.A.E. flight which You can also take a 1.5 boat from mainland Yemen, but somehow we didn’t fancy that!

So let’s get to this stunning list…

A picture of a huge cave in Socotra, around 30 feet tall, with numerous stalagmites and stalactites. Emma and two local guides are walking into the depths of it. It is lit by a torch.
Hoq Cave

10 amazing things to add to your Socotra Island trip

1. Hoq Cave

Hoq Cave is quite literally amazing. There is no other word for it. As yet, no one quite knows how far it extends, because geologists are still in the process of exploring, but we do know that it’s at least 3-4km deep and you can walk through it for around 40 minutes without reaching the end. To reach Hoq Cave it’s a 1.5 hour hike up a reasonably steep hill. We found this tough work in the sun but not too physically challenging – we actually managed to get it done in 45 minutes! So it seems the duration depends on your fitness.

One thing is for sure – you will need good hiking shoes, as the hill is very rocky and the inside of the cave is quite slippery. Inside the cave, you’ll find hundreds of stunning stalagmites and stalactites, all of which have formed over millions of years. Some time ago, people lived in this cave, which isn’t that surprising when you see the size of it! The views from the top are also really stunning, one you don’t want to miss.

A rocky valley leading down to a beautiful natural blue infinity pool with views out over the sea. Homhil Infinity Pool is a must see on your Socotra Island trip.
Homhil Infinity Pool

2.Homhil Infinity Pool

Have you ever wanted to go swimming in a beautiful infinity pool, with no one else around, and incredible cliff side views of the sea stretching out in front of you? Well, that pretty much sums up Homhil! Honestly, we couldn’t quite believe this place was completely natural. Here, freshwater flows down from the mountains off the cliff, culminating in an absolutely breath-taking natural pool, perfect for swimming and relaxing for an afternoon.

The surrounding landscape is also absolutely phenomenal, and you can see endemic bottle trees and the iconic and alien-looking dragon blood trees on the 30 minute hike down the valley. This is another one you’ll need your hiking shoes for, and definitely don’t forget your camera!

A sand dune, backed by a large, sandstone cliff. Emma is standing in front of the dune with her back to the camera on a beach, looking out over the sea.
Arher Beach

3. Arher Beach

Arher beach is truly next level beautiful. It’s quite hard to describe because we’ve never really seen anywhere like it, but imagine rolling sand dunes leading down to the bluest sea, backed by dramatic cliffs. The sand is powdery white and the setting is one of the most beautiful you could imagine. It’s hard to imagine that one day this whole place won’t be taken over by a gigantic resort, but we sincerely hope that doesn’t happen any time soon. The nature here is strikingly wild and beautiful, and the best way to experience it is by camping.

The sunrise from this side of the island never seems to disappoint and you can rely on a beautiful view every morning… if you’re willing to get up for it! Some mornings it can be around 5:30am, so we recommend getting up at 5 to make sure you have enough time to climb the dunes and get your perfect shot.

A beach looking out over some mountains at sunset. On the beach, there is a large, whaleshark bone and a jeep.
Ras Erissel

4. Ras Erissel

Ras Erissel is one of the only places on the Eastern side of Socotra where you can hope to find an amazing sunset. When you combine this with a sunrise in Arher beach, you can technically catch both in one day, which is pretty unusual! It’s a beach basically, and it’s really pretty. On it, you can see a gigantic whale shark bone, and you might find pufferfish skeletons and other sea creatures. We would definitely recommend going in tougher shoes than flip flops (for the pufferfish spines). The sunset is breath-taking, but for us the main highlight was the hundreds of sandy crabs!

There are so many of these crabs at Ras Erissel that it’s actually sometimes known as ‘Crab City’. We pulled up to watch the sunset and found totally fascinated with them! You can sit and watch for hours. If you’re interested in photographing these beautiful creatures, it’s a great place to get some amazing shots of them with a good camera, as they’re beautifully framed at sunset.

A campsite on a rocky coral-strewn beach. There are cars and tents on it. In the distance (behind a lagoon) are mountains and a cloudy sunset.
Dihamri Marine Protected Area

5. Dihamri Marine Protected Area

Dihamri Reserve is a beautiful national park on the North Eastern side of the island. It’s is one of the best spots for snorkelling and diving in the world and has an extremely rich biodiversity of endemic marine life. You can hope to see many rare fish, turtles and even rays! The beach itself is strewn with washed up corals and looks extremely unique. However, undoubtedly the most beautiful part of this area is the reef and its beautiful snorkelling opportunities.

There is actually a divemaster on-site if this interests you, otherwise you can snorkel away to your heart’s content. Just next to the reef is a beautiful rocky outlook for hiking too. This just so happens to be one of the only spots on Socotra with great mobile network, so don’t be surprised to find other tourists here! Of course, this is useful, but definitely not the main appeal.

A valley, through the middle of which is a beautiful, clear wadi. The water is so clear it almost looks green and the cliffs on either side are bright white.
Kilisan Wadi

6. Kilisan Wadi

If you haven’t heard of a wadi, it’s essentially a valley. In dry seasons, they can dry out entirely, but otherwise they usually have a stream running throughout, where you may be able to swim. Kilisan Wadi is one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. The stream is flanked with 15m high white cliffs and has the bluest crystal clear water. Though the water is extremely chilly on a windy day, it’s an absolutely incredible place for a swim. It’s also absolutely huge, so you can easily pass hours here just swimming through, sunbathing and if you’re brave enough, base jumping from the cliffs where the water is deep enough!

At the far end of the wadi, there is even a very small waterfall, which doubles as a fun slide. Of course, please be careful when taking risks, but we found this really fun! It’s advisable to be a strong swimmer and, as with all of the water activities we have mentioned, wear sunscreen which fits the requirements mentioned on Save The Reef.

A vast expanse of sand dunes with no people on them at all.

7. Zahek Sand Dunes

The Zahek sand dunes hold the honour of being possibly the most featured place on Socotra on Instagram! They make for the iconic drone shot, where you can stand in the middle of a dune, completely by yourself, surrounded only by other pristine sandy dunes. Honestly, we did find this place a little overhyped, since it’s super windy (so we got sand in our eyes – that was probably our main complaint, thinking about it!), and it was pretty crowded when we went, so those solo shots were quite tricky for us.

Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly absolutely stunning, and the photos we took there are some of the most incredible we have from our trip. Our top tip: if you have choice to stay here or Aomak beach (just down the road), choose Aomak! It’s not as exposed to the wind so you will have a better experience.

A beautiful white sand beach with black, sandstone cliffs at the end of it.
The beach around Detwah Lagoon

8. Detwah Lagoon

The beach surrounding Detwah Lagoon is possibly the most beautiful beach we’ve ever seen in our entire life. We should add; we’ve seen a lot of very beautiful beaches! The sand is so white and the water so blue, it really is quite breath-taking. Just like Arher beach, the sand piles up into large sand dunes, backed by rugged sandstone cliffs.

The lagoon is another area where the snorkelling is truly amazing, so don’t miss out! Additionally, if your tour allows time, we highly recommend arranging a meeting with the famous Alleia: perhaps Socotra’s most famous resident, colloquially known as ‘the Caveman’. Alleia lived his whole childhood in a cave near Detwah Lagoon. Though his family chose to move to the capital, Hadiboh, to be closer to civilisation, Alleia feels a deep connection to the cave and the reef, and comes back regularly to stay! He happily invites tourists to his cave for tea, and will show you around the lagoon.

A forest of dragon blood trees. They have green spikes on top in place of leaves and their branches are clustered so tightly together they almost look like roots.
Dragon Blood Trees near Diksam Plateau

9. Diksam Plateau

As amazing as it might seem, some people choose to visit Socotra purely to see these trees. The dragon blood trees of Socotra have become synonymous with the island and it’s not difficult to understand why everyone wants to see them. They look as other-worldly as they are beautiful, and are believed by the locals to have healing properties! Diksam Plateau is FULL of dragon blood trees and a must-see for many visitors.

Because of its remote location, if you want to spend long there, you’ll need to camp. There are no facilities, but in our opinion it’s completely worth it, and is a very rare experience to be completely surrounded by nature! The sunset at Diksam is also truly spectacular.

The opening of a huge cave, about 40 feet tall. The roof of the cave is covered in stalactites and the views outside are beautiful.
Dagub Cave

10. Dagub Cave

Last but not least: Dagub Cave. Though much smaller than Hoq Cave, Dagub is (in our opinion!) even more beautiful! You won’t need to walk far to find the cave and you’ll be greeted with a beautiful entrance-way, framed with stalactites. Dagub is small so you won’t need to spend long, but it’s well worth a stop. We also loved the views from this point and saw many flowering bottle trees!

Other things to do in of Socotra

Personally, we really enjoyed Hadiboh, the capital city! It’s perhaps not as pretty or picturesque as some of these places, but with nearly 50% of Socotra’s population living there, it’s truly a cultural hotspot, and a great way to get to grips with daily life. There are also some lovely local businesses in town, where you can purchase things like scarves or local produce as souvenirs.

Qalansiya is a beach town on the North-West side of the island, and we saw one of the most beautiful sunsets there. It’s a small fishing village, and again, you can get a nice taste of local life here. The fishing boats also make for a really pretty picture in the evening!

Shoab beach is one of the most remote beaches on Socotra and on the way there you can see dolphins! Note: the boat trip there is very choppy, and you’ll be on a very small small fishing boat. We’d only advise doing this if you’re a strong swimmer, and wear a life jacket.

A goat sitting in front of a blue metal door. Next to the goat there are wooden pallets leaning up against a wall.
Goats in Hadiboh

Accommodation in Socotra

There are hotels on Socotra and Socotra Specialty Tours can gladly arrange a hotel-based tour for you. Personally, we camped for much of our trip and apparently this is the most common way to see Socotra. For us, it was preferable, as we were able to see some really remote areas this way. Most of the campsites have basic facilities, but we did wild camp in Diksam. Like we said, it was totally worth it!

Hotels in Socotra are still in development, so even upmarket hotels there may still be a little more basic than you’re used to! The hotel we stayed in was near Hadiboh and it was really clean and comfortable. There was an ensuite shower and toilet (without hot water) and it did have WiFi and electricity. (Note: apparently WiFi is not common outside of Hadiboh.) They provided us with basic breakfast too – bread, jam, eggs and tea.

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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