Discoveries

6 Magical Places You Won't Believe are in the Middle East

The Middle East usually conjures images of arid deserts and political turmoil, but for intrepid travelers, it means hidden natural wonders you can't find anywhere else in the world. From glistening waterfalls to ancient forests, here are 6 gorgeous places in the Middle East.

Musandam--Oman

1. Fjords of Musandam, Oman

When most people think of fjords, they picture the green cliffs of Norway, jutting out over an icy glacier. But nestled in the Musandam Peninsula in northern Oman is the Middle East's very own stunning fjord. Just a few hours' drive from Dubai, this natural wonder will take your breath away. Climb aboard a traditional Omani dhow and sail across the water to get up close and personal with these stunning cliffs.

Kurdistan--Iraq

2. Rawanduz, Iraq

Located in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, Rawanduz sits cradled by green mountains so idyllic it almost feels like Switzerland. This region boasts waterfalls (most notably Bekhal Waterfall), striking gorges, and trickling streams. It's a dreamy scene straight out of a fairytale.

Badab-Soort (photo by M. Samaee)

3. Badab Soort, Iran

The striking steeped terraces of Badab Soort were created over centuries from the flowing water of two mineral hot springs. Its orange hue comes from a high concentration of iron oxide, and the reflective surface is a result of heavier minerals settling at the top while clearer water flows down. The area surrounding the terraces is just as gorgeous, with green fields and towering mountains ripe for exploration.

Baatara-gorge

4. Baatara Gorge, Lebanon

This sinkhole looks like a movie set straight from Indiana Jones. A cascading waterfall drops into a limestone cave behind 3 natural bridges. Tucked an hour and a half northeast of Beirut, it's a bit of a hike to reach this sight but it's definitely worth the sweat.

Kish-Island--Iran

5. Kish Island, Iran

Nestled in the Persian Gulf, Kish Island is known as the party island of Iran. With sunny beaches, shopping malls, and resorts, this island along Iran's Sunshine Coast draws thousands of visitors every year. It's a delightful and relaxing destination, and still a pretty big secret for travelers outside the Middle East.

Cedars-of-God--Lebanon

6. Cedars of God, Lebanon

One of the last remnants of the ancient cedar forests of Biblical times, the Cedars of God is now a protected UNESCO site. An excursion to this forest is not only a relief from the hot Lebanon sun, it's also a deeply historical experience. Walking beneath these ancient trees takes you back to the era of the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, and Babylonians. It's the perfect excursion for any Middle Eastern traveler who misses the sight of towering foliage.