Socotra is one of the most unique places on earth and if you visit, you WILL remember the experience for the rest of your life. We had the opportunity to visit in 2022 and so here I will share all the individual places that make Socotra island STAND OUT among all the rest!
One day you’ll be on the most beautiful beach you’ve ever laid eyes on and the next you’ll be walking the mountains admiring the Dragon Blood tree. Each of the different places you visit on Socotra island leave you speechless. If you have considered a trip to this island off the coast of Yemen, then I’m here to say you absolutely must visit… and I’ll also tell you how to do it
This post is only one of a series of posts that I have shared on Socotra. If you want to know if it’s safe to travel to Socotra, which tour to book, and a complete guide on everything you ought to know about travel to Socotra then you’ve landed in the right place. And hey if you have any other questions about a visit to Socotra, get in touch!
But back to this one… here I highlight each of the unique locations that makes this such a mind boggling island to explore. I think the photos say it all, Socotra is just… WOW!
Check the map at the end of this post to get a better idea on where Socotra and all these beaut destinations actually are.
10 Beautiful Locations & Reasons to Visit Socotra
Read on for our ten favourite places on Socotra Island. Deep caves, giant sweeping sand dunes, otherworldly trees, pristine snorkelling, dramatic canyons, short hikes and dramatic beaches.
Each of these destinations are proof of the abundant and uniquely diverse places to visit in Socotra. So in no particular order… here are our top ten!
Reason 1 – Hoq Cave
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Look up from the road as you drive towards Arher Beach and you can spot Hoq Cave half way up the side of the steep mountains. This cave is 3 km deep, but visitors can only walk 1km in.
Stalagmites and stalactites which have formed over thousands of years are intriguing but perhaps what impresses the most is the sheer depth and size of Hoq Cave. The temperature becomes sort of humid the deeper you go. And right at the very end, the deepest point you can go, water fills a terraced plateau.
Bring lots of drinking water for this one! Hoq Cave is definitely well worth the steep walk up the side of the hill… but word to the wise… get there early. It takes between 60-90 minutes depending on your level of fitness. A couple of people turned around on our visit, but this was probably due to the heat and lack of shade on the walk.
But definitely push on, it flattens out just over half way up which provides some reprieve for a while. Meanwhile the young guides who lead the way barely break a sweat!
Reason 2 – Homhil, Infinity Pool
You have probably seen a few photos of the Infinity Pool already when googling Socotra. This is a busy little spot and when you arrive it’s easy to see why. The view over the coast from up here is spectacular and your reward for hiking here is the swim in the cool fresh water.
There are actually two ways to get to Infinity Pool. One track is straight up from a carpark not far from the northern coast road. The other is through a more gentler rocky valley. Depending on the itinerary or tour you take (we recommend booking with Inertia Network) will depend on which way you enter from.
If you take the steep walk directly up, the views are incredible and provide a very real perspective of how dramatic the landscape is. And from the other side you’ll walk through a valley of dragon blood trees. Either are impressive, we walked up, went for a swim and then carried on walking up the valley of dragon bloods before making our way back down to the car.
Keep an eye out for fresh water crabs in the rock pools. Also note that the water level in the Infinity Pool varies throughout the year. During the wetter months the pool will be higher, thus giving it the name infinity pool. We were there in April and the levels were lower, but no less beautiful.
Reason 3 – Arher Beach
Probably one of the most impressive beaches in Socotra is Arher beach. Giant dunes reach from the cliffs to the sea and if you camp in Socotra you’ll park your tent right in between.
The sand dunes make for an exhausting walk (Mike tried). For every step you take, you’ll slide back a half a step, but the view is a good one.
There is a water turret on the beach, in the middle of the two giant sand dunes from which fresh water literally gushes into the ocean. This is where you can grab a fresh water clean after a swim. Or in our case, where we collected fresh water in our Life Straw to make drinking water.
Dolphins regularly make their way up and down the beach feeding. And the water is so crystal clear on Arher Beach that you can swim off the beach and watch the dolphins swimming past. So be sure to pack a good snorkel and mask.
See our section on What to Pack for Socotra in this post here. In this blog we share our top recommended essentials that we were glad we packed for our visit to Socotra.
Reason 4 – Dihamri
Snorkelling in Socotra impressed the pants off me! I’m a well-travelled diver and snorkeler and have seen many stunning coral reefs in my time, and a few not so impressive as well. But Dihamri was right up there.
So much so that we went out for a second morning snorkel and didn’t come back for two hours.
Huge shoals of fish, moray eel, lion fish, giant conch shells, crayfish and healthy coral gardens stretch out towards the point. Close to the shore the coral has been damaged, but head further along the coast and it keeps getting better with more to see and discover.
Reason 5 – Wadi Kalisan
Every day and another incredible location on Socotra, this seems to be the theme. When told we were visting a wadi we hadn’t expected something quite as dramatic as this. We’ve seen wadis in Oman and in the United Arab Emirates, but this blew them out of the water.
This is another busy little spot well frequented by tour guides and tourists. So, I recommend you speak to your guide and get there early or later in the day. In our case we went later and very shortly after our arrival everyone was packing up to leave. This meant we had Wadi Kalisan to ourselves!
The walk to the wadi was easy, about 20 minutes and the swim is beautiful. Especially if you are camping and haven’t had a fresh water shower in a couple of days. It continues upstream so don’t miss the opportunity to swim up the wadi with a go-pro in hand and explore. There are a few small waterfalls and spectacular rock formations.
Reason 6 – Firhmin, Home of the Dragon Blood
Probably my favourite place in Socotra, but ofcourse I am a tree hugger at heart. Firhmin is the best place to see Dragon Blood trees. Though getting there is not easy… but first let’s chat a little about the Dragon Blood tree to give you some perspective on why Firhmin is so special.
The Dragon Blood Tree
According to Wikipedia there are some 700 endemic species of flora and fauna on the island of Socotra. One of which and most notably is the Dragon Blood tree. After standing at the base of this beauty you quickly realise just how unique it is. Sadly, the numbers are in decline and so a lot of work must go into protecting these rare trees over the coming years.
The number one threat to the Dragon Blood is the goat… and there are MANY goats on the island. Go to the remotest spot on the island and you’ll still find goats. Some practices have been put into place to protect and preserve the tree but given that it grows so slowly this is no easy feat.
Dragon Blood Protection Initiatives
One initiative started by a local gentleman has created a Dragon Blood nursery of sorts. Fenced in by a higher than normal stone wall, approximately 600-800 infant trees have been planted and are closely watched and guarded. The trees range in age from 5 to 15 years, but they still have a way to go before they will be ready to transplant.
Not far away, but divided by a deep canyon, another gentleman and his family work as custodians over an area of Dragon Blood trees. This is Firhmin.
Surrounded by cliffs and a steep gravel road leading in, this area is clearly more protected from threats, including the goats, and as a result the Dragon Blood grows in abundance. Though we didn’t see many younger trees at an infancy stage, it is evident that this high plateau is a haven for the Dragon Blood.
The Dragon Blood gets its name from the red sap in which it produces. Locals use the sap by crushing it with a stone and diluting with a little water. This is then used by locals for it’s medicinal properties and for a multitude of ailments and purposes. And so it is of important significance in local ritual and culture and it is our hope that this space continues to serve as a place of protection for the tree. And also that solutions can be found around how to further protect the Dragon Blood.
How to Visit Firhmin Overnight
This is a great place to camp if you love playing around with photography like I do. But Firhmin isn’t an option if you are part of a large tour group. Read my post on chosing the right tour to Socotra.
The forest is extraordinary and honestly resembles another planet. When you wake up early in the morning and head further up the hill, the morning light provides an incredible backdrop in which to look in awe over the Dragon Blood forest. This was a special moment for me… one of those the world is wonderful moments.
Reason 7 – Hadibo
There isn’t a lot to rave about here sadly. The rubbish is an absolute eye sore and as you arrive on the island this is one of the first things that immediately grabs your attention. There isn’t much in the way of a rubbish disposal system, other than the goats which tend to eat anything and everything. Including the odd plastic bag which we saw a few times.
So Hadibo is in a bit of a sad state of affairs. But there are local Socotri people who recognize this and are trying to find solutions to the situation.
However! In stating the above, I also have to say that there was something pretty endearing to Hadibo. I loved wandering the streets during the latter part of the day at call to prayer. As you begin to look beyond the rubbish and instead find the beauty in the community that walks these streets, you are overcome by a feeling of being very off the beaten track.
There are a couple of street food places to eat, try some samosa if you get the chance. And there are a couple of hotels in town.
Reason 8 – Detwah Beach and Lagoon
Views of blue water, a white sandy beach, empty of people, springs to mind when you say the name Detwah Beach. Separated from the town of Qalansiah by a small rocky peninsula it seems completely deserted.
There isn’t much to see in the way of snorkelling, but the swimming is peaceful and serene. Bring sunglasses, hat and a book as this is the perfect place to relax after a busy few days of exploring the island.
There is a designated camp site set up towards the back of the lagoon which fills with tour guides and groups in the evening, but mostly Detwah beach is pretty quiet and PRETTY full stop.
If you get the chance walk from the campsite towards the cliffs on the eastern side. Follow a path around and call out for Abdullah the Cave Man. Abdullah was born in the cave and grew up there, and he has become somewhat of a sensation these days with visitors. He loves a story, puts on tea and food for his guests, and then will take you for a walk around the lagoon pointing out things of interest.
Abdullah doesn’t live in the cave anymore but walks in an out most days to welcome his visitors. And he looks bloody good for his age, you’d never believe he was in his 60’s.
Reason 9 – Shu’ab Beach
Shu’ab beach can only be reached by boat. This will be arranged by your tour guide from Qalansiah. Ask to get there early and you’ll be the first to reach the beach… otherwise it can get very busy.
Boatman line the beach waiting for the visitors to arrive and within minutes you are loaded into a dhow and on your way. The boat ride takes you around some beautiful coastline of rock and crystal clear waters. Look out for sting rays and other fish life as you speed towards Shu’ab beach.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the boat trip is the possibility of finding pods of dolphins. They appear by the hundreds feeding in large groups and so make sure to keep your eyes peeled.
When you arrive at Shu’ab there is little else to do but kick back, relax, swim or take a walk along the long stretch of beach.
Reason 10 – Zahek Sand Dunes
On the Southern Indian Ocean side of Socotra are the Zahek sand dunes. This side of the coast is slightly more rugged and so the beaches here often have a wave.
The sand dunes stretch for roughly a kilometre towards the sea. There are two designated campsites along this coast. One beside the dunes and the other further down towards the west.
During the months of April to May turtles can be seen coming in to lay their eggs.
10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Socotra + Map
On the map here, only seven of the locations of the above mentioned are highlighted. That is because they don’t exist on the map. Just another validation that Socotra and all her beauties really are off the beaten path. But it gives you an idea and a visual perspective of what to expect on a visit to Socotra.
And so there we have it… our top 10 locations and reasons why you should visit Socotra Island. If you are an off the beaten track traveller like us, then I hope this has convinced you to book your trip.
It is BUCKET LIST, of that there is no doubt, and so if you need more reasons to visit take a look through our other posts in this series.
- How to book a visit to Socotra
- Everything you should know about travel to Socotra
- Is it safe to travel to Socotra?
Bookmark or pin this post for later if a visit to Socotra is a destination you plan to visit!
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