Sometimes you need an escape. And I’m not talking about Las Vegas for the weekend or a few days camping in the mountains — I mean a real escape. The kind of escape where your phone won’t work and the people speak a different language, where the rest of the world can be forgotten while you relax on soft sandy beaches, wander island canyons, and sleep under the shade of ancient Dr. Seuss-like trees.
Socotra Island is your place. A small archipelago 150 miles east of the Horn of Africa, Socotra is full of amazing beaches and impressive landscapes that's technically part of Yemen. For an outdoor enthusiast or adventurous soul this place has all of the makings of an ideal escape: camping, hiking, swimming, and exploring to your heart's content. Few tourists know and take advantage of this exceptionally gorgeous retreat so it is relatively uncrowded throughout the year.
There are tons of beaches on Socotra Island, so anyone who likes to swim in the blue brine of the sea and squish their toes in warm sand will be perfectly happy here. Qalansiyah Beach (pictured above) is one of the most popular for those looking to relax, tan, and splash around. But there is also Shoab, Ghost Crab, Arher, Delisha and Aomak Beaches scattered around the coastal circumference. Finding beaches here is no difficult task - in fact, it is usually harder to narrow down which beach you want to go to.
Wadi Dirhur Canyon
The water that cuts through the limestone gorge is clear and pools in several spots that are popular swimming holes. Upstream, deeper into the canyon there are beautiful narrows and a few smaller pools, while downstream there is a larger pool just off the road. The wash is lined with palm trees, and the canyon rim lined with the alien-looking dragon blood trees, which sets the scene for an eerie, yet peaceful afternoon under the sun.
The central region of the island is a plateau, bursting with groves of dragon blood trees, and austere sandstone plains. The trees are especially spectacular, and draw lot of attention because of their age - most are between 2,000-3,000 years old! They are some of the slowest growing organisms on Earth, and the bigger they are, the longer they’ve been around. So you can imagine how introspective is is to drive past and lunch in the shade of these ancient desert organisms.
Hajhir MountainsRising up from the center of Socotra island like jagged fangs are the Hajhir mountains. The summits can be viewed from the coast, but if that is as close as you get, you are missing out. Head inland and pay the nominal fee to travel into the mountains and you will be glad you did. Most people who explore the area spend several days wandering through groves of dragon blood, cucumber and bottle trees, mingling with the natives who live there and scaling some of the more prominent peaks like Skand.
Ayhaft Canyon National Park
This national park is very close to the airport so visitors usually see it upon arrival, or towards the end of their trip. At the end of the canyon there is a spectacular pool that makes a great place to cool down and go for a swim. While you can’t camp right near the water (because it is rocky), it is fulfilling enough just to relax on the boulders and take in the natural splendor of Socotra’s unique vegetation, animal and insects.