If you find yourself on this page, you’re probably one of a small number of explorers who’s ready to book a trip to Socotra Island. And here’s where you find some of the most unique things to do in Socotra!
A paradise out of this world, my trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life (and I’ve been to Antarctica!).
At times it felt as though we were on deserted island, other times it looked like Jurassic Park, and I was almost always waiting for a brachiosaurus to stick it’s neck around the rocks! And sometimes it felt as though we were on another planet.
The island is truly a remarkable place, and I’m going to share with you 15 unique things to do in Socotra. But that’s not all! This article will also give you a little background on where the island of Socotra is, how to get there, when to visit and what makes Socotra so unique.
If you want to skip all that and head to the ‘things to do in Socotra’ section, click here!
You might also like:
- Stranded on Socotra: Could it be as Scary as it Sounds?
- 19 Things You Should Know Before You Visit Socotra Island
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- Where is Socotra Island
- How to get to Socotra
- When is the best time to visit Socotra
- Why is Socotra unique
- Where to stay on Socotra Island?
- Who are the best Socotra Tours?
- Things to do in Socotra Map
- 15 Things to do in Socotra
- 1. Hike through a Dragon Blood Tree Forest
- 2. Climb the Giant Sand Dunes at Arher Beach
- 3. Snorkel in Coral Reefs
- 4. Hike to Hoq Cave
- 5. Visit Erissel Fishing Village
- 6. Stroll through the city of Hadiboh
- 7. Swim in a Natural Infinity Pool
- 8. Stargaze at the Diksam Plateau
- 9. Head to where the oceans meet
- 10. Catch a fish or two
- 12. Scuba dive into a shipwreck
- 11. Take a boat ride to Shoub Beach
- 13. Explore Wadi Dirhur
- 14. Summit the highest mountain
- 15. See the sand dunes of Zaheq
- Is it safe to visit Socotra?
- Can you visit Socotra island?
- What is there to do in Socotra?
- How much does it cost to go to Socotra?
- Where to stay on Socotra Island?
- What is Socotra known for?
Where is Socotra Island
Socotra is a breathtakingly beautiful island located in the Indian Ocean, close to the Gulf of Aden. While the island is part of Yemen, it sits closer to coast of Somalia.
Socotra is often referred to as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’. It’s a nature lover’s paradise, a place where you can explore unique flora and fauna, as well as stunning landscapes of white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters.
The Socotra Archipelago, which is made up of four islands, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the island of Socotra is one of the most isolated islands in the world.
How to get to Socotra
Getting to Socotra can be a little tricky. You can’t just go and book a flight yourself.
As of April 2023, there are two flight options to Socotra – one from Cairo which has a layover of a few hours on mainland Yemen, and one from Abu Dhabi which is a direct flight to Socotra airport.
The easiest way to arrange your return flight is to have your tour operator book them for you. They will need to provide your invitation letter, together with a copy of your passport and Yemeni visa and once the ticket is issued it’ll be sent to you.
One important thing to know when travelling to or from Socotra – plans can change! Even if you’re already on the plane, even if you’re already there.
A friend had been on their way when the trip was cancelled, and my Socotra trip was extended by a few extra days after the return flight got cancelled. But don’t let this deter you from visiting this incredible island.
When is the best time to visit Socotra
Socotra island tourism generally runs from October to May. This is because from June through September, the island sees the mighty monsoon season.
March/April or October/November are the best times to visit for the weather. May starts to get a little too hot (this is when I visited) and December can be a bit rainy.
Why is Socotra unique
This magnificent Island is like no other place I’ve ever visited – it’s even hard to put into words and the pictures don’t do it enough justice. Socotra is full of surprises that will leave you mesmerised. These are just some of the reasons this island is so unique:
- The plant species: Socotra is home to thousands of endemic species of plant life that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world – from the iconic Dragon Blood Trees, or Dracaena Cinnabari, to the cute stumpy bottle trees.
- The animal species: About 90% of the animals that live on this archipelago are unique to this region. You can find the Socotra cormorant, freshwater crab, as well as dozens of species of lizards and birds that are endemic to this place.
- The culture: One of the most interesting things about Socotra is the way its people live. The Soqotri people have their own distinct culture, which they’re more than happy to share with their welcomed visitors. You’ll learn about their traditional way of life, unique fishing techniques and even their delicious cuisine.
- The mind-blowing landscapes: From mysterious caves filled with bats and giant centipedes, to the rugged Hajhir mountains, to lush mountain valleys and white sand beaches, Socotra is a place that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
- The peace and serenity: The tranquility and serenity of Socotra make for a truly magical experience. With its relatively low tourism rates, the entire island is a peaceful escape from our otherwise hectic lives. Spend your days exploring deserted beaches and your evenings stargazing under the clear skies.
Where to stay on Socotra Island?
If you’re looking for a luxury hotel or resort in Socotra…. you’ll have to look a little harder! Socotra is still relatively untouched by tourism, so you won’t find any five-star resorts here!
You’ve got two options when it comes to where to stay in Socotra:
- A hotel
There are a few hotels in Hadibo, (at not so affordable prices). The best hotel is by far the Summer Land Hotel, run by the lovely Daha.
You’ll have the option of choosing a tour company who base themselves staying in the city and taking tours out every day, or (my favourite option), go with a tour company who camp for the week.
I can’t recommend the camping enough, as it will give you the best opportunity to experience the beauty of Socotra at its fullest.
Who are the best Socotra Tours?
I travelled to Socotra with Trekkup Dubai and would highly recommend them if you’re planning on making the trip. Other reputable companies are
- Socotra Eco-Tours
- Socotra Advisor Tours
- Welcome to Socotra
Things to do in Socotra Map
15 Things to do in Socotra
1. Hike through a Dragon Blood Tree Forest
One of the island’s most extraordinary features is the dragon blood tree. Hike through the Fermahin Forest, the largest Dragon Blood Tree forest on the island and be in awe of these weird and wonderful trees.
These iconic trees are so named because of the red sap that’s produced by their bark. The sap is used by locals to make perfume, dye and even medicine. It’s said to be able to heal fractures, gastro disorders and inflammatory conditions.
These huge trees are shaped like mushrooms and have intricate branches that reach up to the sky – they’re like something from a fairytale!
You’ll find these all over the island, but one of the best places to spot the dragon trees are in the Fermahin Dragon Blood Tree Forest, especially at sunset!
2. Climb the Giant Sand Dunes at Arher Beach
Socotra’s giant dunes are incredibly tough to climb but boy is it worth it from the top! Arher Beach (sometimes called Archer Beach), located on the northern coast of Socotra, is known for huge white sand dunes that meet the turquoise waters below.
I started climbing the sand dune at the same time as everyone else. Many gave up and the rest made it to the top – about 30 minutes ahead of me! But I got there just in time for the sun to set.
And of course, the fun part was the sliding all the way down!
Arher Beach is a beautiful spot to camp for the night and perfect for a dip in the water early morning.
3. Snorkel in Coral Reefs
Dihamri Marine Reserve is one of the best spots for snorkelling in Socotra. Here you’ll discover a vibrant world beneath the surface, with colourful coral reefs and an array of marine life waiting to be discovered.
If you don’t have your own snorkel gear, you can rent them out there for about $5 in the small dive shop.
It’s a great spot to camp for the night too, and in fact was our first camping spot of the trip. Climb up the rocks just before sunset for an incredible view of the bay.
4. Hike to Hoq Cave
Hoq Cave is a stunningly beautiful cave located near Saqra village. The cave is filled with huge stalagmites, stalactites and a lake. The hike to the entrance of the cave takes around two hours, but it’s well worth it as you are treated to amazing views of the mountains and coastline.
Inside, the cave stretches over 3km back, and it’s a great spot to explore and take some incredible photos.
While many believe this is the largest cave on the island, locals advised there are bigger ones hidden away, not very accessible to tourists.
5. Visit Erissel Fishing Village
Close to Arher beach lies the small fishing village of Erissel. It’s situated on the east of the island.
If you visit in the evening time, you’ll spot local fishermen arriving back from a days’ work in their fishing boats.
We also spotted a few local children fishing off the end of the pier there, and others diving into the sea for a quick cool down.
The beach by Erissel Fishing Village is almost like a graveyard for dead puffer fish. Be warned – they are very spiky and can be incredibly painful if you tread on them!
6. Stroll through the city of Hadiboh
Hadiboh is the main city of Socotra. It’s the only place you’ll find a hotel, there’s just one bank machine (which was broken when we were there so we all needed to queue up at the Western Union instead) and friendly goats roam the streets.
Because of the unrest with the mainland in Yemen, the city unfortunately doesn’t receive any refuse collection, which means that the streets are covered in rubbish waste.
It’s definitely a cultural experience strolling through the town of Hadiboh, it’s very different to most cities you’ll visit. But, despite unattractiveness of the city, there’s still beauty to be found in Hadibo. I was mesmerised by the beautiful doors, and we passed by the man who creates these masterpieces on a short tour of the town.
There are a few sights to see here also and market to shop for some souvenirs.
7. Swim in a Natural Infinity Pool
It’s a 1.5 hour hike to get there – one that will make you feel as though you’re in Jurassic Park with the beautiful rock formations all around – but once you’re there, you’ll be glad you did it! The infinity pool is a natural pool hanging off the edge of a mountain. It overlooks the crystal blue sea, making it look like it goes on forever – hence why they call it the Infinity Pool!
It’s a freshwater pool, and the water is just the perfect temperature to cool you down after your long hike. We spent hours here, soaking up the sun and swimming, before hiking down the other side oft he mountain.
8. Stargaze at the Diksam Plateau
The Diksam Plateau is located in the centre of Socotra Island and it’s a welcome break from the heat of the lower grounds.
Surrounded by Dragon Blood Trees, it’s also an incredible spot to stargaze! We went there in the evening and were amazed by how clear the stars were, with no light pollution you can see the milky way in all its glory. At one point, we all turned off our headlamps and just sat there gazing at the night sky.
9. Head to where the oceans meet
Close to Erissel Fishing Village, on the easternmost point of the island, is where the Arabian Sea meets the Indian Ocean.
If can wander around the beach there you’ll likely spot the carcasses of two huge whales, which have washed up on the shore.
10. Catch a fish or two
If you’re into fishing, Socotra is definitely one of the most unique fishing spots in the world. You can find everything from coral trout to pelagic crabs in the waters.
I recommend hiring a fishing boat for a few hours and heading out with some of the fishermen who live on the island. They’ll be able to tell you all about their unique take on fishing, as well as advise you on what kind of bait to use.
And if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to bring home a fish or two for dinner (we literally ate fish every single night for the entire 12 days)!
12. Scuba dive into a shipwreck
Socotra is famous for it’s incredible diving locations, and one such dive spots is just off Shoab Bay where a sunken ship can be found. But this isn’t the only place you’ll find a shipwreck in Socotra – in fact, many ships have gotten caught in treacherous currents and ended up sinking in the shallow waters.
If you don’t have your scuba diving gear with you, don’t worry. You can rent from any of the diving companies on the island.
A night dive is also possible at Dihamri and it’s well worth staying up a little later for this.
11. Take a boat ride to Shoub Beach
The only way to access this beautiful sandy beach is by fisherman’s boat, first thing in the morning. And along the way, you could be lucky and spot dolphins swimming alongside you, as we did!
The boats leave you at Shouab Beach for a few hours so you can hike the mountain behind the beach or go for a swim. Go for a stroll along the 5km deserted beach or take in the rays, but I recommend lathering on the sunscreen as there’s very little shade to be found here (I learnt this the hard way…).
Some other stunning beaches to visit in Socotra are Delisha Beach, Qalansiyah Beach, Omaq Beach and Zahik Beach.
13. Explore Wadi Dirhur
A deep canyon, Wadi Dirhur is a great place for exploring. Hike along the limestone gorge, stopping to admire its incredible rock formations, and swim in the clearest mountain freshwater pools.
Palm trees line the sides of the canyon, adding to its scenic beauty and providing shade when you need it. And I recommend bringing a picnic to have lunch after your dip, with a view of the canyon in the background.
14. Summit the highest mountain
The Hajhir (or Hajar) mountain range is the highest mountain on Socotra Island. Experienced hikers should tackle this, as there’s a lot of difficult terrain to traverse.
You would need to start this hike first thing in the morning and likely won’t get back to camp until early evening.
There are shorter routes on the mountain for the less experienced hikers also and guides are always ready to help you out, whichever route you choose.
15. See the sand dunes of Zaheq
The Zaheq (or Zahik) sand dunes on the southern coast of the island are a pretty surreal sight. The rippling white sand stretches for what seems like miles and miles and makes for a beautiful photo.
FAQs on Visiting Socotra
Is it safe to visit Socotra?
Although Socotra is part of Yemen, it’s very safe to visit. Socotra itself has never seen any war.
Can you visit Socotra island?
As of April 2023, it’s possible to visit Socotra. You must have a Yemeni travel visa to enter the island, which is easily obtainable from your tour operator.
What is there to do in Socotra?
There are plenty of things to do in Socotra – you can take boat rides, scuba dive, explore wadis and mountains, visit deserted beaches, and much more.
How much does it cost to go to Socotra?
For a full 8 day trip, including flights, guides, camping, food and all activities, the cost to visit Socotra is around $3,000 to $4,000.
Where to stay on Socotra Island?
There are a few hotels in the main city of Hadiboh but the best place to stay in Socotra is camping. There are plenty of camping spots in secluded areas on the island, offering breathtaking views and access to some the most beautiful parts of Socotra.
What is Socotra known for?
Socotra is known for its unique landscapes, stunning beaches and crystal clear waters. Its plant life is incredibly diverse and the island has become a haven for nature lovers who come to explore the endemic species of plants and animals that can be found here.
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What’s the Verdict on Socotra Things to do?
Without a doubt, Socotra was one of the most unique and fascinating places I’ve ever visited. The untouched nature, the pristine beaches, the incredible hiking – all of it made for an unforgettable journey.
If you’re looking to get away from it all and experience something truly different, then look no further than Socotra. And make sure to add the above to your list of things to do in Socotra for a truly memorable experience!