The pint-sized nation of Qatar isn’t technically a one-city state, but there’s no denying that Doha, home to more than 90% of Qatar’s population, is the main attraction. 

Yet the country’s modern capital isn’t the only corner of this Gulf nation that’s worth a visit. Venture beyond Doha to discover the shiny new sister city Lusail and a pseudo-tropical island escape or strike out into the desert to uncover glimpses of Qatar’s pearling past and unexpected natural wonders. 

Here’s a quick guide to the best places for couples, families, or solo travelers to visit around Qatar.

Illuminated traditional houses and people in outdoor restaurants in the historical district of Doha.
Tap into Qatar's pulse in the capital of Doha © Buena Vista Images / Getty Images

See the sights and dine out in Doha

Doha’s rapid transformation from sleepy seaside settlement to glitzy Gulf capital is legendary. As the city’s futuristic skyline continues to expand, so too do reasons to visit, with recent years welcoming the striking National Museum of Qatar, the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, and a gamut of international hotels, with a new metro system making it easier to get around.

Get a taste of Doha’s early days – along with regional culinary specialties – at the fabulously atmospheric Souq Waqif and then stroll along the waterfront Corniche to admire city and Doha Bay views. Marvel at the Museum of Islamic Art (inside and out) and seek out public art, mosques, and more in the Katara cultural village.

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The skyscrapers of the newly-developing modern city of Lusail photographed at sunrise
Lusail is home to some of Qatar’s most striking architecture © Shakeel Sha / Getty Images

Hop on the metro to visit Lusail

Just 20km (12.4 miles) north of downtown Doha and connected by metro, Lusail feels like an extension of the capital. But this coastal metropolis-in-the-making is actually a city in its own right. While still largely a construction zone, Lusail is already home to some of Qatar’s most striking architecture, notably the nation’s showpiece arena, Lusail Stadium, shaped like a traditional woven bowl; and Katara Towers, which integrates the traditional scimitar swords from the national seal into a pair of 36-story towers housing two luxury hotels. You’ll also find a marina with a pleasant promenade, the high-end Parisian-inspired Place Vendome mall, and more attractions in the making.

With the first line on the Lusail Tram (connected to the Doha Metro) opened in 2022, Lusail is easier than ever to visit via public transport.

Families should save time for Banana Island

Qatar’s only offshore island of note, Banana Island is just a 30-minute catamaran ride from Doha. This small, crescent-shaped isle is occupied entirely by the family-friendly Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara. Stay in an underwater bungalow and you can (almost) imagine you’re in the Maldives or visit for the day and enjoy the island’s peaceful palm-studded strip of sand. Day passes include boat transfers and credit to spend at the resort’s restaurants and on watersports.


Uncover history at Al Zubarah and Al Jumail

Most people know Al Zubarah for its Unesco-listed fort, but Al Zubarah Fort was named for the thriving pearling port that now lies in ruins between the fort and the sea after being abandoned in the early 20th century. While the ruins are currently closed to the public, you can glimpse the town’s crumbling foundations from the entrance to the handsomely restored fort.

About 20km (12 miles) farther north, turn off the main road to explore the deserted village of Jumail. Founded in the 19th century, the coastal village was also abandoned following the economic boom ignited by Qatar’s oil and gas industries. Al Zubarah is a 90-minute drive northwest of Doha. It can be visited on an organized tour with the likes of 356 Adventures, but you’ll need a car to get to Jumail.

A hut in Al Khor at the end of a bridge that looks over some mangroves
The mangroves of Al Khor offer a completely different side to Qatar © HasanZaidi / Shutterstock

History and nature meet in Al Khor

An hour’s drive north of Doha and accessible by public bus, the small coastal city of Al Khor isn’t much to look at, but it’s home to several attractions that make it worth a brief visit. Chief among them are the three stone watchtowers that stand along the coast. Built around 1900, the towers were used to monitor ships and guard access to the area’s main well, Ain Hleetan, which has also been preserved. 

Just beyond Al Khor, a boardwalk takes you through a lush mangrove nature reserve to Bin Ghannam Island (also known as Purple Island), where shell middens have revealed traces of human activity dating back to the 2nd millennium BC. Farther north, the village of Al Thakira is a launchpad for mangrove kayaking tours.

Hit the beach in northeastern Qatar

The largely undeveloped and sparsely populated northeastern corner of Qatar offers a handful of attractions worth checking out if you’re planning to rent a car, beginning with the mysterious Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings near Al Maroona Beach (also known as French Beach), one of Qatar’s most pleasant public beaches. Farther north, Fuwairit Beach is being developed as a kitesurfing destination.

Perched on Qatar’s northeastern tip is Zulal Wellness Resort, a luxe modern retreat guided by traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine and one of the few places to stay in the region. The nearby port town of Al Ruwais lacks notable attractions, but its Shamal Corniche is a scenic spot for a sunset stroll.

Explore desert oddities in Zekreet

The small west coast village of Zekreet is the jumping-off point for visiting the Brouq Peninsula (also known as Bir Zekreet), home to attractions including US artist Richard Serra’s gigantic East–West/West–East installation, which rises up between otherworldly rock formations. You can also check out the Film City ghost town, a recreation of a traditional village built for an Arabic TV series. 

But tiny Zekreet, 90km (56 miles) from Doha, has a couple of sights of its own, including a restored historic mosque and Zekreet Fort, thought to have been built in the late 18th or early 19th century. Dismantled for reuse of the stone by local inhabitants, the fort’s foundations are all that remain. Zekreet has a few simple places to eat but nowhere to stay.

Southern Qatar is ready for adventure

The southernmost stop on the Doha Metro, the small city of Al Wakrah has a pleasant seafront souq (market) selling everything from honey, spices, and dates to perfumes and souvenirs. You can also take a stroll around the perimeter of the historic Al Wakra Fort, but it’s not currently open to the public. 

From here, you can take a bus or an Uber 30 minutes south to Sealine Beach, one of Qatar’s most popular public beaches, with several dive sites close to the shore. The east coast road ends here, and the towering sand dunes of southern Qatar begin. Book an off-road tour to Khor Al Adaid, which takes you across mountains of sand to Qatar’s “inland sea”, a scenic tidal embayment that marks Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia. 

Similarly to northern Qatar, southern Qatar is typically visited on a day trip from Doha. However, this region has several accommodation options, including Sealine Beach Resort, a lovely spot for couples, and several rustic desert camps if linger.

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