With Qatar Airways frequency on 13 routes to Doha by 100 flights a week for the summer peak period – and Qatar recently being ranked the eighth most open destination in the world by the UNWTO for its visa-free entry program, ‘stopping-over’ in Qatar is now easier than ever before.
With its award winning national airline offering 13 regional routes from India as well as new 5* hotels, attractions and fine dining restaurants popping up across its capital city, Doha, this Middle Eastern gem is fast becoming a popular ‘stopover’ city break destination.
Visitors to Doha can explore the vibrant city’s first class restaurants, beachfront luxury hotels and fascinating cultural sites from the bustling Souq Waqif to thebrand new National Museum of Qatar, or take advantage of the new initiatives which now include Whale-Shark spotting during May/June, kayaking in the mangroves or visit the UNESCO-listed Al Zubarah Fort just a 1.5 hour drive away from the city.
Whether stopping over in the city for 24 hours or enjoying a short break on route to one of Qatar Airways’ 160+ onward destinations worldwide, with the whole country covering an area approximately the size of Mumbai, it’s easy to explore the highlights of Qatar both in Doha and beyond during a stopover visit. Here are just a few suggestions on what visitors can experience during a stopover in Qatar…
Become immersed in Qatar’s rich cultural heritage at the brand new National Museum of Qatar which recently opened to the public following a star-studded ceremony in Doha on 28th March 2019. The museum was designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel and is located in the heart of the city just a short 10-minute drive from Doha’s Hamad International Airport. Spread over 1.5km, the building’s unique design of interlocking disks was inspired by the desert rose and the concept behind the museum was to evoke the life of the Qatari people and celebrate the country’s connection between the desert and the sea. Visitors are taken on a journey through the museum’s three core‘chapters’ — Beginnings, Life in Qatar, and Building the Nation where each theme is presented across eleven highly individual galleries.
Enjoy a leisurely lunch on the marina on The Pearl-Qatar or dine in one of the city’s many fine dining restaurants. Qatar’s foodie scene continues to flourish and Doha is home to the world’s largest Nobu, two Gordon Ramsay restaurants as well as the hip STK lounge and steakhouse at the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton hotel which opened earlier this year. Traditional dining options can also be discovered in restaurants such as Al Mourjan, which offers stunning views across the Corniche, or the Shay Al Shoomos restaurant in the heart of the Souq Waqif which serves Middle Eastern cuisine and traditional Arabic coffee.
For an authentic taste of local life and traditional architecture, nothing can beat a wander through the bustling alleyways of Souq Waqif. Besides the many treasures on offer to buy, it is a lively market area with cafés and food stalls and is ideal for people-watching. The Gold Souq and Falcon Souq are also nearby or visitors can book an Embrace Qatar tour to immerse themselves in Qatari culture and learn about the country’s rituals and traditions.
Spend the evening relaxing in Doha Bay on a traditional Dhow boat cruise and enjoy the panoramic views of the city’s glittering skyline before taking an evening stroll along the Corniche boardwalk.
Adventure-seekers should kick start their morning with kayaking in the Al Thakira Mangroves Forest in north-eastern Qatar or try the many watersports on offer from along the Corniche in central Doha.
After a morning in the mangroves, return to the city to take in the city sights on a ‘Hop on, Hop off’ Doha Bus tour before visiting the stunning Museum of Islamic Art, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018. This internationally-renowned museum collection features some of the finest art and artefacts from across the Islamic world spanning 14 centuries and was designed by the celebrated architect IM Pei.
On day two, head south out of the city to one of Qatar’s UNESCO-listed heritage sites, the Khor Al Adaid (Inland Sea) natural reserve. The Inland Sea is an impressive natural phenomenon and one of the few places on earth where the sea encroaches deep into the heart. Inaccessible by road, this tranquil expanse of water can only be reached by crossing the rolling desert dunes in a 4×4.
Combine the Inland Sea with a desert safari, an experience not to be missed! Safaris can also include camel riding and sand boarding before rounding off the day at a desert camp with a delicious moonlit Bedouin-style barbeque under the stars.
Time to explore the Banana Island Resort Doha! Splash out on a night’s stay in an overwater villa at this stunning 5* resort by Anantara just off the coast of downtown Doha. Accessible by private catamaran, the resort is the perfect spot for a range of watersports including surfing and diving and also features a bowling alley and cinema as well as the Middle East’s only wellness centre in a resort setting, spread across lush botanical gardens.
On day two, return to Doha port and take a journey north to Al Zubarah Fort, a UNESCO-listed archaeological site, or head out west to see the Camel Races at Shahaniya (seasonal) and then onward to the Zekreet Peninsula. Here unspoilt beaches, wind-carved rock formations and the awe-inspiring East-West/West-East Public sculpture by Richard Serra can be found.
Then spend the afternoon at the world’s first Angry Birds World theme park which covers 17,000 square metres and offers indoor and outdoor attractions inspired by the blockbuster movie. Angry Birds World features more than 20 rides and Angry Birds-themed activities, including sand areas and a trampoline park.
Head to the new innovative Education City Golf Club in Doha for a round of golf on day three. The club’s state-of-the-art facilities include TrackMan Technology, where each shot is tracked by a radar and PowerTee, an indoor putting green with moving floor to simulate sloping putts.
Spend the last afternoon relaxing poolside or indulging the senses at one of Doha’s many luxury spas, including the Spas at the brand new Mandarin Orientallocated near to the Souq or the spa at the, Sharq Village & Spa Ritz-Carlton resort which is Doha’s largest spa.
Spend the last evening at Katara Cultural Village, a cultural beacon and lighthouse of art and cultural exchange. The village houses remarkable theatres, two mosques, art galleries and an Amphitheatre which plays host to year-round concerts, shows and exhibitions.