Yemen · April 8 - 20 2024
13 Day Socotra + South Yemen Expedition
The Best of Yemen & SocotraENQUIRE
Explore the otherworldly landscapes and cultural gems of South Yemen. Start with a wild adventure on the mythical island of Socotra, known for its bizarre fauna and stunning beaches before continuing onto Yemen's Mainland. Across the Hadhramaut, follow ancient frankincense routes across Yemen's Hadhramaut region, a land steeped in history. Highlights of this immersive expedition include fairytale views over Haid al Jazil and Wadi Daw'an, the massive sugary dunes of Arher on Socotra's northeast coast, Yemen's Sufi center of mysticism in Tarim, the unbelievable Detwah Lagoon known for its bands of white sand and impossibly blue water, the beautiful Hadhrami coastal city of Mukalla, the dragon blood forests of Firhmin, the lovely palaces of Seiyun, and the atmospheric ancient mudbrick city of Shibam.
Daybreak at Haid al Jazil
Catch an unforgettable sunrise over the beautiful hamlet of Haid al Jazil, perched in Wadi Daw'an.
Wandering Forests of Dragon Blood Trees
Socotra's most iconic and famous sight are the unusual endemic dragon blood tree. The Firhmin Forest is home to the largest population of them in the world.
Ambling the Living Museum of Shibam
Experience the magic of wandering the narrow pathways in the ancient labyrinth famously known as the 'Manhatten of Arabia'.
Explore Socotra's Wild Beaches
Socotra's beaches are among the most beautiful and empty the world over, many fringed by craggy cliffsides and mountainous dunes.
Hadiboh | Homhil Protected Area
Be met by your local Socotri guide on arrival at Socotra International Airport. Collect your bags, then go through formalities and head into the main town of Hadiboh. Here you will have an early lunch before making the drive to Homhil Protected Area.
Homhil is home to a scattering of Socotra’s fascinating endemics including the famed Dragon blood tree, bottle trees, and frankincense trees. Meander among these rare plant species and to a natural infinity pool that you undoubtedly have to see to believe.
In the afternoon spend your time checking out the interesting plant life around and taking a much-needed swim in the Homhil pool that overlooks the Arabian Sea.
Homhil Protected Area | Arher | Ras Erissel
Today we get an early start and trek down from Homhil to a village on the coast where your 4WD awaits to take you to the sugary white sand dunes of Arher.
In the afternoon, explore the areas further east around Ras Erissel before heading back to your camp at Arher where you can climb to the top of the mountainous dunes to catch an unbelievable sunset.
Homhil Protected Area | Arher | Ras Erissel
For those ambitious, catch the sunrise from atop Arher Dune before breakfast. From here we’ll continue toward the massive Hoq Cave. We will get dropped off near a village from which we will make the approximately two hour trek uphill and into the mouth of the cave.
Once to the mouth of Hoq Cave, we will continue our walk roughly 1.5 kilometers into the earth. Make sure to bring a headlamp or torch to see the impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and other cave formations. Once we’ve finished exploring the cave it’s time to make the jaunt back down to the village and continue onto Di Hamri.
Di Hamri, meaning ‘two rocks’ in Socotri is named after the impossible-to-miss double-red rocky outcropping that sits adjacent to the wide coral-filled bay. Spend the afternoon snorkeling in Socotra’s main marine protected area in search of parrotfish, turtles, sharks, and more.
Di Hamri | Dixsam Plateau | Wadi Dirhur
From Di Hamri we pick up camp and make way toward Socotra’s central highlands on the Dixsam Plateau. Here you’ll have the opportunity to wander amongst some the largest and oldest dragon blood trees on Socotra.
In the afternoon, we’ll make a trip down into Wadi Dirhur and take a short trek along the valley floor to a small chain of pools before heading back up onto the plateau for the night.
For those interested in stargazing, the Dixsam Plateau is one of the best places on Socotra Island for viewing the stars- even better if viewed with the silhouette of a Dixsam dragon.
Dixsam Plateau | Firhmin Forest | Omaq Beach | Zahek Dunes
Catch the sunrise over the dragon blood trees of Dixsam Plateau before taking a ride back down into Wadi Dirhur and back up the other side and into the Firhmin Forest.
Firhmin Forest is home to the densest population of dragon blood trees on Socotra, and therefore, the world! It’s estimated that there are over 9,000 dragon blood trees in this forest.
Once you’ve had your fix on the most famous of Socotra’s endemics, continue south to Socotra’s Indian Ocean Coast to your camp at blinding white Omaq Beach. In the late afternoon head to nearby Zahek Dunes
Omaq Beach | Dagub Cave | Detwah Lagoon
After breakfast, depart Omaq Beach to explore the cavernous Dagub Cave briefly before taking a jaunt back across the island and to the northeast to reach the idyllic Detwah Lagoon.
In Detwah spend the afternoon relaxing in the most turquoise waters, get in on a game of football with some local teens, or maybe catch the well-known Abdullah the Caveman who may take you out to explore around the lagoon.
Detwah Lagoon | Qalansiya | Shua’ab Beach
After an early breakfast, make the short drive to the second-largest town on Socotra of Qalansiya. From the beach in Qalansiya we will load up into local dhow fishing boats and cruise along Socotra’s rugged western coast down to the impossibly white sands of Shua’ab Beach. Keep your eyes peeled as you leave Qalansiya for jumping spinner dolphins who frequent the area.
After a perfect final beach day in Socotra, head back for Qalansiya in the early afternoon (the waters around here get notoriously rough later in the day) and then enjoy your final sunset and dinner back at Detwah Lagoon.
Detwah Lagoon | Hadiboh Airport | Mukalla
Following breakfast, you will be dropped off at Hadiboh Airport to catch your flight to Mukalla to continue your journey into mainland Yemen.
After reaching Mukalla, we'll break for lunch before setting out to explore what the city has to offer, including the Old Town of Mukalla, Mukalla Souk, and the beautiful Khoor Mukalla.
Mukalla | Wadi Daw'an
Departing Mukalla in the early morning, we'll make way for one of Yemen's most beguiling and beautiful destinations- the ethereal Haid al Jazil of Wadi Daw'an. This stunning stretch of the canyon will be our home for the next two nights.
After having lunch at Haid al Jazil and taking in the views, we'll head over to the colorfully painted Buqshan Palace and the stunning little hamlet of Hawfa nearby.
We'll return to Haid al Jazil for sunset and to relax for the evening.
After breakfast, we will drive a short distance from our hotel and begin our trek down to Hawfa village in Wadi Daw'an.
The one hour trek meanders down the wall of the canyon, offering stunning views of the mesa-like village of Haid al Jazil sat atop a prominence.
Our vehicles will meet us in Hawfa, from where we will continue onto the teetering fortress of Qarn Majid, in addition to visiting the villages of Rihab and al Kharaiba.
Once again, we will return to Haid al Jazil in the late afternoon.
Wadi Daw'an | Hawta
Saying our goodbyes to Haid al Jazil, today we make way for Hawta, making stops along Wadi Dawa'an along the way- including the picturesque villages of Hajarain and Sif.
In the later afternoon, we will drive over to the famed city of Shibam, known as the "Manhattan of Arabia".
After taking some time to meander through the maze-like streets of Shibam, we'll make a walk up to a stunning viewpoint over the city and stay there until the sunset call to prayer.
As the sun sets, we'll walk back down to our vehicles and continue onto Hawta for the night.
Hawta | Seiyun | Tarim
Today we depart Hawta toward the Sufi center of Tarim.
En route, we'll stop off in Seiyun to visit the Sultan al Kathiri Palace Museum, al Handhal traditional market, and Alfalas before breaking for lunch in Seiyun.
Following lunch, we'll make a stop for the Aynat Shrine before reaching Tarim.
Tarim is a stunning desert city, home to several madrasas, serving as Yemen's Sufi center. In the afternoon, we'll take some time to explore the town, the Tarim Souk, and the blinding white al Mihdar Mosque.
We will return to Hawta for the evening once again.
Hawta | Seiyun | Cairo
We'll make an early departure from Hawta to Seiyun today after a quick breakfast to catch our flight out of Seiyun and on to Cairo.
English speaking guides
Driver and transportation
Permits and security clearances
Meals as noted on itinerary
Camping Equipment in Socotra (tent, blanket, sleeping mat)
Accommodation in double room in Mainland Yemen
What's Not Included
Tips for local staff
Despite being born and raised in the mountains of Alaska with plenty of backyard adventures that could have kept her busy for a lifetime, the unusual dragon blood trees of Socotra, the truly bizarre landscapes of Iran’s far-flung Sistan and Balochistan Province, the gingerbread-house-like architecture of Sana’a, and the dazzling turquoise lakes of Tajikistan’s Fann Mountains lured Nicole to the other side of the planet and on to get to know these locations extremely well.
Is It Safe To Travel To This Part Of Yemen & Socotra?
The security situation in the Hadhramaut region has remained relatively stable over the past few years. Of course, there are risks involved with traveling in Mainland Yemen, but we work with an experienced team who carefully mitigates the risks of travel in Yemen. Our team receives routine security reports for the areas we will visit on the mainland and will alter the itinerary as they see fit to keep the group safe.
Socotra, despite being part of Yemen territorially, is very safe. In Socotra, there has never been an incident involving a tourist on the island. The biggest risks you would face as a tourist in Socotra are injuries sustained while out on a trek or in the sea. There is a risk of getting stuck in Socotra longer than planned in the event the flights in or out are delayed or canceled, more so if traveling in the June-September season.
Where are the Start & End Points on this Expedition?
This 13 Day Socotra and South Yemen Expedition will begin by catching a flight from Cairo to Socotra via a stopover in Aden. The trip ends in Seiyun with us catching a flight from Seiyun back to Cairo.
How Do I Get To & From Yemen?
Yemenia provides a flight from Cairo to Socotra via a stopover in Aden and Mukalla that departs on Sunday evenings and arrives on Monday mornings.
On return, Yemenia operated a flight that departs Seiyun on Saturdays back to Cairo. It isn't possible to book this ticket online as it is a charter flight.
Get in contact and we will facilitate the booking process.
What are the Entry Requirements for Yemen?
Nearly all nationalities require a Yemeni visa in order to visit. We will handle the Yemeni visa process for you. All we need from you is a scan of your passport info page. We will apply for your visa and once it is approved we will send you a document of visa approval. This visa approval document should be printed and brought with you to the airport in order to board your flight to Seiyun. On arrival in Seiyun, this document will be exchanged for a stamp in your passport. We will need approximately 3 weeks to get your visa secured for you.
Additionally, you will need security clearance for traveling in Mainland Yemen. We will attain this document for you.
Do I Need Travel Insurance To Join A Socotra + South Yemen Expedition?
To join any Safar Expeditions departure you will need to carry an active travel insurance plan. Be aware that Yemen and Socotra's remote nature and limited medical facilities pose very real challenges in the event of medical emergencies and serious illness. Because of this, it is recommended to select an insurance plan that covers both medical care and evacuation.
Prescriptions and even some over-the-counter medications can be difficult to find in Yemen and Socotra, so make sure to bring any meds you need or may need with you.
What Currency Is Used In Yemen & How Can I Pay For Things On The Ground?
Officially the Yemeni Rial is the currency used in Yemen. Note that the Yemeni Rial is quite volatile to fluctuations. The Rial can vary between 500-1500 Rial to the US dollar.
There are simple money exchange offices in both Hadiboh and Seiyun where money can be exchanged for Yemeni Rials. US dollars seem to net the best rates and bills must be new and crisp without any markings, folds, tears, etc. You may want to exchange a small amount into Rials on arrival for smaller purchases.
Credit cards are not accepted anywhere.
Is There A Packing List & Prep Guide?
Yes, we do provide a suggested packing list and preparation guide for our Yemen and Socotra expeditions that can be viewed here.
What Is The Food Like & Can You Accommodate Dietary Restrictions?
The cuisine in South Yemen and Socotra is flavorful and delicious. You can expect meat dishes along the way such as chicken, goat, and camel, and fresh seafood in coastal areas. Typically meals are accompanied by a simple salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and yogurt on the mainland and a type of veggie curry in Socotra. Rice, noodles, and bean dishes are common sides served at lunch and dinner, and no Yemeni meal would be complete without flatbread and shai (tea).
Please let us know of any dietary restrictions or allergies in advance so that we can accommodate your needs.
What Is The Dress Code?
Yemeni society is very conservative. That said, what is required will be different in the mainland and Socotra.
Socotris are accustomed to seeing foreign tourists, so it is not as strict as other Islamic destinations. While at beaches, swimsuits/bikinis and swim trunks are fine, and shorts are perfectly okay when trekking in the mountains. In towns and villages, dressing modestly is the best practice. While visiting towns and villages women should wear clothing that covers from shoulders to ankles, so trousers and a T-shirt or a maxi dress (though not sleeveless) are great options. Headscarves, while not required for female travelers, are very welcomed by the locals. Keeping a sarong handy is also useful to throw on over shorts, over shoulders, or as a head covering. In towns and villages, men are okay to wear shorts that at least cover the knee and T-shirts. Tank tops or going shirtless in public is in poor taste.
While in Mainland Yemen, you will need to dress in local garb for security purposes. For men, this means long trousers and shirts that cover the shoulders, or even better the Yemeni traditional outfit of a fouta (a sarong-like fabric wrapped like a skirt) and a button-down shirt. You can purchase a fouta if you'd like before we leave Socotra. Women visiting Mainland Yemen are expected to be fully covered while in public, even foreigners. Black abayas and hijabs are required while we are out, and in certain areas, you may be expected to wear a niqab.
Will I Have Internet Access & Electricty?
It's best to plan to log off during your visit to Socotra. Internet is slow in Socotra, with 3G being about as fast as it gets. Mobile internet is only operational in a handful of places around the island. Cell phone service is available on Socotra Island but access to the cell network through roaming may vary depending on your carrier. If you have roaming service on your phone plan for UAE or Mainland Yemen, you may be able to access the local internet network but don't count on this. Foreigners can't purchase local SIM cards in Socotra.
In Mainland Yemen, Yemen Mobile has coverage in the Hadhramaut region and SIM cards can be purchased by foreigners in Seiyun. Most foreign mobile companies do not have a relationship with Yemen Mobile, so your home plan likely will not work.
In Socotra don't expect to have access to electricity every day, however, a few of the camps we will stay at will have it. A solar charger and battery banks are handy for this. When in Mainland Yemen we will be staying in more formal accommodation and will have electricity each evening but note that rolling blackouts aren't unheard of.
Are There Any Items I Cannot Bring to Yemen?
Alcohol and illicit substances are not allowed in Yemen.
Drones are not allowed into Mainland Yemen without obtaining a media permit that includes a drone on your gear list. This must be arranged well in advance of arrival and will incur an additional cost.
Are There Any Restrictions On Who Can Visit Yemen?
Yemen forbids all Israeli nationals, people born in Israel, and any traveler with proof of travel to Israel in their passports (including border stamps from Egypt and Jordan) from entering the country.
How Much Time Will We Spend In The Car?
In Socotra, you can expect to spend 1-4 hours in the car each day on this portion of the expedition. There are a couple of tarmacked roads on the island connecting Qalansiya to Hadiboh, as well as the south coast and the Dixsam Plateau to Hadiboh. Outside of these areas, you can expect dirt roads and 4x4 jeep tracks in varying conditions.
While some of the distances covered on the South Yemen portion of the itinerary aren't long, road trips in Yemen are slow going owing to rough roads, checkpoints, and roadblocks. You can expect drive times to vary between most destinations on our itinerary between 1-5 hours but are always subject to delays.
Is There a Minimum Number of Participants Necessary for the Expedition to Run?
Yes, a minimum of 4 passengers will need to be on this expedition in order to run. If the minimum isn't reached, we will contact you about the potential to still operate the trip but at an additional charge or you will be given the option to cancel and your deposit/payment can either be returned to you or applied toward a different expedition of your choosing.