Yemen Travel Guide
Located at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen is a predominantly Muslim country with a modest tourism industry despite a troubled recent history. It is home to several important archaeological sites, including ancient mosques and citadels dating back to the 7th century.
The diverse landscape is great for long trekking and hiking trips, and the wide coastline provides excellent fishing sites. Although constantly plagued by terrorist threats, Yemen is fairly safe and has one of the best tourist infrastructures in the region.
When to Go
The climate varies depending on altitude. The highlands have warm summers and cold winters, with particularly harsh nights between October and March. The coastal plains are hot for most of the year. Rainfall is very low, and summers can get very hot and dusty. The best time to visit is October to April. Wear light, breathable clothes in the coastal plains, and thick, warm clothes in the highlands.
Getting There & Away
The main entry point is El-Rahaba Airport, about eight miles north of Sana’a. There are also minor airports in Taiz, Aden, and Hodeida.
Taxi and bus services are available in all four airports, but are somewhat limited in Aden. Intercity travel is possible via bus or taxi. Taxis are identified by their yellow plates. There are minimum charges for taxi service within the city, but intercity fares have to be negotiated beforehand.
Car hire is available from major cities; choose a 4x4 or other rugged vehicle for passing over rough terrains. The roads are reliable in Sana’a and from Ta’izz to Mokha, but the rest are in poor condition.
Health & Safety
Typhoid and polio are moderate risks, and malaria occurs throughout the country except in Sana’a. Mains water is safe to drink in the capital, but may be chlorinated in other areas. There are major hospitals in Sana’a and Aden, but medical facilities are limited outside major cities.
Crime rates are fairly low, but terrorism threats are high. Kidnapping and violent crimes against foreigners are common. Avoid traveling alone and at night, and if possible, travel outside the major cities only with a military escort.
Food & Hospitality
Yemeni food is different from the rest of Arabian cuisine, and is easily the highlight of any visit. The national dish is salta, a meat stew flavored with fenugreek. Yemeni honey and raisins are also popular. Yemenis also like to chew qat leaves in between meals, and you may be offered a branch to chew on as a social gesture.
There are a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury palace hotels to small tribal huts. The best hotels are in Sana’a, Mareb, Hodeida, Ta’izz, and Tawahi. Most hotels require advanced booking and should issue written confirmations. Accommodation is somewhat limited in the minor towns.
- Three days in Sana’a
- Three days in Hajjah
- One day at the National Museum
- One day touring the mosques
Sana’a and Qasr al-Silah: The Qasr al-Silah, a 7th-century citadel, sits in stark contrast against the modern capital of Sana’a. Crumbling city walls still surround the old city center, and the city itself can be seen from afar in all directions.
National Museum: this museum can be found in Taherir Square and features folk art, bronze statues, and prehistoric Islamic engravings.
Hajjah: a rugged countryside about a day’s travel from Sana’a, Hajjah is home to some of the country’s highest peaks. The former citadel sits on a hill of the same name, under which lie the prison cells used by the early Imams (Islam priests).
Mosques: Some of the notable mosques are the Great Mosque of Sana’a, constructed in AD 705, the al-Hadi Mosque, a center for Zaydism instruction, and the 14th-century Mosque of Sayyid Abdullah al-Aidrus, dedicated to the patron saint of Aden.
Shopping: The 1000-year-old Bab al-Yemen Market sells various Yemeni souvenirs, from small handmade trinkets to local delicacies and spices. The Souk al-Nahaas sells belts, headdresses, and jambias, a type of curved dagger that every Yemeni man carries symbolically.
Fishing: Little Aden, sitting in the crater of an extinct volcano, contains several fishing villages facing the Indian Ocean. The Red and Arabian Seas also make good fishing sites.
Hiking and camping: the Haraz Mountains and the Sad’ah Basin both make excellent hiking and trekking spots. Sad’ah is particularly scenic, with its lush vegetation and fertile grape plantations.
Day trips: explore the many fruit plantations outside Sana’a. The Hadda Mountain has several small orchards growing almonds, apricots, peaches, and walnuts. The Wadi D’har is a valley village growing citrus fruits, grapes, and pomegranates.