Backpacking In Yemen

in Yemen

Yemen is truly a destination for adventure travelers since it’s not the easiest place to get around and the environment isn’t well developed for tourism. The weather is hot for much of the year throughout the country, floating between 20-40C (~68-104F). Yemen has 3 climate zones and the closer you are to the coast the more tolerable the heat is, but we still strongly recommend visiting during the winter months of the northern hemisphere. Also complicating travel to this country is the varying security situation in and around many of the major cities, including the capital Sana’a. There have been some targeted attacks against destinations popular with foreigners so travel to Yemen isn’t for the lighthearted.

That said, Yemen is one of the least visited countries in the Middle East, and the rest of the world for that matter. Visas are not granted to tourists upon arrival for any nationality and you should check the nearest Yemeni embassy for the latest information. Visitors who do make arrangements however will discover some real treasures, including the world’s oldest city, which happens to be Sana’a.

sana'a yemen bayt al faqih market yemen

The Old City of Sana’a is a UNESCO World Heritage Center and has been inhabited for the past 2,500 years (no wonder it’s called the old city!) It is certainly a must see on any backpacking trip to Yemen and you’re better off walking around the narrow streets without a backpack on. Travel with your cash and passport in your pockets or using a travel wallet, otherwise you’ll stick out and be an attraction for the shopkeepers. While you’re in the Old City, swing by the Salt Market (known in Arabic as Suq al-Milh). This lively market is a wonderful place to find unique items, but be prepared to bargain! Each transaction takes time and you’ll probably enjoy a tea and chat with the shopkeeper before making your final purchase.

Tours and buses from many of the hotels also go to Kawkaban. This fort, a 30 minute drive from Sana’a, can be seen in the heights near the town of Shibham. The fort makes an excellent half-day trip and isn’t generally crowded. Getting transportation out to Kawkaban from Sana’a is fairly inexpensive and most drivers will wait to take you back upon request. Speaking of hotels, backpackers to Yemen should note the lack of a hostel system in the country. Hotels are the primary form of accommodation for tourists and while the quality varies, you’re much better off spending a bit extra to get a comparatively clean, maintained, and well air conditioned room. Hotels in other cities are limited themselves and booking online may be difficult so it’s best to call to find out the latest availability.

Another city that should be visited by backpackers to Yemen is Ta-izz. This large city is widely regarded as Yemen’s diverse cultural capital and where many students go to university. That’s likely a contributing factor as to why it’s one of the more liberal places in the country and a great place to chat with locals and learn about the vast history and intricate culture of Yemen.

Previous post:

Next post: