Sponsored Content

Fabulous Doha: How to Turn Your Next Flight into A Mini Vacation

Experience the best service in the skies when you fly Qatar Airways to this hidden treasure of a city in the Middle East, filled with world-class food, culture, architecture, hotels, and more.

Doha skyline

The beautiful skyline of Doha

What if air travel was a rewarding adventure itself? When you fly Qatar Airways from any of its 12 gateways in the U.S. en route to more than 150 worldwide destinations, a stopover of at least 12 hours allows you entrée to inspiring experiences in Qatar’s capital city Doha. Whether you’re traveling to the Maldives or beyond, you can enrich your dream vacation with a fascinating 48-hour (or more) cultural immersion in Qatar.

For starters, you’ll feel like you’re on holiday before you even arrive, traveling in style with superior service on the top-rated airline in the world—a distinction awarded by Skytrax seven times running, including in 2022. When you fly Economy or Business Class (select flights even offer business-class suites with ambient lighting, fully lie-flat beds, and doors for extra privacy), expect unparalleled service and amenities onboard.

Touching down at Hamad International Airport, travelers will be wowed by what’s in store as soon as they step foot on the ground. The top-rated hub is filled with luxury shops, multiple fine-dining options, and stunning public art installations. Beyond that, a recent expansion includes a peaceful indoor tropical garden, the Orchard, featuring upwards of 300 trees and more than 25,000 plants sourced from sustainable forests around the world, all bathed in natural light. The spectacular setting makes for a grand welcome, especially when you take advantage of unbeatable Stopover Packages that take care of all of the details for you. Plus, luxury packages for two nights start at a mere $148.

On the ground, you’ll have a few days and nights full of soul-stirring experiences, from history and art to international cuisine and outdoor adventures in nature—or all the above. The world-class city is considered safe and welcoming to tourists, with English commonly spoken.

Day 1: Explore a land where history meets modernity

Museum of Islamic Art

The I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art

Doha is a fascinating mix of hyper-modern design paired with art and culture that stretches back centuries. It’s an incredible place to behold—as if you’re simultaneously stepping back in time and peering into the future. Take time to savor this breadth as you zip between old-world markets and sleek contemporary architecture towering overhead. Start your day at the truly impressive Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by I. M. Pei and built on an artificial island near the traditional Dhow Harbor, it boasts the largest collection of its kind in the world. To get the full impact, opt for one of the short, self-guided tours curators have put together to show off the museum’s highlights based on personal preferences.

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Next up, pay a visit to Souq Waqif for a bite to eat—and a taste of history. Once an ancient Bedouin trading market, the Souq later fell into disrepair and then burned, but was rebuilt in the early 2000s. Today, it’s packed with shops and stalls offering distinctive gifts and souvenirs, from spices to jewelry and textiles. And the market offers a wide range of Arabic cuisines. Eat your way through Qatari, Yemeni, Iranian, Moroccan, and other cuisines. Before you leave, make sure to visit the Falcon Souq within Souq Waqif, where you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the centuries-old hunting tradition of falconry—listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

At night, stroll along the Doha Corniche, a four-mile promenade overlooking the city’s harbor. Start at Souq Waqif and head west toward the skyscrapers for a tour of past to present. The beautiful walk along the water will also give you a good look at the city’s main sights and architecture.

Day 2: Choose your own desert or marine life adventure

Cruising through the dunes outside of Doha

Cruising through the otherworldly dunes outside of Doha

There’s no shortage of thrilling outdoor activities by land and sea in Qatar, all just a short ride away from the capital city. For something truly novel, take a guided trip to explore the desert dunes and inland sea. After an hour’s drive from Doha, you’ll arrive at the entrance of the desert at Sealine. Experienced drivers will spirit you away on an unforgettable off-road adventure over dramatic sand dunes to the azure waters of Khor Al Adaid, the inland sea. You’ll visit the towering Sheraton Dune and marvel at the Arabian Sea before heading back to the city.

Marine-life fans, this one’s for you: Discover the Whale Sharks of Qatar by private charter. The coastal water of Qatar plays home to one of the planet’s largest Whale Shark aggregations. Embarking from Fuwairit Kite Beach Resort (a short ride from Doha’s hotels), you’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast as you travel approximately two and a half hours by yacht to get to the Whale Sharks. Once there, you’ll see these magnificent creatures that gather to feed close to the surface. You can rest assured that this responsible outing doesn’t disrupt their natural habitat.

Al Thakira’s Mangroves

Al Thakira’s Mangroves

If you prefer a more active outing on the water, try kayaking through the mangrove forests of Qatar. In a country known for its desert landscape, you may be surprised to find the Al Thakira Mangrove Forest, one of Qatar’s oldest and largest forests. A two-hour guided tour that’s suitable for all levels will take you through the ecosystem which attracts migratory birds such as herons and flamingos, and an abundance of fish and crustaceans who call it home year-round.

After a full-day outing, enjoy dinner along the Corniche, or in Qanat Quartier or downtown, where you’ll find fine dining options to suit any palate.

Go beyond: Stay a little longer to enjoy even more of Qatar

The National Museum of Qatar

The National Museum of Qatar

If you have extra time, consider extending your stay by a night or two to take in even more of the diverse cultural offerings that make Doha such a fascinating city. History buffs will want to visit the National Museum of Qatar, designed by architect Jean Nouvel to look like a desert rose crystal. Here, you can learn about the country’s history and recent economic boom.

Art lovers might prefer Katara Cultural Village, the art and culture hub of the city that’s rife with artist spaces, galleries, and an outdoor amphitheater. There are often festivals and concerts in Katara, and an abundance of cafes and restaurants to linger in after a day of cultural exploration.

This destination, filled with cultural riches, historic treasures, and stunning natural landscapes, rewards travelers with enlightening experiences. Whether you spend 48 hours in Doha or choose to extend your visit in the capital city or beyond, there will always be new adventures for you to discover in this rapidly evolving cultural center of the Middle East.

From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR