Bahrain is the smallest country in the Arabian Gulf. In fact, it is the third smallest nation in Asia, after Singapore and the Maldives.
It is also the only island nation in the region. The 765-square-kilometre archipelago consists of 33 smaller land masses – or dozens more if you count all the artificial, man-made islands.
We take a look at some of the more notable islands that are accessible to the public.
This is by far the biggest island, making up seven-eighths of the nation’s total landmass. It is home to the capital, Manama, and the majority of the country’s 1.7 million people. Other well-known cities here include Budaiya, Madinat Hamad, Saar, Sanabis and Riffa.
Muharraq Island, home to Bahrain International Airport, is the second largest island in the archipelago, covering about 17 square kilometres. It is connected to the main Bahrain Island by a causeway and bridge.
Muharraq, located here, is the country’s third largest city and was its capital until 1932, before being replaced by Manama.
Now it is home to tourist attractions such as the revamped Souq Al Qaysariya and the Pearling Path, a Unesco World Heritage Site that weaves its way through the island.
This cluster of islands lies off the west coast of Qatar, but belongs to the kingdom of Bahrain. It takes about 45 minutes by boat from Bahrain Island to get there.
The islands used to be one of the settlements of the Dawasir tribe, but is now home to the Hawar Beach Hotel and is historically a popular spot for tourists.
It is particularly beloved by nature enthusiasts, because more than 100 species of birds, as well as other desert animals, such as the gazelle and oryx, live here. Marine life, from dugongs to bottlenose dolphins and green turtles, is often spotted off the coast of the islands.
Al Dar Islands
One of the most popular offshore spots to visit in Bahrain is Al Dar Islands, home to a resort, bar and restaurant. Visitors can spend the day on the beach, enjoying activities such as pearl diving or dolphin spotting, then spend the night or weekend there by booking a stay in one of the beach huts or chalets, which are kitted out with a full array of modern amenities.
Sea taxis take guests to the islands every 30 minutes throughout the day.
This secluded island paradise is one of Bahrain’s worst kept secrets and a popular spot to visit on weekends. The catch? Its shores disappear with the tide, so you must make sure you time your visit just right.
Unless you have your own boat moored in Bahrain, that could be difficult. Thankfully, five-star hotel The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain makes it easier, with a three-hour excursion available to book for Bhd150 ($399) or a six-hour round trip for Bhd300. Up to six passengers can hop on board and the package includes a picnic lunch and drinks. This is all subject to weather and tidal conditions and must be booked in advance.
These two artificial islands are to the east of Northern City and form part of the major development project. While any proposed housing is yet to come to fruition, the islands are popular with families, horse riders and fishermen looking to while away a few hours in relative tranquillity.
The views of the Manama skyline from here are stunning, and everyone from dog walkers to cyclists enjoy visiting the islands, which are connected to Bahrain Island via a causeway.
Much of the land forming Bahrain today is reclaimed, and a number of artificial islands and residential developments have been created. One of the most famous is Amwaj, a group of islands near the coast of Muharraq Island.
It was opened to the public in the early 2000s, and became the first area to offer 100 per cent freehold land ownership to expatriates living in the kingdom. Today, it covers just over four square kilometres and is home to residential and commercial buildings, including hotels, restaurants, shops and a school.
Diyar Al Muharraq
Diyar Al Muharraq, which is named after nearby Muharraq Island, is made up of a group of seven islands connected to the mainland by a causeway. It covers seven square kilometres and has eight kilometres of public beach, as well as a range of luxury to social housing, plus Bahrain's own Chinese-themed shopping centre, Dragon City Mall.
Durrat Al Bahrain
This artificial cluster of 15 fish and crescent-shaped islands is home to hundreds of beautiful residential plots, as well as a marina, restaurants, shops and other planned commercial projects, including a golf course and five-star hotels. While most of the population lives in the north of Bahrain, Durrat is almost 41km south of Manama.