Post updated Jan, 2024

I started researching Socotra Island and discovered what an unspoiled paradise it appeared to be. Could it seriously be as pristine as the photos suggest?

We made arrangements to visit in December 2019 – this is what it is really like to visit Socotra Island.

Before the civil war in 2011 in Yemen, Socotra had been experiencing a small amount of tourism, about 4,000 tourists per year.

Once the civil war in Yemen started, Socotra was closed off from the world for over five years.

Today, intrepid visitors are very curious to see what this untouched island is all about.

Is It Safe to Visit Socotra Island?

Socotra has never been at war, and visiting Socotra Island is very safe. This is, unfortunately, a different story on mainland Yemen, over 370 km away.

Your biggest challenge is getting to Socotra, as flights are limited.

Who Lives in Socotra Yemen?

For an island with an area of 3796 square metres and a population of about 45,000, it still feels like hardly anybody lives here. 

After our arrival on the first day, we stopped for lunch in the capital, Hadibo. This ‘city’ feels more like a small town, but it isn’t the reason you would want to visit Socotra.

visit Socotra - baker in Hadibu town in socotra
Visit Socotra – Local Baker in the main city of Hadibu,

There are small shops here to stock up on dry goods, a few bakeries, butchers/fishmongers, and clothes shops surrounded by dusty streets.

Sadly, there is a great deal of garbage on the streets, and it’s common for locals to drop trash anywhere—the number of flattened plastic water bottles is eye-opening.

Our visit to Hadibu Socotra was brief, as it is the countryside most visitors are keen to see.

Once we left the city and headed out on the open road (which is mostly in good condition), the beauty of Socotra Island began to unfold.

Where to Stay and How to Get Around in Socotra

Put simply, all tourists who visit Socotra need to make arrangements in advance with a local tour operator on the island.

You can join a small group tour or even book a private tour.

As of 2023, flights are now out of Abu Dhabi, the only way to visit Socotra.

Please find more info in our blog: How to Visit Socotra – Everything you need to know.

Expect that you will be wild camping here, as once you leave the capital – there are very few hotels, hot showers, etc.

You may be able to sleep in homestays along the way, but this all depends on the company/guide you book with.

We travelled in 4WD with a local driver/guide to get around the island – if you visit Socotra, this might be how you travel.

Back to Basics – Sleep in a Tent and Eat Off the Land & Sea

Our 7-night itinerary included camping in a tent in various locations on the island. It was very warm and comfortable.

Mattresses, sheets, a pillow, and blankets were provided.

How to get to Socotra
Your visit to Socotra will most likely include camping

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were included as part of our trip. We had a cook travelling with us, and he prepared some tasty meals for our small group all week.

As the infrastructure on the island is very basic, there is no option to visit Socotra in the comfort you might be used to when visiting other countries. Just be prepared for this.

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What is The Food Like in Socotra?

This island relies heavily on fresh fish, so we ate this for lunch and dinner most days—fresh tuna fillets accompanied by rice or pasta and a fragrant sauce with potatoes and vegetables. So be prepared that your visit to Socotra will include plenty of fresh food.

We explain more about the most popular foods from Yemen here.

There were always fresh oranges, apples, and dates to munch on between meals and let’s not forget about the endless amount of tea.

food in socotra
A typical meal in Socotra. Fish, rice, and sauce with vegetables

Yemeni Tea is Always Available

If you can imagine yourself sitting with a hot cup of tea, staring out at crashing waves over a pristine beach with the sun setting for the evening – you’ll love Socotra.

At all times, you’ll find a hot thermos of prepared tea loaded with sugar, ready to consume. Tea is life here.

As our guide said, it is not possible to visit Socotra homes without being offered at least a few cups of tea.

How Much Is A Tour to Visit Socotra?

NOTE: A visit to Socotra is NOT cheap. It is one of the most expensive destinations I’ve taken for a week-long trip; it even beat the pricey cost of visiting Bhutan.

Before our arrival, we researched most of the local tour operators currently running tours on the island.

They all have very similar pricing, so for us, it simply came down to choosing one with a good reputation and a good recommendation.

Tour Prices & Programs

Tour prices will vary between operators, and as mentioned above, the price does depend on how many passengers are in the group. Most groups that visit Socotra are small, or between 4-12 people. Tour programs are often very similar and include similar activities. 

Most agencies can arrange private tours in Socotra; however, expect to pay more for this option.

We recommend the local Tour Operator, Eye of Socotra.

We have listed approximate prices for this season, 2023/2024, if you book your tour program with Eye of Socotra.

The prices below are for the Tour Program only, excluding flights, visas or any hotel upgrades or extras. *These prices are subject to change at any time.

When booking, you can take 5% off this tour price if you quote our exclusive code below.

  • 1 person: USD 1800
  • 2 to 3 people: USD 1450 pp
  • 4 to 5 people: USD 1300 pp
  • 6 people: USD 1150 pp
  • 7 – 9 people USD 1050 pp
  • 10 or more people: USD 950 pp


Quote our exclusive code: EYEOFSOCOTRA5 to receive a 5% discount on your tour! Read more about their programs here.

Alternatively, tour programs in Socotra can also be booked on Tourradar.

If you would like to learn more about how to book your trip, read our Ultimate Guide to Visit Socotra.

Five Top Things to Experience on Socotra Island

Unspoiled Beaches

It’s hard to imagine a land that is more diverse than Socotra. It honestly does feel like another world. The colour of the sand on the beaches here is powder white. The colour of the water is sparkling turquoise blue.

It is almost guaranteed that you will be the only person on the beach, leaving the only footprints in the sand on that day, if not the week.

The only issue can be garbage you might come across in piles left behind by locals.

Marine life

Snorkelling & Diving – There are opportunities to dive & snorkel in Socotra. This island is home to more than 680 species of fish and over 250 species of coral. Divers have opportunities to explore underwater shipwrecks and discover untouched reefs.

Crystal-clear waters surrounding Socotra Island allow you to view marine life, such as dolphins, barracudas, turtles, manta rays, and more.

Unfortunately, during our visit to Socotra, we didn’t get to go snorkelling due to the rough sea on the day.

Epic Landscapes

landscapes visit socotra
What is it like to visit Socotra? Sometimes, it feels like another planet. The landscapes are incredible.

The landscape changes dramatically on the island – it’s always stunning. Socotra is often referred to as the most alien-like place on Earth.

There are caves to explore, massive rocky mountains to hike, limestone plateaus, waterfalls and wadis (natural waterholes) to discover, a desert, and stunning beaches everywhere.

This island is rich in endemic plants and animals.

infinity pool socotra
Hiking in Socotra to the infinity pool on top of the mountains

Dragon Blood- Unique Socotra Island Trees

The dragon blood tree is perhaps the most iconic symbol of Socotra. This unique and strange-looking Socotra Island tree is endemic to the island.

It is named after its dark red resin, known as “dragon’s blood”, and offers a range of traditional medicinal uses for the Soqotri people for centuries.

It was a pretty cool moment when I saw my first dragon blood tree sitting high on the plateau. As we hiked up further, we came face to face with hundreds of these ancient-looking trees.

It’s a highlight for anyone who visits Socotra.

Socotra island trees - The Dragon Blood Tree
Socotra Island – Dragon Blood trees

An Adventure Lovers’ Paradise

Socotra is perfect for adventure lovers, keen hikers, and those who crave simplicity and natural beauty. 

A visit to Socotra feels like you are worlds away from anywhere, probably because you are.

visit Socotra. Marty and Rach hiking Socotra

Few places remain where you can be surrounded by so much space, silence, and beautiful, natural surroundings.

Socotra is waiting to welcome you if you’re looking for a destination unlike any other.

Visit Socotra before the rest of the world discovers what an absolute gem this place is.

Want to visit more of the lesser-visited countries in the world?

If you’re considering a visit to Socotra, our post about how to visit Socotra, everything you need to know will provide you with the details to make it happen. 

And check out our post about the 20 most popular foods from Yemen.

Are you interested in travelling to other countries with few visitors? We travelled to Libya in late 2021, and it was fascinating! First, it’s not an easy visa to get – so you may need to start by reading about how to visit Libya – all the details you need. 

Suppose you’re interested in seeing the most incredible Roman Ruins (Leptis Magna and Sabratha would have to be the best I’ve ever seen). Here are the best sites to see at Leptis Magna.

In that case, visiting Libya, one of the least visited countries in the world is for you!

To continue discovering AMAZING Roman ruins and visiting another country that doesn’t receive many visitors, I’d recommend you check out Algeria.

I’ll admit it: obtaining a visa isn’t so easy for many nationalities, but if you persist and get your hands on one, there are many incredible places to visit in Algeria.

We learned many valuable tips in the first week there and recommend you read our 13 essential things to know before you go. 

This information will help you plan the best trip and, most importantly, maximise your time in this vast country and save money.

Learn more about the 10 most difficult countries to visit also, a common question that has a few different answers, depending on who you ask, is how many countries in the world there are?