Video: Why You Should Travel To Socotra Island

Derek Videos, Yemen 106 Comments

Travel to Socotra Island

Few people have even heard of this place and even fewer people have any idea where it’s located. But for those who do know and who do travel to Socotra Island, which happens to be one of the most isolated landforms on the planet, there is only one natural reaction – to wonder aloud why on earth more people aren’t visiting.

Socotra Island is a part of Yemen, however, it is far removed from anything happening on the mainland. The culture is different, the language is different and unlike the mainland, which has had to deal with separatist movements, Al-Qaeda cells and a revolution over the years, life on Socotra has remained as peaceful and quiet as can be.

However, almost nobody makes the distinction between Socotra and the Yemeni mainland and as a result, being a part of Yemen has kept travelers away. Rough estimates (according to several locals involved in the Socotra tourism industry) that in 2013 only about 1000 foreigners are expected to travel to Socotra. Just wait until you see the video below – that number will seem so absurdly low for a place so incredible.

The island is home to approximately 50,000 inhabitants, scattered among dozens of small villages, most of whom never make it off the island. There are more goats than people, hitch-hiking is the most common form of transportation, there is no crime and there’s only one internet cafe in the capital village that acts as their connection to the outside world.

This is truly a destination unlike any other and when I recently spent a few days on Socotra Island, it was the first time in my 13 years of travel that I felt as if I was on another planet altogether. It’s that magical, that bizarre, that stunning, that unbelievably remote of a destination.

And that’s why more people should travel to Socotra Island! You can even fly there directly from the United Arab Emirates so that you bypass the mainland of Yemen altogether. And once there, I guarantee that you will not want to leave.

Just have a look at this highlight video I put together from my own visit:

Note: As a I stood on Erher Beach during my last day on Socotra, looking all around me at the most beautiful water, the most beautiful sand and the most beautiful mountain landscape I had seen in a long, long time, it should be no surprise that I came up with an idea…

Announcing the “Wander Across Socotra” Tour!

I’m still working out the details but the tour, part of Wandering Earl Tours, will take place either over New Year’s (for the most unique New Year’s celebration you could possibly have anywhere) or sometime in January 2014. And since this tour will have limited space, if you might be interested, let me know so that I can add you to the list!

*For more information on travel logistics, have a read of the following written by my friend and fellow travel blogger Anil from How to Travel to Yemen and Socotra Island

*You can also listen below to the podcast I did over at Amateur Traveler about Socotra Island and Yemen in general:

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Comments 106

  1. Jerry

    Hi, Earl,

    I found out that you arranged a trip to the island. Too bad that I learned about it now. I went to Sana’a in 2007 and 2008 for business and I loved the place. I was aware of the island and I tried to squeeze in a trip to Socotra Island at the time, but I wasn’t able to. Since then I forgot about the island. Thank you for your posting on the island and hope I can join your next trip to the island.

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  3. Pingback: Answers To All The Questions You're Likely To Ask Before Visiting Yemen - foXnoMad

  4. vanja

    hello earl,
    please could you be so kind and recommend what part of socotra island can be seen on your own, without guide and what part of socotra should be seen with the guided tour? where is the best to have a base?
    when you want to rent a car, must be with the local driver?
    do you know if it is better to fly to socotra from yemen (sana) or from UAE? many thank in advance!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Vanja – You can see all of Socotra without a guide but you’ll have a hard time getting around with a car and driver. There’s really no transportation on the island so you need your own driver if you want to reach most of the interesting sites. As for flying there, I would choose whatever is easier for you…there are flights from UAE and Sanaa, so the choice is yours!

  5. Dina

    Hey Earl, am a graphic design student and am doing an advertising and identity for Socatra, and am asked to get statistics and facts that the number of tourists to Socatra is too low, so i was wondering where did u find this information? ((Rough estimates (according to several locals involved in the Socotra tourism industry) that in 2013 only about 1000 foreigners are expected to travel to Socotra. Just wait until you see the video below – that number will seem so absurdly low for a place so incredible.))

    is that true? how can i verify it?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Dina – That’s generally what I heard as well but it wasn’t anything official. My numbers came from locals, a couple of tour operators in Yemen and a Tourist Police Office on Socotra. Everyone generally gave me the same numbers.

  6. Anais

    Wow! I was researching info on Yemen and your site kept popping up, how interesting! My boyfriend and I would really love to go. Is it open to anyone or only friends you have that read this blog? Please let me know!
    Thanks for such great info!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Anais – It’s open to anyone and if you wish to join the trip, please email me through the “Contact” link at the top of my blog!

  7. Margaret

    Hi Earl!

    Great video. My boyfriend and I are very interested in travelling to Socotra around December/January. Is the tour still going ahead?

  8. Maria

    Great find, awesome share and no doubt in my mind why you’re all about it. Also appreciate the details on how to reach Socotra Island and costs. As always your candor and transparency is wonderful and helpful.

  9. Javier

    Hi Earl – I am starting to plan a trip to Socotra and ( may be) mainland for mid December after a short stay in Oman, being flexible about dates. Could you send me more info?

  10. Rachelle

    Hi Earl – Thanks a ton for creating this video, I just found your site today! I am in love with what I see about Socotra and would much appreciate you keeping me posted on the trip when its more final 🙂
    A couple of things though – how expensive is it to fly to (from the US) and spend a week or so in Socotra all in? I love the camping idea vs. staying in a fancy resort.
    I don’t see any women in the video! It is safe for women to travel there and what do they typically wear? Probably be wise to be well covered and modest, with it being a muslim country and all. But bathing suits on the beach ok?
    Can’t wait to hear more!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Rach – You can often find flights to Sanaa for around $800 USD return from NYC and then it’s about $400 return to Socotra Island. And for one week on the island, it all depends if you have a driver (highly recommended or else you wouldn’t get to see 75% of the island) and what kind of accommodation you want. I would budget for around $60 – $75 USD per day on the island for everything. As for women, they were quite shy and usually didn’t want to be filmed or photographed but it’s quite relaxed there. There is no crime on the island at all so it’s perfectly safe for everyone. And you wouldn’t have to be as covered up as you would think. Even shorts and t-shirts would work for females on Socotra. I wouldn’t wear a swimsuit on a beach full of locals but every beach I went to was completely empty, so that’s not really an issue either.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mark – I was just in touch this morning with my contact in Sana’a and according to her and her contacts, the situation hasn’t changed at all in Sana’a. Life is as normal, especially in the Old City. She said that there are still visitors coming in and it’s been fine for them during their couple of days in the city.

  11. Sidharth

    I am completely blown away by the video you compiled, would have totally come along. At 1900$, I would have totally come along had the Indian Rupee not taken such a tumbling :P. Anyway, I have been following your blog and fb page for quite sometime now, can’t wait to join you on one of the trips. I see that you are doing an India Tour, what sort of places you plan to cover? If you ever plan for the Upper reaches of Sikkim or McLeodganj in Himanchal, I’d love to join you..!! Cheers!!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sidharth – I’m still working on the itinerary for the next India tour but it will most likely take place in the north, so we will visit Himachal Pradesh and definitely McLeod Ganj.

  12. Pingback: Wandering Earl Tours: Announcing "Socotra Island 2014"! - Wandering Earl

  13. Marina

    Hey, love the video, already had Yemen and Socotra on the list of places I want to visit in the coming years, and would love for you to put me on the list for the tour in Jan 2014! Hope it won’t be too expensive though, as I am a student and would be on a very tight budget, but hopefully being such an intrepid traveller you’d know all about budgeting! ha! Great video, and really enjoying reading your blog which I only found today..


    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Marina – I’ve just sent you an email with the details about the tour, and while it’s not the cheapest of tours (since Socotra is such an isolated island, everything is quite expensive there), it’s absolutely going to be one of the most memorable!

  14. Ben

    Hi Earl, was wondering whether to trust all the stuff in the news about drone strikes. Had a look at the british embassy website and it said about how lots of the carriers aren’t flying there. Are you still planning your trip? I’m interested to see Yemen while it is still relatively unspoiled . Cheers.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ben – Yes, the trip is still going ahead as Socotra Island is far from the mainland and is a peaceful, very safe destinations. And with the mainland, the drone strikes are concentrated in certain regions of the country and the Yemeni government doesn’t let foreigners go anywhere deemed unsafe. Is the mainland 100% safe? No. But the areas that any tour operator would allow you to visit are definitely areas where foreigners are welcomed and have a very low risk of anything happening.

  15. Janet Wehrer

    I am constantly amazed at how human beings survive in the most desolate areas.
    I kept looking for small gardens beside the humble dwellings. I didn’t see anything in your video people could eat other than a goat. No wonder there is a rumor about cannibalism! Just curious. I am sure there are markets in the urban area for fresh fruit and vegetables. What are there resources? They should have plenty of seafood.
    I know I am rambling, but like I said I am just curious.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Janet – There isn’t any urban areas. The ‘capital’ of the island is just a big village with mostly dirt roads and apart from a few fruit/vegetable stands, there isn’t much. I believe that such produce comes in on ships from the mainland or UAE. But the diet mainly consists of fish and goat.

  16. Ninna

    Hi there,
    This is awesome. I ran into Socotra a while ago and checked it on Google Maps – It looked A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I have never before seen such amazing paradise photos. It also seemed abandoned, like no one lives there..
    I got itchy feet straight ahead but I never traveled this part of the world, so I still carry prejudice about the danger with Somalian pirates and the general shaky situation in the area. Definitely good to hear there are straight flights skipping those parts. Hope it doesnt cost a fortune?
    How did you find out about it and decided to go? Would you say it is convenient for solo girl travelers?
    PS. Fun fact: In the maritime world, just few years back, there were still rumors about cannibals on this island 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Ninna – The flights aren’t too bad, about $250 – $350 USD roundtrip from Sanaa or Dubai I believe. I had heard about the island from a friend of mine a couple of years ago and ever since, I’ve wanted to go. And I had some free time this April, so I made it happen. And it is perfectly fine for solo female travelers. The island is completely laid-back and there is no crime on the island at all…you will be treated very well over there.

      As for cannibals, I don’t think that’s the case…definitely a rumor. The people live simple lives but they are not like a remote jungle tribe that has no connection at all with civilization!

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  19. Bernardo

    Hi! I have found this wonderful website of yours some time ago and have been thoroughly entertained by all the tales and adventures you wrote about — or, at any rate, the ones I have already read!

    But anyway, I was wondering if you could also add me to the Socotra Tour list. Though I’m with Missy, if I’m really going I might as well just go and check Yemen too lol. (Still, I understand you might not be so keen about it since you were there so recently after all.)

  20. shrie

    what a astounding find earl..what a great untapped slice a beauty..wonderous landscapes, untouched beaches, beatiful mountains and what a amazing people seemed so genuine and friendly..i always knew that finding this blog would show me sites of true of wonder and understanding..thank you earl and signed me up for the “GO TO SCOTRA” tour can’t wait for my mind to blown in the flesh

  21. Soy

    This is absolutely amazing!!!!!!!
    It is lucky that I just found your page by accident.
    I’ve always dreamed about traveling around the world just like you.
    I’m a little bit scared but I started searching for the ways I can work in the other countries first.
    here’s question:
    As far as I know our country(South Korea) banned to travel to Yemen right now.
    How about America? Then, how did you visit this country?

    Ps. Is there any thoughts of traveling Korea? (of course South Korea)
    Our country has mindblowing beaches and mountains, and we have our own 5000 years of tradition too!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Soy – Welcome to the site! As for Yemen, I don’t think any country is banned from going there. It is just that many countries warn citizens not to go. But you can still go. And yes, I would love to visit Korea at some point in the near future. I’ll get there!

  22. Pingback: How To Travel To Yemen And Socotra Island | foXnoMad

  23. Megan

    Holy amazeballs. Thanks for bringing this little-known destination to my attention…I’d certainly never heard of it before. Definitely add me to the tour info list- I’ve been toying with the idea of visiting Yeman on a tour someday anyway!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Megan – Amazeballs it is, believe me! You are now on the tour list and I’ll be emailing you with more details soon.

  24. Jordan

    Great video!! My friend and I visited Socotra about two months ago, I recognized many locations! That was a crazy road up to Homhil.

  25. Jen Hawley

    I’d love to be put on the list for the tour please. I have wanted to go for ages but as a female traveling alone I have been a little wary. Can you keep me posted with the details please? 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Missy – What I’m going to do is offer an optional post-Socotra trip around the Yemen mainland for those who want using the driver and guide I had. You are now on the list and I will email you soon with details!

  26. Brunna

    Hey Earl,
    just wanted to say how much you inspire me. I used to get frustrated of not having a dream in terms of what I wanted to do with my future, but lately there is this growing feeling of sheer excitement thinking of the prospect of being able to live a life of travel like you. I always come and read your funny stories if I’m having a bad day and reading about your adventures makes me dream of someday starting my own. I think it’s worth it in the end of it all, looking back at life and thinking ‘wow that was amazing, wish I could live it all again’ and thats what you’re doing. You’re so brave and inspirational. I’m also writing so I can go back at this at a moment when my hopes of pursuing this life style are low so I can give myself a little push in the direction I want to go. Thanks Earl.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Brunna – That’s so great to hear and I’m certain that once you manage to take the first step, nothing will stop you from that point onward! There are ways to make it happen…after all, there are endless numbers of people out here in the world already doing it 🙂

  27. Scott

    Read an article about Socotra a few years ago in the NY Times and while the images stuck with me the name didn’t. I think I have told a few people since I wanted to go to “that island somewhere off Africa and Yemen or something that’s real isolated with unique trees or something”. Glad to know I know where I want to go now, man. Thanks for that.

  28. Patty Murphy

    Not one woman telling me to “Go to Socotra” in your video Earl. Any reason or are there not any on the island?
    The fish was funny and might be enough for me.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Patty – There are indeed women on the island but as it is a Muslim country, the women we met on the island did not want to have their photos taken or be on camera. This is quite common in the Middle East. But the fish wasn’t shy at all!

  29. Guusje

    Okay, now I defenitely want to go there! Added to my list of countries/places I want to visit. Thank you for showing me this! I always like to search for quite and stunning places, wandering and finding wonders. It is difficult to be fully satisfied with where you are, and I mean fully fully satisfied, so much places are amazing, but some of them have these special feeling. I experienced it once, in Malta. Sitting on a mountain top, Tas-Salvatur, Marsalforn, Gozo. I felt amazing there. So since then I’m hoping to find more places like it. And I hope I can visit Socotra Island in the future and hope to be stunned by this place too.


  30. Matthew Cheyne

    Absolutely stunning! The fact that you can bypass the mainland of Yemen is a real plus for Socotra. Your video just put this place on my list of places I want to visit. Can’t say when I’d be visiting though. It would probably be some years from now, after I visit New Zealand, South-East Asia and South America but I definitely want to go there one day. I’d love to know the ins and outs of how to get to Socotra, visas and the cost of say a 14 day stay and what there is to do there. Will you be covering all of this in a future post?

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Matthew – Yes, I will be writing more details about all that in the near future. But I can tell you now that you simply need to get a permit for Socotra which is easy to get, the flights are a few times per week from Sharjah (UAE) and the cost would vary depending on whether you wanted to have a driver/guide the whole time or do part of your stay independently. It’s more expensive than the mainland of Yemen but definitely not terrible. More to come…

  31. Cindy

    Ha! I ALREADY wanted to go to Socotra and even featured it on my blog last fall as one of my dream destinations. Loved your video – it looks like your trip was not only amazing, but a lot of fun. I’m probably too old and out of shape to hang out with you, but put me on the contact list for your tour anyway. I am very interested.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Cindy – There’s no such thing and it would be wonderful to have you on the tour! You are now on the list and I’ll let you know once I have more details 🙂

  32. Sara W

    Wow! It’s so interesting how someplace so small and overlooked by the rest of the world contains so much hidden beauty. The shapes of the trees are so unique! The water looks beautiful. Although if I lived there, I don’t think I would be able to stand staying there for the rest of my life! Certainly looks like an amazing place to visit!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sara – I don’t think many outsiders could live on that island permanently…that would be tough to move to such an isolated place.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Kimmy – Yes, those beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen anywhere on this planet and already I can’t wait to get back there.

  33. Julie Appleby

    The difference between visiting Yeman and Oman is incredible, isn’t it? And, yet, they are right next to each other. Great video!

  34. Julie

    Happily Socotra is quite a way off the kind of significant changes that will render it unrecognizable. Creation of infrastructure pretty much ceased with the uprising on the mainland in 2011 and as a society they are choosing to learn from the rest of the world’s mistakes. They believe in sustainability and protection of the existing eco-systems and bio-diversity and their government policies currently reflect that. Hopefully this means the biggest changes will be the banning of plastic bags (not even on the horizon yet) and the implementation of recycling. These changes will not only help to protect the island, it will also make it more attractive to tourists – even the capital Hadibo…

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Julie – That is the case although I did learn that some Emirati investors have already bought huge plots of land and are planning to build some major resorts on Socotra. So let’s hope that doesn’t affect things too much.

  35. Carol

    Yes! to Socotra Island! I would love to join the tour. So please keep me informed as to when, and all the details.
    WOW… I watched the video 3 times. It made me smile, and laugh… and yearn…..
    Looking forward to this trip…..

  36. Someday I'll Be There - Mina

    On one hand I AM wondering why people aren’t going there, on the other hand a part of me really wants it to stay the same at least until I see it as it is now! You know, once a place starts seeing so many tourists it changes on so many levels…

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mina – Well, since there are less than 1000 people visiting each year, the chances of it changing to rapidly are quite low I’d imagine. It will probably take some time to increase those numbers significantly, which would certainly change the island to some degree. Go there as soon as you can!

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