Bahrain is a rare Middle East phenomenon: a wealthy country without oil reserves of its own. This tiny island in the Caspian Sea, however, has maneuvered itself into the path of the money in the Middle East by refining much of the crude oil that comes out of the region.

With its affluence and precarious position at the center of the countries wielding a lot of power, Bahrain has developed a welcoming attitude toward foreigners and is a good place to warm up to the Middle East.

What to do

Bahrain is an urban and industrial island, meaning that if you're looking for wilderness hikes or outdoor escapes you'd better spin the globe and try again. What you can find in Bahrain is an introduction to the culture of the Middle East on a borderless, friendly island.

Travelers come to Bahrain to see the ancient ruins of Qalet Al Bahrain, an ancient castle and UNESCO Heritage site, as well as explore the local museums as they discover the culture. Recently Bahrain built a Formula One race track and was awarded its own race in the season.

Getting there

Even though Bahrain is an island, travelers can drive to Bahrain both from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. A series of causeways connects the nation and allows for easy passage between all three. Flying to Bahrain is also easy, Gulf Air hubs out of Bahrain and is well connected through London and the rest of the Middle East.

Bahrain is the only Gulf Arab state that admits travelers who have been to Israel.

Where to stay

Luxury hotels and resorts dot the coasts, but backpackers can find cheaper beds in the cities where hostels and hotels sit side by side.