I haven’t been quiet about my love for Somaliland, as you’d know if you read my post on the capital, Hargeisa, or my reasons why you should book a flight to Somaliland asap!

But the amazing thing about Somaliland is that much of it remains undiscovered by the few tourists that visit this wonderful and welcoming country every year.

And that makes the country full of “hidden gems.”

One of those is the little ancient, and beautiful, coastal city of Zeila.

Nestled beside the turquoise blue waters of the Gulf of Aden, this city dates back thousands of years and is believed to be the the location of the biblical town of Havilah.

And as it’s just around 50 kilometers from Djibouti city, Zeila is definitely accessible for the adventurous traveler looking for something special.

It’s small and a little run-down, but if you’re visiting Somaliland you must spend visit Zeila, and here are my big three reasons why.

Ancient ruins in Zeila

For the beaches in Zeila

When many people around the world think of Somaliland, they usually think of war, Somalia (rather than an independent Somaliland) drought, and pirates. This thought process really does a great injustice to this beautiful country.

Because the reality is Somaliland has some of the most desirable traits for tourists – and one of those are incredible beaches.

And Zeila is one of the best places, if not the best place, to enjoy Somaliland’s stunning coastline.

Zeila is flanked by miles upon miles of pristine, white sandy beaches, and they remain almost completely untouched.

Simply put, there aren’t any huge holiday resorts here, or hundreds and thousands of sunbeds taking over the beach. It’s just unspoiled beauty, and it’s all to yourself.

Incredible pristine beaches flank Zeila.

To take a trip back in time

As a medieval Islamic port city that is believed to be mentioned in the Bible, it will come as no surprise that ancient ruins and sites of historic importance are scattered throughout Zeila.

Zeila was the center of the Ifat Sultanate – a medieval kingdom founded in the 13th century – and before that was the capital of the 9th century Adal Sultanate.

But the area was settled long before this time. In fact people are believed to have lived in, and around, the location of what is now Zeila up to 3500 years ago!

Because of this, a walk around ancient Zeila is like walking back in time.

There are ruins of both the Adal and Ifat Sultanates throughout the city, all of which can vividly take you back in time to those kingdoms centuries ago. Unsurprisingly then, Zeila is actually home to one of the world’s oldest mosques.

It’s a living breathing history book, and the amazing thing is that you can explore this whole place without meeting another tourist! Zeila Somaliland is a real must visit.

An artist’s picture of Zeila’s port in the 19th century.

To see Zeila’s stunning coral reefs

Somaliland really is full of surprises, and Zeila is at the forefront of that.

That’s because here you can go snorkeling and diving, and witness for yourself incredible unspoiled coral reefs that almost no one in the world has laid their eyes on.

There are six islands off the coast of Zeila and it’s possible to get a boat out to visit them, and go diving in and around their coastline. The water is shallow here, so even if you don’t want to get out of the boat and into the water, it’s still possible to see a lot of the beauty that lies beneath.

The reefs are the most diverse and the largest in the Gulf of Aden, and are home to over 130 types of coral fish.

Not just that, you can take a boat and land on one of the six uninhabited islands of the Zeila Archipelago. They are mainly low lying sandy islands, with the most perfect beaches you can ever imagine.

It’s a real paradise, and one that virtually no one knows about.

Some of the best coral reefs on the continent can be found in Zeila, Somaliland.