Although you might not think of the Middle East as a garden destination, there are many fine and interesting gardens to visit. Wealthy UAE countries have been building new, well-designed public gardens and landscapes. Elsewhere in the Middle East, countries like Jordan and Israel have botanic gardens with indigenous flora and habitats and also many high quality public gardens. Iran boasts one of the world's oldest garden traditions.
In Central Asia you can see the remnants of magnificent Mughal gardens in northern India and lush new resort hotel gardens, while in southern India and Sri Lanka there are spreading, terraced tea gardens, remnant colonial gardens, herb and spice gardens and botanical gardens to visit.
Country guides in this region:
Regional Garden Travel Guide to Middle East and Central Asia
In this Garden Guide, the Middle East includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar and Israel. (Note: Turkey is included in the Regional Garden Guide to Eastern Europe and Russia, and countries that are currently too dangerous for garden travellers are not covered). With many UAE airlines becoming popular for long haul flights into Europe, it’s worth looking at garden destinations in the Middle East for a travel stopover.
Central Asia includes India and Sri Lanka (use the links above), as well as several of the ‘stans’ – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan. (see below)
Climate of the Middle East
The Middle East is a place of extreme temperature variation, with many places experiencing very hot and dry summers but there are also areas that have cold winters with snow. Climate change is already causing even more severe heatwaves, with countries such as Kuwait, Lebanon, Dubai and Abu Dhabi experiencing summer temperatures over a scorching 50º C (122ºF).
Countries along the coasts of the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas have slightly milder climates more like the southern Mediterranean.
The Middle East has many very dry areas with less than 100mm (4 inches) rainfall, although countries in the north, such as the northern part of Iran, can have quite high rainfall, up to 2000mm (80 inches). Irrigation from significant river systems like the Tigris-Euphrates and Jordan Rivers feed large-scale agriculture; more recent dryland farming techniques such as drip irrigation have allowed crops growing to extend into new areas.
Best time to visit – October-April, but especially spring (March-April)
Gardens to visit in the Middle East
Gardens to see and visit in United Arab Emirates
Gardens to see and visit in Dubai
• Miracle Garden – 7.2 hectares of fantasy gardens with colourful flowers covering many unusual exhibits
• Zabeel Park’s Garden Glow – a colourful night garden made from recycled silk fabric and four million LED lights
• Al Noor Island (Emirate of Sharjah) – butterfly park, lit night garden
• Dubai International Airport – extensive internal gardens
Gardens to see and visit in Abu Dhabi
• Khalifa Park – city park perfect for a stroll in the cooler evening
• Paradise Gardens – large and colourful flower gardens with brightly coloured patterns in geometric garden beds
• Mushrif Central Park – well-designed botanical garden with arid desert plants, evening garden, children’s garden with water play area and the Wisdom Garden, a monument to Sheik Zayed, founding President of the UAE. Designed by team led by Brent Lloyd.
• Capital Gardens
Gardens to see and visit in Jordan
• Royal Botanic Garden of Jordan, Tell Ar-Rumman (in 2016 still under construction) recreates Jordan’s native vegetation communities including Aleppo pine, deciduous oak, juniper forest and tropical vegetation.
• Japanese Garden in Amman (Abdoun)
• Mijana cafe and restaurant – tree shaded courtyard
• Jordan River Foundation on Jebel Amman – handicrafts inside and a small but very attractive garden outside
• Gardens of the National Gallery of Fine Arts Park (recently conserved and restored) – sculpture, water-saving garden ideas
• Darat al-Funun – contemporary arts precinct and very pleasant local cafe with shady trees and raised garden beds
Gardens to see and visit in Israel
Gardens to see and visit in Jerusalem
• Jerusalem Botanic Gardens – includes a tropical conservatory, bonsai exhibition area, very interesting ‘plants in the Bible’ trail, and African savannah grass maze
• Garden of Gethsemane – ancient olive trees shade this historical garden of Christian significance
• Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations – Yad Vashen complex at Mt Remembrance. Honours non-Jews who risked their lives to saves Jews during the Holocaust. A deeply-moving garden with tree-shaded terraces, walls of honour with engraved names, and the Cattle Car Memorial to Deportees.
• Wohl Rose Garden – a small green oasis in the city
Gardens to see and visit in Nazareth
• Marie de Nazareth Center roof garden – large roof garden featuring plants from the Bible
Gardens to see and visit in Tel Aviv
• Tel Aviv University Botanical Gardens – 3.4 hectares, includes Israel’s native flora
• Ben-Gurion International Airport Garden (outside Terminal 3) – designed to be viewed from above, it creates an abstract view of the region’s landscapes.
• Yarkon Park – rock, cactus and tropical gardens, memorial gardens, river and lakes
Garden in Bahan Kibbutz (near Netanya, halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa)
• Utopia Orchid Park – plant display and nursery. Features a large greenhouse with orchids, tropical plants with elevated walkway, carnivorous plants, and large pond with waterfall. Outside is a herb garden, maze with animal topiary, large rose garden, succulents and the musical fountain.
Gardens to see and visit in Haifa
• Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa and ‘Akko – UNESCO World heritage listed gardens that are “tangible expressions of the human spirit” and have year-round free entry. In Haifa, 19 terraces of formal and meticulously-maintained gardens extend up the northern slope Mt Carmel. In nearby ‘Akko, the circular gardens surround the mansion of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith.
• Ramat Hanadiv Gardens – memorial gardens of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Established in 1854, the European-style gardens have both formal garden sections, with rose garden, fragrant garden, palm gardens, cascade garden and the Baron’s crypt. There is also an informal nature park.
Gardens to see and visit in Iran
Iran is the home of the Persian paradise garden, one of the most influential gardens styles throughout history.
Gardens to see and visit in Tehran
• Negarestan Garden – originally part of a palace and later a university complex but now surrounded by a busy neighbourhood. Persian-style rills and pools, courtyard garden, shady trees, flower gardens, roses, decorated wishing trees, traditional cafes.
• Bagh-e Iran – Persian garden of spring bulbs, mature trees, rills
• Sa’Ad Abad Palace complex – a complex of nearly 20 buildings built by Qajar dynasty in the 19th century, now mostly museums. Surrounded by gardens with decorative planting, mature trees and sculpture.
• Chamran Park, Karaj (1 hour northwest of Tehran) – well-maintained 8 hectare public park with large waterfalls, tulip displays, flower carpets, hedge and flower mazes, mature tree avenues
• Golestan Palace complex – continuously built and renovated for 400 years, large pools, water channels, tiled niches
Gardens to see and visit in Kashan (2.5 hours south of Tehran)
• Bagh-i Fin garden – 16th century garden created by Shah Abbas. Surrounded by thick walls to keep out the desert sands and drying winds, the garden features a tiled central rill with bubbling fountains, pools, orchards, flower beds and pavilions
Gardens to see and visit in Isfahan – (4.5 hours south of Tehran) – a ‘garden city’ laid out by Shah Abbas in the late 16th century.
• Hasht Behasht Garden – parts of a historical garden now surrounded by a public park
• Gardens of the Abassi Hotel
Gardens to see and visit in Shiraz (southern Iran)
• Bagh-e Eram (Eram Garden) – a superb rill with ponds and surrounding gardens with seasonal flower displays extends from the main 18th century building. Avenues of cypress trees, myrtles, built from 11th-18th centuries.
• Shazdeh Garden (Prince’s Garden), Mahan, Kerman – 5.5 hectare, late 19th century garden creates a rectangle of greenery that runs down a slope set amid the surrounding desert. Fountains and terraced water garden.
• Narenjestan-e Ghavam – Qajar-era garden from the 19th century. Elaborate water gardens with rills and pools, colourful flower beds and pots and surrounded by orange trees, and ivy-covered archways and walls.
• Bagh-e Delghosha (Delghosha Garden) – decorative flower gardens, citrus avenues
• Golshan Garden (Afif-Abad Garden) – garden surrounding palace now housing a weapons museum
Garden Travel Guide to Central Asia
In this Garden Travel Guide, Central Asia covers the subcontinent of India, including also Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. It also includes the ‘stans’ – those countries formerly part of the USSR such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan
Gardens to see and visit in Kazakhstan
• Oskemen- Levoberezhny Park – botanical garden, monuments, display houses and gardens representing Kazakhstan’s many ethnicities; Zhastar Park; Zhambyl Park
• Almaty – Botanical Garden
Kazakhstan is also a wonderful place for spring wildflowers, especially species tulips and primulas
Gardens to see and visit in Uzbekistan
• Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences, Tashkent
• Ismail Samanis Mausoleum garden, Bukhara
• Gardens of Gur-i Amir, Samarkand
Gardens to see and visit in Tajikistan
• Botanical Garden of Tajikistan Academy, Dushanbe