From stargazing and rock climbing to scuba diving and hiking, there’s adventure around every turn in Saudi—even its cities offer an abundance of opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. The destination features unexpected variety when it comes to outdoor excursions within easy reach of urban environments or spread across multi-day itineraries. As the country welcomes renewed international interest, thanks in part to the Saudi Vision 2030, here are some trip-planning ideas, centered around the hubs of Riyadh, AlUla, and Jeddah, to help travelers go further and experience more.
For beginning trekkers seeking an ideal balance of city and country, Jebel Fihrayn, otherwise known as the Edge of the World, is an easy, two-hour drive from Riyadh. As one part of the Tuwaiq Escarpment, a long, narrow cliff running 500 miles across the center of the country, the dramatic rock formation is renowned for its expansive panorama across a 1,000-year-old ocean bed. Tours range from an offroad adventure out to the bluff for a sunset selfie to one with more add-on options, including hikes and overnight camping.
In either case, clients interested in natural history can venture down to the lower plateau to examine the primordial seabed, with fossils dating back 160 million years among ancient caravan routes still in use today. The site remains largely unadorned of instructive signs or infrastructure, so visitors will find helpful the services provided from such operators as Alboraq, which employs knowledgeable, English-speaking guides who can furnish transportation by 4×4.
Literary explorers should find tremendous appeal in the northern part of Saudi, whose red deserts remain largely unchanged from the days of Arabian Nights and whose stories they helped inspire. Starting in the famed city of Hail, with its UNESCO-protected petroglyphs, tours to Al Nafūd offer guests the chance to fully immerse themselves in that enchanting setting, camping under an unforgettable blanket of stars. As one of the largest undeveloped stretches of sand in the Arabian Desert, Al Nafūd also boasts uncommonly clear skies, making for some of the best stargazing in Saudi. Its distinctive topography allows for sand surfing, or even dune bashing, where the adventurous can navigate the hilly formations at breakneck speeds via buggy or SUV.
To get the most out of this remote region, work with the experts at Sana Tourism and Go Zahid to create an itinerary suited to individual interests. This is a region where local guidance is paramount, as the ever-shifting dunes can threaten even the most basic campsite when not planned properly.
Another popular locale for stargazing, the ancient settlement of AlUla dates back some 200,000 years. Today, having opened to international visitors in 2019, it’s one of the fastest-growing destinations in Saudi, thanks in part to a recent uptick in stylish hotels within its lush oasis.
In the surrounding desert, however, millions of years of erosion have left the region looking like a Martian wonderland, with wind and water carving handholds for climbers. Shamal Adventures’ multiday itineraries throughout the region have options to navigate suspended bridges and sheer cliff faces on its Via Ferrata, to bask in the anthropomorphic beauty of Elephant Rock, or to explore the Nabataean tombs of nearby Hegra, a remarkably preserved UNESCO heritage site.
As the second-largest metropolis in the country and a gateway city to the sacred cities of Makkah and Al Madinah, Jeddah is a convenient hub for most travelers and its prime location along the Red Sea makes it especially appealing for scuba-certified travelers looking for a completely different diving experience.
The Red Sea’s relatively high temperatures, salinity, and biodiversity should be easy selling points—of its 1,200 different species of fish, 20 percent are exclusive to its waters. Within the bounds of Jeddah, visitors can swim with sharks along the marinas of Sharm Obhur or explore a Greek shipwreck near the island of Abu Tair, while dive tours can include the 25-mile coral reef of Abu Faramish, located two hours north of the city. For on-the-ground expertise, including the option to reserve local cruises, contact Palms Land or First Travel Company.
An hour’s drive away from Jeddah, Moon Valley is a popular escape from the city. Named for its lunar-like rock formations and clear skies, the site is prime territory for hiking, with plenty of activities to enjoy over the course of a multiday stay (think campfire barbecues, yoga sessions, quad biking, and treks up to the summit of Moon Mountain, just to start).
The best time to visit Moon Valley is during winter or spring when the climate is more temperate. For more information, explore Saudi International Travel Company. Fully customizable tour options that can be arranged through Tetrapylon.
CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — More than 40 world war two veterans recently traveled to Normandy, France to commemorate the 1944 D-Day invasion.Channel 2 Action News s
Summer has finally arrived, but don’t worry if you want to travel and are having a hard time deciding which destination is right for you. Right on cue, U.S.
Sign up to Simon Calder’s free travel email for expert advice and money-saving discountsGet Simon Calder’s Travel emailA woman has sparked debate over wheth
CNN — In CNN Travel’s latest news roundup, we bring you the world’s best airlines for