21 Reasons to Visit AlUla - Saudi Arabia

Posted by Crooked Compass

Located 1,100 km from Riyadh, in North-West Saudi Arabia, AlUla is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. The vast area, covering 22,561km², includes a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites dating back thousands of years to when the Lihyan and Nabataean kingdoms reigned.

Untouched landscapes of AlUla
Untouched landscapes of AlUla

The most well-known and recognised site in AlUla is Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 52-hectare ancient city, Hegra was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom and is comprised of more than 100 well preserved tombs with elaborate facades cut out of the sandstone outcrops surrounding the walled urban settlement.

Current research also suggests Hegra was the most southern outpost of the Roman Empire after conquering the Nabataeans in 106 CE.

Hot air ballooning AlUla Saudi Arabia
Hot air ballooning over Hegra, AlUla

In addition to Hegra, AlUla is home to a fascinating historical and archaeological sites such as: Ancient Dadan, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms, which is considered one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula; thousands of ancient rock art sites and inscriptions at Jabal Ikmah; Old Town, a labyrinth of more than 900 mudbrick homes developed from at least the 12th century, and Hijaz Railway and Hegra Fort, key sites in the story and conquests of Lawrence of Arabia.

Jabal Ikmah - AlUla Saudi Arabia
Jabal Ikmah - AlUla, Saudi Arabia

THE HERITAGE…

1. As international travel resumes, AlUla’s natural and man-made works of art - from stunningly preserved tombs to rock formations sculpted from nature - will top the 2021 travel hot lists. Don’t miss the opportunity to see them for yourself before everyone else.

Carved by the winds and wild climate
Carved by the winds and wild climate

2. Now open to visitors all year-round, marvel at the 94 elaborately-carved tombs built by the Nabataean Kingdom at Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. After extensive restoration and the addition of new immersive experiences, the labyrinth of 900 mud-brick houses that make up AlUla Old Town is opening to visitors in early 2021 – you can take a tour with a Rawi up to the castle to get a great bird’s-eye-view.

AlUla old town
AlUla old town

4. Catch the magical moment when the sunlight illuminates the path of The Siq at Jabal Ithlib, the Holy Mountain at Hegra. There’s a 30-minute window when the rays shine through.

5. Examine the rock art at the Ashar Valley, these petroglyphs hold precious stories about how ancient civilisations lived and what was important to them.

Inscriptions at Jabal Ikmah
Inscriptions at Jabal Ikmah

6. Explore the famous tombs, wells, and the curious burial grounds from above, whether in a vintage aircraft, a helicopter or a hot air balloon, few destinations can compete for aerial views like the open-air living museum of AlUla.

Hot air ballooning over AlUla
Hot air ballooning over AlUla

7. Visit ancient Dadan, spot the famous carved lions high above and uncover stories about the legends of the Dadanite and Lihyanite Civilisations. The same ticket will allow access to the open-air library of 500 rock inscriptions at Jabal Ikmah.

Dadan and its ancient carvings
Dadan and its ancient carvings and wild landscape

8. Visit Hijaz Railway and Hegra fort, the story of this famous train route and its importance in transporting pilgrims to their holy places is a highlight for trainspotters and history buffs.

THE ADVENTURE…

9. Hike the Adventure Trail, a half-day trek through the dramatic Madakheel landscapes is the perfect way to be at one with nature, or try the shorter Hidden Valley or Oasis View trails.

Rugged landscapes of AlUla
Rugged landscapes of AlUla

10. Bike or hike to the lookout point of Harrat Uwayrid for spectacular views of Hijaz Mountain range, oasis, canyons and valleys, the ideal backdrop for enchanting sunset photos.

11. Follow the pack leader on bike or on horse-back with these newly launched leisurely trails crossing through the sand dunes and surrounded by AlUla’s unique landscapes.

AlUla Rock Bridge
AlUla Rock Bridge

12. Feel the wind in your hair while whizzing through the canyon on a zipline, or hire a three-wheeled desert buggy at the new Adventure Canyon.

NATURE EXPERIENCES…

13. With more than 29 thousand square kilometers of stunning desert landscape, AlUla is the perfect place to be safely re-acquainted with the joys of travel.

Exploring the desert
Exploring the desert

14. Book an evening Stargazing Tour at Al Gharameel, get comfortable on a traditional carpet and as you stare into the bright stary night and hear stories of the human ingenuity of ancient civilisations - it’s like 2020 didn’t happen.

15. Go hunting for rock formations at sunrise or sunset, the best time to view iconic AlUla rocks such as Elephant Rock, Face Rock, Rainbow Rock, Hand Rock, Dancing Rocks Or Pyramid Mountain.

16. Take a stroll through the oasis of lush palm groves or visit AlUla Fresh Farm and sample the varieties of zingy citrus fruits, such as the Jaffa orange and helo lemons.

Citrus farms in AlUla
Citrus farms in AlUla

17. Reconnect with each other and with the friendly locals and enjoy the surrounding nature while refueling on a juicy burger, coffee and donuts, or local cuisine from one of eight food truck vendors at the new Winter Park dining precinct.

18. Relax. Enjoy the silence, the vastness and monumentality of the desert while sipping on an Arabic coffee.

Silent landscapes of AlUla
Silent landscapes of AlUla

ARTS & CULTURE...

19. Visit Maraya – the Guinness Book of Record’s biggest mirrored building. This multi-purpose concert and entertainment venue is reopening early 2021, its cladding of 10,000 square metres of mirrors reflecting the desert landscapes makes it a magical experience that is never the same.

20. Watch local artisans practising their craft from pottery to weaving wool into intricate patterns in the dedicated handicraft tent at Hegra, or at the arts hub of Madrasat Aldrirah – both new cultural immersion experiences coming soon to AlUla.

Traditional woollen weaving
Traditional woollen weaving

ACCOMMODATION...

21. Coming in 2021, Habitas AlUla, an eco-resort with a focus on immersive music and cultural events, and Ashar Resort, 5-star luxury desert suites which will transform into a Banyan Tree Resort later in the year. Both will be opening for bookings during the course of the year.

Glamping in wilds of AlUla
Glamping in wilds of AlUla

Dreaming of exploring Saudi Arabia? Why not join our small group tour or chat to our team to customise a journey exclusively for you!