The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s last true frontiers as well as one of the most misunderstood nations.
Recently opening its previously forbidden doors to travellers, this makes this ancient kingdom one of the most intriguing places globally to explore. A country rich in symbolism and home to some of the world’s most incredible pre Islamic treasures, Saudi Arabia is also home to unusual yet diminishing tribes, hidden cultures, forgotten practices and contrastingly modern cities with buzzing cosmopolitan vibes and a stunning coastline which is home to a vast array of marine life. Rich in rewards for the traveller who is keen to explore the countries wilds, Saudi Arabia delivers a contrast of landscapes and lifestyles unlike any other Middle Eastern destination and is the ‘what’s next’ for the curious minded voyager. A journey of discovery awaits.
Welcome to Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s newest tourism destinations! Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met and transfer to your hotel. Saudi Arabia is a young country that is heir to a rich history. Jeddah as a city, is incredibly fascinating to explore. Known most commonly as the gateway to Mecca, the city is home to incredible architecture, chilled coastline and a bustling souq. With a rich pilgrim history and a common pit stop for past traders, Jeddah is a wonderfully liberal city to arrive into for your first Saudi Arabian experience. The remainder of the afternoon and evening will be at your leisure.
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Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then meet your guide in the lobby and start your exploring of Jeddah.
Your first stop is Naseef House. One of Jeddah’s best-restored old coral houses, Naseef House belonged to one of Jeddah’s most powerful trading families and was later a royal residency for King Abdul Aziz. Look out for the ramps installed by the king to allow his camel-mounted messengers to ride all the way to the upper terrace, and the huge tree left of the door. As recently as 1920 this was the only tree in the whole of Jeddah.
Lunch today will be at a traditional restaurant.
After lunch, visit Al Shafee Mosque. Beautifully restored and maintained, this historic mosque, is one of the finest in Jeddah and is named after one of the four great imams of classical Sunni Islam. Most of the building dates from the 16th century and is Ottoman in style, including the impressive minaret. However, the mosque’s foundations date to Islam’s first period, with the mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca) almost 1400 years old. Stunning carved redwood doors open up to the small courtyard.
Return to your hotel where the rest of the afternoon and evening will be at your leisure. (B,L,D)
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before you transfer to the airport for your flight to Jazan. Upon arrival in Jazan, meet your driver/guide and head to a traditional restaurant for lunch.
After lunch, visit the Al Fifa mountains. The stunning mountains in Jazan remain one of Saudi Arabia’s paradise locations of pure serenity. Part of the Sarawat Range, the dense forests that cover the jagged rock formations create a green blanket of natural beauty on the backbone of the Arabian Peninsula. The mountains are characterised by their towering peaks, terraces as well as coffee and maize fields. Here enjoy some gentle hiking and incredible photo opportunities.
Drive back to Jazan to visit the heritage village. The Jazan Heritage Village captures and preserves the heritage, lifestyle, and cultural and culinary history of the whole of the Jazan province. Experience an amazing treasure trove of tradition and learn more about local life here via numerous exhibits and interactive areas. There are also excellent handicraft displays that showcase a variety of items made with traditional handmade techniques.
Transfer to your hotel where the remainder of the evening will be at your leisure. (B,L,D)
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Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before you depart to explore more of Jazan.
Take the ferry to Farasan. The Farasan Islands are the Crown Jewels of Saudi Arabia’s travel treasures. Upon arrival, you will visit the old city, explore the history, culture and architecture as well marvel at the beauty of nature in this area.
Farasan is one of the last places on earth where you can explore and discover such a unique natural habitat without another soul in sight. The waters around the stunning Farasan Islands are rich in marine life, and diving is growing in popularity here. The plankton-rich waters are home to rays, dolphins, giant whale sharks, many varieties of fish, including large numbers of parrotfish, and several endangered species of turtle. The islands are also home to some of the few remaining stretches of coastal mangrove along the Red Sea, the habitat of the endangered dugong. For those keen to explore the underwater world, there is time to snorkel or dive (additional charges will apply).
Return to Jazan and the remainder of the evening will be at your leisure. (B,L,D)
Enjoy breakfast your hotel before departing for Abha. This compact town, nestled in the green, mountainous interior, also boasts historic neighbourhoods of crumbling mud houses with unique local architectural features. Enjoy a half day city tour through this fascinating town.
Lunch today will be at a traditional restaurant.
Your next stop is the the Thulatha Market or as it is also known, the Tuesday Market. This market used to only operate on Tuesdays, hence the name, but is now open seven days a week. Breaking stereotypes about the Kingdom, the Thulatha Market is a place where women of all ages meet to sell homemade products. Enjoy watching the local ladies trade and mingle and why not purchase your own local products?
Then it is on to Muftaha Village. This cultural village really embodies the artistic spirit of the local region, Asir. A mosque with stunning calligraphy graffiti sits surrounded by a series of small art galleries featuring beautiful work by local and regional artists and photographers. Either side of the mosque are two small museums and around the back is a grassy entertainment stage with a coffee shop. A platform for local creativity, the Al Muftaha Village is unlike any other space in the region and is sure to be a great place to spend the afternoon.
Return to Abha and the remainder of the evening will be at your leisure. (B,L,D)
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Following breakfast at your hotel, continue exploring the local area. Your first stop today is Mount Souda, the highest peak in Saudi Arabia at 3,000m above sea level. One of the most interesting parts of this part of this part of the country apart from the natural beauty, is the distinctive look of the local people in the area. After taking in the natural beauty and panoramic views, continue to Khamis Mushayt city/agricultural base and then onto Habala. Explore this mountainous area in 4WD to really get off beat. Continue on to Hamsan Village and local museum where stone towers and houses are located and the museum being a replica of a local traditional Asir home. Continue to Asir where you will stop for lunch.
After lunch, you will head to the cable car and observe the colourful Flower Men of Tihama. This unique tribe ignore the modern ways of life and prefer to follow their own traditional practices. This is evident in their dress, how they live and also how they celebrate special occasions. Most men in Saudi Arabia, dress in the traditional white attire, whilst the Flower Men wear colourful sarong like clothing. The ring of herbs and flowers in their hair is what identifies them. Their homes are built with stones and a wooden roof with each family owning a heard of goats used for meat and milk. The Tihami tribe take great pride in preserving their ancestral traditions.
From here you will visit Khamis Mushayt, the city’s antique silver market, the traditional baskets’ market and Muftaha Village Art Gallery, and Shada Palace.
This evening, visit a typical Saudi home where you will enjoy dinner with a local family to experience true Saudi hospitality before returning to your hotel. (B,L,D)
Following breakfast, you will drive to Al Baha province, home to the jewel of the historical village of Zee Al-Ain. This enchanting 400 year old village clings precariously to the white marble hillside contrasted by the surrounding evergreen forest and is home to a local legend that tells of a man who lost his cane in one of the valleys, and to retrieve it he tracked it until he reached the village, where he enlisted the help of the inhabitants and retrieved his cane after digging up the spring. After exploring this time frozen villages, it is time to enjoy lunch in a traditional restaurant.
Continuing on, visit Prince Meshari Forest and the Al Baha Museum. Continue to the city centre where you will enjoy dinner before returning to your hotel. (B,L,D)
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Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then transfer to the airport for your flight to Al Ula. Upon arrival in Al Ula, meet your driver/guide and transfer to your hotel for check in.
Al Ula is a region which is home to a scattering of 2,000-year-old ghost towns made of stone and mud. Walking through the narrow corridors of Al ‘Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia is like traversing a maze, with ancient history and mystere at each turn. Once a bustling civilisation, these 800 tightly packed mud-brick and stone houses — parts of which are more than 2,000 years old — are now abandoned ruins, crumbling in the hot desert sun.
The remainder of the evening will be at your leisure as you check into your desert camp and surround yourself with mountains and are blanketed by a star filled sky. (B,L,D)
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Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then meet your guide in the lobby and start your touring of Al Ula.
Your first stop is a visit Al Ula viewpoint. The views as you wind your way up to this gem of a spot offer glimpses of what’s to come. At the top, the road plateaus through a windswept, lunar landscape of black basalt rock, before arriving at a sad-looking park with a precarious fence at its edge. Suddenly a breathtaking view comes into sight and the entire Al Ula valley, surrounded by majestic red-rock mountains disappearing into the horizon, sprawls out before you like a surreal painting.
Then it is on to Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia’s silent desert city. Madain Saleh isn’t as well-known as what some would call it’s sister city, Petra in Jordan, but the Nabateans’ second-largest city played a crucial role in their mysterious empire. Tucked away in the desert, today Madain Saleh is deserted, silent and stunningly well-preserved. Much of the city still lies under layers of sand. What has been uncovered is a vast necropolis of more than 131 immense tombs. At first, their sheer scale and number is overwhelming. Look closer, the Nabateans’ artistry is revealed through carvings of soaring eagles, imposing sphinxes and feathered griffins, not to mention intricate inscriptions. Wander the necropolis, peering in and out of tombs, touch the cold, age-old stone and imagine what life was like here in 31AD.
Lunch today will be at a traditional restaurant. Continue exploring this fascinating ancient city with your next stop at Hijaz Railway Station which was a narrow gauge railway that ran from Damascus to Medina. You will also visit the Nabatean Well as well as the sights of Qasr Al Bint, Diwan and Al Farid Palace and of course Wadi Al Ula. Enjoy dinner before returning to your camp. (B,L,D)
This morning you will depart in 4WD vehicles to the Alrkasat area of Al Ula before you start hiking in the Madkheel area.
Enjoy lunch before you transfer to the airport for your flight to Riyadh. On arrival, you will have dinner and then transfer to your hotel. (B,L,D)
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Following breakfast, drive to Ushaiger. Ushaiger is a historical village which is surrounded by a thick adobe wall with huge towers and broad doors made of ithal (tamarisk) wood that you enter to reach the heart of the village. The village is organised into seven districts and has many palm groves and orchards that are beautifully integrated to the maze of pathways. The village houses 400 mud houses and 25 mosques. Many of the wooden doors are decorated with brandings of circles, disks and other traditional geometric designs. Explore the local museum here before enjoying lunch. Continue on to Shagra where you will visit the old walls before returning to Riyadh for dinner and your overnight. (B,L,D)
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel with remainder of the morning at leisure. Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 5 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of 30% per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.