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