Top 10 tourist sites in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is as diverse in its landscapes as it is in its culture and traditions, from desert fortresses and mountain ranges to magnificent fish and coral reefs. Here are some of the sites and regions that are most popular among domestic, regional and international tourists.
Al-Soudah mountains near Abha are home to the Rijal Al-Ma’a mud brick village, located above the clouds. The beautiful buildings are accentuated with gleaming white quartz and colorful paint. It is a major destination for nature-lovers. Many structures in the village were preserved and restored by the local community, including the 400-year-old Al-Alwan Fortress, a source of pride for the community. Who would not want to ride a cable car, watching picturesque valleys and meadows as you head to a village within the clouds?
Wahba Crater, to the south of Madinah, is one of the most visited sites. It was once thought to have been formed by a meteorite, but geologists found it to be the result of a collapsed volcanic cavity. The crater is accessible to the public. Climbers can climb down to the white phosphate crystal bottom and get a sense of wonder from the surreal and alien landscape.
Al-Qara Mountain of Al-Hofuf, with its famous lime caves, provides the illusion of a castle in the rocks. The area was once an island where centuries of wind and waves have shaped the winding pathways, towering boulders and hidden caves.
Qassim is home to the longest valley in the Arabian Peninsula, stretching approximately 600 km across the desert. It contains more than 8 million palm trees, considered to be the largest date farmland in the world. It hosts the annual date festival between July and October, offering more than 30 types of local dates — a must-visit for those with a sweet tooth.
The Arar region is best known for its historical and archaeological sites that date back to the pre-Islamic era. Many valleys are home to fertile, wild vegetation. Famous ruins include Dukrah Palace and the old archaeological site of Lainah.
Approximately 100 km outside Riyadh, Rawdat Khuraim, also called the King’s Forest, is a great getaway from the busy capital. This desert area is spectacular during winter and spring, where patches of green oasis appear after rainfall. The King’s Forest was named after the late founder, who spent his spring retreats there. The late King Abdullah inaugurated the area as a wildlife park and sanctuary.
Abha is home of the Green Mountain and is one of the top tourist destinations during summer due to its mild weather and lush greenery. It is 2,200 meters above the Red Sea, making the weather pleasant all year round. One of the best areas is the Abha Lake Dam, with a 300,000-square-meter garden, juniper forests, and lush flora and fauna making their way from stone boulders. Many sports activities are arranged by tourist groups in the region. Abha is a gateway to the famous Rijal Al-Ma’a village, which is accessible by cable car.
Najran has to be one of the most colorful sites in the Kingdom. The area is home to one of the richest and most diverse cultures, dating back hundreds of years, with many treasures uncovered and well-preserved by locals and the government of Najran Province. Their clay houses are scattered on clifftops, with distinct white lines painted across the structures surrounded by acres of green forests and farmland. The people of Najran are considered to be some of the friendliest and richly dressed, adorned with marigold, jasmine and fresh herb crowns as part of their cultural dress.
Al-Ula is one of the oldest known towns in the Arabian Peninsula, and home to ancient civilizations such as the Dedan and Lihyan. The town was founded in 600BCE in a valley with a magnificent view of nearby snow-capped mountains and palm groves surrounded by red-sandstone cliffs. Nearby lie the great Nabatean tombs of Mada’in Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was home to great civilizations such as the Thamudis, Lihyan, Dedan and the Roman Empire. The well-preserved archaeological sites still contain many distinct inscriptions and tombstones written in ancient Nabatean scripts, which historians believe was an old form of the Arabic alphabet. Look up at the clear skies and explore the wonders of the stars.
Farasan Islands, in the southwest of the Kingdom, is an archipelago of 84 coral islands that look like a coral from space. They are reachable via ferry from Jazan port. The islands are considered to be a marine sanctuary, with fantastic visibility and an abundance of marine life as well as mangroves, to which one can venture out on water excursions. It is also a great spot for birdwatching.
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