Inspiring Summer Destinations Across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Located at the southern end of the Red Sea coast, Abha is the culturally rich capital of the Asir region and a great base for exploring this mountainous part of Arabia. The city has a wealth of delights to discover, from the mud-walled Shada Palace, now a museum, to Abha Dam Lake and the Abha Palace Theme Park. Shop in vibrant traditional markets in Abha and its sister city, Khamis Mushait.
Then, roam historic neighborhoods like Al Nasb and Al Basta. Whether exploring the Al Muftaha art village or learning about tribal customs in the nearby villages of Al Habala and Rijal Almaa, Abha is the place to be immersed in the unique culture of the Asir region.
Al Baha is a city in the west of Saudi Arabia in the Hijaz area. It is the capital of Al Baha Region, and is one of the Kingdom’s prime tourist attractions. It enjoys a pleasant climate and is surrounded by more than forty forests, including Raghdan, al Zaraeb and Baidan.
There are a few places in the world where you can feel like a true explorer charting the unknown. In many historic destinations, the illusion of discovery is promptly shattered by a jungle of selfie sticks. But in AlUla, which is home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, deep in the desert in the northwestern region of the country, you might still be able to play out your fantasy of being an intrepid archaeologist for a day. Despite all the makings of a bucket list-topping global destination — ancient tombs that remain as the legacy of 7,000 years of human civilization, stunning natural rock formations and canyons, a plethora of adventure sports options and cutting-edge art installations — AlUla remains largely off the global tourism radar, giving you plenty of space and time for reflection with the silence of the vast desert and the monumentality of its natural assets.
Over the years, no Saudi city has been more open to outside influencers such as traders, international artists and Makkah-bound pilgrims than the ancient port of Jeddah. Indeed, the city’s unofficial motto is “Jeddah ghair,” or “Jeddah’s different.” Today, Jeddah is Saudi Arabia’s buzzing cosmopolitan hub, home to gleaming hotels and beaches. The city’s heart is still intact in Al Balad, the magical historical quarter that has undergone a renaissance in recent years. And the Red Sea is still central to it all — for trade, for diving among pristine reefs, and for fishing for Jeddah’s legendary seafood. The city where Eve was laid to rest (according to local lore) is a beguiling mix of old and new, and one that remains gloriously different.
King Abdullah Economic City, 100 kilometers north of Jeddah along the coast of the Red Sea, is a modern metropolis and booming tourist destination. Though it was conceived of in 2005 to attract international business, leisure is also a big part of KAEC’s appeal. International tournaments are played at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, one of the most renowned golf clubs in the Middle East, and a motorsports park is being built as part of the recently developed Lagoona leisure area. The expansive waterfront — which can be enjoyed year-round, as the desert climate in KAEC averages 28 degrees C — is another major draw, from the bike-friendly Beach Walk to soft-sand Yam Beach, which offers a range of watersports.
Just getting to Taif is a thrill. Visitors travel along a winding road through the mountains — passing fruit markets, rose farms and deep valleys along the way — before reaching the plateau upon which sits Taif. Often referred to as the City of Roses, Taif is known for the famously fragrant flowers that grow in the surrounding wadis and mountains. It’s also known as Saudi’s unofficial summer capital. Because of its altitude, Taif is a cool escape from the heat. And while the roses bloom in April, the city really blossoms in August, when the Souq Okaz cultural festival and the Crown Prince Camel Festival are in full swing.
It doesn’t take long to see why this small coastal town and region are frequently referred to as the Maldives of Saudi Arabia. North of the town, travelers can venture to more than 100 small islands known for their egg-white sands and ancient swaying palms, and home to a gentle technicolor world of nudibranchs, turtles and dugongs living in the aquarium-like waters. The beach at Umluj is postcard-pretty, but the main attraction is taking a boat to islands like Jabal Hassan, or relaxing at palm-covered coastal beaches such as Ras Al Shaaban and Doqm. From town, it’s possible to tour nearby mango farms or travel about an hour inland to Harrat Lunayyir. Here, discover a curious black lava field of craters and cones, which feels a world away from the dunes and turquoise waters of the coast.
The coastal city of Wajh is famed for its unspoilt beaches to the north and south, and its Hijazi-style old town, which resembles an uninhabited equivalent of Jeddah’s famous Al Balad. It’s the northern starting point for the Red Sea Project, which will see the development of the beautiful sandy atolls to the south. It is also within a day trip of Al Ula, and the famously beautiful rock-cut tombs of Hegra. Join the line for the buffet in Asmak Al Minaa for fresh seafood and an array of local dishes, eaten in the traditional way, cross-legged on floor cushions. For salads and grills, try Masoudia.