Your Ultimate Guide to Visit KSA: Top 10 Things to do in Saudi Arabia
Updated On: November 08, 2023
The world lacks tourist destinations indeed. It happens all the time when telling people they should visit KSA at least once in their life. Saudi Arabia is not a land of oil riches, kings and queens, lucrative job opportunities, or well-to-do folks driving Land Rovers over the arid dunes. But, trust me, this country will surprise you with its offerings.
And don’t get me wrong, I am not justifying your visit to this unique spot because I am Saudi— no, at all, I just was born there, to be exact. And I see this country can provide you with endless thrills and sensory experiences unlike any other.
For many decades, you, as a tourist, might have been welcomed there. But unfortunately, KSA has been closed to the world because of its conservative communities. But now the country has adopted a new strategy due to taking advantage of its natural resources ranging from reserves and pristine Red Sea beaches as well as upscale resorts and hotels with luxury services on-site. And kudos to Saudi Arabia, it has done a fantastic job recently, and we see that it may continue to develop, attracting thousands of tourists throughout the upcoming years.
In this insider guide, we will help you know more about Saudi Arabia, worthy attractions, where to stay, and other essential tips you need to follow during your visit.
Why I Should Visit Saudi Arabia… Is it Even Worth it?
Every Muslim around the world has a dream of visiting KSA because it’s home to the Kaaba and the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, which Muslims believe is the final messenger from God to call for Islam. But we are here to explore Saudi castles and hidden gems or take a cruise on the Red Sea. We want to discover this corner of the world from a new perspective.
So, the question is: why should you visit Saudi Arabia.
- Housing Sacred Spots
You can consider it the capital of Islam, so if you are interested to know the foundations of Arab culture, then this cosmopolitan country is a must. KSA comprises the most sacred cities in Islam, Mecca, and Madina; over 2.5 million people worldwide visit these locations annually. They come here to fuel their spirits, do religious rituals, and fulfill Islamic orders. During the pilgrimage season, these two places are swarming with people who are seeking God’s forgiveness and cleansing of their souls from sins in the perspective of Muslims.
But can everyone visit Mecca and Madine? The authority has designed strict laws that do not allow non-Muslims to visit Mecca and Madine. But if you have this faith, undoubtedly, this place should be on your bucket list right now. You will see that the energy of this place is highly positive. The religious history of Mecca can’t be missed out. The scene of people moving through peacefully and silently will be a shower of emotional experiences. For sure, Mecca is a spiritual haven.
And if you have the opportunity to be there during Dhuʻl-Hijjah to witness the Islamic holy pilgrimage, you should do so at all costs in which all people come equally before God with the same attire and appearance. It’s a profoundly sensory journey to give up on all mentalistic aspects of life, share with people you don’t know a collective experience, and reconnect with yourself.
Other ancient landmarks and antique constructions, on the other hand, have lately been destroyed to make way for the expansion of Masjid al-Haram.
In Madine, you can visit Al-Masjid an-Nabawi or the Prophet’s Mosque, with a history dating back to more than a thousand years. The city is also home to the world’s first mosque, Quba Mosque. Some of the most significant events in the history of Islam have taken place around this area and other historical places, such as Al-Baqi cemetery, where some Islamic leaders are buried, and the Mountain of Uhud, another vital site for Muslims. And all historical sites give Muslims free access to visit anytime.
- Multicultural and Diverse Country
Consider Saudi Arabia, if just for a moment, and it’s more than likely you’ll conjure up images of camels, people with a traditional dress, thawb, or a considerable lamb grilling on a vertical spit. In fact, there are many beautiful places to visit in Saudi Arabia, but most importantly, it’s a multicultural country welcoming people from different backgrounds. Here is the thing: over one-third of the Saudi population is not Saudi. So you will come across people from all over the globe living peacefully and happily side by side, from India, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, and the Philippines, all melting to create this abnormal nation. It would be a lesson to learn about different cultures along the way.
I grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood where my next-door neighbors were both Lebanese and Indian. So you might observe a Turkish man and an Indonesian man conversing if you walk around the area. And it’s so typical around the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is also home to the best points of interest, ranging from archeological sites, magnificent scenery, beautiful beaches, and high-end museums in terms of attractions. In addition, there are world-class entertainment centers, shaggy desert cattle, historical ghostly castles (kidding! It’s impressive and without any doubt worthwhile,) and of course, the birthplace of Islam. Altogether, these things are part and parcel of the fabric that makes Saudi Arabia unique and diverse.
- Unrivaled Experiences & Futuristic Cities
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lends itself to travel and exploration in many different ways. You can walk around the historical sites and castles in Taif or head to the fabled battlefields in Riyadh, where the ferocious clans fought against invaders and uncovered Masmak Fort, to find out more about the unbelievable tales.
Your itinerary will include uncovering colorful houses in Jeddah; then, you can follow in the footsteps of illustrious kings and queens and visit the National Museum of Saudi Arabia. Or you can track the literacy trails which were trodden by the likes of Imru’ al-Qais, and Al-Khansa, whose legacy would tell you more about the nature of the Arabic community. That’s when visiting King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is a must to immerse yourself in this intense literature tour.
Another great attraction of Saudi Arabia is its solitude. You can enjoy yourself at the spotless stretches of duns to test out the Bedouin experience, camping, and get a camel for a non-stop expedition around the Arabian Desert.
And don’t think of Saudi as just a desert —actually, it takes the most considerable portion of the country, the fifth-largest desert in the world, occupying 900,000 square miles. However, the government has made great efforts to turn it from secluded expanses of sand into a high-tech country with futuristic metropolises and mighty skyscrapers looming on the vista. Its distinctiveness and features also mean that it presents a punch of luxurious accommodations and swanky utilities to have fun.
- A Chance to Know More About Less-Known Periods of History
Saudi Arabia now draws the attention of archeologists worldwide who are running excavating operations to discover more about the pre-Islamic period, and every day they find something valuable dating to 100 thousand years. In addition, this country comes with deeply-set gems and beautiful landmarks often overlooked by travelers, waiting to be explored.
What you like so much about Saudi Arabia is that people here are so proud of their legacy that no efforts are spared to hit each corner to get out their hidden treasures, adding them to their heritage. And the whole country has taken the same path, AlUla Project, one of the leading tourist projects as the kingdom aims to put itself on the world’s touristic map.
Not to mention that AlUla comprises the Nabataean city of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history of 200,000 years ago.
And it’s not AlUla; the kingdom has announced several gigantic projects scattered around, such as TROJENA that will provide visitors with hiking, mountains, tackling road trips, and enjoying some of the world’s natural reserves. Most of these leading projects are scheduled to be completed in 2030, but there is no need to wait until this date and prices come to double. So pack your luggage right away and make use of pristine untamed natural beauty.
In a nutshell, Steeped in history and culture, Saudi Arabia is a beautiful city to visit with no shortage of entertainment ideas and places for outings.
- Well Paved Trip Roads and Great Transportation Network
In case you don’t know, Saudi Arabia is a sprawling country with 2.15 million km², and you are most likely to travel a lot around the kingdom to hit all the intriguing attractions. Cities are not located near each other; it will take a more-than 9h drive to go from Riyadh to Jeddah— the major cities in KSA. However, you will have fun if you rent a car during your visit and trek on a long drive to explore remote corners and remote stretches of small villages. I think the country is already made for road trips. And don’t forget to stop from time to time at one of the cozy rest stops to catch a glimpse of the naturalistic landscapes throughout your way and snap away wherever you go. *I mean, here really using Snapchat to live life as a native since it’s the most dominant application here.
And don’t worry too much about fuel costs! It comes to nothing in one of the world’s largest oil exporters. So press the gas pedal wherever you go and let yourself indulge in multi-day treks and visit some of the coolest countries on the planet; just be ready for culture shock and give yourself a chance to savor a completely different experience.
However, it goes without saying that you will be able to go throughout the nation without any worries since transportation modes will make your trip a piece of cake. (For more information about transportation and how to move around, see Transportation in Saudi Arabia section!)
- Many Unmistakable Scuba Diving in Saudi Arabia
When we said that Arabia is brimming with activities and things you should do, we literally meant it. And you will be rewarded with tons of the most beautiful diving. Under the surface of the Red Sea, there is a vibrantly colored world to explore, especially if you make your way to Jeddah, which houses a myriad of stunning coral sites. Most of these die-for places have been kept untouched since they weren’t used as tourist destinations. But now, the Saudi coastline hosts plenty of sandy and stony beaches with romantic settings with lochs alongside turquoise waters. In addition, you are loaded with water sports and thrilling activities ranging from snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and everything in between.
You can rent a boat for a sunset cruise trip that will be an unforgettable trip with your family. The only advice is to book with a local vendor ahead of time and sail the sea from Jeddah, Yanbu, and Al-lith. And don’t forget to spot some wreckage of ships and some quiet ancient remnants.
Although you can fish, drink a tangy thing, or just lay on the deck, take in all the beautiful scenery. Plus, some journeys include a late lunch before coming back; invest in this package for an unbeatable adventure.
Side tip: if Scotland is famous for tartan kilted Highlanders, and blaring bagpipes, Saudi should be known for its exquisite creatures from sharks, turtles, barracudas, and endless swathes of coral fish.
- Redefine Your Perspective About the Other Side of the World
Travel is not just for leisure or fancy hotels, and at night, dine out at posh restaurants serving deep-fried chicken with French soup. If you need to get this idea, then go to Austria— however, Austria is more than about a luxurious feeling. Travel is about investing in yourself to learn things no one can tell you and no book can give you. And when it comes to traveling to the Middle East, all myths and stereotypes show up. “It’s not safe, dude!” “Oh, are you serious!” “Why! Much more things are around! It’s hell, man!” And billions of things can be said like that in the same situation. But how long will you trust news and movies and let them shape your thoughts?
For example, the majority of western cultures think that Saudi women don’t have equal rights or are not allowed to work.
To be clear, there are many rules in this kingdom that don’t make any sense. As for making disparaging remarks about the royal family, that’s out of bounds. So the overall mood may be dismal. But, then then, who cares? You are an explorer who wants to speak with people, view god offerings worldwide, and get familiar with diverse cultures to be more peaceful and accept differences in others. It doesn’t matter how democracy is practiced in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else! But what matters is the lessons you’ve picked up through engaging with other human beings.
Transportation in Saudi Arabia
If you’re planning to visit Saudi Arabia this winter, you might be surprised to find that a lot of people don’t do what you might think they do. Instead, they actually go out for parties, enjoying pleasant weather—which is rare here, for honesty— even some places are washed by snow which you can relish in winter vibes! But what about transportation in Saudi Arabia, and how can you move through the country?
KSA is home to 24 regional and local airports, even in non-major cities, along with 3 international airports in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dhahran. Many flights are taking off every day, connecting the whole country. And the government makes a great effort to expand the air network to cover all parts of the kingdom. And it will cost you around $200.
Rent a Car
Generally speaking, the worst you’ll get from making any of the common mistakes is that you will waste your time and a bunch of dollars searching for the best way to explore Saudi Arabia. However, being prepared could help you save money and a bit of confusion and give you a profound guide to hitting even lesser-known bends. That’s why we recommend renting a car during your visit and heading out to trace back all landscapes coming with the Red Sea coastline. It will cost you around $140 – $2500 for 3 days. Of course, it depends on the car model, the city, and how many days you would use the car. Anyway, it’s a perfect option for those who want to explore the country like a local.
Taxi or Uber
A lot of whom miss some of the most appealing aspects of this elegant country usually get stuck with nearby attractions and leave KSA without savoring the authentic spirit of the Middle East. Thankfully, taxis, Uber, and Kareem –another digital platform to request a ride– are relatively available anywhere with a reasonable fare (with an average cost of $26). No matter when or where you love to go, allow yourself to get lost as long as you have an excellent mobile connection to request a trip.
Easily accessible by road between Saudi cities will make your travels through the kingdom fun and digestible. So, if you are searching for affordable alternatives, you can use some bus service providers like Saptco. For example, a trip from Riyadh to Jeddah could set you back by around $50. And it will go beyond the obvious and enchanting spots making your next visit to KSA a little more special. The downside is that there are just a few stations in major metropolitan areas. But it comes perfect for traveling between cities.
You can give a rail system in Saudi Arabia a try, especially if you know that it’s slightly new, coming with high-end technology to link Riyadh and Dammam. In addition, the rail network passes through other smaller cities you will want to discover to gain insights into this rich cultural area around the Arab peninsula. The journey on the train could cost you around $30. If you want to use the train, you may reserve it online at any time since Saudis aren’t big fans of this mode of transportation.
In a nutshell, transportation is available everywhere you travel in Saudi Arabia. If you want to explore beyond big cities, consider renting a vehicle, using Uber for short trips, or taking a domestic flight, usually less costly and more pleasant. Buses and railroads are less expensive choices.
Things You Should Avoid in Saudi Arabia… What You Need to Know Before You Go
- A tourist visa to Saudi Arabia is now super easy. You can apply online. And in just a few minutes, you will finish the application waiting for the Saudi embassy’s reply. In case your country is not listed on the website, call the embassy right away. It will cost you around $125, including visa fees and insurance, and this will be valid for one year from the day you receive it. And your stay should not exceed 90 days, whether at one or several entries. There is no need to repeat any of the processes since you haven’t surpassed the number of days.
- When going to a nation like Saudi Arabia, it goes without saying that travel insurance is vital, mainly since you may not be able to deal with the desert environment or be bitten if you camp in some of the more isolated places. Many local insurance companies offer a brilliant package that will help you receive decent healthcare if you need it.
- One of the common misconceptions people have when visiting Saudi Arabia is that they are pretty afraid of police officers. Rules in Saudi are stringent, and you don’t want to break any of them while navigating the country; however, don’t worry when dealing with any Saudi policeman. You are so welcomed in the country as a foreigner, and everyone is ready to offer you a hand if you need any. Saudis want to polish away all stereotypes of their previously closed-off country as it’s a primitive society with outdated traditions. When you respect them, they will return the favor by showing you respect and affection.
- Saudi Arabia is safe for tourists. I think it’s one of the safest places to visit alone or with your family. The authority has already made a tremendous effort to keep streets clean and neat. You can go out at night without head-mumbling. Yes, the country is in its early stage as a well-trod tourist path, but millions of people come here for work and to participate in Haji rituals. Locals are somewhat used to dealing with multiple nationalities.
- Attention, please, dabbing is prohibited in Saudi Arabia! It looks ridiculous, but remember you need to follow any rules when you are overseas, even if it doesn’t make sense. The Saudi Interior Ministry’s National Commission for Combating Drugs was announced in 2017 that it’s tightly associated with drug culture and it helps to spread “bad morals” in the society. Consequently, dancing in Saudi Arabia is not so acceptable even though the country has hosted thousands of musical concerts year-round. Saudi Arabia is ever-evolving. However, if you follow the traditional community’s norms, you will keep yourself out of trouble. In addition, before engaging in any reckless activities, consider the consequences. Otherwise, you will get a common cold and maybe weary looks from the locals.
- Don’t say, write, or read anything against the regime. The royal family has dominated the Saudi skyline since the 18th century. And no one, we literally mean no one, has the ability and bravery to oppose them. The least-worst end might be spending the rest of your life in jail. It’s not fair, or it’s already a brutal scenario, but it’s what things are going on in the other world, and you don’t need to fight against them. Chat with locals, fuel your wanderlust by exploring untouched places, and follow unbeaten trails alongside its fascinating historical sites.
- There are many ways to greet people in Saudi Arabia; good morning is not one of them. Locals say “as-salam alaikum,’ you can consider it the official way to say hi or hello or good morning in KSA. These are effective, but showing an awareness of Arab culture is particularly endearing. And if anyone greets you with it, you can reply, “was alaikom as-salam,” which means peace to be upon you from Allah.
- The best time to travel to Saudi Arabia is not in the summer, for sure, during which everything is horribly hot— the water, the car, the door handle. And summer here starts early. Therefore, the best time to visit Saudi Arabia is between mid-November to early March to be rewarded with glorious weather to go for outdoor activities.
- As we mentioned before, Mecca is limited to Muslims since it’s the holiest place for them on the planet, and no location is even close to its position. So, don’t try to sneak in there. Of course, you can pretend to be Muslim and tell falsehoods to get into this place, but if you don’t believe in it, why do this? For your safety and free-trouble trip, don’t go to Mecca if you are not interested in Islam.
- Before visiting any place, read the instructions to avoid awkward situations. Some public spaces, till this moment, allocate different zones and seating areas for men and women. Major cities like the capital and Jeddah have eased restrictions and allowed all people to get together in the same place, but the matter still needs to be addressed around the kingdom.
- Avoid physical displays of love like hugs and kisses while in public. It’s against the law and not tolerated in society. So, Keep affection in your private space and don’t provoke unnecessary problems.
- Don’t capture photos of people without asking permission. Arabia is a place of great beauty and rich history, and many exciting points dotted along the way. In addition, we know if you are a photographer or you want to take memorable shots, it will be stunning when they have been taken in a natural setting. But it’s not acceptable here. Ask people first to allow you to take the weather, and it can score many brownie points.
- Don’t be intimidated if you can not speak Arabic, the official language in Saudi. English works fine, and most Saudis, especially those under 30 and in the main cities, can communicate in English; not an excellent accent, but at least you will get what you need. And all menus and street signs are available in English and Arabic. *Some words can help you: Yes = Na am, Thank you = Shokan, No = La, Please = Min Fadlak, Excuse me = Afwan.
- The dress code should take a portion of your thinking before booking a flight to Saudi. In the kingdom, you can go out with whatever you want. Shorts and shirts are not the best choices for you as a male, even if the temperature surpasses 40C. Women now are not obligated to wear a hair scarf. Instead, they must cover their shoulders and knees. However, the country has come a long way to make many registration amendments in terms of civil laws, and many things still need to be altered to offer people their own rights to what they wear and what they say. In general, wear modestly.
- In Saudi, there are many banned items, which you need to know before traveling to KSA. Alcohol beverages are prohibited in the kingdom, even in tourist places and hotels. And if you are thinking of bringing your desired drinks with you, you are most likely not to be entered with them, or maybe your visa will be canceled immediately, in which case you will be sent back to your country right away. Narcotics come under this category as well.
- You won’t find pork on the menu anywhere. There is no point along the path where it may be served since it is against Islamic teachings.
- Pornographic stuff is, without a doubt, against the law; yet, unmarried couples may now rent a home or a hotel room and live together.
- If you plan to kick all places out, you need at least to stay for one week to have a chance to experience top attractions and their surroundings on your self-drive tour. Each bend is well worth a visit, and the country is home to many mythical creatures, breathtaking castles, and lovely museums full of antiquities. So, don’t be in a rush or stressed, and take in all the beauty surrounding you.
- Please don’t start talking with women unless they start. Yes, Arabia is doing a great job of being a more open society, but you should be attentive when it comes to women, especially when you see a woman covered in a black attire “abaya.” Contrary to popular belief, not all Saudi women are covered by the hijab. Saudi women can now go out and about, work in all industries, travel to several locations on their own, and even fly overseas to study in the United States. I believe that the vast majority of people in this nation will go out of their way to ensure that you have a pleasant experience, which will assist in disseminating an excellent reputation about their country.
- There are still specific codes of conduct that you should adhere to, such as refraining from playing loud music in public areas during prayer times “Athan,” when the muezzin “or the sound of summoning Muslims to come to pray” is being broadcast. You may have implied that you do not respect their faith and beliefs. Simply wait till it is over, and then you have the freedom to do anything you want.
Where to Stay in Saudi Arabia
Then the question is which are the best hotels in Saudi Arabia to stay whether you are a solo traveler or a couple, or you intend to explore this corner with your family.
From my experience traveling around the world, there are two ways to enjoy your time: as a tourist or as a local. The first one will be fun with a sense of luxury and uncover popular landmarks. The second, which is our preferred way, lies between striking a conversation with locals, using public transportation, and visiting crowded markets. In traveling, there is no wrong. All you need is to allow yourself to see all things to do in Saudi Arabia.
No matter what your plate, you can be both in this area.
Saudi Arabia’s capital receives thousands of visitors each year, and it’s the largest city in the Middle East. That means It’s blessed with tons of attractions and places to head to. Historically a meeting place between all Saudi towns, and it has long been a central pillar of Arab peninsula trade.
Once you arrive here, you will see it’s a blend of stylish videos with antique castles. Both of them have made a pleasant cultural union.
Riyadh has an international airport, and it’s famous for its skyscrapers, archeological spots, upscale shopping malls, entertainment centers, and a stunning environment that outdoorsy visitors love. In particular, history buffs will be amazed at Riyadh’s offerings since the first roots of Arab tribes can be traced in this region, where valuable antiques, decorated museums, cultural centers, and the unexpected future of KSA will be formed.
Undeniably, Riyadh has something for everyone in your family to enjoy, and it will never be forgotten. Moreover, it will help you discover the real value of traveling.
What you should know: Some certain attractions may be temporarily closed or not allowed to visit on national days or require advance reservations. Double-check any place before you go to make most of your visit. An annual festival called Riyadh Season takes place here every year. The city’s streets come alive with pickup food vendors, classy restaurants offering a wide range of cuisines, and live music performances that last the whole day. Hours and availability may have changed, so please check it before setting your traveling plans in motion.
How much it costs to explore Riyadh: a night could cost you around $225, including accommodation and food. Fortunately, most of the attractions will give you free access.
Best Hotels in Saudi Arabia: Riyadh
Best Hotels for families:
Rosh Rayhaan by Rotana (around $163 a night)
Burj Rafal Riyadh, A Marriott International Hotel (around $255 a night)
Best Hotels for couples:
Fairmont Riyadh (around $331 a night)
Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya (around $207 a night)
Best Hotels and Hostels for solo travelers:
TULIP INN (around $64 a night)
Crowne Plaza Riyadh al Waha (around $107 a night)
*Please note that Saudi Arabia has no hostels as it takes the first step as a tourist destination; however, if you are searching for the cheapest, you can search for rental apartments or guest houses.
Consisting of medieval and millennial essence, visitors come from all over the world to work in Jeddah since it’s home to many reputable companies and unparalleled finance establishments. But now it’s probably to find tourists here to experience Saudi culture. It’s a coastal city combining islands and the mainland.
Currently, Jeddah is considered a food and drink destination that will help you identify Saudi heritage and a literature and art paradise. In addition, this metropolis depicts Saudi Arabia’s 2030 goal for digital transformation and diversifying the economy’s resources from tourism and investment in other sectors. It expands, offering new attractions and recreational utilities. Nearly every district has to offer something ranging from an aquarium, museums, local markets, and atmospheric settings that can be found only here.
And suppose you are searching for a few tips before visiting Jeddah. In that case, we suggest communicating with a local agency to help you hit all highlights of this enchanting hub and create customized itineraries to see all the magnificent views of the city.
Jeddah has its own international airport, or you can come here from Riyadh. The best and most comfortable transportation mode is to book a flight for $86 – $198, taking 3h 20m. Then, take the $53-$82 bus from Jeddah to Riyadh’s Central Bus Station to save money. However, you’ll have to put in at least 11 hours on the road.
What you should know: Perched atop the central Hejaz region, Jeddah has a UNESCO Heritage site, Historic Jeddah, that will give you insight into life in the early decades of setting up this captivating area. A trip through Saudi’s fascinating yet tumultuous history will allow you to know more about how people survived in the brutal circumstances of the desert. And of course, you can enjoy breathtaking views wherever you go.
How much it costs to explore Jeddah: a night could cost you around $235, including accommodation and food. Of course, you can add an extra charge to visit some attractions, but you can still find many free things to do here.
Attention: Some sources have suggested a spot in Jeddah known as Eve’s Tomb, which refers to the grave of Eva. However, this location is not available for visitors, and there are numerous mysteries and disputes around the site and the truth behind it, so it is not recommended. In addition, some individuals have claimed that the Arabic word for Jeddah means grandma, which might be a reference to Eve. In any case, you are not permitted to enter and should avoid the ideal at all costs.
Best Hotels in Saudi Arabia: Jeddah
Best Hotels for families:
Crowne Plaza Jeddah Al Salam, an IHG hotel (around $186 a night)
The Hotel Galleria By Elaf (around $267 a night)
Best Hotels for couples:
Movenpick Resort Al Nawras Jeddah (around $316 a night)
Radisson Blu Hotel, Jeddah Corniche (around $288 a night)
Best Hotels and Hostels for solo travelers:
Holiday Inn Jeddah – Al Salam, an IHG hotel (around $56 a night)
Ibis Jeddah Malik Road (around $76 a night)
AlUla or Al Ula
The coldest sport in the Arab peninsula, Al Ula is a must-visit in Saudi Arabia, housing a UNESCO World Heritage site, Hegra, with exotic archeological formations and open spaces to observe stars in a tranquil setting. Administratively affiliated to Medina, the northwest side of KSA, Al Ula can be accessible by plane, taking about 1h 45m from Riyadh for roughly $180. If you don’t find enough flights, you can fly to Dammam from Riyadh and take a private taxi. The whole journey might cost you around $176 – $350, taking 2h 30m.
Of course, the second way would be better if you don’t plan to stay at AlUia. So, you can check in at one of the spectacular hotels overlooking the Red Sea and head out to explore the world’s masterpiece, AlUla.
Moreover, AlUia has immense potential to be the hotspot tourist destination in this region. You will be loaded with activities and experiences unlike anything before. Most importantly, it’s an untouched and undiscovered location, which means you have the chance to behold its beauty without heads of crowds and free-natural adventures from human interventions. Here wonders are waiting for you.
This place is a mix of relaxation and exploration, including a wide range of outdoor activities like zipline, hiking, rock climbing, barbeque parties, cycling, and more. The heritage site is nestled between a steep escarpment offering exciting ventures like abseiling and stretches of trekking trails coming with vintage points. Consequently, AlUla is a land of mystery and magical scenery.
What you should know: However the place has to offer many dare adventures and everyday activities, many expansion projects are set there to enhance the tourist experience. So, if you are a first-time visitor to Saudi Arabia, we see AlUia as a perfect start to indulge in your passion for knowing the unique Arab culture.
How much it costs to explore AlUia: A broad collection of lodging is available right here, which will give you a space to spot a place that meets your budget and expectation. A night here might cost you roughly $200, including accommodation and food. But set a budget aside for outdoor activities ranging from $10-$200.
Best Hotels in Saudi Arabia: AlUia
Best Hotels for families:
The Royal Mawahib Compound (around $133 a night)
Flower Apartments AlUla (around $102 a night)
Best Hotels for couples:
Isteknan (around $192 a night)
Caravanat Wadai “كرفانات الوادي” (around $288 a night)
Best Hotels and Hostels for solo travelers:
Sahary Alula Resort (around $53 a night)
arkan-alula (around $51 a night)
*Please note there are no luxurious hotels in AlUia. It’s about camping in the heart of the desert and experiencing a safari that will excite the imagination.
At-Turaif is one of those places in Saudi Arabia that comes with an extensive collection of everything, especially for history junkies. If you consider staying here for one week, you are about to get booty from mud castles, historical sites, and impressive architecture that will ensure your visit is unforgettable! And why not? It’s the birthplace of the Saudi state. Located in the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia, At-Turaif was built in the 1700s, hosting a number of the oldest buildings in the kingdom. That’s why history buffs, archeologists, and everyone interested in Saudi heritage, should consider visiting this site at all costs.
You can fly from the capital to At-Turaif Domestic Airport, taking around 2h for at least $200. It’s the best and most convenient way to get At-Turaif. Otherwise, the route trip from Riyadh will take more than 12hand. Unfortunately, there is no public bus serving this area, so you will need to rent a car or request an Uber, probably costing you more than the flight ticket.
Despite being the first seat of Saudi Arabia, At-Turaif is home to many luxurious resorts and a myriad of open green spaces for family vacations. Also, it’s part of Al Diriyah, which draws the attention of many visitors, likely due to the different museums dotted throughout the city. At-Turaif will be your gate to the past.
What you should know: At-Turaif is the capital of the royal dynasty and the original home to most Arab tribes living in Saudi Arabia. At-Turaif, the heart beating of the Arab spirit, presents the authentic feeling of this appealing country. In addition, you will be surrounded by an abundance of culturally valuable landmarks listed on a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How much it costs to explore At-Turaif: A night at At-Turaif might cost you approximately $200, including accommodation and eating. Guided tours and entry tickets for attractions will charge you extra money. However, it’s one of the cheapest cities to stay in Saudi Arabia.
Best Hotels in Saudi Arabia: At-Turaif
Best Hotels for families:
Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence, Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter (around $232 a night)
Centro Waha (around $96 a night)
Best Hotels for couples:
Marriott Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter (around $293 a night)
Crowne Plaza Riyadh RDC Hotel & Convention, an IHG hotel (around $209 a night)
Best Hotels and Hostels for solo travelers:
Le Park Concord Hotel – Turaif (around $56 a night)
Taj Al Khaleej Furnished Units 2 (around $31 a night)
Saudi has to offer much more than just vast deserts. Arabia is so vast to include all phenomenal treasures. And this time, we have landed in Al-Ahsa, which has successfully broken the clichés around Saudi Arabia that put it as an arid desert with rough weather. When I came here for the first time, I couldn’t get rid of the “really!” attitude; “Is it really Saudi Arabia?”, “Are we still in Saudi Arabia?” and so on.
And you have a clue, by the way. Al-Ahsa is home to the most significant agricultural oasis globally, making it another UNESCO-listed site in the kingdom. Unquestionably, Al-Ahsa adds significantly to Saudi epic sightseeing, gregarious views, and tourism industry which the authority has overlooked for decades. That’s why we select it as one of the best things to do in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Ahsa will also give you access to one of Saudi’s top attractions and tourist places, Hofuf, which stretches to embrace other archaeological sites that come as a reminder to me that this country should be on my bucket list. Atop yellow ochre rock, you can reach many forts and palaces, with greenery landscapes offering a sensory experience. In addition, it will be an extraordinary chance to get closer to local communities and open talks with the purest-hearted people.
What you should know: Al-Ahsa is one of the tourist places to visit in Saudi Arabia, offering hiking experiences and natural reserves to discover. Fortunately, you can reach Al-Ahsa by train. So, book a ticket from Riyadh that will take you to your destination in 3h for just $15 – $40. Al-Ahsa also has an airport that will pick you up from Riyadh at around 1h 50m for $130 – $220. Numerous wonders are waiting for you. So, buckle up, take a deep breath and let’s go.
How much it costs to explore Al-Ahsa: A night at Al-Ahsa would cost you roughly 277, including lodging and your meals. And the cheapest time to visit the city is from January 8th to March 4th.
Best Hotels in Saudi Arabia: Al-Ahsa
Best Hotels for families:
Grand Lily Hotel Suites (around $68 a night)
Somewhere Bliss Hotel (around $133 a night)
Best Hotels for couples:
Al Ahsa Grand Hotel (around $117 a night)
Al Ahsa InterContinental (around $179 a night)
Best Hotels and Hostels for solo travelers:
Palms Lily Hotel Suites (around $33 a night)
Al Nakhla Aparthotel (around $45 a night)
If you asked me what your favorite Saudi trip is, it would be Abha. A city nestled in the Saudi mountains, Abha is a place packed full of inspiring views that will leave you in awe while exploring craggy cliffs and rugged landscapes. Abha is a perfect getaway with a laid-back atmosphere and dense forests. It’s a cultural gem located at the southern edge of the Red Sea coast, with the most pleasant atmosphere in the kingdom. It’s the capital of the Asir region which will give insights into the Arab culture of Arabia and the wildlife side of this corner of the Middle East.
It can be an excellent base for everyone fascinated by hiking and admiring scenic vistas. You can reach Abha from Riyadh by a flight taking 2h 19m costing $118- $200. Instead, you can catch a bus that will take you to Khamis Mushait. Then book an Uber ride to Abah. That will cost $92 – $140, taking more than 14h.
If you are planning to include Abha on your itinerary, Aseer National Park is a must-visit, one of the most famous attractions here, which will help you give the city some love enticing you to explore its treasures.
What you should know: Abha is home to many wonders that attract thousands of visitors annually to escape from intense heat across the kingdom. The city is blessed with cloud parks, shopping malls, and a cable car adventure with several elegant museums like Shada Palace. In addition, you will have the chance to immerse yourself in the city’s delights of Abha Dam Lake and the Abha Palace Theme Park. It’s a mystical land with a plethora of outdoor activities to enhance your exceptional leisure experience.
How much it costs to explore Abha: A night at Abha might set you back with a range of $250. It’s relatively the cheapest city in Saudi Arabia and less crowded than the major cities.
Best Hotels in Saudi Arabia: Abha
Best Hotels for families:
Abha Palace Hotel (around $149 a night)
Summer Season Hotel (around $59 a night)
Best Hotels for couples:
W Suites Hotel (around $103 a night)
Al Muhaidb Residence – (around $133 a night)
Best Hotels and Hostels for solo travelers:
Abha Elite for Hotel Apartments (around $29 a night)
OYO 315 Ramz Abha Hotel (around $79 a night)
Things to Do in Saudi Arabia
We have compiled a list of the top activities in Saudi Arabia to inspire you to visit all things on offer in this enchanting country, even remote islands. So buckle up, and let’s head out to go beyond popular attractions. I am sure you will find many more things to explore.
- Marvel the View from Skybridge in Kingdom Tower
Location: King Fahd Rd, Al Olaya, Riyadh
One of the epic landmarks in Riyadh, Skybridge stands in the heart of the capital city, glittering with the skyline, and should be on your list of top things to do in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
It will be a memorable moment to take the high-speed lift to reach the 99th floor and admire the awe-inspiring views from the highest possible point in Riyadh– over 300 meters above the city. The most elevated deck will allow you to behold several charming sights in one go. For example, the tower includes a trendy shopping mall brimming with stores. And if you are hungry, you can book a table at swanky restaurants in which you can bite a delicious dish while appreciating the most impressive urban panorama.
It takes a curved structure like a bottle opener and the best time to catch spectacular views is during sunset. Otherwise, avoid coming here on weekends to beat the crowds, especially in the evening. With glass panels, you will be able to take unbeatable instagrammable photos.
Side tip: don’t head up to Skybridge if the weather is not clear enough to have a perfect viewpoint of the city.
Opening hours: it opens every day according to this schedule: 12 pm-11 pm Saturday to Thursday and 4 pm-11 pm on Fridays.
- Visit Historical Sites: Al Masmak Fortress
Price: Free access
Location: Qasr al-Masmak, Al Imam Turki ibn Abdullah ibn Muhammad, Dirah, Riyadh
We are still in Riyadh, and this time we will discover the birthplace of modern Saudi.
Al Masmak Fortress is one of the free things to do in Saudi Arabia and will help you catch a glimpse of Saudi history. This fortress houses some artifacts displayed relating to art and culture, standing with impressive architecture and a golden stony building.
It’s one of the iconic landmarks in Riyadh, which presents a mix of exquisite architectural style and futuristic projects.
From a military base to a museum, Al Masmak Fortress boasts a uniquely beautiful mix of exhibitions showcasing maps, weapons, traditional costumes, and photographs from the earlier decades of this country’s foundations. In addition, this location has served a variety of functions throughout Saudi history, making it a worthwhile stop for anybody interested in learning more.
There is no need to pay for a guided tour; just walk about the museum, sit in the heart of the Saudi metropolis, and look at all of the displays, accompanied by English explanations.
Side tip: you can take advantage of being here and hit the surroundings and lose yourself in the historical hub dating back to 150 years ago. And plan to come here after dark, during which this location turns into the most glitzy and glam in Riyadh.
Opening hours: It’s open every day, but come during the weekdays if you want to escape the weekend crowd instead.
- Time for Indoor Activities: National Museum of Saudi Arabia
Price: Around $3
Location: A part of the King Abdulaziz Historical Centre, Riyadh
One of the best museums to visit in Riyadh, and it may be the cheapest outing. The museum combines eight halls, and each one will offer you a different themed experience. The National Museum of Saudi Arabia is the biggest and most entertaining museum in the region, displaying the prehistoric artifacts, Arabs’ legacy, culture, and distinctive art of the kingdom. It’s one of Riyadh’s famous landmarks, coming as part of the prestigious cultural hub of the King Abdulaziz Historical Centre. This fun museum includes everything from lush parks to green fields and water showers.
Set aside around 2 hours to explore the whole building coming in 2 vast floors. I propose that you come here in the afternoon to get some relief from the day’s intense heat. The crowned jewel of the Abdulaziz Centre, the museum will help you understand the core message of Islam and the prophet Mohamed by displaying astonishing interactive objects for all ages.
And finally, you can have a look at the history of the modern kingdom and how it became a unified country after years of conflicts. Then, retrace all important events by discovering rare manuscripts and books to uncover the tales of legendary national heroes.
Side tip: Many temporary galleries and other national festivals and events are held regularly. You can check the official site before you go to maximize your enjoyment.
Opening hours: It opens every day till 9:00 pm and some days to 11:00 pm. You will need to book your online ticket in advance.
- Time for Boarding at Al Ula: Old Town
Price: Free access but you can invest in a local guide
Location: 375, AlUla 43562
Lined by brick townhouses, mud buildings, and historic landmarks, Old Town stretches on the Saudi desert from 200 years ago, filled with many archeological sites and narrow little alleys that weave between tiny hidden closes. This town lies in the heart of AlUla, where you can explore the traditional life of Saudi or go for a helicopter trip on the same day. Start with a walkthrough of the tight pathways of AlUla desert landscapes and pay close attention to details that will tell you more about people who traversed before through these coordinates.
Just like a maze, Old Town is a place made of stone and mud that encompasses a number of the richest heritage sites throughout the kingdom to delve into an exceptional adventure. A visit to this old village will help you understand the philosophy of old routes that used to welcome caravan trade and pilgrimage journeys. You will find many exciting surprises along the way in the ancient desert region.
It would be a great idea to have an Arabian camel safari experience. And don’t miss your chance to indulge in a foodie paradise and deliciously rich mix of a badawi banquet.
Side tip: Don’t forget to witness other iconic sights like Elephant Rock, creating a movie scene, especially during the sunset. It’s an inspiring moment that evokes a mixture of sensations and pretty much everything else. That will bring you back to the prehistory era.
Opening hours: It opens daily from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
- Visit Mada’in Salih
Price: 10$ including the entry fees and a vehicle to get you around the attraction
Location: Al Madinah Region, Al-Hejaz
In the midst of a vast expanse of desert, a large rock sticks out, symbolizing Mada’in Salih’s lengthy history. Aptly named the Lonely Castle, Qasr al-Farid is one of the Saudi landmarks springing out with the history of empires that had been settled down right here. Among the dozen ruins, this impressive famous stony attraction has survived for decades as a monument of ancient civilization rooted in this region. After becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site, it has gained wide-ranging and internationally significant status.
You can explore the playground of Mada’in Salih on your own, but it would be much more fun if you get engaged with a guided tour to dig beneath the surface to find how this place is even more fascinating. Of course, it would cost you more than $100, but it’s worthwhile.
Once entering the mystical land of Mada’in Salih and noticing the remote tomb, I bet you will not be able to stop snapping away, especially at night, which offers an excellent chance for observing the stars. Among such sights, known as al-Hijr, or Hegra, we guarantee you’ll find this gentle trip memorable, and you will crave to explore more, so plan to stay at least one night here.
Side tip: There is more than attraction here, don’t be limited to Qasr al-Farid. That’s why a guided tour will be more than perfect.
Opening hours: You will need to book your ticket in advance and choose the best time slot for you.
- Diving and Snorkeling for Spectacular Scene
Price: It would cost you $80 for snorkeling and scuba diving, including the sailing trip, food, and drink.
Location: Abu Galawa, Yanbu, Ann Ann Wreck, or Farasan Island
From the first moment, I heard “Attention! All passengers should! Time to take off to Saudi Arabia,” I had fantasized about this trip. Saudi Arabia is blessed with a magnificent Red Sea coastline hosting many gregarious diving spots and legendary shipwrecks. Jeddah, for example, is dotted with stretches of elegant sandy beaches and crystal clear shallow waters.
And take into your consideration that almost all of these spots are uncharted since the Saudi government allowed people to submit their tourism visas only in 2019. Before that, Saudi Arabia has completely closed its doors to international travelers.
Most of the coral reefs are well-preserved, and you will witness something very vibrant and unique.
Take a boat from Jeddah, offering you the best way to head out for a diving adventure. You can communicate with any diving center that will arrange a trip to Yanbu, within 200 miles of Jeddah, for you.
Other experiences are waiting for you underwater, like discovering many abandoned ships which become home to much exotic marine life. It could be challenging to reach some corners, but you can witness this treasure trove with a professional diver.
In general, the Red Sea is shallow, but it still can create hundreds of streams, so with every corner, you turn, you are amazed by threads of fish going in and out. Indeed, you are almost always going to get a new thrilling adventure.
Side tip: Even if you are a diving pro, it’s better to go underwater with a diving instructor since this environment will be unfamiliar, and some assistance will not be in vain. Additionally, the local instructors can provide you with a new view across the water.
Best time for diving: Diving in the Red Sea has no set season, but from July to October, conditions are ideal for maximizing your enjoyment, thanks to the pleasant weather, the warm water, and the opportunity to see more of Saudi Arabia’s top sights.
- Explore the Nature and Culture of Saudi Arabia: Thee (Zee) Ain Ancient Village
Price: Free access to visit the village
Location: Al-Mikhwat province of the Al-Baha Region
Located in Al-Baha, an in-your-face city in Saudi Arabia, you have an opportunity to make your trip unforgettable. Once you enter this elegant village stretching down the Bidah Valley in Western Saudi Arabia, you will step inside the history. There is no shortage of historical sites, landmarks, and beautiful plantations wherever you turn. These aspects make this spot paradise and an idyllic shelter from bustling cities.
The most lovely vantage point is to head up the Ain Ancient Village mountain to marvel at the sunset moment, nothing short of tranquility and comfort.
It’s an excellent spot for hiking and exploring hidden bends between one of the oldest and most traditional villages in the Arab peninsula. In addition, it is a fusion of a cultural scene in which you will get up close and personal with numerous tribes to understand the Bedouins’ lifestyle better.
Unquestionably, we find Thee (Zee) Ain Ancient Village is the most gratifying experience for the scenes to access the unique environmental configuration of Saudi nature. Listed on UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this village combines 312 stony houses creating one of the well-preserved urban heritage organizations presenting how humans can adapt to the brutal environment.
If tired, you may take a little break in the bathrooms, but don’t expect anything luxurious.
Side tip: Thee (Zee) Ain Ancient Village would be a preferable place to visit throughout the winter, from November to March, since there would be more walking and trekking involved during this time. In addition, please keep in mind that there are no shops on-site, so you will need to carry your water and food along the way.
Opening hours: It opens daily from 7 am to 6 pm.
- Share Exceptional Experience with Your Beloved: Marid Castle
Price: Free access to most attractions; however, it would be better if you get engaged with a local agent to help you explore all interests of the city without troubles caused by the shortage of transportation and so on. Or you can rent a car to escape from the fierce heat.
Location: North of Saudi Arabia, Al Jawf
You can drive to Al Jawf from Riyadh but plan to stay for at least one day because it’s more than a 15-hour trip. Or you can fly to Al Jawf airport taking 2h 30m for $168 – $340. Conveniently located in Dumat-al-Jandal city, Marid Castle is one of the most popular attractions in the nation. This place houses a historic military castle dating back to the first century AD.
Nested at the hilltop at around 600 meters, Marid Castle is great for unparalleled photographs during the golden hour. Be sure also to include Dumat Al Jandal Lake in your itinerary—it’s the one and the only lake in Saudi Arabia attracting thousands of tourists every year to enjoy entertainment activities ranging from jet skiing to kayaking and other water sports. Alright, Al Jawf is pretty when it comes to historical castles and food since it will also introduce you to some of the local cuisines.
Side tip: If you’re on a tight budget and need to save money for more attractive sights, you may skip this stop.
Opening hours: It opens daily from 7:30 am to 5 pm.
- Hello from the World’s Most Beautiful Oasis: Al Ahsa Oasis
Price: Spending one day in Al Ahsa Oasis will cost you around $107
Location: Hofuf, Al-Ahsa Governorate, Eastern Province
Once you enter any airport in Saudi Arabia, you will be welcomed with delicious dates and a cup of Arab coffee. Mostly, these dates came from Al Ahsa Oasis, in which you lose yourself between its tall palms. Featuring the largest oasis in the kingdom, Al Ahsa Oasis should be your dream destination when planning your trip to Saudi Arabia.
This spot is the greenest area amid a large, stretched yellow desert, demonstrating the nature of the kingdom. No one can blame you for spending so much time tasting the many varieties of dates or even packing several boxes to bring them back to your home. It’s your choice. This spot has successfully slipped under the radar, which means you won’t have to deal with hordes of tourists when you visit this location.
As you will witness many remarkable wonders, imagine that it’s home to 150 warm and cold springs. Plan to check out Al-Jawhariah, Um Sab’ah, Al-Khodoud, and Al-Harah, rich environments for precious minerals for our bodies. Likely due to this new and renewable water source, Al Ahsa has become the first urban area in this province to embrace indigenous communities.
Side tip: Don’t forget to head to Qaisariya Souk, an open market packed with traditional items for souvenirs and the most visited free attraction in Al Ahsa.
Opening hours: It opens daily from 12:00 pm to 12:00 am.
- Marvelous Historical Castles: Ad-Diriyah
Price: Free entry to most attractions and parks
Location: Al Traif, Ad Diriyah
Located at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, Ad Diriyah should be your next destination after venturing around Riyadh and Jeddah. It has to offer the most terrific ensemble of castles and other historical sights since it was a meeting spot welcoming convoys making their way to pilgrimage. Once you enter the city, you will be overwhelmed by the many things to do in Ad-Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. It feels more miner, but it’s pretty, friendly, and laid-back with the ability to turn things upside down.
Divide your time between visiting museums, hugging your favorite coffee at Starbucks, or something else. And in the heart of the city, you can book a night at one of the swanky branded hotels. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the hotspots of tourist destinations in KSA. “Pearl of Saudi Arabia” may seem like a cliché, but it’s well-titled when it comes to Ad-Diriyah! And it rings so true.
Many historical attractions are scattered throughout your way. Give some time for Salwa Palace, one of the royal bases coming with outstanding structure and glorious history.
Side tip: After finishing our tour around renowned museums like the Museum of Al Saud House or the Museum of the Saudi State and Arabian Peninsula, you can get your Arabia coffee “qahwa” at the Dim Light Restaurant. It’s one of the best places for a quick stop before resuming your trip. Indeed, Ad Diriyah leads a life of its own, and you will get much fun here.
Opening hours: Most museums and historical sites open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. After that, you may relish some shimming collection of shopping malls or well-established parks like King Abdullah Park or Wadi Namar.
Heritage sightseeing gives way to modern buildings, all facing the warm spirit you can find here that manifests a new era. We hope you enjoy this exciting journey around Saudi Arabia, and we love to hear from you about your next plans to explore another side of the world.