AlUla is an exciting new tourist destination – check out our guide for authentic desert experiences
The oasis city and region of AlUla in the northwestern Madinah province is an exciting new destination for tourists.
It’s full of ancient archeology sites and stunning landscapes, yet has been opened up to tourists only since 2019, so there is a lot to discover.
Here, visitors will find ancient ruins such as Hegra, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It contains the remains of an ancient Nabatean city from the 1st century AD, which was once an important trading hub on the Silk Road. The city is also home to AlUla Old Town, with some of its traditional houses dating back to the Ottoman empire.
In addition to its cultural attractions, AlUla is also known for its beautiful natural landscapes. It’s surrounded by mountains and is home to parks, nature reserves and, of course, the desert, with its dunes, stunning rock formations, and wildlife.
And for those wanting more entertainment, the stunning Maraya concert hall, the largest mirrored building in the world, offers regular entertainment and many special events – there’s a Jason Atherton restaurant on the rooftop too.
And there are increasing numbers of sporting events planned for the area, such as cycling – the Saudi Tour is about to host riders from around the world; the AlUla Trail Race for runners in February and for horse enthusiasts the Alula Endurance Cup is in March.
We’ve partnered with a local expert to suggest a selection of tours in the area, together with suggestions for other activities. If you’re thinking of visiting any of them, or making a trip, why not let MCC help? Call our Bookings service, or message a member of the team via WhatsApp on +966 533 633 607, for assistance.
Tantalizingly open to the public after lying virtually undisturbed for almost 2,000 years, the ancient city of Hegra is the largest preserved site of the Nabataean civilization south of its sister city of Petra in Jordan. Now a Unesco World Heritage Site, it offers insights into a great trading civilization long vanished under the sands of time.
Dadan and Jabal Ikmah
Dadan, capital of the ancient Kingdom of the Dadanite and later the Lihyanite civilizations, was once a major trading spot for frankincense and wealthy people there paid for elaborate tombs, which can still be seen. Five miles away, the mountain of Jabal Ikmah, located in a beautiful canyon, holds thousands of engravings that led it to be called the ‘open library’
AlUla Old Town
This ancient settlement was inhabited from the 12th century until the early 1980s, so there are tales from living memory that similar ancient sites cannot provide. It has the remains of 900 houses, 500 shops and five town squares to explore – with or without a guide – and an instagrammable view of AlUla Castle, which dates back to the 10th century.
AlUla Elephant Rock
This extraordinary elephant-shaped ancient rock formation is perhaps best seen at sunset – for the vibrant colors – or at night for stargazing. Sunken seating will enhance the viewing experience.
Several companies run helicopter flights over the area, offering great views of desert landscapes and iconic landmarks such as Elephant Rock and Hegra.
AlUla Heritage Oasis Trail
Stroll through the beautiful AlUla Oasis, The free trail has multiple entry points and can be as short or as long as you prefer. Sip fresh juices under the palm trees and chat to locals.
AlUla Hidden Valley
Guided hikes are available through the stark and dramatic valleys.
Star spotting at Gharameel
Various companies offer stargazing out at Gharameel’s rock formations, where the remoteness and lack of light pollution ensures a stunning view of the night sky. Many trips offer grilled food over an open fire to help visitors stay the course.
For a more rugged experience, companies offer buggy rides over sand dunes and through canyons to enhance the desert experience.
Alula Canyon Hike
Possibly one for the more energetic, guided hikes are available through one of the region’s historic canyons on an adventure that can take four hours.
Maraya Concert Hall
The architecturally stunning Maraya Concert Hall at AlUla is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest mirrored building in the world and hosts a growing number of concerts and events. Recent performers include Andrea Bocelli and John Legend.
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New levels of tourism have brought a thriving restaurant scene to the area, aided by the stunning scenery in which so many of them are set. Whether you want to dine in splendor on top of the rocks, sit down at the bottom of a starkly beautiful valley, or join the throng in the cozy restaurants of the Old Town, there will be a restaurant to suit.
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