With direct flights now linking most major hubs with AlUla in Saudi Arabia, this once mysterious destination is now just a short flight away from most Middle Eastern and European countries.
Nestled in the north-western region of Saudi Arabia, the town of AlUla was off the travel radar for centuries. But all that changed in the last few years when the kingdom made the historic decision to begin welcoming travellers to its diverse land and wow the world with its immersive offering. Leading the charge were the key modern cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, with AlUla following closely behind, thanks to its rich history and cultural significance.
The town of AlUla dates back to the 10th century, although it was only officially established in the 12th century. One of the oldest cities in the Arabian Peninsula, it sat along an ancient trade route, facilitating the exchange of spices, incense and other goods, on which its inhabitants thrived.
Today, the landscape is dotted with tombs, sandstone outcrops, historic dwellings and monuments, both natural and manmade, which serve as lasting reminders of a civilisation that once was. While conservation and preservation efforts are still underway, with different zones of AlUla opening up to visitors in phases, there is still plenty to discover in this ancient land.
Visit Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site
The ancient city of Hegra became the kingdom’s first destination to be inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008. It is home to thousands of tombs cut into sandstone mountains, which make for a stunning sight, and it offers a fascinating glimpse into the region's past. For more insights into the history of AlUla, book a tour with a rawi (an Arabic storyteller), who will serve as a guide while you tour the site.
Explore the ruins of the ancient kingdom of Dadan
The area of Dadan was once just a basin covered in dust and sand. Today, it is a live excavation site and archaeologists are still making fascinating discoveries about this little known era in Arabian history. Here, visitors can explore the magnificent stone building remnants of the Dadan and Lihyan kingdoms, followed by Jabal Ikmah’s open-air library of rock inscriptions in ancient languages.
Take on new adventures
While the town's heritage is the key focus of any visit to AlUla, this magnificent land also offers plenty of other opportunities to take in the stunning sights from a different perspective. Among the many activities available for adventure seekers, the AlUla Zipline is popular. There is nothing quite like getting a bird’s eye view of the breathtaking canyons. With the 1.5-kilometre zipline, adventure seekers can fly through the desert at a top speed of 120 kilometres per hour above the mountains. The kingdom’s longest and fastest zipline, it’s guaranteed to bring adventure to this historic hotspot. During the AlUla Skies Festival, which takes place during winter, visitors can also hop on a hot air balloon above the desert terrain to enjoy spectacular aerial views of the entire landscape.
Hike through history
AlUla offers hiking enthusiasts the opportunity to walk through the mystical canyons of Al Madakheel and Sharaan Nature Reserve with the chance to discover local flora, fauna and unique rock formations. For an up-close view of the town’s unique topography, the Hidden Valley hike is an immersive 90-minute journey through one of AlUla’s most secluded and enchanting canyons.
Through the Old Town of AlUla, visitors can ramble and hike their way through the very land walked by the region’s inhabitants many centuries ago with the AlUla Adventure Trail. As they tread along, they can learn about the history of the area and witness the ancient cave paintings and rock formations during the three- to four-hour hike, which takes in a range of natural scenery from rock pools to canyons.
Gaze into the night sky
Far from city lights, some of the world’s most enviable dark skies can be found in the remote desert lands of AlUla. Against the backdrop of the dramatic rock formations found in this north-western corner of Saudi Arabia, the landscape lends itself to spectacular stargazing
experiences. Night hikes are also available to take in the stunning landscape against the backdrop of the Milky Way.
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