As the largest preserved site of the Nabataean civilisation south of Petra in Jordan, Hegra was Saudi’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and evidence of human presence here dates back beyond the 1st millennium BC. The area is home to over 110 remarkably well-preserved tombs carved into the rocky outcrops within this dreamy desert landscape, which were used to lay Nabataean elite to rest. Also on your journey back in time, find inscriptions that highlight the origins of the Arabic language, and illuminate the customs and beliefs of ancient civilisations, as well as stone-lined water channels demonstrating the civilisation's expert craftsmanship. Embark on a rock art trail to spot over 1,500 petroglyphs or join a cycling tour between the landmarks. Roman influence is also present in the form of defensive walls, gates and towers that once encircled the city. Another key site in Hegra is the Hijaz Railway station, home to a train from a time when merchants and Makkah-bound pilgrims traversed the land. Learn how the construction of the railway, which began in 1900, helped to modernise the way that pilgrims travelled.
Dadan and Jabal Ikhmar
For even more striking landscapes, fascinating history and ancient tombs, Dadan is an ancient, stone-carved city that sits astride the valley’s oasis. It dates back between the late 9th and early 8th century BCE when, as the Kingdom of Dadan, and due to its proximity to the incense trade tours, it was one of the most developed cities in northern Arabia. You can still see more than a dozen tombs that have been cleverly crafted into the red rock faces. A tour of Dadan is perfectly paired with a visit to Jabal Ikmah across the valley. This treasured site is something of an ‘open library’, home to thousands of inscriptions in the rocks, dating back as far as the 1st millennium BC!
AlUla Old Town
Set in the narrowest part of the AlUla Valley and overlooked by a 10th-century citadel, discover the heritage heart of the region – AlUla Old Town. Back in the 12th century, this storied city became an essential part of the Islamic pilgrimage route from Damacus to Makkah, and was inhabited as recently as the 20th century. Join a trained local guide to explore its winding alleyways, mudbrick houses, traditional shops and rahbas (town squares), before meeting the locals, perusing the handicrafts and sampling the cuisine at its evolving market.
Lush, fertile and filled with life, the Oasis of AlUla is nestled within the Wadi AlQura (or Valley of Villages). This area of greenery amid the sprawling desert has given life to AlUla’s residents, flora and fauna, as well as weary travellers, for millennia. Its rich earth has long made it a thriving agricultural hub, growing everything from lentils and barley to olives and pomegranates. Today, the lush oasis is home to small farms that grow a variety of fruit – from bananas to citrus to mangos – as well as clover and date palms. In fact, each year, AlUla’s 2.3 million date palms produce more than 90,000 tonnes of dates! There’s a lovely, low-impact walking trail that passes from Dadan to AlUla Old Town via the oasis, offering the perfect chance to see the traditional farms in action, as well as local farmers and citrus markets.
Nature and Sustainability
Ethereal, colossal and totally humbling, AlUla’s landscape is simply spellbinding. Monumental rock formations include the iconic Elephant Rock, the bowling pin-shaped Jar Rock, the bridge-like Rainbow Rock (home to semi-precious diamonds), and the mind-blowing Dancing Rocks that appear to sway together in unison. Set within the remote desert landscape, Gharameel is home to extraordinary sandstone formations, whilst promising sublime sunsets and some of the planet’s best stargazing. Set across nearly 600 square miles of canyons, desert and valleys, the Sharaan Nature Reserve aims to conserve and protect the precious AlUla ecosystem. When it does open to visitors (on carefully considered tours with expert wildlife rangers) you can uncover an abundance of incredible wildlife – including red-necked ostriches, Nubian ibex and graceful gazelles.
AlUla’s dramatic landscape, serene beauty and hidden valleys make for an abundance of transformative adventure. Soar over rock formations by helicopter, hike beneath the stars, cross the desert on horseback, take to the dunes by cycle at sunset, or race to a speed of over 100km/h by zipline through the AlUla mountains.
There are flights (often via other Middle Eastern destinations) from London to Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman, from which there are flights to AlUla. AlUla is a 10-hour drive from Riyadh, a 7-hour drive from Jeddah, a 3-hour, 30-minute drive from Medina, and just over a 3-hour drive from Tabuk Airport. It’s also only a 2.5-hour drive to the Red Sea, which visitors can add on to their trip. When planning your luxury Saudi holiday, your Luxury Travel Specialist will advise the best travel arrangements for your itinerary.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit Insect and tick bite avoidance.
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCDO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: Foreign Travel Advice. Additional sources of information include: Public Health England, The National Travel Health And Network Centre, Foreign And Commonwealth Office and your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.