5 reasons Saudi Arabia should be on your post-pandemic travel list

Samira Banat
Aug 20, 2020

From lush, green mountains in the South to Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage site, here’s a list of destinations you won’t want to miss once travel into the Kingdom fully reopens

In September 2019, Saudi Arabia introduced tourist visas for the first time. Just as the Kingdom opened up borders to welcome guests from all over the world, the global pandemic hit, putting a hold on travel of all kinds.

But after four months of closure in an attempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the land borders surrounding Saudi Arabia reopened on August 5. But for now, only citizens of the Kingdom and their immediate family members can return to their country via the land checkpoints without the need to obtain prior authorisation.

Hence why we’re patiently waiting for more travel restrictions to be lifted to explore the beauty and culture that the Gulf country has to offer – from historic ruins to luxury resorts.

Here’s exactly what’s on our Saudi bucket list…

The ruins of Al Ula

Sand -coloured passageway in the Al Ula ruins of Saudi Arabia
Sand-coloured passageway in the Al Ula ruins of Saudi Arabia

The stunning landscape of the country’s northwest region is home to golden-orange rock formations, lush citrus farms and the remains of several ancient kingdoms – including 2,000-year-old Nabatean tombs.

Four major areas of this Unesco-listed destination are set to open in October 2020 for a chance to let the world witness the history of the multiple civilisations that have passed through the Al Ula area carved into the desert rock.

Sand -coloured tombs carved into a cliff wall the Al Ula ruins of Saudi Arabia
Tombs in the Al Ula ruins of Saudi Arabia.

Given their archaeological importance, The Royal Commission for Al Ula has plans to transform the archaeological site into multiple hotels, an abundance of activities and eight museums. The museum and leisure complex is expected to fully open in 2023.

Kingdom’s first Banyan Tree resort

Sand-coloured private desert villa in the Banyan Tree resort in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia.
Private desert villa in the Banyan Tree resort in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia. Credit RCU.

Also in Al Ula, plans to open a sustainability-focused, 82-villa resort by Accor have been set in motion.

The luxury resort will be located only 15 kilometres from Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage site, and will also be close to the Maraya entertainment venue, which housed the voices of artists like Lionel Richie and Andrea Bocelli.

The 82 villas that will make up the complex will offer two and three-bedroom spaces with shaded outdoor spaces and private paths for an additional sense of privacy.

Sand-coloured outdoor lounge area with seating in the Banyan Tree desert resort in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia.
Outdoor lounge area in the Banyan Tree desert resort in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia. Credit RCU.

In addition to private luxury spaces, the guests will have access to a spa with luxury wellness facilities, including a fully-equipped gym and several swimming pools to choose from. And once you get hungry after all the activities on offer, an equally-impressive choice of restaurants are set to serve up the exquisite tastes of Arabia.

To pay tribute to the surrounding landscape of the Arabian land, the resort’s design will incorporate sand-coloured tones and mimic the natural architectural features of the land.

Southern Mountains

Lush, green Faifa mountains and bright. blue skies in southwest Saudi Arabia.
Lush, green Faifa mountains in southwest Saudi Arabia.

Away from the bustling cities, the mountainous southern region offers an escape from the blaze of the Middle Eastern sun.

The impressive peaks that make up the southern mountain range offer spectacular views as you float above the clouds on the brightest of green.

Houses scattered across green Faifa mountains in southwest Saudi Arabia.
Houses scattered across the green Faifa mountains in southwest Saudi Arabia.

If you plan to set-up camp, make sure you are well-prepared for the unpredictable weather conditions, as dropping temperatures may require you to pull out your winter coats. And while you’re in your tent, don’t be alarmed if an unexpected visitor, or a few, show up to enjoy the views with you. Monkeys of the mountains are common to the region.

Aside from the untouched nature and year-round perfect forecast of the region, the towns settled in the valleys are home to locals who are especially generous when it comes to sharing the myriad of flavours in their diverse cuisine.

Future Neom

Car parked in an opening in the red stone Tabuk valleys, Saudi Arabia at sunset
Sunset glowing through the opening in the Tabuk valleys, Saudi Arabia.

On the opposite end of the land, the sacred narrow valleys and cliffs by the Red Sea are set to transform into a $500 billion mega-project called “Neom.”

The cross-border city in the Tabuk Province is planned to incorporate smart urban-living technologies and function as the ultimate tourist destination.

Fiery red rocks and desert plants make up the Disa Valley in the Tabuk region of Saudi Arabia
Fiery red rocks of the Disa Valley in the Tabuk region of Saudi Arabia. Via Instagram: @mijlof

A vision of futuristic buildings, flying cars, robot employees, and even its own artificial moon, this might just be every Star Wars fan’s dream come true.

For now, hiking the trails of some of the most varied natural landscapes in the country could still be enough to imagine yourself wandering the streets of a utopian city in the desert.

Al-Ahsa Oasis

Shaded palm passageways in the Al-Ahsa oasis, Saudi Arabia. Credit Visit Saudi.

The historical oasis region of the East is located only about 60 km inland from the coast of the Arabian Gulf, which makes it a prime location for traditional farming in the oases.

The region’s fertile land offers passageways shaded by the palms and crystal clear springs with ready-to-drink water, which sit in stark contrast to the untamed plains of the Rub’ Al Khali (Empty Quarter).

Palms in the Al-Ahsa Oasis, Saudi Arabia. Credit Visit Saudi.

Now also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can find traces of human settlement all the way back to the Neolithic period.

Looking for more destinations to add to your Saudi travel list? Check out these plans for a Coastal Village in the Red Sea.