Although Saudi Arabia is home to much of the world’s largest sand desert, Rub ‘al Khali, its landscapes are not limited to arid dunes. You will find a varied topography of mountains, forests, coral reefs and beaches that would have nothing to envy them in the Caribbean.
To protect its precious landscapes, Saudi Arabia has launched a series of sustainability commitments under the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI). It involves, for example, planting 10 billion trees and transforming 30% of the national territory into protected areas for wildlife. Good news for environmentally conscious and adventurous tourists who dream of climbing, sand dunes and diving to discover the country.
Marine life: Jeddah
well to this town port protected by UNESCO is best known for its architecture historic, Jeddah is also home to some of the most spectacular dive sites in the country. Not only can you enjoy the mild sea temperatures, but the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea also offer some of the best diving conditions in the world.
The nearest dive site is Sharm Obhur A coastal bay located about 30 km north of Jeddah. As you enter the water from the sand, you will quickly be immersed in the richness, colors and diversity of the reefs and the marine life that thrives in these waters.
While diving here, you can usually expect to see turtles, eels, squid, lionfish and clownfish. If you want an even greater thrill, you can book a shark cage dive to get the chance to see bull sharks living in deeper water.
Coral Reef: Yanbu
Until the introduction of Saudi tourist visas in 2019, diving tourism was banned there. Now the country’s Red Sea coast is open to divers, with PADI qualifications recently accepted. This is good as the diving areas around the port city of Yanbu are in pristine condition: teeming with marine life, colorful corals and ancient shipwrecks to explore.
Dive themwrecked off that kettle, located 18 meters underwater and home to several meters wide soft corals, black coral bushes and ruddy corals. It’s up to you to look for sharks, devil rays and amber jackets among the underwater flora. Once you’ve got your breath, it will historic old town in yanbu waiting for you with a shisha and freshly brewed coffee.
The Oases: Al-Ahsa
We already know that Saudi Arabia is home to the largest sand desert in the world, it is therefore not surprising that it also has the largest oasis in the world. Al-Ahsa measures 85.4 km² and is surrounded by more than 2.6 million palm trees, including date palms, famous for their sweet fruits.
It’s no surprise that this place has long been a shady, lush getaway away from the harsher desert environment that surrounds it. Ancient trade routes passed through here to pick up produce grown on its fertile land, and early pilgrims stopped here on their way to Mecca. Even today, it is still active agricultural land with wells, canals and springs supplying water for crops.
Adventure seekers can combine a relaxing getaway in Al-Ahsa with a trip to the nearby desert. Climb the mountain Al Qarah for a breathtaking view of the oasis before exploring its caves and whizzing down the nearby dunes in 4 × 4 (the locals’ favorite pastime).
The mountains: Al Sharaf
Explore the Saudi mountains from Tanomah, a big city built entirely of stone and crossed a waterfall. A 10-minute drive away, on the city’s western slopes, is one of the country’s most sought – after outdoor residences. The red rocks Al Sharaf mountain is home to Saudi Arabia’s first equipped climbing route, which was only completed in 2018.
Ifoutdoor climbing is a little too intense for you, you can put on your hiking boots and admire the green landscapes of the Al Sharaf mountain park on foot.
Keep an eye on birds, buffaloes, goats and plant life on your way, and refuel Al Nakheel Restaurant specializing in grilled meat.
Desert: Jabal Tuwaiq
This natural slope extends over a few 800 km from northern Saudi Arabia to the empty neighborhood in the south, but there is only a part of the ridge that tourists visit. It’s about Edge of the world : a vertical cliff that rises 300 meters from the desert to the sky.
The desert floor was once sea and was used for centuries by merchants as a caravan route. From the top you can still see camels and their shepherds treading the old road.
To reach Jabal Tuwaiq you will need a 4WD and it may be worth hiring a local guide as it is a two hour drive over rocky and rugged dirt roads from Riyadh. Bring plenty of water as you will definitely want to try one of the hiking trails around the cliffs when you arrive. Open your eyes to fossils along the way.
Forest: Asir National Park
The province of Asir in southwestern Saudi Arabia offers landscapes you have probably never associated with the country. Here, coniferous forests fill the mountain with the country’s highest peak at 3,015 m, and cooler temperatures offer a well-deserved break from the heat of the rest of the country.
In Asir National Park you will find the mountainous region of Sudah which is being developed as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan. It is Saudi Arabia’s unofficial adventure capital. Hiking trails criss-cross valleys and misty peaks, and with over 60 campsites in the park, the best way to experience the area is on a guided route from 6 p.m. hiking and camping.
Keep your eyes open for birds as you go (there are over 300 species here) and take a break to learn about local culture at Al Muftaha Artistic Village. Small art galleries featuring works by local artists surround a mosque with calligraphy.
If you are eager to discover these landscapes for yourself, you must first apply for an entry visa. Before booking, be sure to check out our latest deals and check out all the entry requirements on our updated COVID-19 travel card in real time.