A month-by-month travel guide

Saudi’s holidays, festivals and more

Save to my favorites Saved to my favorites

A Year of Monthly Must-Sees

With a wide array of climates, cultural events and cuisines, there is no wrong time to visit Saudi. The question is, when is the best time for you to visit Saudi? We put together a highlight reel, if you will, featuring fabulous things to see, hear, do, smell and taste every month so you can decide when to travel depending on what makes you tick.

 

Sample alternative image text Sample alternative image text
  • January: Indulge in Olives

    Al Jouf is known as the land of olives. Located in the far north of Saudi, Al Jouf is one of the oldest areas of human settlement in the Arabian Peninsula, dating back to the Stone Age. Thanks to its cooler climate, fertile soil and abundant groundwater, olive trees thrive in Al Jouf. In addition to visiting ancient castles and ruins, plan to indulge in delicious dishes that include local olives and olive oil. January traditionally sees the area’s annual two-week Olive Festival, which features cultural, social, recreational and educational events, including art contests and seminars about olive cultivation. 

  • February: Hike in the Snow

    In Saudi, winter is celebrated — it’s a time to escape the heat of summer and indulge in physical activity outdoors. Case in point: hiking. For snow enthusiasts, hiking in Saudi during winter is a different experience from hiking anywhere else in the world. Visitors might be lucky enough to see snowfall in the mountains of the northern regions blanketing the slopes and desert sands. There are myriad opportunities to hike near Tabuk, including the trail up Jabal Al Lawz, the highest mountain in Tabuk Province, where it snows almost every year. (For more information on winter hikes in Saudi, click here.)

  • March: Dive Into the Red Sea

    You can dive year-round along Saudi’s Red Sea coast — the sea is always warm. But given that the heaviest rainfall in this region happens between November and January, and that the surface of the water can get very hot in the summer, March is an ideal month for diving. As one expat in Saudi explains, “We like the water when it warms up just enough.” The regions around the cities of Yanbu, Jazan and Jeddah have a number of coastal resorts and established dive clubs. With hundreds of kilometers of water to explore between these cities, most of the reefs and coastline are quite untouched. And because there is little large-scale commercial fishing in Saudi, even the reefs near the cities remain pristine. 

  • April: Smell the Roses

    Every April, the air in Taif erupts into a fragrant cloud of roses. However, the season lasts only a month. Equally fleeting is the harvest, in which the hand-picked blooms are gathered in baskets and taken to local distilleries, where the flowers are sorted, weighed and distilled. To see the distillation process in action, visit Al Gadhi Rose Factory. Not far from the center of Taif, the factory is open to visitors during the harvest season, from early March until the end of April — when tourists can also see local farmers standing in line outside to have their rose petals weighed on antique scales. It takes thousands of petals to create a few liters of rose water, just 12 grams of which can fetch as much as SAR1,600 (almost US$430). 

  • May: Celebrate Eid

    The morning after Ramadan ends (this date varies each year; in 2022, it's in early May), Muslims attend prayers, then visit family and friends to congratulate them for fasting all month. What follows may not surprise you: a big feast! (It’s more officially known as Eid Al Fitr) At the feast, children often receive new clothes, gifts and money, meant as encouragement for observing Ramadan. “Eid signifies happiness in every way: We eat and drink — and we pray that God accepts our deeds,” says Saad Al Dawood, a hospitality student in Riyadh. While you can enjoy many traditional Saudi foods in private homes and restaurants during Eid, be sure to try Vimto, a nonalcoholic fruit drink, which is ubiquitous during this month.

  • June: Capitalize on Culture

    The Eastern Province is the largest province in Saudi. With a breezy waterfront area, the Corniche, and the Al Ahsa Oasis, the Eastern Province has become a favorite for family holidays and city breaks from the heat. The major cities of the Eastern Province include Dammam, Al Khobar, Al Ahsa and Jubail. A 20-minute drive from Dammam will bring you to the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. When this center, known as Ithra, opened in 2017, it became as iconic for its design as it did for being Saudi’s first all-cultural destination. Inside, you’ll find an (air-conditioned) museum, theater, library, cinema, exhibition galleries, ideas lab and knowledge tower. 

  • July: Visit a National Park

    Saudi Arabia’s first national park when it opened in 1980, Asir National Park, in the Asir Region, encompasses 4,500 square kilometers stretching all the way to the Red Sea coast. The area around Jabal Soudah, which is the highest mountain in Saudi and is located in the park, offers hiking trails traversing misty, sweeping valleys dotted with little villages and stepped fields, along with lots of campsites, picnic spots and lookouts. Look up for glimpses of eagles and griffon vultures or to spot the migratory birds that regularly pass through the area. Another plus: The park remains cool and refreshing even during the high heat of summer.

  • August: Shop Till You Drop

    Although souqs and local markets draw in souvenir-seekers year-round, one of the best times to shop indoors in Saudi is during the summer, when the temperatures soar. In the Eastern Province, Al Jubail Mall is a great place to shop for clothing from international brands as well as home décor and sporting goods. The mall also offers cafes and restaurants for family dining, indoor theme parks and other kid-friendly attractions. On the other side of Saudi, in Jeddah, you’ll find the massive, three-story Mall of Arabia, which also features men’s and women’s clothing and cosmetics and even a gym.

  • September: Enjoy National Day

    Saudi National Day, on Sept. 23, celebrates the unification of Najd and Hijaz. In 1932, the merged nations became the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, named after the family of King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, of the House of Saud. Al Yom Al Watany, as Saudi National Day is known in Arabic, is marked by fireworks, parades packed with floats showcasing regional music and traditional outfits. Special cultural events are held across the country, and national pride is in the air (do not be surprised to see cars, homes and other buildings lit up in green, the color of Saudi’s flag, for the day). 

  • October: Discover Dates

    Dates are a central part of Arabian hospitality and the Saudi diet. Upon entering a Saudi home or office, you will often be welcomed with an offering of dates and coffee; dates are also consumed to break the fast during Ramadan. They’re healthy to eat (free of fat, cholesterol and sodium) and ubiquitous, especially between August and November when they’re harvested, and you can find them at any city’s souq. Once picked, dates are allowed to ripen in four stages: kimri (unripe, green), khalal (full-size, crunchy, yellow), rutab (ripe, soft) and tamr (ripe, sun-dried, dark). Although they are enjoyed at every stage, you’re bound to bite into some of the best dates of the year in October.

  • November: Go Camping

    As fall fades into winter, kashta season begins. Roughly translated as desert camping, kashta involves camping trips that are integral to Saudi life and culture. These journeys, which can be short (deep into the night) or last three or more days, are marked by cars packed with essential cooking tools and ingredients, along with a tent, mats and, depending on the length of the trip, firewood. With everything from sandy deserts to rugged mountains, green meadows and beautiful beachsides, Saudi’s many terrains present ideal camping destinations, no matter your choice of landscape.

  • December: Take a Cruise

    December is high cruise season. Private yacht charters and luxury cruise liners, such as those operated by the Red Sea Cruise Company, are quickly becoming a popular way to experience the best of the Red Sea, combining personalized luxury with exclusive access to the coast’s most secluded spots. With virgin reefs and uninhabited islands, the sun-soaked Red Sea coast is an unspoiled marvel where tourists aboard cruises can expect to see vast starry skies by night and rare aquatic life by day — in addition to shows and fine dining, of course.

Need help deciding what to pack? Look no further than our guide to weather in Saudi.