Coined the Maldives of Saudi

Explore Umluj and its islands

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It doesn’t take long to see why this small coastal town and region are frequently referred to as the Maldives of Saudi Arabia. North of the town, travelers can venture to more than 100 small islands known for their egg-white sands and ancient swaying palms, and home to a gentle technicolor world of nudibranchs, turtles and dugongs living in the aquarium-like waters. The beach at Umluj is postcard-pretty, but the main attraction is taking a boat to islands like Jabal Hassan, or relaxing at palm-covered coastal beaches such as Ras Al Shaaban and Doqm. From town, it’s possible to tour nearby mango farms or travel about an hour inland to Harrat Lunayyir. Here, discover a curious black lava field of craters and cones, which feels a world away from the dunes and turquoise waters of the coast.

 

The People of Umluj

Get to know a bit about locals, their traditions and culture by watching the short video below.

What to See and Do in Umluj

Not sure what to add to your Umluj itinerary? Start with these three family-friendly Umluj activities.

Diver shining light on coral reef

Swimming at Umluj’s Beaches

Warm, clear waters and abundant coral make Umluj a prime area for diving and snorkeling — one that is much less crowded than other famous Red Sea dive spots like Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh. Many of the fringing reefs are found just off sandy beaches like those at the island of Jabal Hassan, an ancient passageway where Romans are said to have gleaned glass from the isle’s sandy plains. The warm seas around Umluj are home to 300 species of hard coral — more than four times what’s found in the Caribbean — green and Hawksbill turtles, dolphins, dugong sea cows and more than 1,200 fish species.

Family walking on small sand island surrounded by sea

Island-Hop Around Umluj

In this archipelago with more than 100 islands, the quintessential Umluj activities include those on or by the water — from dolphin-spotting and snorkeling to fishing or just chilling by the beautiful seafront. Tip: The only way to visit the islands is through a licensed tour operator like Shamal, which offers a Weekend in Umluj three-day itinerary that includes a boat ride to some of the islands. You can also book day tours on larger boats or private trips with drivers in shaded little fishing boats. As a part of the Red Sea Project, there are plans to build eco-friendly resorts on several of the region’s islands, but for now travelers can explore this mostly untouched area with few distractions.

See the Birds of Saudi Arabia

The Umluj coast is as attractive to migratory birds as it is to humans, especially the pristine islands of Libana, Ataweel and Um Sahar, where cranes, kingfishers and white-tailed lapwings arrive at various points in the year to nest around the curved beaches and reefs rich in sea life.

Recommendations

  • Where to stay

    The boutique Juman Hotel offers beautiful sea views and a central location for exploring, while Royal Tours Permanent Camp is home to Bedouin-style glamping tents, set in the sandy desert on the edge of town.

  • Where to eat

    Head to Zaeem Al Asmak for epic seafood platters straight from the nearby Red Sea, or to Jareesh Omee for dates, chicken rice and traditional local food. Alternatively, indulge in the most classic Umluj meal: a picnic or barbecue on one of the area’s many islands.

  • Where to have fun

    Glimpse ancient history at the restored Umluj Castle and in the alleyways and architecture of the city’s old town. Later, head inland to explore the rare sight of the region’s lava fields, an inky array of cones, rocks and craters.

  • Learn More

    Check out VisitSaudi.com’s packages page to learn about the tours available in and around Umluj, ranging from a full-day adventure through its caves and volcanic areas to a three-day sea trip that includes fishing, swimming and dolphin-watching.

Things to do in Umluj

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