If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Riyadh, Al Kharrarah National Park, located on the outskirts of the city, should be top of your list. A blend of craggy rock formations and sweeping sand dunes, the park is the antithesis of modern-day city life: sprawling and still.
The desert valley is also home to one of Saudi Arabia’s most spectacular natural gems: the beautiful Lake Kharrarah, also known as the 'Lake of Liquid Light'. Formed as the result of heavy rainfall during the rainy season and nestled among the red-hued hills, the lake is a tranquil place to relax and unwind. When the water is deep enough, you can even take a swim.
When the weather heats up and the water evaporates, the valley still retains its beauty and charm, transforming into a lush green pasture that attracts a variety of birds and wildlife. The lakeside offers the perfect spot to picnic, to barbecue or to watch the sun settle over the water, sheltered by acacia trees.
For the best view of the valley’s breathtaking scenery, climb to the top of the highest sand dunes: On a clear day, you can spot another of the region’s best-known landmarks, the Tuwaiq escarpment.
If sports are more your thing, Al Kharrarah is a popular destination for dune bashing, quad bike riding, sand boarding and kite flying, with thrill-seeking locals flocking to the park on weekends in the cooler months. Weekdays are less hectic, and ideal for quiet exploration.
Reaching the park’s best off-road spots requires an SUV but, thanks to a paved route that reaches almost to the lakebed, cars can also make the journey in. Pack up the family and discover the best of one of Riyadh’s natural wonders.
- Drive carefully. Off-road vehicles are best suited to Al Kharrarah National Park’s sandy terrain, but there is a paved route that cars can take. On the way, avoid getting stuck by driving quickly over patches of loose sand – the slower you drive, the greater the chance your tires will sink into the sand.
- Pack a picnic. Lake Kharrarah offers plenty of makeshift benches and tables, so make sure you pack a picnic to take advantage of its picture-perfect lunchtime spots.
- Take cash with you. There are activities the whole family can enjoy, so make sure you visit the ATM before you set off on your journey.