Medina Region: AlUla
  • Best for
  • History
  • Culture
  • Nature

Exploring AlUla

A city in the Madinah region

There are few places in the world

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“It’s just incredible what’s there,” says Daniel Ponzo, an Italian-Swiss expat based in Jeddah and the managing director of Zahid Travel Group. “It’s a living museum. I’ve been there a few times, and what you see in terms of color of the rocks, color of the sand, shape of the rocks — it’s just unique. It’s one of the ultimate beauties of the world.”

Once a major trade hub along the ancient Incense Route connecting the Arabian Peninsula with the Mediterranean countries, the vast 22,000-square-kilometer territory is a lasting reminder of the kingdom’s pre-Islamic history: The Nabataean civilization — which also built the remarkable city of Petra in Jordan — left behind 111 immaculately preserved tombs carved into the sandstone rocks at Hegra. Best of all, “You don’t see the crowds you see at other heritage sites,” Ponzo says. “You feel that you are living this experience alone.”

When in AlUla, Go and See

AlUla’s Historical Sites: Hegra, Dadan and Jabal Ikmah

The wind-swept expanses of AlUla are a true living museum spanning hundreds of years of Arabian history. Now you book a ticket any time of year to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, the 18th-century Fort of Hegra and the Hijaz Railway Station, the ancient capital of Dadan and the “open library” of inscriptions in the rocks at Jabal Ikmah.

Jabal AlFil, or Elephant Rock
Jabal AlFil, or Elephant Rock

Outdoor Adventures in AlUla

The surreal rock outcroppings that dot the landscape are great for exploring on foot, bicycle, 4x4, Arabian horse. “It’s very different from one rock to the other,” Ponzo says. “You can look and see whatever you want in those rocks.” One of the best known is Jabal AlFil, or Elephant Rock, where you can even arrange to have a special dinner awaiting you. There is now a range of hiking trails to suit all fitness levels to appreciate the stunning landscapes. The region’s renowned dark skies make stargazing at AlGharameel and other locations a popular way to end the evening.

Culture in AlUla: Desert X AlUla 2020, Winter at Tantora and More

From Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s signature infinity room at Winter at Tantora to an AlUla edition of Coachella’s Desert X AlUla 2020 festival bringing installations from El Seed, Gisela Colon, Sherin Guirguis and more to the sandy expanses, you never know what world-class art might be waiting for you amid the dunes. Musical sensations including Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Richie and Enrique Iglesias have all performed at AlUla’s man-made masterpiece, Maraya, the concert and entertainment venue that reflects its desert surroundings as the Guinness World Records’ largest mirrored building.

Travel Tips

  • Where to stay

    Major global luxury players like Aman will be adding plush accommodations to the options at AlUla, and there’s also the breathtaking Jean Nouvel-designed Sharaan Resort in the works. In the meantime, guests can check into the Ashar Resort; the brand-new, eco-friendly, modular-built Habitas; Shaden Resort, which combines luxury and authenticity; Sahary desert camp; or the unique RV Airstream trailers in Ashar Valley and Shaden Valley for a truly at-one-with-nature experience.

  • Where to Eat

    Winter Park is where visitors start their heritage journey and offers a choice of eight food trucks with options including burgers, donuts and local cuisine. Almahkar is a charming garden café staffed by locals located in the heart of the AlUla Oasis near Old Town, the café is ideal for sipping an artisan coffee in the garden amid the sounds of birds chirping in the date palms. Barzan offers a mixture of Saudi Arabian, Egyptian and Syrian cuisine located a stone’s throw from Dadan and will win you over with its traditional dishes. Heritage Garden Restaurant in the city center serves a variety of traditional foods and offers the option of traditional-style majlis great for large groups. Sahary Resort and Shaden Resort also have a range of restaurants onsite.

  • Where to Have Fun

    You can spend days exploring the heritage sites at AlUla for a full immersion into life of the ancient civlisations who lived here or passed through on the incense route. A Rawi (Arabic storyteller) will explain the 94 elaborately carved tombs in Hegra, built by the Nabataeans in the 1st century B.C and the ancient city of Dadan, era of time that little is known about and where archaeologists are currently undergoing live excavations and nearby Jabal Ikmah, with its 500 rock inscriptions in five different languages. Visit stunning natural rock formations at sunset and sunrise to get the perfect Insta shot, trek the canyons and lookouts on a guided tour – or do nothing, and simply enjoy the silence and vistas while relaxing in your accommodation.

Ashar Resort
Ashar Resort

You’ll find high-end villas, gourmet restaurants and a spa at the Ashar Resort - opening mid 2021. 

Habitas AlUla
Habitas AlUla

The pool deck of Habitas is located among sandstone canyons opening mid 2021. 

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