In October 2019, Young Pioneer Tours was amongst the first Western companies to organize a tour to Saudi Arabia making use of the great opening-up of Saudi Arabia with the new visa policy it launched. Our first group had an amazing time in this country, and we expect tourism to skyrocket. The whole of the country is packed with fun and interesting sights and activities. There are many more things to do, but here are the 8 things you have to do in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Go up the Kingdom Tower in Riyadh
The Kingdom Tower is one of the tallest towers of Saudi Arabia, at 302.3 metres high. The city of Riyadh is a strange one because it is built in the middle of the desert and really doesn’t make much sense. At the moment, Riyadh is bursting with activity and construction projects. The best way to get a sense of the beat of Riyadh is certainly to go up the Kingdom Tower.
The Kingdom Tower is shaped like a bottle opener (the irony of it being a symbol of a dry kingdom is not lost on us) and it is possible to buy tickets to take two successive highspeed elevators that bring you to its Skybridge on the 99th floor. We recommend going there as the sun is setting to see Riyadh at both daytime and nighttime, and maybe film a kickass timelapse (not original at all but, still cool).
Drive to the Edge of the World.
Located not so far from Riyadh, Jebel Fihrayn –known to the West under its nickname the ‘Edge of the World’ – is a stunning rock formation which was created by the move of tectonic plates. The drive to get there makes it a day trip from Riyadh and it is possible to organize a picnic there. The view is absolutely gorgeous and well worth the trip. Get there now before the tourists come en masse and the sight is disfigured with safety railings, shops and the likes!
This sight should definitely be a highlight of any trip to Saudi Arabia, topped only by our next one.
See the Al Wahbah crater
The Al Wahbah crater, along with the Edge of the World, is one of those sights of such grandeur that it can’t really be portrayed with photos. This volcanic crater is simply enormous – 2 kilometres wide and 250 metres deep! If you’d like to go to the bottom of it, it takes about an hour to walk down.
The crater is located about 250 kilometres from the city of Ta’if – renowned for its roses if you happen to be around in season.
Go extreme dune bashing in Qassim
While the previous sights have been pretty Lonely-Planet material, things get more YPT-esque when we get to Qassim. Chances are you haven’t seen Qassim in Trip Advisor recommendations, but this small and sleepy group of villages offers a real access into Saudi culture, both old and new. And when we are talking about new culture, we’re talking burning gas in massive modified pickup trucks to climb up enormous dunes at breakneck speed. The activity, which the locals just happen to do because guys will be guys, runs every day but there are some days where festivals are organized and people come from the whole Arabian Peninsula for their dose of desert adrenaline. The motors roar and the trucks are pushed to the brink of exploding under the scorching heat of the Arabian desert.
Get in there before a ticket booth is put up or the activity is outlawed because it is, after all, quite silly dangerous.
See the petroglyphs of Jubbah
Located near the city of Ha’il, the site of Jubbah hosts a plethora of carvings and paintings on rocks. We get it: you’ve been to Las Geel in Somaliland or Gobustan in Azerbaijan and you’ve seen cows on rocks before (as we have ourselves), but we have to say – the ones in Saudi are the most vivid and numerous we’ve ever seen!
The petroglyphs represent an abundance of scenes, animals and characters, going from the domestication of camels to fights between horsemen.
Stroll around Jeddah Old City
The old city of Jeddah is a must-see of Saudi Arabia. The coral stone buildings there haven’t changed for centuries, with some of them as ancient as 700 years old. Most of the buildings, now in a state of quite cool decay we must say, have not been restored since the time they were built, making a visit of the old quarters of Jeddah as authentic an experience it can be. Locals still live in those buildings and it is fascinating to see how life continues at it slow traditional pace, a few kilometres away from the bustle of shopping malls and Western fast food of new Jeddah.
Visit the southern region
Bordering Yemen and Oman, the southern parts of the KSA are radically different from Jeddah or Riyadh. It feels a world apart from those places when you go around the small villages which haven’t seen foreigners in years as they were, up until recently, quite unstable due to the war in Yemen. The culture there hasn’t changed much in centuries and things are much cheaper. If you come around those part, make sure to visit the Flower Men of Saudi Arabia as well as the traditional tribal houses, which look like gingerbread houses.
Explore the wonders of Mada’in Saleh
While it is currently closed, Mada’in Saleh is one of the most famous historical sights of Saudi Arabia. Similar to Petra in Jordan, Mada’in Saleh is also known under the names of Hegra and Al-Hijr. Those who have been to Jordan will certainly feel familiar with the Nabatean architecture which was used here, as those buildings are the ruins of a Nabatean settlement which was the southernmost and second largest of the empire (if you haven’t been to Jordan, come with us in March!). The dramatic buildings, carved out of the rock itself, will leave you in awe. The site is UNESCO heritage and is located close to the town of Al-Ula.
The site is expected to open to tourism again very soon but can only be visited with special permission from the government at the moment.
Saudi Arabia is a land packed with sights and activities making for a wonderful adventure. Come to the KSA with YPT on our next group tour or let us arrange a private tour for you!