Think you know Saudi Arabia? Well we will challenge you on that! Join us on our tour of South Saudi in the Asir region. Here you’ll find the most stunning landscape of the Arabian Peninsula and all just a stone throw away from the Yemenite border.
For years this area was known as the conservative and hard-to-travel-to area of the KSA. However, highways appeared and the modern world with its comforts arrived slowly. But don’t think the local tribes here gave up their culture, which is very distinct from the rest of the country. For years the border with Yemen was non-existent, so the influence of Yemeni culture is very obvious in this region. This doesn’t look like Riyadh or Jeddah, but more like a country of its own.
During the tour you’ll fully explore this area and see the amazing architecture, experience a day in the Empty Quarter wander around ginger bread houses, buy a dagger and visit the beach on the tropical islands of Farasan.
And with convenient start and finish in Riyadh and Jeddah this tour is a fully off the beaten path tour of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
If you would like more time in Riyadh and/or Jeddah we can arrange tour extensions for you. This tour can also be combined with our tours to Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran for a full Middle East Adventure!
As always, return Pioneer discounts apply; get in touch to book your place!
Arrival into Riyadh and the group meet up at 2pm for a quick city tour.
We head straight to Al Masmak, the clay and mud brick fort in Riyadh city centre. Probably the most iconic part of Saudi today, this part of the old town played centre stage in the restoration of the House of Saud.
Visit the Grand Mosque, Deira Souq and the Dukhanah and Athomairy Gate.
After lunch head to the National Museum including the Al Muraba Palace and mosque.
Stroll through the museum gardens and take in the atmosphere
We head to Riyadh’s highest tower and mall to see how Saudis spend their money
Dinner and overnight in Riyadh
Sunday 18th October – Najran
Up very early for our 05:40 domestic flight to Najran, a city which is just a couple of kilometres from the border with Yemen. Back in the day the border was open, but you can still clearly see the heavy influence of the Yemeni culture in this city.
After dropping our bags at the hotel we’ll start our tour of Najran. First stop will be Najran Fort (Qasr Al-Imara), located in the area of Aba As Su’ud. This fort has all the famous characteristics from the Asir-region; mud-bricks, fairy-tale turrets and remarkable windows.
Head on to Dagger Souk. See how the famous knives are made, famous for being very short and with a bow at the end and often associated with the Yemeni culture. If you want, you can even buy one yourself!
We’ll take in more of the local markets. In Najran they have a camel market, sheep market, cow market, dates market, coffee market, blacksmith market, leather market and ladies’ souk. This last one as quite interesting as here we’ll find women working at the souk, something that’s very uncommon in Saudi Arabia.
Visit the famous Al-Aan Palace and then take a walk through the area of the old mud-houses of Najran. Next to it is Al Ukhdood, a famous archaeological site.
Dinner of a traditional Yemeni-influenced meal
Overnight in Najran
Monday 19th October – Empty Quarter
After breakfast we head for a day-trip to the famous Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia. Najran is the gateway for trips into this part of the country. Even though it is incredibly big we’ll take a sneak peek into what the Empty Quarter is like.
Along the way we will stop at the Himma Archaeological site with petroglyphs and inscriptions.
Continue our drive towards the giant sand dunes where we’ll have a picnic lunch and you’ll get a small idea of the incredible vast space that the Empty Quarter is. Emptiness has a different meaning after visiting this place!
Drive back to Najran, dinner and overnight.
Tuesday 20th October – Abha
Today will be a long drive to Abha, the cultural heart of the Asir region. This region is known as being very conservative but also very different then the rest of the country.
Along the way we will stop at various interesting points, including the Red Village and Qatt museum, where you’ll learn more about the specific designs they have in this region.
Stop at Dhahran al Janoib, a village which is conveniently located along the Abha – Najran route, where we’ll have lunch.
Drive to the viewpoint for the hanging village of Habalah, an ancient village now left over to nature.
Late afternoon arrival in Abha where we’ll check in before heading out for a local dinner
Overnight in Abha
Wednesday 21st October – Abha
After breakfast we’ll go on a morning stroll around the confusingly-named Tuesday Market (which is closed only on Tuesdays!), here you’ll find lots of local Asir handicrafts and spices.
In the city centre we’ll head to the Al Muftaha Art Village, local artists here show a completely different side of Saudi then what you may have known. Some images can even be very explicit! There is also street art on the outside walls, a unique feature in KSA.
We take a short drive outside of Abha and visit Al Soudah National Park. Along the way you’ll see monkeys next to the road, while we slowly reach the highest peak of Saudi Arabia (3000m). Here you will be surrounded by lush green valleys with an incredible view of the area.
Stop at a traditional Asir House museum. Here you will find the famous brightly coloured interior of the Asir houses. Outside is also a parking lot with several old cars which look like they straight come from an Indiana Jones film!
One of the highlights in the area is Rijal Alma. You’ll get to discover the uniquely restored gingerbread houses. We will take a look around this photogenic village before we drive back to Abha.
Dinner and overnight in Abha
Thursday 22nd October – Jizan
YPT love a borderlands adventure, and today will be a day of driving next to the Yemeni border towards the coast. Few have done a Saudi-Yemen borderlands road trip, and we will be stopping along the way for rests and photo opportunities when needed.
Along the way down to Jizan we will also pay a visit to the Flower Men. The men from this tribe put beautiful flowers on their heads and are a truly one-off sight!
Stop for refreshments at Wadi Lajab, a green wadi located between high cliffs.
Further down south we will visit Fayfa mountain. Here you can find green terraces where they plant coffee and maize.
Arrival into Jizan where we’ll check into our hotel before going out for a local dinner
Overnight in Jizan
Friday 23rd October – Farasan Islands
Up early because at 6am we will take the ferry to the Farasan Islands. In the harbour you’ll see more of the strict security, as the islands are located close to Yemen and Eritrea. This is the far corner of the KSA and a unique place that nearly nobody visits.
Upon arrival on the island we’ll take in the few Ottoman sights on the island, including a small museum.
Lunch on the island
Then it’s time to charter our own private boat and go for a tour around the outlying islands. We’ll stop at places for snorkelling and of course we will find our own private beach with white sand and blue water!
Overnight on Farasan Island
Saturday 24th October – Jeddah
We take the early morning ferry back to Jizan before transferring to the airport for the 11:50 flight to Jeddah
After we check in to our hotel we go straight out to explore Jeddah, taking in the city centre and old Jeddah – al Balad. See the old city gates and traditional markets (souqs) in this labyrinthine part of the city. This is where traders from all over Arabia and Africa live and work in a surprisingly colourful world
The most famous architecture is Jeddah’s coral houses, that still stand in various states of disrepair.
Stroll along the beach and view the ‘floating’ mosque, before a walk along the Jeddah Corniche for great views of the Red Sea
Seafood dinner in one of the city’s famous seafood restaurants
Overnight in Jeddah
Sunday 25th October
End of tour, YPT can arrange snorkelling or diving trips in the Red Sea in Jeddah, and airport transfer for your flight out of the KSA. Or join us on the next leg of the trip in Kuwait where we will fly out on the 20:40 direct flight