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Bloomberg Highlights 6 Tourist Spots to Visit in Saudi Arabia

Bloomberg Highlights 6 Tourist Spots to Visit in Saudi Arabia

Monday, 7 October, 2019 - 11:45
Men stand outside the Qasr al-Farid tomb in Madain Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, near Saudi Arabia's northwestern town of al-Ula. (AFP)

Tourists are now welcome in Saudi Arabia as part of its Vision 2030. The Kingdom offers ancient ruins and a rich and varied culture that defies stereotypes. Here are six spots to head for if you do make it:

1. The ruins of Al Ula

Al Ula is the best-known destination in Saudi Arabia for a reason. The stunning area in the Kingdom’s northwest is scattered with golden rock formations, lush citrus farms and the remains of several ancient kingdoms. The most famous ruins, Mada’in Saleh, contain clusters of 2,000-year-old Nabatean tombs.

The ruins are closed until the end of 2020 for a project preparing them to receive a bigger flow of tourists. However, they will be partially accessible from December until March for tourists attending the government’s Winter At Tantora festival, which brings a series of concerts and pop-up restaurants to the area.

2. Saudi Arabia’s ‘Maldives’

The pristine islands dotted in the Red Sea near the towns of Umluj and Al Wajh are also partially off-limits as the government plans a tourism development called the Red Sea Project. But the shallow turquoise water and coral reefs around the islands are fair game, and it’s well worth hiring one of the local boatmen to explore what they call their version of the Maldives. In the winter, dolphins can be spotted.

Infrastructure in the area is simple, but the local hospitality is second to none, as is the fresh fish. Book a tour if you’re on the less adventurous side, and bring diving or snorkeling gear with you.

3. The Asir mountainous

Summer rainstorms bring greenery to dramatic mountain viewpoints and local men wear fragrant crowns of flowers in their hair. Popular activities include hiking and touring the historic village of Rijal Alma.

4. Edge of the world

Many travelers speed through Riyadh, a beige urban sprawl that’s choked with congestion. But the capital has plenty of cultural sites to explore, from the bustling traditional markets of Taiba and Souq Al Zal to the recently renovated historic area of Diriyah, ancestral home of the ruling Al Saud family.

Beyond that, Riyadh is worth a stop just to see “Edge of the World,” the towering plateau two hours from the city that’s a favorite weekend hiking spot for residents. The views stretch endlessly in every direction and the silence is awe-inspiring.

5. Neom

The brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the $500 billion futuristic mega-project Neom -- part of the region of Tabuk -- is full of natural wonders beloved by domestic tourists, and officials are hatching plans to cater to adventure-lovers. The area also boasts excellent Red Sea diving.

6. The eastern oasis

Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahsa oasis is an excellent place to explore the Kingdom’s culture, which varies from region to region. Located in the east -- a quick train ride or flight from Riyadh -- the area’s urban center is called Hofuf. Use it as a base to explore sites like the Al Qarrah caves, which stay cool in the summer, and the Qasariah souq.


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