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Adventure tourism in Saudi Arabia

Step outside in Saudi

 

Have a case of wanderlust? Look no further for a remedy. Saudi Arabia offers awe-inspiring natural phenomena and exciting and unique ways to explore its diverse terrain, making the kingdom worthy of a spot

on any outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list. The kingdom boasts quite an itinerary, from desert and water adventures to camping and hiking through caves and craters. Check out these ideas for vacation inspiration.

Desert Adventures

Part of what’s special about the Arabian Peninsula — and specifically Saudi — is its desert. In fact, Saudi Arabia is home to the largest sand desert on earth. From adrenaline-packed excursions like dune bashing and sandboarding to more serene, history-inspired activities such as camel riding and Arabian camping, the desert in Saudi serves as a canvas for more than just adventure travelers.

How to Explore Saudi’s Sands

Dune Bashing

Hop into a 4×4 for a thrilling experience through Saudi’s sand dunes. This form of off-roading combines mud and hill driving, and it’s popular throughout Saudi Arabia. Balance and speed are key to steering and handling a vehicle going up and down the dunes, so it’s best for visitors to buckle up with an experienced local tour provider with an intimate knowledge of the terrain.

Camel Riding

Prefer to explore Saudi’s expansive desert at a slower pace? Saddle up on a dromedary, also known as an Arabian camel, which has one hump and can reach up to 2 meters tall. For more than 3,000 years, camels have been a part of life on the peninsula, transporting goods and people and providing milk and meat. Ride a camel at Thumamah National Park or while on a Bedouin camping excursion.

Arabian Camping

For a true Arabian experience, sleep among the sand dunes and beneath the stars. Book your campsite in advance, and you’ll be set up with a tent in the desert. Fuel up on fresh Arabic coffee in the morning before heading out to enjoy activities, such as dune bashing, camel riding and sand skiing.

Hiking Adventures

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography is a delight to hiking enthusiasts. With striking lookout points atop cliffs and an oasis in the desert, there are plenty of adventures to embark upon on foot.

Where to Strap on Your Hiking Boots

Edge of the World

Begin trekking to the Edge of the World. Hikers can choose from a range of routes to reach this precipice in the Tuwaiq cliffs for dramatic views overlooking the horizon and valley below — once part of an ancient trade route. Long ago, this extensive valley was also part of the ocean’s floor, so keep an eye out for fossils en route to your lookout point.

Al Ahsa Oasis

One of the greenest areas in Saudi, the Al Ahsa Oasis offers travelers the opportunity to walk through something very unusual in the Gulf: refreshing springs, wells, canals and farmland. The UNESCO World Heritage Site features traces of settlements dating back to the Neolithic period. Nearby, explore Al Ahsa National Park and venture through the rock-hewn caves of Al Qarah Mountain.

Jabal Abyad

Though somewhat challenging to reach even in an all-terrain vehicle, the hike at Jabal Abyad (the white mountain) is worth the trek. Standing 2,093 meters tall, this volcano gets its name from the white ash that covers it. Explore Jabal Abyad and its nearby sister peak, Jabal Bayda.

Water Adventures

The Arabian Peninsula is surrounded by water — the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf and the Arabian Sea — making an adventure on or in the water an ideal way to explore the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Red Sea Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

More than 1,200 fish species call the Red Sea their home, and nearly 20 percent of these are found only in the Red Sea. You can also discover more than 1,000 invertebrate species, 200 hard and soft corals, and the ruins and treasures of shipwrecks throughout history.

Visiting a Desert Lake

On the edge of Riyadh, Al Kharrarah National Park is home to a desert lake. After heavy rains, a temporary lake known as Lake Kharrarah, also called the Lake of Liquid Light, forms and can be deep enough to swim. Take a dip or enjoy the surrounding red sand hills as you picnic on the shore. Make sure to also drive alongside Lake Kharrarah to see the Hifna Waterfall rush down red sand dunes. Even if you’re visiting after the water has evaporated, you’ll see its remnants at work in the lush green lake bed it leaves behind and the wildlife and migratory birds it attracts.

Exploring on Boats and Cruises

For those who love to be on the water, a boat ride should be on your Saudi itinerary. Whether you sail around the archipelago of more than 100 islands surrounding Umluj, venture out on a boat to the mangrove forests of the Farasan Island or spring for a full-fledged cruise, being on the water is a great way to get a 360-degree look at your surroundings. Consider a luxury cruise with access to protected islands that are part of the NEOM project and not otherwise open to the public. You’ll also be able to explore the spectacular Georgios G shipwreck, coined the Saudi Titanic, from underwater.