Although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a destination has traditionally been known as a place for religious pilgrimages of the faithful in Islam, it’s also a highly diverse country. It’s a nation of contrasts where tradition and modern technology are both at home.
It’s also a country of immense natural beauty. So, if you’re a nature lover looking to explore Saudi Arabia’s vast landscape, you’re sure to find excellent places of interest here.
Below are the top 9 destinations in Saudi Arabia that are highly recommended for nature lovers.
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1. Red Sea
The Red Sea in Saudi Arabia is replete with breath-taking vistas and wonders that are sure to impress ocean lovers. After all, this famous diving spot is home to vibrant coral reefs, shipwrecks, and over 1,200 kinds of fish (with 20 per cent being unique to the area).
If you’re visiting Jeddah and Umluj, the Red Sea is close by if you want to go for a swim or dive to see its fascinating marine life.
Located right by the Red Sea, Umluj is a fantastic spot for soaking up the sun and hitting the reset button while on its fantastic shores. Here, you can relax or laze away the day on one of its beautiful beaches, go island hopping, take a boat trip, or even dive into the water to see spectacular coral reefs and a variety of aquatic life.
3. The Farasan Islands
The Farasan island group is nothing like the deserts and sand dunes typically associated with Saudi Arabia. The islands located around 40 kilometres off the coast of Jizan along the Red Sea are an archipelago of 84 coral reef-covered islands.
The archipelago is considered the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s southern treasure, featuring pristine beaches, crystal-clear waterways, and unusual animals like the Arabian gazelle.
4. Al Wahbah Crater
Fancy a hike or two in an off-the-beaten path? T
he Al Wahbah Crater (aka Maqlaʿ Ṭamiyyah ) in Taif (Makkah region) is a natural wonder on the western border of the Harrat Kishb basalt plateau – also a fascinating place with its numerous volcanic cones.
The crater, which is 4 kilometres wide and about 250 metres deep, is a two-hour journey north of Taif and roughly four hours away from Jeddah. At its heart is a serene, opaque lake.
The most convenient way to visit this unearthly wonder is by going on a camping or hiking tour during winter, or very early or late in the day when the weather is cooler.
You may opt to hike all the way down to the crater for about 45 minutes to an hour and hike back up for around 60-90 minutes. Else, you can just stay up and camp out in the area close to the crater and take photos or go stargazing at night.
Taif in the Makkah region is considered to be Saudi Arabia’s Rose City.
As you can imagine, the city’s sprawling fields of blossoming fruits and flowers and magnificent mountains and valleys make it a true nature lover’s dream. Most famous for its beautiful variety of roses, this resort town produces rose perfume, rosewater and rose oil.
Aside from exploring the lush surroundings of Taif and taking photos, you can also hike, camp out, go dune bashing, or take a camel ride.
But if you want the roses to be the highlight of your trip, visit Taif between the months of May and July.
6. Jebel Fihrayn (The Edge of the World)
A sure-fire once-in-a-lifetime experience, a hike up to the Edge of the World makes for a really amazing nature-centred experience.
Here, you can take photos of magnificent desert valley vistas from the 300-metre-high cliffs of Tuwaik Mountain (Jabal Tuwaik). You might even be surprised to discover snails and fossilised remnants of marine life in this popular Riyadh destination.
So, when booking hotels in Riyadh, make sure to pencil in a visit to the Edge of the World in your schedule.
7. Rub’ al-Khali (Empty Quarter)
Also referred to as the ‘Abode of Silence’, the Empty Quarter, covers about 655,000 square kilometres (250,000 square miles) of the larger Arabian Desert.
It encompasses a large part of the Arabian Peninsula, with some of its sections being part of not only Saudi Arabia but also Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Its dunes can reach heights of up to 300 metres, with their sculpted ridges seeming to await the next camel caravan to pass.
8. Madain Saleh
Madain Saleh is a well-known historical landmark in Saudi Arabia.
Being the place for the country’s first designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Madain Saleh is where you’ll find the enormous sandstone rocks of the Al-‘Ula region, including the highly photographed natural monument called the elephant rock.
Al-‘Ula is one of the kingdom’s most ancient cities, and it is a great location to take both a heritage or cultural tour and a hike to see its breath-taking natural landscape.
9. Dhee Ayn (Marble Village)
The scenic stone village of Dhee Ayn (aka Aqabat al-Baha or Marble Village) majestically sits on top of a gleaming whitish rocky hill. Its unique position will give you the most awesome views of the lush-and-sometimes-arid Sarawat Mountain range.
The area around the four-centuries-old village is filled with dense vegetation (e.g., banana plantations, palm trees, etc.) and native flora, contrasting with some of the barren-looking mountains surrounding it. The greenery here is supported by the natural spring water near the base of the hill; hence, the name Dhee Ayn (Of Spring).
Time to Bask in Nature’s Beauty
If you’re a lover of nature, a visit to Saudi Arabia won’t disappoint.
Beyond the desert of the Empty Quarter and the bountiful marine life of the Red Sea, there are many more natural wonders to explore and see in Saudi Arabia.
Make sure to include the places mentioned here on your next trip to the kingdom.