One of the perks of living in the Middle-East and particularly Saudi-Arabia are the amazing travel opportunities it opens up. Many places of interest become geographically closer for expats originally from the Americas, Europe and Asia. Travel is also relatively affordable and there are direct flights and good flight connections from Saudi and the GCC countries. Some of the cheap airlines have great promos and affordable prices around the Middle East. What’s pretty cool about working in Saudi Arabia is the annual leave. Many expats in KSA get more than 50 days a year paid annual leave. That leaves plenty of time to explore the surroundings, both inside and outside KSA. Here are some of my favorite destinations to visit from Saudi Arabia.
Some destinations are great for a weekend getaways and others I would recommend for more than a week long holiday. The possibilities are really endless! The following are my personal favorites as a traveler that prefers the roads less traveled and places to connect with nature and wildlife. That’s why you won’t find Bahrain or Dubai on this Top Ten list. There’s nothing wrong with those two destinations, just not necessairly my cup of tea as a traveler who prefers less crowded destinations with lots of nature around. On this list I want to focus more on the quality of the destinations in terms of historical value, local culture, local food, unique nature.
My top 10 places to travel to from Saudi-Arabia: (in no particular order!)
Maldives, the paradise islands where honeymooners and couples flock from all over the world to spend their dream vacation. Many do not know that the Maldives can be reached with a direct Saudi Airlines flight from Riyadh, making it very easily accessible even for a shorter trip. The flight from Riyadh to Male is just 5 hours! Picture perfect beaches, luxury overwater bungalows and world-class diving await the visitors. Many will be surprised to learn that there are family friendly options in the Maldives, such as the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort- which is really the ultimate Maldives resort choice for families with kids. Kids stay for free there so it will not break your bank either. Read more about it here: Maldives Paradise Island Getaway for the Family
The current security situation is of course a serious concern, but in the occasion the situation calms down, hopefully very soon, Yemen is a MUST VISIT destination. Purely from the historical point of view, Yemen and especially the capital Sana’a is a unique, world-class destination. The architecture, the landscape, the people, the nature, the culture..It’s too much to even begin to describe the amazingness of what Yemen has to offer. I will only say, If you ever have a chance to visit Yemen, do not miss out on it. Especially Socotra Island, which is to date my favorite destination from all the 65 countries around the world I’ve been lucky to visit so far. There is a way to visit Socotra island without going through the mainland, which might be the only way to visit Yemen in the meantime.
IMHO, the world’s most hospitable people are the Omanis. I have never felt so welcomed, my every need and wish catered to with such genuine, overwhelming hospitality than what I experienced in Oman. Some examples of the Omani people’s character: I traveled there alone so I felt a bit awkward at times as a female in an Arab country. However I was not harassed even once while there. One afternoon as I was collecting small pink seashells from the beach, a group of young Omani boys that were playing football on the beach came to help me. At first I found it odd, but after a while I realized they genuinely just wanted to help me. We had fun searching for the pink ones and managed to gather a large amount. I thanked them, and being accustomed to little boys only doing such arduous jobs for tourists because they want our money I thought to myself, they surely want to get paid now! As I was handing over some cash telling them to go buy ice cream they all firmly refused. I was insisting but they declined and smiled and told me it was a gift. I thought it was the perfect example how Omanis don’t see tourists as only walking money machines but as honored guests to their beautiful country.
Oman has many places worth seeing, the capital Muscat has a mystical feel to it and it’s nothing like the other busy, crowded and materialistic GCC countries. The country is full of interesting historical sites and amazing landscapes like the numerous Wadis with emerald green water to swim in. Oman is one of the few places in the world where tourists can be 100% sure to be able to watch sea turtles come to shore to lay their eggs in the middle of the night at Ras al Jinz.
4. Sri Lanka
Easy and cheap to reach from Riyadh with a direct flight, Sri Lanka is a charming little island in the Indian Ocean. A nice combination of nature,history, culture and friendly people, Sri Lanka has surprisingly many options for the traveler despite its small size. The magnificent tea farms and majestic mountains make for wonderful trekking opportunities! There are palaces and temples to explore, delicious spicy food to enjoy and bustling little cities and towns nestled in the mountains waiting to be explored. And of course some pretty amazing beaches!
5. Jordan Very easily reachable from Saudi even for an extended weekend, Jordan is an absolute must see destination! From Amman the Dead Sea is quick to reach and the spas dotted along its coast are just divine! Movenpick Dead Sea Resort and Spa is absolutely gorgeous! The hotel has a tranquil atmosphere, an amazing spa, several different pools all overlooking the Dead Sea, relaxing treatments and great restaurants.
The world famous tombs of the Nabatean people can be seen in ancient city of Petra, which sis a sister site to the one in Saudi called Madain Saleh. Petra gets pretty crowded with tourists year round and its best to book early for peak seasons. The ancient city of Petra is surrounded by the most strangely shaped, rose-colored mountains. Jordan has plenty of other historical sites, as well as Wadi Rum and a beach destination, Aqaba on the Gulf of Aqaba.
6. Hong Kong
The dynamic Hong Kong has something for everyone! Superb shopping, delicious food, beautiful and surprising scenery. Worth a visit on its own but also great for a stop-over when continuing further East.
The best safari experience I had so far has been in Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. Especially during the great migration this place is truly magical! A visit to Tanzania would not be complete without seeing Zanzibar, the Spice Island! One of those few places left where the only people on the beach besides you are the local fishermen. Amazing diving!
Saudi-Arabia’s tiny little neighbor is greatly under valued as a tourist destination. Only an hour flight away from Riyadh, Kuwait is definitely worth a weekend trip and great for a quick getaway from Saudi. Personally I like the more quiet vibe here which is a nice change to the busy and crowded Dubai for example. Read more about Kuwait here.
Very popular among Saudi tourists, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi are the best know destinations in Malaysia. But this country has so much more to offer! Diving, trekking, history, rain forests, wildlife, architecture, shopping..Malaysians are known for their courtesy and fabulous food! My absolute favorite place in Malaysia is the tiny island of Perhentian Kecil!
Last but definitely not least, Turkey, particularly Istanbul is an amazing destination and super easy to get to from Saudi Arabia. Check out Blue Abaya’s post on Istanbul to understand why you shouldn’t miss it!
Now I’ve caught the travel bug!! What places would you add to the list?
If you’re looking to stay in Saudi Arabia for your holidays there surely is not shortage of places to visit! Start from our Explore Saudi Arabia page to browse some local destinations.
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Hello there! I’m Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 75 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Follow my adventures in Saudi and beyond on instagram: instagram.com/blueabaya
A great list-although don’t think Qatar deserves a spot there,unless it is the weekend of the tennis. Syria or Lebanon deserve a spot though, for sure.
Robyn-I left out Syria (and actually Yemen) because of the current political situation there, and for me I prefer Qatar over Lebanon although I do love the country! I would go somewhere else than Beirut though!
Yea who would go to Syria right now :p
Oman …. I love the Sultanate and its wonderful people. Very humble, generous, and thoughtful people in Oman. I’m very happy that they are my neighbors :D
Faisal-You’ve described them very well!Happy to live so close by too!
WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!.ure making me wanna jump on an aeroplane this MOMENT all those look and sound wonderful..lol All i can say is i love ure blog.
Morena-I would love to jump on a plane to the Maldives right now :)
I have never been to any middle-eastern or even in arab countries. I love your travel guide! Would like to visit all. Due your blog I randomly started friendship with Standy the omani girl, and reading your experiences aabout her home made me feel happy. :) Thank you Dear!
Ildi-I hope you get to visit one some day! If I had to recommend only one I would say go to Oman!
I’ve just recently found your blog and love it! How fortunate you are to explore this amazing areas on our planet. I doubt I’ll ever be able to visit and enjoy your travels so much.
As for the ‘haters’, you are correct, you can’t please everyone and you are entitled to your experience and opinion. Keep up the good work and thank you so much for sharing!
Elleblue-thanks for the comment and hope to see you around :)
So proud to see Malaysia on the list :) You are right, there are a lot of Middle Easterners visiting Malaysia especially Saudis. Some of them come for holidays, for honeymoons and some come to study as we have many good universities. It is a good source of income for my country :) and the funny thing is, they leave quite an impact on us, Malaysians, in terms of dressing. You can see many Malaysian ladies donning abayas now just like the GCC ladies. Myself included but I’ve been wearing it since a looong time before it even became the “IN” thing. Btw, Laylah would it be too much to ask if I were to put a link to my vacation home here for anyone who plans to visit Malaysia? I’ll give you a special offer on my vacation home if you and your family plan to visit KL again :) Be free to say no, though.
I would love the link bc my family and I LOVE Malaysia and want to come again.
Noor, I’m waiting for Laylah to give me the green light first bcoz this is her blog and I don’t want to advertise anything unless she agrees :)
mrsbawazir-sorry for late reply!!Sure you can put the link!Where is the vacation home?
Hope we can visit there someday!
Hi Laylah, thanks :) It is in Kuala Lumpur about 10 minutes of driving to the twin towers. I do hope you'll come visit. seasoncityinkl.blogspot.com
I wish to go to Kuwait though, your blogging about it really puts me in awe. Inshallah once the baby is bit bigger and can handle the travelling. Keep on writing, you are an inspiration!
the only reason anyone would go to Malaysia would be for sex tourism
I love Oman for all the same reasons;)
I couldn’t live anywhere else.
Omani Princess-lucky you to live there! I will be visiting next month inshallah!
Love your list. I have been to several of the countries mentioned… and Yes.. Kuwait it in my heart… I lived there as a teenager.. and loved it <3 Still trying to get the hubster to move out of Riyadh and to some of the spots you mentioned above :D
I think I might need to go to Oman again, as I really did not see it the way you describe it.. gotta go give it a second chance :)
Om Lujain-I have the same agenda, Qatar and Kuwait would be great ;)Yup you really need to visit Oman again!When did you go?
I’ve never been to the Middle East or the Far EAst, but the places on your list all look amazing! Thanks for posting your beautiful photos! Francesca from Ottawa, Canada
So exotic, all the places your mentioned. I would love to see where my grandparents came from (Anatolia), but it’s not easy being an Armenian in that section of Turkey. BTW, have you traveled in the US? I’ve driven this country from Massachusetts to California. Cross-country drives here are amazing. Can’t wait to do it again.
Karen-I used to live in the States as a kid and we did a lot of travelling especially on the east coast.Never drove cross country though ut it sounds like an awesome trip!
I actually have not yet been to Asia yet. Nor the Middle East and Africa and South America.
So clearly you’re doin’ well, bopping all over the place.
I am looking at the calendar right now to see when I can fly out to these beautiful places.
Another place that is on my list is the Seychelles and Mauritius islands. I have heard a lot about those islands and want to visit ASAP.
You forgot Bali so many people from the Gulf was there and Jakarta, Indonesia was flooded with Saudis..
My dh has no interest in going to Arab countries but I would love to go to Oman. Maldives is on my to do list for sure.
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Noor-haven't been to Bali for the reason I dislike and tend to avoid places that have been ruined by mass tourism..Many of my friends did go from Saudi and were disappointed, however they loved other places in Indonesia. Indonesia is on my bucket list for sure!
Don’t write off Bali just yet! It is absolutely lovely as long as you get off the main tourist strip. There are lovely romantic guesthouses and villas to stay in and things to do all over the island. Also, don’t go in July, August or Christmas – it’s much too busy then, if you go during other times it can actually be really quiet and quaint.
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I’m very interested in going to Oman one day. How developed is it in comparison to other gulf states?
you should visit west Malaysia ..the Borneo island..Sarawak & Sabah!
as malaysian, i cant get enough of Sabah & Sarawak!
so many interesting and beautiful places!! especially if you are a nature lover :)
Wow,its great that you mentioned oman!
Even though i’m living in Abu Dhabi,i still love Oman and even though i’m Indian,i love it more than my Homeland,maybe because i was born over there and all my memories are related to Oman,infact there isnt a day i dont think about Muscat :(
Indeed the People are really so wonderful! I really hope Oman gets more Tourism too!
On the other hand i just came across this blog today and so far its very interesting,looks like im going to spend the whole night going through it!
Btw what you have to say about Dubai is slowly spreading to Abu Dhabi as well,but then there is Al Ain which then totally kicks ass for Greenery+Traditions!There is greenery all over and there are so many forts,if you dont know about it then please Google it and find more about it! I’m sure you’ll like it :)
Great list here! Sri Lanka and Kuala Lumpur are my favourites :). Keep it up!
Laylah, was it you in the swimming pool?
[…] 12. TOP 10 TRAVEL DESTINATIONS FROM SAUDI […]
Thailand a must!!
What is the 6 hours flight to Maldives????? There is no direct flight , all at least 8 hours:(
Hey, there, thanks for sharing this amazing and outstanding info about top 10 traveling destination from Saudi! There have so many new and challenging things to learn. I must say your blog is really stunning.
I am surprised not to see Dubai in this list! I was traveling from Dubai to Jeddah and plane was full of Saudi tourist. Saudi`s are top list of visitors to UAE.
Because everyone goes to Dubai and Bahrain anyway, it doesn’t need to be listed :D