Lake Kharrarah Park and Hifna Waterfall in Riyadh Saudi Arabia
A lake and a waterfall in the desert, in Saudi Arabia? Yes! Believe it or not such gems do exist and of all places, in the middle of the desert. The magnificent red sand dunes outside Riyadh’s city limits hide this surprising and beautiful scenery, little known to the expat community.
Amidst the endless ocean of sand dunes lies “Lake Kharrarah”, also spelled Al Kharrarh or Al Kharaarh National Park (Arabic الخرّارة)
A part of the Al Kharrarah national park valley transforms into a desert lake after heavy rains. The massive surge of water rushes down the steep dunes into the valley below, forming a temporary lake, which at times can become deep enough to swim in. After the water has evaporated, the valley lake bed becomes a striking green contrast to the surrounding red sand dunes.
The red sand valley transforms into a pleasantly green pasture where migratory birds and other wildlife can be spotted, especially in early spring when the lake bed is in full bloom.
Another desert lake outside Riyadh is the “Secret Lake”, which is remote and unknown location to most locals and expats alike. Find the guide on Blue Abaya: Riyadh’s Secret Lake.
**Images and text are copyrighted under KSA copyright laws
Kharrarah Park is popular among locals for picnics, dune bashing, sand boarding and dune buggy riding. On weekdays the park is practically empty of visitors while on weekends larger crowds gather in the afternoons especially in the cooler months. Most people come to the area with SUV’s and other vehicles compatible for the desert. However normal cars are able to reach the edges of the park because it’s paved almost all the way down to the lake bed. The best places will only be accessible with a 4×4 though.
The lake bed makes for a picturesque picnic spot, acacia trees surround the edges and the deeper end has more lush vegetation year round. The waterfalls can be found after a short drive along side of the lake. Water gushing down from the arid sand dunes is truly a sight to behold for those lucky enough to witness it. The red sand dune area is huge; they seem to continue endlessly to the horizon billowing like a mass of waves.
The scenery becomes even more astonishing in the afternoons and cloudy days when the shadows begin to color the dunes in a multitude of colors. It’s worth exploring this area further beyond the fenced lake bed valley. There’s a paved road that goes behind the dunes around to the other end of the lake. There are numerous off road spots that can be explored with a 4×4 from here.
Climbing the dunes by foot is certainly a strenuous effort, but well worth the struggle. Going up is a great exercise too! The views from the top of the highest dunes are spectacular. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Tuwaiq escarpment and the farms far out in the valley.
Coming down the dunes is the most fun part! Some people run, roll, jump, or slide down the soft sand on various items. Special sand boards can be used the same way as snow boards would to ski down the hills. Taking a car out to the dunes needs an experienced driver; getting stuck is a common occurrence even among the more experienced drivers. The tires should be deflated before entering the soft sand and a sand shovel and ladder will be essential in getting the stuck cars out of the sand. Luckily there will always be friendly locals around ready to lend a helping hand!
To get to the Khararrah park from Riyadh take the Makkah highway west (route 40) proceed passing the check point and follow the road down the escarpment. Continue on this road passing the exit to Dirab and Dhurma until you reach exit 7 Jau, take the exit and make a U-turn. You are now headed back towards Riyadh and will take the first service road on the right, then you’ll pass by a pink gas station called ZamZam gas station.
After the sign in English and Arabic for Al Kharrarh Park, turn right onto a road in rather poor condition. This road becomes a Tarmac road after a few hundred meters and then passes by some camel farms circling its way into the dune area. As the road
winds up and takes a sharp turn to the right about 4 km from the main road, you’ll see a small white mosque on the right side of the road.
The entrance to the lake valley is directly opposite from the mosque.
GPS co ordinates for Lake Kharrarah: 24° 24′ 20.63″ N 46° 14′ 43.45″ E
The pics on this post with the lake filled with water were taken on 3rd of May 2013. The water was so deep people were swimming and paddling around the lake in various makeshift boats. it’s recommended to go there extremely early on weekends because it gets very crowded, noisy and dusty in the afternoons.
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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
Enjoyed the images, that shade of red being reminiscent of outback Australia.
How are you?
I love the red dunes!
Salaam Denise, I’m fine thank you, and you?
Thanks for the comments!
Ian-would love to see the outback someday :)
Big- gee thanks :)
hi there, this is nice..
i would love to visit these with friends and family.
i hope u can provide me latitude,longitude coordinates for GPS.
thanks and more power.
[…] could be found. Surprisingly, there was nobody around. Usually places this close to Riyadh (such as Kharrarah National Park nearby) are packed with families having picnics and hoards of youngsters on quad bikes creating […]
Would it be an essential to have a 4×4 to get to the lake/waterfall?
You could go with a regular car but then you can only drive for a little bit off the tarmac rd and that tends to be the most crowded area, so better you go when there’s no crowds, if they bother you that is.
Hi I am a photo enthusiast who currently resides in Riyadh. Your blog is very helpful & informative specially on the part of giving direction “on how get there”. Little did I know that there are so many places to visits here in the Kingdom. I love reading your blog and photos. Hoping to reach most of those places someday if not all & capture great images during my adventure. :)
all the best, all the time
thank you for the nice comment! Glad it has been of help to you, and hopefully you get to visit the places someday too!
all the best to you!
[…] picnic and camping areas have been ruined by litter! One such example is another desert lake, Lake Kharrarah at the Red Sand dunes, which on the weekends hosts half of Riyadh for a […]
[…] 2. Go to the desert! Spring is almost over and now is the time to see the desert in full bloom and the weather is not too hot yet. Easy to reach even with two wheel drives are the Red Sands area on Mecca highway and Thumamah sand dunes and park in the North. For further expeditions out of the city try Rawdhat Khuraim, Red Sands or Lake Kharrarah. […]
hi friends is this true that we have lake in riyadh
[…] rain pours down for days which forms temporary lakes and streams in the desert. Flash floods can be a really big problem and can cause real life […]
The lake has already dried up
Any updates for this lake
[…] so it might be that had I done so years ago, this place would now be in a similar sad state of Lake Kharrarah, another seasonal lake outside Riyadh. Also things published online tend to be more easily shared […]
[…] a beautiful area of red sand dunes surrounded by majestic mountains. This is a popular place to rent quad bikes to explore the area around Kharrarah National Park and on the way there you will see more quad bike […]
Parts of Riyadh very nice , parks and dunes so nice
[…] Lake Khararrah […]
[…] Some of the best dunes to do this activity are located to the west of Riyadh along Makkah road. Near Lake Khararah you’ll find long steep slopes to slide down on. On the weekends it gets really crowded here, so head out very early or go on a weekday. Find out more about this red sand dune area here: Lake Khararah in Riyadh […]
Thanks a lot for sharing this useful information.
would you please send me location as i have a plan to visit that side with my family. thanks.