Ten Beautiful Places to Discover in Riyadh’s Desert

The desert. It’s just rocks and sand right? How can that be beautiful? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to me the desert is just such a magical, peaceful and beautiful place. It’s really amazing what kind of beautiful places really awaits just a short drive out of Riyadh. So many different landscapes and vegetation can be found around the desert of Riyadh. From the famous Red Sands, the majestic Tuwaiq escarpment, desert lakes and heritage villages, there’s always something new and exciting to discover outside of the city.

What kind of beautiful places can you find out there? Escarpments overlooking endless plains such as “the Edge of the World“, seemingly never-ending sand dunes in different hues of orange, red and gold. Depending on the time of year the Wadis (valleys) can become like green oasis’s and seasonal lakes form in various areas outside of Riyadh. Savanna-like areas with free roaming camels and acacia trees and even rock carving sites can be found outside of Riyadh. Read about Edge of the World, the most beautiful place in Riyadh, here: Guide to Edge of the World

The most beautiful place in Riyadh desert: Edge of the World. Photo: Laura Alho



Ten Beautiful Places in Riyadh Desert. Riyadh River. Photo: Laura Alho


The best thing about going to the desert is the absolute silence. No cars, humans, traffic or construction noise. Only you, your thoughts and the nature. The beauty of it just so overwhelming!

Here are ten beautiful places in Riyadh  awaiting to be discovered.

1. Red Sand Dunes. Easily accessible, just about 20 min drive from Riyadh are the Red sands, 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 rental places next to the road. You can rent them for an hour at a time, and women can drive without abaya without any problems. Check this post to find places in Riyadh where women can go abaya-free: Sans abaya in Saudi  

Another great way to enjoy the Red Sand dunes is by visiting the Reem Reserve or the Lake Khararah seasonal desert lake.

Red sands

Red Sand dunes outside Riyadh. Photo: Laura Alho

2. Acacia Valley. I love to go camping out in the desert, the nights are beautiful, if the moon and stars are visible much better than inside the city. the scenery becomes somehow otherworldly, you might feel you are on a different planet. And the silence of the night is so intense. You can watch the live show broadcasted live from the sky, just lay down and look up to the stars, it seems possible to touch them! A great place for camp-outs is Riyadh’s Acacia Valley on the way to the Edge of the World.

The best time to go for overnight camping is in the cooler months starting from October to March, although spring is also sandstorm season. Read more about Saudi weather seasons here: Four Seasons of the Magic Kingdom.


3. Khurais Shark’s Teeth cemetery. Another interesting activity I enjoy is fossil-hunting. Saudi-Arabia used to be a part of the bottom of the ocean over 50 million years ago! Finding a seashell that’s 100 million years old is just amazing! There is an area around Khurais where you can find sharks teeth, 50 million years old. You might find tiger sharks teeth, which are quite similar to the ones that roam the seas today.

seashell fossil found in Tuwaiq escarpment outside Riyadh

4. Flower Fields of Red Sands. Did you know that the desert is actually full of flowers in the spring time. Flowers even grow on sand dunes believe it or not! You can find one such sand dune area with fields of flowers (during spring) just 20 min drive from the Riyadh city center.

red sand riyadh flower fields

5. The King’s Forest. The desert has surprisingly lush vegetation, especially on a rainy year you will find many flowers and green areas. There are several areas called “Rawdhat” (garden in Arabic) just outside Riyadh which have vegetation year round. One of the largest one’s is called Rawdhat Kuraim, also known as the King’s Forest.
Fun Fact: Riyadh is the plural of rawdhat, meaning gardens in Arabic.

rawdat khuraim

6. Thumamah Park. Inside this park you can rent a traditional Saudi style bedouin tent camp site, visit the King Khalid Wildlife Center, or go flying in a small aircraft over the escarpment. On the golden sand dunes opposite the park you can rent quadbikes and go on camel / horse rides. desert thumamah park planes thumamah airport

7. Desert Lakes. These rainwater lakes form in the valleys of Wadi Hanifa after heavy rains. You can sometimes find lakes in the middle of sand dunes or behind dams. Try Salbouk dam, the lake Akershiya near Shagra, Ha’ir area south of Riyadh and the dam at ad Dilam. 


8. Dirab Horse riding. Another favorite activity of mine is horseback riding in the desert. This photo is from Dirab where they have an extensive area you can explore on horseback at the Dirab Golf and country club. There’s also the King Abdulaziz Arabian Horses Center nearby where they hold poplar races and horse shows during the colder months

9. Wadi Hanifa. Everyone has probably heard about the beautiful valley but what many don’t know is it’s actually over 200 km long with hundreds of small side valleys. For the best parts, to Diriyah area, Wadi Namr, or south of Riyadh to the “Riyadh River“, 

 10. Heritage Villages.

And last but definitely not least, what I love to do outdoors is to explore the numerous different historical mud villages that can be found around Riyadh. Some of my favorites include

Ushaiger Heritage Village,


Raghba village.

guide ushaiger heritage village riyadh Many more places to discover around Riyadh! Stay tuned for more and make sure you’re signed up for our updates via email so you don’t miss any posts like these.

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  • SoileMay 20, 2010 - 10:32 pm

    I love the desert too and I was amazed by the edge of the world :-)ReplyCancel

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    […] they’ve been living all their lives in the desert, I figure their bodies have become accustomed to being warm all the time. The Bedouin patient […]ReplyCancel


  • LauraSeptember 13, 2016 - 11:02 am

    Check the links within the text- by clicking them you go to the post in question.ReplyCancel

  • Muhammad TayyebOctober 2, 2016 - 3:49 pm

    Thanks for the list. Where would you suggest for a first time camping in desert with family?ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraOctober 2, 2016 - 5:56 pm

      I’d suggest the Acacia valley, it’s peaceful there with not too much traffic.ReplyCancel

  • Riyadh To Do Guide » Blue AbayaNovember 25, 2017 - 10:22 pm

    […] there you will not believe you’re in Saudi-Arabia, it’s so green! Check out this post: 10 Beautiful places to Discover in Riyadh’s Desert for more tips! Then there’s a lot of historical sites to explore around Riyadh, like Old […]ReplyCancel

  • SaadJanuary 16, 2019 - 12:56 am

    Where exactly is the Acacia valley? Or the camping spot that you are referring to.
    Because whenever I search for it ..it just shows me Edge of the world.ReplyCancel

  • […] Ten Beautiful Place To Discover in Riyadh’s Desert (blueabaya.com) […]ReplyCancel

  • KazaanNovember 13, 2019 - 9:59 am

    Fossil in the desert???? hahh haaah

    someone brought it from Jeddah corniche and thrown it in the desert. believe me.ReplyCancel

  • Aditya TalwarNovember 18, 2019 - 2:06 am

    Really enjoyed reading the article! I am looking forward to my trip to KSA next month. Are you able to advise a tour guide I can use for visiting the red sand dunes in Riyadh?ReplyCancel

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