Tag: saudi heritage

One thing is for sure, there’s no shortage of incredible places to see in Saudi Arabia. In this list I selected some of the lesser known, hidden gems and extraordinary places to see in Saudi Arabia. It was actually very difficult to select only 20 places out of so many options!

Saudi Arabia is a vast country with versatile landscape and terrain, creating an endless array of places to see and off the beaten path places to explore! For more detailed travel information and how to visit these locations, follow Blue Abaya on Instagram here: Viking in Arabia

For this list I selected one natural location from every corner of the Saudi Kingdom from the North down to the South.  I included various different types of landscapes from sand dunes, canyons to mountains, forests, waterfalls and lakes to showcase the vast diversity that can be found in Saudi Arabia’s nature. The land of Arabia is diverse in history, culture, landscape flora and fauna. It’s full of hidden gems waiting to be explored! Take a look at all these lesser known places to see in Saudi Arabia!

  1. Habala, The Rope Village, Asir Province. The hanging village of Habala, built on a ledge in the the middle of a steep canyon, which was only accessible by climbing with ropes from the cliffs above. The village was inaccessible and the inhabitants were safe and self reliant in their mountain ” hanging village”. There is a cable car that operates in the summer months taking visitors down to the village.
    incredible must visit  Places to See in Saudi Arabia

    Incredible places to see in Saudi Arabia: Habala Rope Village, Asir Province. Photo: Laura Alho

  2. Turtle Bay, AlWajh. A sandy bay of crystal clear waters where juvenile turtles can be seen swimming in the shallow waters. Nearby seagrass forests and coral reef pinnacles provide a safe haven for the baby turtles.
    turtle saudi alwajh

    A turtle swims by a boat in Turtle Bay, AlWajh. Photo: Laura Alho

  3. Seven Sisters Reef, Yanbu. One of the top dive sites along the 200km Saudi Red Sea coastline. The coral reefs are abundant with marine life and a great spot to encounter hammerhead sharks in Saudi Arabia.
    diving scuba yanbu saudi

    Seven Sisters reef in Yanbu. Photo: Yarob Bashrahil

  4. Rainbow Mountains, NEOM. A mountain range near Jabal Lawz where all colors of the rainbow appear in the landscape.

    Incredible places to see in Saudi Arabia, Rainbow colored mountains in Tabuk province. Photo: Laura Alho

  5. Springs of Moses, Maqna, NEOM. Natural springs in a palm tree oasis next to the Red Sea.12 natural springs that legend tells Moses found are located with a view to the Sinai peninsula in Egypt on the horizon.
    neom, springs of moses, tabuk

    Springs of Moses, NEOM. Photo by: Laura Alho

  6. Wadi Lajab, Jizan. Waterfalls, natural swimming pools hidden amongst a lush tropical surroundings in Jizan province. Wadi Lajab has water running through it year round.
    wadi lajab, saudi , swimming natural pools

    Lush and green Wadi Lajab, a hidden tropical haven in Jizan Province. Photo: Laura Alho

  7. Wild Iris Flower Fields, Tumair, Riyadh Province. A field of wild irises bloom here each spring. It’s a magical experience to watch them all open simultaneously at the same time each day. 

    Wild Iris flowers opening up in the filed in Tumayr. Photo by: Laura Alho

  8. Red Volcano, Hai’l Province. A volcanic crater surrounded by red sand dunes.

    The Red Volcano. Photo by: Laura Alho

  9. Al Naslaa Rock, Tayma. A petroglyph covered rock split in half with laser sharp precision, found in the middle of the desert.

    The Split Rock. Photo by: Saudi Archeology

  10. Cloud Park and Forest (Prince Sultan Park), al Namas, Asir Province. It’s always cloudy and misty at this park you can feel like you’re walking on top of the clouds.

    Sunset at Cloud Park, al Namas. Photo by: Laura Alho

  11. Valley of the Queens, Tabuk Province. Spectacular sandstone formations stand tall guarding the entrance of this valley near Wadi Disah. The sandstone pillars resemble the Queen of the chess game.
    eidotsenko@yahoo.combuk, neom, desert

    Valley of Queens, Tabuk. Photo: Laura Alho

  12. Yellow Lake, Al Asfar, Eastern province. A huge desert lake in the middle of golden sand dunes.

    The Yellow Lake. Photo by: Zaza Hardy

  13. Black and White Volcano, Madinah Province. Otherworldly scenery in Khaybar, the White volcanoes are located in the Harrat Khaybar lavafield. The unusual and rare white volcano craters are starkly contrasted by a stream of black lava creating a scene which could be from another planet.
    volcanoe, saudi, black and white volcano

    Incredible places to see in Saudi Arabia: Black and White volcanoes, Khaybar. Photo: Laura Alho

  14. Dhee Ayn, The Marble Village, Al Baha Province. A 400 year year old stone village built on top of a marble hill, surrounded by a forest of palm trees and banana trees, the village’s name comes from the stream ( ayn) that runs through it year round.

    Dhee Ayn Marble Village. Photo by: Laura Alho

  15. Secret Lake, AlUla. Beautiful serene and secret spot hidden in the Shallal mountains of AlUla. The water is clear and clean for a cool dip in the hot summer months.
    alula lake canyon water

    A gem hidden in the sandstone mountains of AlUla. Photo: Laura Alho

  16. Saudi Stonehenge, Al Jouf Province. Huge blocks of stone pillars stand side by side in a circular formation. The mysterious site dates back around 4000-5000 years but the purpose of the standing stone structures still remains a mystery.

    Rajajil, The Standing Stones. Al Jouf province. Photo: Laura Alho

  17.  The Open Library, Jabal Ikmah, AlUla. A canyon with more than 500 inscriptions from the Lihyan civilisation, dating back 3000 years located along the AlUla valley.
    AlUla, saudi, inscriptions

    The Open Library of the Lihyan Kingdom, Jabal Ikmah in AlUla. Photo: Laura Alho

  18. The Gingerbread Village, Rijal Alma’a heritage village, Asir Province. One of the must-see places in Saudi Arabia. More than 600 stone houses form Rijal Alma village, built on the side of a hill in Asir province. The houses are painted colorfully inside by the women of the village, the art form is called Al Qatt Al Asiri, which is a UNESCO listed intangible heritage art form.
    rijal alma, saudi, asir

    Rijal Alma village, also known as the Gingerbread village of Saudi Arabia. Photo: Laura Alho

  19. Hidden Oasis of Zulfi You would never expect to see these lakes and palm trees appearing like a mirage in the desert. The Zulfi desert oases are found in the middle of a vast sand dune desert. Some of the desert lakes have water year round but more appear after the winter rains which normally begin around November every year.
  20. Broken Heart Island, Tabuk Province. When viewed from Google earth, this deserted paradise island, together with the surrounding coral reef takes the shape of a broken heart. try to find it on google maps! The island is located within the Red Sea Development company’s protected area and at the time being cannot be visited by boat.

    Broken Heart Island, Red Sea project area . Photo: Laura Alho

Want to know about more amazing places to see in Saudi Arabia? Check out these 10 Amazing Places to Visit in Saudi Arabia 

Follow @blueabaya on instagram for more Saudi Arabia travel information and how to apply for a Saudi tourist e-visa.

Check out these beautiful places to see in Saudi Arabia that are not mentioned in this list: Wanderlust in Saudi Arabia 

The archaeological Rock Art site, located in Jubbah, Ha’il province is of Saudi Arabia’s five listed UNESCO World Heritage sites. The others are Madai’n Saleh, At-Turaif district in historical Diriyah and Al Balad historical district in Jeddah and al Ahsa Oasis in Eastern Province.

We visited the Jubbah rock art site on our road trip to Jordan from Riyadh. To reach Ha’il by road from Riyadh ( it takes about 5-6 hours drive from Riyadh. There are also domestic flights and bus services to Ha’il. From Ha’il city you need to get to Jubbah which is about 90km further north. Jubbah is a small oasis village located right next to the mountains where the rock art sites are located.

There are several other rock Art sites around the Ha’il province, which is the richest in rock art in all of Saudi Arabia. Other rock art sites can be found in Tayma, Al Ula, Najran, Shuwaymis and one site near Riyadh called the Graffiti Rocks.

Read more about the history of the Jubbah site here: Arabian Rock Art Heritage : Jubbah 

It came as a surprise to me how vast the archeological site actually is. There are multiple places around several different cliffs where you can see rock art varying from an estimated 9,000 to 2000 years old. The area used to be a lake in the Neolithic period, which can be seen depicted through the rock art carved into the red and black rock faces. Images of animals such camels, Arabian horses, Oryx, Ibex, lions, leopards, gazelles, ostriches and hunting dogs can be seen.


I find these kind of historical places fascinating and was so pleased to see how excited my 3 and 5 year olds were about the site. We searched together for all kinds of animals and guessed what the images were trying to depict. The kids loved climbing around the rocks (be careful though!) and running around the nearby sand dunes.

I would love to visit there once again with more time on our hands to have a thorough look through this vast area so rich in Arabian Rock Heritage. It’s really a treasure trove in the middle of the Nafud desert! I think is not getting the attention and coverage it deserves. I would highly recommend visiting the site, it can be done on your own.

To Visit on your own, drive from Ha’il on route 65. Once you reach Jubbah turn into the city from any of the side roads. In the city search for the visitor center of the rock art site ( best to ask a local). You must go there for someone to open the gate for you. The entire area is fenced off. Note the visitor center is open Fridays only from 4 pm (after Asr) until around Maghreb prayer. On other days it should be open in the mornings as well.

Read more about Rock Art in Saudi Arabia here: Arabian Rock Art Heritage- Saudi Archeology

Check out the other Saudi Wanderlust posts here: Wanderlust in Saudi 

The historic city of Ad’Diriyah, where the first Saudi State was established in 1745 (1158H) has been undergoing a huge restoration project since 2011. I for one have been anxiously awaiting for it to finish because I simply love all this place has to offer. Every time I go to Diriyah, there’s something new and exciting to discover. A shady alleyway with a colorful door at the end, an old watch tower or a small stream, lined with perfect shaded picnic spots..You never know what you will find!

Follow me on instagram for a look into Saudi Arabia: Viking in Arabia 

So when I heard the news that earlier this month a part of the restoration project had finally been finished and inaugurated by the King, I was thrilled and could not wait to go check it out.  Apparently the newly opened area is called the Al-Bujairi district the gateway to the historic area of Ad-Diriyah. You can find the directions, map and gps location further below. According to the project management of Diriyah restorations:
“The project is a part of the scheme to develop Diriyah and highlight its cultural value by creating facilities at its main entrance.”

At Turaif District palace ruins

This post is a collaborative Top Ten (5+5) list with blogger Margo Catts, whom I had the pleasure of exploring Diriyah with. Margo happens to be quite an amazing woman and super talented writer. I’m so happy to have met her in person, if only for a short time (she has left on final exit now). We had a blast one morning when the two of us went all “touristy” around Diriyah with our cameras and unfortunate driver. You will begin the virtual sightseeing tour of Riyadh’s very own UNESCO World Heritage site from the below five things to do, and then finish off the virtual Diriyah tour through her blog post here: 10 Things to Do at Historic Diriyah

Ten Things to do in Riyadh

The location of historical Ad’Diriyah is 20 km North West of Riyadh (11 km from city center) on the banks of Wadi Hanifa. The historic area of Ad’Diriyah is divided into two parts by the Wadi Hanifa and additionally into a number of different quarters. The most important ones are:

Turaif Quarter: The main quarter of Ad’Diriyah, where the Al Saud house is situated. The area is located on the South Western mountain, surrounded by a wall overlooking all other quarters.

Ghusaiba Quarter: This was the first Saudi capital up to 1683.

Bujairy Quarter: Located on the Eastern bank of Wadi Hanifa. here you’ll find the mosque, a school, home of Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Wahab and the newly opened Diriyah gateway.

GPS coordinates to the roundabout next to the Bujairy plaza: 24.737382 46.575260

Here’s a google earth pic of the area, where you can see the green areas are mostly date farms around Wadi Hanifa and the road which goes down the valley splits the area in two; the Bujairy gateway area and on the opposite side the main historical city area, At´Turaif district. The UNESCO heritage area of Turaif is unfortunately still closed from public due to a massive restoration project going on there. Once ready, Turaif district will become one of the largest open air museums in the world. The entire restoration project is estimated to finish by 2019. In the meanwhile, there’s still plenty of things to see and it’s well worth the visit.historical diriyah map Things to do in Ad ‘Diriyah

1. Explore the new Al Bujairy center.

Enjoy the amazing views to the palace and city ruins, find the old city well, have a picnic by the waterfalls or grab a coffee from one of the cafes. Exploring the Bujairy marketplace and surrounding area feels like stepping back in time, to when this place really was the hub of the city. Lots of shops, cafes, restaurants and businesses are already open and many more will open their doors soon. Most are open after Asr prayers only for the time being. A visitor’s info center, a cultural center and museum will also be opening there in the future.Discover Historical Ad

diriyah salwa palaceHistorical diriyah Turaif city wallAl Bujairy district, Diriyah

diriyah Al Bujairy plazadiriyah marketplace

diriyah museum center

diriyah albujairy gatewaydiriyah old city well2. Door-Gawking and Alley-Wandering.

Ad-Diriyah is a paradise for door enthusiasts like myself. Diriyah is actually one of the places where my inspiration for the ‘Doors of the Magic Kingdom‘ collection began. Margo too, is a self-proclaimed door-addict and we had a lot of fun hunting down new doors and finding the matching door and phone cover! Check out Blue Abaya Designs on Instagram for more door phone covers and other Saudi themed souvenirs and gifts. You can also find more Saudi doors gifts designed by me here: Inspired by Arabia

You will see the tribal patterns of the Najd region repeating themselves in the doors, gates, window shutters and panels scattered around the vast historical area. The geometric patterns, bright colors and the Najdi flower are the most easily recognizable patterns. Watch out for the below pictures huge colorful gate, which is actually a part of an isteraha that can be rented for private occasions.

Wander down one of the shady alleys down on the wadi road for another back in time-travel experience. Walking around the quiet neighborhoods is very therapeutic and makes for a refreshing change from the concrete jungles of Riyadh.

Diriyah Colorful painted gates

Saudi doors phone covers

My designs! The Doors of the Magic Kingdom collection phone covers and the matching door in the background.

diriyah farm gate

diriyah wood door

diriyah alleyway

diriyah giant doors3. Visit and see the mosques.

The old, the new and renovated ones. Probably one of the most famous mosques in all of Saudi Arabia is the Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulwahab mosque, which is located right at the entrance to the historical area next to the Diriyah city walls.  So far the renovation efforts resulted in restoring the mosque where Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulwahab used to be its imam and deliver sermons. Many other mosques can be found around the newly inaugurated Al-Bujairi plaza area such as the restored Al-Dhwaihrah Mosque and the restoration of the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Mosque which is still under way.

diriyah mosque newdiriyah mosque wudu4. Hunt for antiques, art and souvenirs at the plaza.

Several Saudi gifts and trinkets shops & antique stores, art galleries are already open around the Diriyah marketplace area. Many more to be opened in the near future. The AMA Art venue is already open and there is a small coffee shop at the gallery. Check out the AMA Twitter and Instagram for more info!


The AMA Art Gallery in Ad Diriyah

The AMA Art Gallery entrance in Ad Diriyah

Diriyah souk antique shop

5. Eat at the Najd Village restaurant.

This is the third branch of the lovely  Najd Village restaurants which serve traditional Saudi foods. You will be seated on the floor in your own Saudi style majlis or tent, while trying out all the different Najd food specialities at once! Read more about why this restaurant is so amazing here: Al Qarya Najdiya-The Najd Village restaurant.  As an added bonus, the Diriyah branch is overlooking the palace ruins across the wadi, the views are truly incredible. This would be THE place to bring those special Riyadh visitors to. Spend a memorable evening in a one of a kind setting enjoying authentic Saudi food and culture. The restaurant is open daily for both singles and families, 4-10pm
diriyah najd village restaurant door

Now head over to Margo’s post for more pics and a great history lesson of Diriyah!


Top Ten Amazing places to visit in Saudi-Arabia by Blue Abaya-Explore Arabia:

1. Hegra, AlUla If you visit only one place in Saudi-Arabia, let it be AlUla and its heritage gem Hegra (also known as Madain Saleh). The other-worldly scenery, breath taking nature, and rich history make it a destination worth exploring for many days. Hegra is not only the tombs of the ancient Nabatean people and Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO listed world heritage site, but it offers much more for the tourist to explore. The Hijaz railway built Ottomans runs through it. Nearby the town of AlUla boasts a beautiful oasis, a well preserved Old Town, and the Lihyan Kingdom sites Lion Tombs tombs, Dadan Kingdom and Jabal Ikmah, a canyon full of inscriptions up to 3000 years old dubbed ” The Open Library”.

A modern wonder an Guinness World Record holder Maraya concert hall rises like a mirage in the desert in Ashar valley of AlUla. Read more about visiting Hegra here: Saudi Arabia’s mysterious ancient city Hegra-Mada’in Saleh.

Want to see more amazing places in Saudi Arabia? Follow me on instagram here: Viking in Arabia 

Saudi Arabia’s Crown jewel, Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza at Hegra, AlUla

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Camels in front of Maraya, AlUla Saudi Arabia

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Hot Air Balloon Festival in Hegra, AlUla

AlUla Old Town

Corridor in AlUla’s Old Town

2. Najran The colorful city of Najran on the Yemeni border offers an unforgettable experience for travelers. Its unique history, architecture and culture blends in with the neighboring Yemen. Najran is a very tourist friendly destination in Saudi-Arabia that pleases even the most experienced traveler. Inscribed as Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO heritage site in 2021, the Hima Rock Art site is located in Najran. 

Amazing places to see in Saudi Arabia: Najran

Traditional Najran heritage house

3. Farasan Islands A favorite diving destination of Jacques Cousteau, Farasan Islands have more than just private beaches and sand for every visitor to enjoy. The Islands are a bird watchers paradise and also have mangroves and endemic Gazelle species in addition to the numerous historical sites on the main island.

Read more about Farasan Islands here!

Al Rifai house in Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia

Amazing places to visit in Saudi Arabia: Farasan Islands

Farasan Island pristine beaches

Farasan islands magroves

4. Empty Quarter It is not empty. It is full of beauty, silence, wildlife and tranquility. 

Amazing places to visit in Saudi Arabia: Rub al Khali, The Empty Quarter

5. Al Soudah The Asir National Park and the Al-Soudah area near Abha are a lush, breezy paradise best visited in the hot summer months. The park offers trekking, camping sites, cable cars, and plenty of other outdoor activities in addition to interesting architecture and friendly people. Check out Blue Abaya’s Top recommended things to do in Soudah, Abha and Khamis Mushayt here!

Amazing Places to visit in Saudi Arabia: Misty Mountains of Soudah

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Amazing sunset views on top of Saudi Arabia’s highst point, Soudah mountain 3000m from sea level.

6. Wahba Crater This volcanic crater lies 700km from Riyadh towards Taif. It has amazing scenery including lava fields, an oasis and salt pans and can easily be explored by foot. The site makes for an unforgettable camp out experience.

7. Al Lith

Al Lith is a small town about 275 km south of Jeddah. It is the port of departure for diving the Farasan Banks eco system. This is Saudi-Arabia’s best diving destination, with incredibly clear waters, amazing wrecks and abundant marine life.

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Snorkeling in amazing Red Sea of Saudi Arabia

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Amazing Crystal clear waters of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast


8. Edge of the World One of the most spectacular views and amazing places to visit in Saudi-Arabia can be experienced from the Edge of the World which is part of the 800km long Jebel Tuwaiq Escarpment. When looking to the horizon from the edge it appears as if the plains continue endlessly. For the location and directions how to visit this magical place, go to Blue Abaya’s Guide to Edge of the World. Grab a free ebook guide to the Edge of the World HERE!

Amazing places to visit in Saudi Arabia: The Edge of The World, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Amazing Edge of the World, Saudi Arabia

9. Taif

The mountain city of Taif is famous for its roses and rosewater. In the spring the flowers and the whole area are in full bloom. Taif is also known for its glorious old palaces, fruit farms and the Al Hada mountain cable car with thrilling views. The best time to visit Taif is from March to through the summer months, when it’s cooler than the rest of the country due its elevated location.

rose farm, Taif, braided hair with roses

Amazing experience in Saudi Arabia: Rose bath in Taif

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Colorful architecture of Taif grand palaces in Taif

Katib palace, taif, taif doors, saudi heritage

Amazing architecture of Katib house in Taif, Saudi Arabia


10. Qassim The northern towns of Buraidah and Unaizah in the Qassim region offer rich cultural heritage and history. Unaizah has ancient farmlands, beautiful unique mosques, historical sites and an excellent traditional marketplace.

qassim marketplace unaizah
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Amazing traditional door in Unaizah, Qassim Saudi Arabia


 Don’t miss also Al Balad Historical District in Jeddah, one of Saudi Arabia’s six UNESCO World Heritage sites.
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Amazing coral houses and architecture of AlBalad historical district, Jeddah

These are just a few of my favorite amazing places to visit in Saudi Arabia, for more beautiful places to see in Saudi Arabia go to the Explore Arabia page. 
More adventurous travelers will enjoy treks Off The Beaten Path in Saudi Arabia !

Don’t miss out on more travel inspiration from Saudi Arabia in the Wanderlust Wednesday KSA posts on Blue Abaya!

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Post updated 08/2021

Ten Amazing Places to Visit in Saudi Arabia

Ten Amazing Places to Visit in Saudi Arabia