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Journey Through AlUla: A 7-Day Exploration of Saudi Arabia’s Hidden Gem

Embarking on a 7-day escapade to AlUla, Saudi Arabia unfolded as a transformative odyssey through history, nature, and luxury. Beginning with the allure of Saudia Airlines’ seamless flight, we delved into the intimate airport at AlUla, before immersing ourselves in a mosaic of experiences. Banyan Tree AlUla welcomed us to a world of opulence with its One Bedroom Pool Villa, the mesmerizing Rock Pool, and culinary delights at Saffron. Each day brought new adventures, from exploring ancient valleys and UNESCO World Heritage sites like Hegra, Dadan and Jabal Ikmah to indulging in cultural immersions. Then we head over to Habitas AlUla, where eco-luxury intertwined with authentic experiences. AlUla’s breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality left an indelible mark, creating memories that transcended mere travel—leaving us captivated by this hidden gem’s enchantments, promising a timeless allure that beckons us back for more discoveries.

Flying with Saudia

Embarking on a transformative journey from Europe to the mystical landscapes of AlUla, Saudi Arabia, was a long-awaited endeavor that began with our choice of Saudia Airlines for this extraordinary adventure. Departing from the bustling Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, we embarked on a seamless journey with Saudia, renowned for its commitment to comfort, exceptional service, and convenient routes connecting Europe to the heart of Arabia.

Saudia Airlines, the national carrier of Saudi Arabia, has earned its reputation as a top choice for travelers seeking reliability and quality in their air travel experience. Their fleet of modern aircraft, coupled with attentive in-flight services and a diverse range of amenities, ensured that our journey from Europe to AlUla was not just a flight but a prelude to the enchantments awaiting us in Saudi Arabia. Muslim travelers will definitely appreciate the availability of an on-board prayer room (roughly the size of a 12-seat seating area).

The flight from Europe to AlUla via Saudia Airlines offered not only convenience but also a gateway to uncovering the secrets of AlUla’s ancient marvels and breathtaking landscapes. As we soared above the picturesque vistas of Europe and transitioned toward the Arabian Peninsula, the anticipation of exploring AlUla’s hidden treasures heightened with each passing mile.

AlUla, a region steeped in history and natural splendor, awaited our arrival after a brief layover in Jeddah—a momentary pause that only heightened our eagerness to finally set foot in this land of wonders. Upon arrival at AlUla’s quaint international airport, collecting our rental car marked the beginning of an adventure shrouded in anticipation, with the unknown awaiting our discovery.

Banyan Tree AlUla: Luxurious Retreat

Our expedition into the region began at Banyan Tree AlUla, our chosen basecamp that laid the groundwork for an extraordinary exploration of this captivating destination. Nestled amidst the enchanting landscapes of Ashar Valley, our stay at Banyan Tree AlUla transcended mere accommodation—it was a sanctuary of opulence and tranquility in the middle of Ashar Valley that left an indelible mark on our journey. Stepping into Banyan Tree AlUla felt like being enveloped in a warm embrace; the exceptionally personal welcome embraced our senses, while the resort’s unparalleled capacity to cater to the most discerning guests ensured an unforgettable stay.

One Bedroom Pool Villa:

Our abode, the One Bedroom Pool Villa, embodied sheer indulgence. A harmonious blend of modern comfort and traditional elegance greeted us at every turn. The enormous villa’s design, adorned with local influences, immersed us in AlUla’s rich heritage while providing all the luxuries one could imagine. A fruit basket, fresh juice and a personal note awaited us on the dinner table. The private pool, a serene oasis against the rugged beauty of the surroundings, became our refuge after days of exploration.

Private pool at Banyan Tree AlUla, Saudi Arabia

Rock Pool and Saffron Restaurant:

The crown jewel of Banyan Tree AlUla, the Rock Pool, stood majestically, inviting us to lose ourselves in its serenity. Its allure intensified at sunset when the sky painted itself in vibrant hues, casting an ethereal glow over the landscape.

The famous pool between the rocks at Banyan Tree, AlUla, Saudia Arabia

Saffron, the resort’s culinary haven, was a delight for the senses. The tantalizing aromas and flavors of the region’s cuisine lingered long after each meal. The culinary mastery showcased exquisite local and Thai fusion cuisine, making every dining experience a memorable journey through local delicacies.

Not only does luxury meet nature at this incredible resort in the middle of Ashar Valley, but history also whispers through its ancient rock-art scattered across the premises, inviting guests to step back in time while indulging in modern comforts.

Overall Experience:

Banyan Tree AlUla was not merely a place of stay; it was an experience woven with thoughtful details and impeccable service. The staff’s warmth and attention to detail enhanced our stay, ensuring that every moment was steeped in luxury and comfort.

The resort’s commitment to sustainability and preservation of the local environment was evident in every aspect, resonating with our appreciation for responsible travel. It was not just the luxurious accommodations and exceptional amenities that left an impression; it was the embodiment of Arabian hospitality and a deep connection to AlUla’s timeless beauty.

Luxurious villas at Banyan Tree AlUla in Saudia Arabia

The First Three Days of Exploration

Day 1:

Our journey commenced in Ashar Valley, a land brimming with ancient rock art that whispered tales of civilizations long past. Maraya, the mirrored wonder, located inside the exclusive resort area of the valley, reflected both the sun’s brilliance and our awe as we wandered through its captivating structure. Please be aware that you can only visit Maraya if you’re staying in the valley, or have a reservation for an event or a dinner inside the Maraya building. While the Ashar Valley offers a plethora of activities, our desire was to personally delve into the area, uncovering hidden gems and exploring off-the-beaten-path locations seldom known to the public. That’s why we head out for a desert hike to Sparhawk Arch, a natural wonder that stood as a testament to time’s artistry, offering panoramic views that etched themselves into our memories.

Sparhawk Arch in AlUla, Saudi Arabia

Maraya, in Ashar Valley

Journey Through AlUla: A 7-Day Exploration of Saudi Arabia's Hidden Gem 1

Day 2:

Amidst the tranquility of Banyan Tree AlUla, our day unfolded with moments of pure relaxation by the poolside. With temperatures frequently exceeding 40 degrees Celsius during summer, it’s advisable to kick-start your exploration in the late afternoon when the weather becomes more inviting. At sunset, the sun kissed the horizon in a spectacular display at Harrat Viewpoint. The hues of the setting sun painted the landscape with views over Old Town, creating a canvas of ethereal beauty that we felt privileged to witness.

Harrat viewpoint in Ashar Valley, AlUla, Saudi Arabia

Day 3:

On day three we woke up early. A private tour in a Vintage Land Rover unfolded treasures as we stepped back in time, exploring Hegra’s ancient wonders. The meeting point is at Hegra South Gate, where two friendly ladies at the Visitor Center offered us free arabic coffee while we were waiting for our guide to arrive. Visiting Hegra felt very exclusive: at the site, just two Land Rovers were in sight, each carrying a driver, a rawi (local guide), and a Saudi official, all exclusively accompanying the two of us. Standing before the tomb of Lihyan Son of Kuza was a poignant moment—a realization of a long-held dream. More than a decade ago, when Hegra first captured my imagination, the thought of experiencing it firsthand seemed beyond reach. Yet, here I am, marveling at its grandeur with my own eyes—a dream turned into a breathtaking reality.

Later that day, we unwinded in AlUla Old Town and head to Elephant Rock’s. Traversing the hike towards Jar Rock revealed the breathtaking historical grandeur of AlUla, offering a vivid glimpse into a location untouched for ages.

The tomb of Lihyan Son of Kuza at Hegra, a Unesco World Heritage Site in AlUla, Saudia Arabia

Jar Rock, not far from Elephant Rock in AlUla, Saudia Arabia

AlUla Old Town in Saudia Arabia


Habitas AlUla: Oasis of Serenity and Cultural Immersion

Transitioning from the luxurious haven of Banyan Tree AlUla, our sojourn continued at Habitas—an exquisite retreat that seamlessly blended modern comforts with authentic cultural experiences, offering a unique perspective on AlUla’s charm. Also in Ashar Valley, Habitas sits adjacent to Banyan Tree, making it a quick and convenient ten-minute transfer between these enchanting locations.

Welcoming Ambiance:

Stepping into Habitas AlUla felt like entering a private sanctuary amidst the desert’s tranquility. The eco-friendly design, with its earthy tones and minimalist architecture, seamlessly integrated with the surrounding landscapes, reflecting a commitment to sustainability and a deep appreciation for the region’s natural beauty. A very nice touch was the welcome ceremony, a signature Habitas ritual based on local cultural practices. The principles of each ceremony are to encourage guests to set an intention for their stay.

Immersive Accommodations:

Our accommodation at Habitas was a testament to simplicity and elegance. The earth-toned canvas tents, adorned with handcrafted furnishings and indigenous artwork, provided a sense of rustic luxury. Each tent exuded a sense of understated opulence, complemented by modern amenities, offering a comfortable and immersive stay.

A private villa at Habitas AlUla in Saudi Arabia

Cultural Explorations:

Habitas AlUla went beyond conventional hospitality, providing avenues for cultural and spiritual immersion. We were invited to visit the adjacent Habitas Caravan, a unique but budget-friendly alternative where movies are projected on a rock wall each night and food trucks provide plenty of snacks. The Ashar Fashion Valley, a treasure trove of traditional garments and local craftsmanship, was about to open its doors next-door.

Habitas Caravan in AlUla, Saudia Arabia



Reflection and Relaxation:

Amidst these cultural immersions and natural marvels, Habitas offered moments of serene reprieve. The tranquil surroundings provided an ideal setting for introspection, relaxation, and reconnecting with nature—a refreshing contrast to the vibrant explorations that filled our days.


the pool of Habitas AlUla in Saudi Arabia


The second part of our voyage


Day 4:

Our journey continued to weave a narrative of discovery. An exclusive private tour of Dadan and Jabal Ikmah echoed with whispers of civilizations past. On our exclusive private tour, having the entire place to ourselves evoked the spirit of intrepid explorers, creating an unforgettable sense of adventure. Filled with unforgettable memories we returned for dinner, where Tama Restaurant delighted our senses with an exquisite culinary journey through the region’s flavors, leaving an indelible mark on our palates.

Jabal Ikmah, a Unesco World Heritage Site in AlUla Saudia Arabia

Dadan, a Unesco World Heritage Site in AlUla Saudi Arabia


Day 5:

Explorations ventured into nature’s canvas with Raven Rock and Rainbow Rock, two wonderful arches each unveiling its unique hues and forms. The exhilaration of a horse riding adventure through AlUla’s stunning landscapes left us feeling intertwined with the region’s natural splendor. Raven Rock sits adjacent to a well-traveled road, while reaching Rainbow Rock entails a scenic hour-long ride through the captivating desert landscape. Among the two, Rainbow Rock stands out as the more widely recognized and renowned natural attraction, which led the government to create a gravel road and basic parking space to accommodate tourists who don’t have the option to rent a 4×4.

Raven Rock in Saudi Arabia

Rainbow Rock in Saudi Arabia


Day 6:

Moments of serenity at Habitas allowed us to immerse ourselves in the tranquil ambiance. The resort offers art, swings, trampolines and other surprising gems. We connected with a local videographer for Saudi national TV, who advised us to head over to Al-Gharameel in the evening.

Evening Reverie at Al-Gharameel:

This evening escapade to Al-Gharameel was undoubtedly the highlight of our stay. This location, also known as the Magnificent Rocks of Buraikah is a geological wonder sculpted by nature’s hand. As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting mesmerizing hues across the desert landscape, we were left awestruck by the sheer magnificence of the natural amphitheater.

Al Gharameel in Saudi Arabia

Al Gharameel, magnificent rocks of Buraikah in Saudi Arabia

Al Gharameel


Day 7:

As our journey drew to a close, it was time to head home. Our 12-hour Riyadh layover offered glimpses into Saudi Arabia’s history at the National Museum and Murabba Historical Palace, serving as a poignant farewell to a trip that had exceeded all expectations. The National Museum housed original pieces and replicas of the tangible marvels we encountered in AlUla, underscoring the uniqueness and distinctiveness of our extraordinary journey. Entrance to both the National Museum and Murabba Historical Palace is free of charge. Officials greeted us and were delighted that tourists like us were interested in visiting.


Murabba historical palace in Riyadh

the National Museum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


The end of our voyage

As our 7-day odyssey through AlUla draws to a close, our hearts are brimming with gratitude for the myriad experiences that have enriched our lives. It started as a decade-long dream, seemingly unattainable as Saudi Arabia remained off-limits to tourists, but eventually unfolded into a remarkable reality. Eventually our trip unfolded into a symphony of history, nature, and luxury—an orchestration that left an indelible mark on our souls.

AlUla, a collage woven with threads of antiquity, revealed its secrets as we traversed ancient valleys adorned with rock art that whispered tales of civilizations past. The towering marvels of Hegra, the tombs of long-forgotten rulers, and the echoes of a bygone era resonated with a timeless allure.

The luxurious retreats, Banyan Tree AlUla and Habitas, each offering their unique blend of opulence and cultural immersion, provided a canvas upon which we painted memories that will forever adorn the gallery of our minds. The serenity of private pool villas, the echoes of local artisans’ crafts, and the tranquility of desert evenings etched themselves into our hearts.

But beyond the opulent accommodations and awe-inspiring landscapes, it was the warmth of hospitality that defined our AlUla experience. The graciousness of the locals, the dedication of the staff at every turn, and the genuine embrace of a culture steeped in tradition left an impression that transcends mere travel—it was an embrace of human connection and shared experiences.

As we bid farewell to AlUla, we depart not just with suitcases filled with souvenirs but with hearts overflowing with memories. Our journey through this hidden gem has been a revelation—a testament to the beauty of exploration, the richness of heritage, and the allure of the unknown.

AlUla’s ancient whispers linger in our thoughts, echoing the sentiments of explorers who’ve walked these paths before. It’s a destination that beckons the curious, the seekers of authenticity, and the lovers of history—a place where the past dances harmoniously with the present, offering a glimpse into humanity’s collective story.



In closing, our journey through AlUla has not merely been a trip—it has been a transformative voyage that has broadened our horizons, enriched our perspectives, and awakened a deep appreciation for the marvels this world holds. As we depart, we carry with us not just memories but a renewed sense of wonder and gratitude for the beauty that exists beyond the confines of our everyday lives.

AlUla, with its enigmatic allure and untold tales, will forever hold a special place in our hearts. It is a destination that beckons us to return, promising new discoveries and continued enchantment—an invitation we eagerly accept, knowing that AlUla’s mysteries will forever be a source of inspiration and fascination.

a private Vintage Land Rover tour to Dadan and Jabal Ikmah in AlUla