This land of Bedouin hospitality, desert dunes and Red Sea beaches is largely unexplored by Westerners, but offers incredible experiences to adventurous travelers.
Though Saudi Arabia has not always been open to non-Muslim travelers, the nation has recently become more welcoming of Western tourism. Explore incredible desert and coastal landscapes, modern cities and archaeological sites. Get a sense of the country’s complex Arabic culture and Bedouin history.
Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, has a small core of historic buildings at Qasr Al-Hokm, but is otherwise a thoroughly modern city. The hot middle of the day is the best time to discover Islamic architecture, art and Saudi Arabia’s natural history in the National Museum of Saudi Arabia. Cool off in huge air-conditioned malls and enjoy shopping. Some malls have floors exclusively for women. Spend late afternoons exploring the souks where you can find bargain antiques, Arabic rugs, spices and jewelry.
Head to the coast to explore Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s bustling commercial port town, and stay in luxury oceanfront hotels. Walk along the Jeddah Corniche, the beautiful waterfront stretch of fountains, statues and green parkland. Watch the sun set over the Red Sea. Visit the historic houses of coral in Al Balad. Explore historic art and furniture exhibits in the 19th-century Naseef House.
Take a daytrip to the cooler mountain region of Taif. Rose and fruit farms line the hills. Nature reserves are a haven for wildlife such as monkeys. You’ll even find a small zoo at Al Radf Park. Drive to the Turkish Fort where Lawrence of Arabia is said to have once fought. See the nearby rock carvings at the site of a pre-Islamic souk.
Throughout Saudi Arabia you’ll find interesting towns, such as Najran, where homes and the town fortress are made of mud brick. Visit the date-growing region of Al Ahsa to see archaeological finds in the museums and historic buildings. However, some places in Saudi Arabia are still closed to non-Muslims such as Mecca, the holy site of the Islamic religion where the Prophet Muhammad was born. Some sites require that you are accompanied by a tour guide.