What to do in AlUla - Ultimate Guide
If you are planning a trip in AlUla, our “AlUla Ultimate Guide” is what you need, in this article you find a lot of useful information.
AlUla is locate about 1000 km north-west of Riyadh. It is one of the oldest cities on the Arabian Peninsula and, although not aswell know, is home to some of the best-preserved tombs and rock art sites of its era.
It was an important commercial hub along the Incense Route because this route was used to connect the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean countries. Pilgrims found the Alula Oasis a perfect place to rest and recover their strength after the long journey.
Nestled in Wadi AlQura, this lush paradise is filled with date palms, citrus trees, and herbs like basil and mint, which thrive on the natural spring water that surrounds them.
Travellers come to AlUla specially to see Hegra, the Petra of Saudi Arabia but AlUla is much more than Hegra.
It is possible to visit some attractions on your own but is better with a 4×4 car.
To visit Hegra, Dadan and so on you must take part in an organized tour, you can book these tours when you reach AlUla or before leaving on the Experience Alula website. If you travel in high season, I recommend you book many time before, remember: without booking you will not be able to visit these sites.
AlUla Guide - Elephant Rock
Just outside the town of AlUla there are strangely shaped rocks, among these Elephant Rock stands out. It is a rock whose shape resembles a large pachyderm.
Located in a spectacular desert landscape is this approximately 52 meter high rock shaped over millions of years by wind and water erosion known in Arabic as Jabal AlFil.
Beautiful at any time of day: at sunrise, at sunset when the rock takes on a magnificent shade of red, at night when, far from the city lights, the sky comes alive with thousands of stars.
Near the rock there is a café and restaurant offering food and drinks until late at night. Too bad that during our visit both places were closed and the rock was only visible from afar. Initially I was disappointed about thay but then perhaps it was lucky, seeing this place without tourists and enjoying the silence was a great fortune.
Try to arrive around sunset time with some snacks and sit on the rocks in front of the Elephant to see the sunset. Many local people come to admire the show while drinking a cup of coffee and, because they are very hospitable, they will invite you to sit with them.
It will also be very beautiful at sunrise but unfortunately we didn’t see it,
You can reach this place with a normal car, but if you want to go deeper into the surrounding desert you will need to use a 4×4 car.
It is about 10 kilometers from the visitor center (Winter Park), all on a well-maintained asphalt road
The site is open every days.
Access is free, you do not need an access ticket neither to booking on the site.
If you visit the site during the hottest hours, remember to bring the suncream and a hat. If you go here in the evening, remember a jacket: the desert during the night is chilly.
AlUla Guide - Maraya Hall
This award-winning building, holder of a Guinness World Record and designed by the Italian architect Gio Forma, is fully covered in mirrors: 9740 square meters, which reflect the surrounding desert landscape.
The cube-shaped building, with its 26-metre-high theatre, is a 550-seat concert and entertainment venue where acclaimed artists including Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Richie and Yanni have performed.
It is possible to access this theater only in case of special events or to have lunch or dinner at the Maraya Social restaurant which is located on the roof of the building.
If there are no concerts or you can’t afford a dinner in a starred restaurant, don’t give up, you can try to do like us. We went to the entrance to the Maraya, it is located about a kilometer from the building, here the road is blocked by a barrier and guards control access. We asked if we could go in to take some photos and luckly they allowed us to go.
I don’t know if they do it all the time or only in the summer because there are very few tourists, but you can try to ask like us.
Going on the road, you will soon see the theater. At first sight, it didn’t seem special but as we got out of the car and got closer everything changed.
The desert and the surrounding landscape are reflected by the mirrors that make up this theater which becomes one with the surrounding nature. It is difficult to explain with words and not even the images captured convey the magical atmosphere that can be felt in this place.
The visit to Maraya Hall is one of the best memories of this trip.
AlUla Guide - Dadan
It is believed that the city of Dadan was one of the most developed cities on the Arabian Peninsula in the first millennium BC.
Unfortunately it is not possible to visit the Dadan site independently, to access it you must book on the Experience Alula site.
The meeting point is the visitor center, here you will be welcomed by the hostesses who, after offering you a tea, will accompany you on the bus with which you will reach the site.
The “lion tombs” are visible among the large sandstone rocks; dug into the rocks are these tombs with bas-reliefs of lions alongside them as divine protection for the deceased.
In addition to the tombs, they will take you to see the findings of the city of Dadan, in particular an enormous cylindrical water basin, dug out of a stone and located in the heart of Dadan. It is thought that it was used for religious rites.
AlUla Guide - Jabal Ikmah
Many times ago, this place was a revered site on ancient trade routes, home to over 500 inscriptions, both carved and in relief, mostly dating back to the Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms of the 1st millennium BC.
A true open-air library, the hundreds of carvings adorning the rock faces and rocks describe the site’s rich history of pilgrimages, cultural rituals and more.
The inscriptions and petroglyphs (rock art) depicting humans, musical instruments and animals offer an insight into daily life and the people who lived there and the pilgrims who traveled here.
This site can be visited only by booking on the Experience Alula website. It can be reached by bus and the visit does not last long, a short walk between the rocks, accessible to all, leads you to the rocks with the inscriptions.
The visit to this site lasts very little, at the end they will offer you an activity: with a stone tablet and tools you can engrave your name in Arabic characters on the stone.
AlUla Guide - Hegra
In 2008, UNESCO proclaimed Hegra, Mada’in Salih, as a site of patrimony, becoming Saudi Arabia’s first World Heritage Site.
It is the largest preserved site of the Nabataean civilization, featuring well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades dating back to the 1st century BC. to the 1st century AD.
These tombs are beautiful and majestic, some are decorated with eagles, snakes, mythological figures and were erected to enhance the prestige of the family to which they belonged.
Unfortunately it is not possible to visit this site on your own, you must book your visit on the Experience Alula website.
From the visitor center you can reach Hegra by bus, from here you are taken to the tombs by bus. The tour does not always follow the same itinerary, it varies depending on the archaelogical excavations that are planned in the period.
The first stop on the tour is the tomb of Lihyan Son of Kuza, the largest tomb in Hegra, measuring approximately 20 meters in height. Left unfinished, with rough and unpolished chisel marks, it is called Qas al-Farid by locals, meaning “lonely castle”, due to its distant location compared to the other tombs.
The next stop was Jabal AlBanat, one of Hegra’s largest tomb groups, with 29 tombs that have artfully carved facades on all sides of the sandstone rock.
In some tombs it is possible to enter and see how the interior is.
The next stop was Jabal Ithlib, a natural rock east of Hegra. Here you will be explained how this place was used by the Nabataeans, home to banquets and a meeting room for the city’s leaders
AlUla Guide - Old Town
The old town of AlUla, during the summer season, comes alive in the evening when the temperatures drop slightly and it is more pleasant to spend hours in the open air.
To visit the old town you can leave your car in the two large car parks located before and after the city, they are both free. Don’t worry if it seems like a long way to walk: completely free golf carts leave from the car park and take you directly to the entrance to the old town.
The old town’s street is pedestrian and along the street there are souvenir shops that sell everything at slightly high prices. In the old town there are a lot of places where you can eat, there is even an Italian ice cream!!!!!
For dinner I recommend ALNAKHEEL CAFE’, one of the nicest places of Alula. They serve typical dishes and the food is very good at normal prices, My favourite plate is Tamis with Cheese.
AlUla - Where to stay
In AlUla there are very beautiful place where to stay, some are too expensive for us but if you can go there:
– Ashar Tented Resort set among the sweeping desert sands and rugged rock formations of the Ashar Valley, this luxury camping experience immerses you in some of AlUla’s most spectacular scenery
– Our Habitas AlUla an immersive experience where nature inspires creative expression, human connection and the pursuit of adventure
– Particular is Caravan by Habitas AlUla, you stay in a luxury caravan.