Saudi Arabia’s ancient oasis city of AlUla is a hidden treasure ready to be discovered by discerning travellers from all corners of the globe.
The premium destination is fast becoming established as one of one of the world’s must-see destinations for nature, culture, and heritage. In December 2022, The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recognised AlUla Old Town as one of the world’s 32 best tourism villages, followed by Condé Nast Traveller naming AlUla as one of the Seven Wonders of the World for 2023.
A place of extraordinary human and natural heritage, AlUla’s past encompasses more than 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history, from prehistoric times to the present. A living museum of preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, historic dwellings and monuments, AlUla sits on the crossroads of ancient civilisations. Once the capital of the ancient kingdoms of Dadan and Lihyan, which controlled the caravan trade, AlUla’s location on the legendary Incense Road attracted traders, travellers, and pilgrims from far and wide, all seeking respite, shade, and sustenance from its fertile oases. AlUla is also home to Hegra, the principal southern city of the Nabataean kingdom renowned for its spectacular monumental tombs, which was named as Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.
Beyond history and heritage, visitors to AlUla will find themselves spoilt for choice. Foodies will appreciate the diversity of AlUla’s rich culinary scene, which ranges from casual to fine dining, with ample opportunity to learn about local sustainable and traditional food production. Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the natural beauty of AlUla with memorable activities such as stargazing, horse riding, camping and adventure tours. Adventure-seekers can opt for numerous adrenalin-fuelled activities at AlUla’s new Adventure Hub, from abseiling, rock-climbing, trekking and cycling, to the newest addition, a Giant Swing that sends people soaring above rugged canyon walls in a 70-metre arc, 85 metres above the ground.
Those in search of more cerebral pursuits can take advantage of a full calendar of festivals, exhibitions and events showcasing the best in art, film, and music. Ampifying and enhancing the natural artworks made by mother nature over millennia, AlUla’s Art in the Landscape program includes popular initiatives such as Desert X AlUla, a recurring, international open-air art exhibition that takes place in a stunning canyon setting; and Wadi AlFann – a valley of the arts – where in a few years’ time works by the world’s most exciting artists will be permanently placed in the monumental landscape to create a compelling showcase where art made by human hands co-exists in harmonious juxtaposition with that of the natural world.
For music and events goers, AlUla Moments calendar of events offers major seasonal highlights. The popular Winter at Tantora, is the first music and culture festival in the Kingdom that offers a schedule packed with star-studded concerts, adventurous activities, and historical heritage experiences. The recently held fourth edition featured performances by Majid al-Mohandis, Mohammed Abdo and Assala and has set high standards for subsequent events.
In October, 2023, the second edition of the AlUla Wellness Festival, the biggest wellness event in the region, is set to deliver another immersive wellness and relaxation experience surrounded by the lush greenery of the AlUla oasis. The flagship event – The Five Senses Sanctuary – will host renowned practitioners who will give talks and seminars, and lead a variety of engaging yoga, meditation, and fitness sessions.
New flight routes are facilitating enhanced connectivity from Dubai, Cairo, Paris – and Amman joining in September 2023 – and the region’s premium hotels and resorts are within easy reach of discerning explorers. With outstanding accommodation options such as the new Banyan Tree AlUla, Habitas AlUla Resort, Shaden Resort, and independent accommodation at farm stays, guests can expect a unique and exceptional experience. The next major hotel projects include the announced Aman Resorts, to start construction in 2023, and further down the track the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel, inspired by the legacy of the Nabataeans; carved into a sandstone outcrop, this ambitious resort will feature 40 rooms, three villas and 14 pavilions.
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) was formally established in July 2017 to preserve, develop, and reinvigorate the ancient archaeological and historical region of AlUla in the North-West of Saudi Arabia. The RCU’s long-term goal is to regenerate the natural beauty of AlUla’s unique geological landscape, share 200,000 years of heritage with the world, and reaffirm its position as one of Saudi Arabia’s most important archaeological and cultural areas. The work being done in AlUla encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts, reflecting the ambitious commitment to cultivate tourism and leisure in Saudi Arabia as outlined in Vision 2030.