The uncanny beauty of the Al Nafud desert, the second biggest desert in Saudi Arabia, draws thousands of tourists from across the world. The desert is home to numerous Arabian tales and legends, providing a mystical charm to the surroundings. However, it is also famous for stormy winds and shifting dunes facilitating adventure tourism in the desert. Al Nafud offers various picturesque locations in the fascinating Arabian lands. Additionally, it hosts the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jubbah.
Popular attractions in the Al Nafud Desert
1. Dune bashing and camel safari
Dune bashing is an adventure sport that involves riding powerful electric or mechanical buggies and SUVs in the vast and challenging desert. The adventure is to maintain the balance of the vehicle while making way through the massive dunes. One is recommended to opt for insurance and take part in dune bashing under strict expert guidance. Those who want to experience the desert in a more relaxed way can ride a camel on the defined route.
2. Camping under starlight
Camping at night is the best way to experience the mystical charm of the Arabian desert. The starlight on the desert provides a glistening view of the expanse with a soothing breeze flowing over the desert. The starlight in Al Nafud is best enjoyed with a campfire and the company of close friends and family. However, it is essential that one organize guided camping to avoid the perilous shifting dunes and their effects.
3. World Heritage Site Tour
Tourists visiting Al Nafud desert can explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jubbah. The site hosts ancient carvings that are 5000 BCE to 10,000 BCE old. The location also has signs of paleolakes that existed thousands of years back. At Jubbah, tourists can see the inscriptions from the Nabataean and Thamudic eras. To know more about these inscriptions, one can always book tours with experts on ancient carvings.
4. The Desert Festival, Hail
People of Hail and nearby provinces organize a Desert Festival in the Al Nafud desert every spring. The festival features poetry events, shows exhibiting the desert life, traditional arts and crafts, authentic Arabian food, and lots of other exciting things that depict Arabian culture and heritage. Authorities also organize an annual Hail Rally during the festival that sees participation from nearby regions and countries.
Guided Al Nafud Tours
Travelers coming to this seemingly endless sea of sand must be careful not to venture out into the interiors of the desert without a guide. Despite its beautiful red shade and the never-ending sands, the desert can be merciless and fatal. A guided tour or a tour package is the best way to explore this Arabian desert. The added advantage is that travelers learn about tips and tricks to survive in the desert, interesting tales from history, and other Al Nafud desert facts that one may not find or read anywhere else.
Best time to visit Al Nafud
The temperature in Al Nafud stays above 30 degrees Celsius during summer. It can go to a maximum of 54 degrees Celsius and a minimum of 15 degrees Celsius. Winter maximum temperature stays around 10 degrees Celsius while the minimum can fall to zero degrees Celsius. Spring is the ideal time to visit this desert as the temperature remains moderate in the season. Also, locals organize the desert festival during this time of the year.
The small Al Nafud desert
Ad Dahna desert, also called small Al Nafud, lies along the Dammam highway, about 80 km east of Riyadh. This desert serves as a bridge between the gigantic Al Nafud and the Rub’ al-Khali. Dahna looks like a red vein sprawled across 45,000 sq km. The desert covers around 7 percent of Saudi Arabia’s sand dunes. Tourists visiting Hail and Al Nafud can also take a detour to this remarkable small Al Nafud desert.
Al Nafud Desert Facts
- Sprawled profoundly in an area of 65,000 sq km (25,000 square miles), the Al Nafud features towering sand dunes that lie snugly in an oval-shaped depression just past Hail. The desert, along with dunes, can rise upto 3000 feet. Al Nafud is around 290 km (180 miles) in length and 225 km (140 miles) in width.
- The desert receives rain only once or twice a year. Otherwise, the atmosphere remains dry for most of the time.
- Al Nufud Al Kabir is characterized by gigantic masses of sands that keep on shifting. This gives the desert an ever-changing appearance.
- The desert features low-mountain massifs chiefly made up of weathered red sandstones. The presence of iron oxide in the sand gives the desert a striking brick red shade.
- It features meager vegetation, which includes wormwood thickets, ephemerals, and others. However, when it rains, the desert breaks into bushes and pastures.
- The desert is home to predators like wildcat, jackal, hyena, gazelle, and others. Lizards and rodents, too, scurrying here and there and may greet the tourists camping here.
- Oases lie along the desert margins, but they are sparse.
- Shammar Bedouin is the native tribe of this desert. They inhabit the southeast part and use the wells and pastures here.
Al Nafud Desert makes up the renowned essence of Saudi Arabia as a desert kingdom. Global tourists visiting Saudi Arabia visit the desert for the adventure and other activities offered at Al Nafud.
Al Nafud Desert FAQs
What are the popular adventure activities at Al Nafud?
Dune Bashing and camping at night are the major adventure activities at Nafud.
What is the total area of Al Nafud?
The total area of Al Nafud is 65,000 sq km.
Is there a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Al Nafud?
Yes, Jubbah is the nearest World Heritage site.
What is the best time to visit Al Nafud?
Spring is the best season to visit Al Nafud.
What are the top attractions at the Desert Festival in Al Nafud?
Car rallies, poetry nights, and cultural performances are the most enjoyable activities in Al Nafud.