Saudi Arabia is a beautiful country known for being one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Middle East. With its diverse landscapes and immense religious significance, Saudi Arabia tourism attracts millions of tourists and pilgrims all year round. It is home to majestic mountains, far-reaching deserts, dynamic cities, and vast waters. Saudi Arabia is just as naturally and geographically gifted as it is culturally rich and historically fascinating. Additionally, the Kingdom is strictly following the ‘Vision 2030’ to promote tourism in the coming years.
Why visit Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is an incredible country. It is best known for being home to two of the most sacred cities in Islam, Makkah and Madinah. Millions of pilgrims visit KSA to perform the obligatory Hajj and non-obligatory yet highly rewarding pilgrimage of Umrah. They are also the major contributors to the Saudi Arabia tourism. The Kingdom is heavily investing in its infrastructure and tourism industry to give a memorable experience to all the tourists visiting the country. The cities in Saudi are well connected and traveling around the country is greatly convenient.
Top tourist destinations in Saudi Arabia
The most well-known destinations in Saudi are the two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. The country is full of historical sites that are of prime importance in Islam. But besides them, there are numerous remarkable places to visit in Saudi Arabia. It is a mix bag of adventures ranging from ancient mosques and serene villages to bustling cities and magnificent architectural wonders. Some top Saudi natural destinations include Jebel Fihrayn, Al Souda mountains, Al Nafud Desert, Elephant Rock and wadi Al Disah. It has numerous heritage sites such as Rijal Almaa, Hima Cultural Arena, and Diriyah. The beautiful beaches of Saudi are a pleasant surprise for those who thought this gulf nation is just desert and arid mountains. Saudi Arabia is home to stunning beaches including Al Nakheel Beach, Umluj Beach, Indigo Beach, Al Fanateer Beach, etc.
Popular things to do in Saudi Arabia
Tourists visiting Saudi Arabia can look forward to many exciting activities, from thrill of scuba diving to quad biking in the dunes. Scuba and snorkeling can be done at any of the incredible diving sites near Jeddah. One can also go on a desert safari and enjoy dune surfing across the expansive sands of the Arabian Desert. In addition, tourists can participate in an unforgettable camping trip to the gorgeous reserve called Rawdat Tinhat.
Saudi Tourism: Key Information
Best time for Saudi Arabia tourism
The best time to visit Saudi Arabia are spring, autumn and winters. Spring lasts from mid-March to mid-June. During these months, the temperatures can drop below 15°C in the north and 20°C in the south and central region. While summers are long and hot; hence, tourism narrows down during June till September. The tourists activities during summers include water sports, hiking and camping. Saudi Arabia experiences autumn in October and November which is also a good month for tourism just like springs. Winters last from December to mid-March, offering varied winter tourism activities. Snowfall is rare but there are some cities that witness beautiful snowy winters.
Ideal trip duration
Saudi Arabia is a massive country with so much to see and do. Therefore, it is highly advisable to plan a long trip to fully explore all the delights it has to offer. Ideally, a trip to Saudi Arabia should be 15-20 days long.
International airports in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s tourism is enhanced by its numerous international, domestic, and regional airports. The country is home to four international airports, including:
1. King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh
2. King Fahd International Airport in Dammam
3. King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah
4. Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah
Internally, different regions and cities in Saudi Arabia are conveniently linked to each other via regular flights, trains, and buses. In addition to the four international airports, it also has nine regional and fourteen domestic airports. Furthermore, it has three major railway lines: Riyadh-Dammam Line, The North Train, and Haramain Railway. These railway lines effectively connect various cities in the Kingdom. Moreover, the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) runs a comprehensive network of buses across the country, linking all its major cities, towns, and villages.
Saudi Arabia travel itinerary: Top KSA Cities
The country’s marvelous cities are significant highlights of Saudi Arabia’s tourism. Some of the best destinations you should certainly add to your Saudi Arabia travel itinerary include:
1. Makkah and Madinah – The holy cities of Saudi Arabia
The trip to Saudi Arabia cannot be completed without a visit to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Known for holding immense religious significance amongst Muslims, these two sacred cities serve as the destination for the holy Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. Makkah and Madinah are known for their essential history and cultural heritage. The cities have many religious sites and other tourist attractions, which draw in millions of visitors throughout the year.
Popular attractions in Makkah, Madinah:
- Seek blessings at Al Haram Masjid and Masjid-Al-Nabawi.
- Admire the incredible marine-life exhibition at Fakieh Aquarium.
- Check out the striking architecture of Makkah Royal Clock Tower.
- Explore the history at Medina Media Museum.
- Spend a fun day at Al Hokair Luna Park.
- Pay a visit to Masjid-Al-Qiblatayan and Quba Mosque.
2. Riyadh – The dynamic capital
Serving as the country’s capital city and central financial hub, Riyadh forms a significant part of Saudi Arabia’s tourism. This city features a charming combination of the old and the new with a storied past, rich cultural heritage, and an urban landscape. Home to bustling markets, fascinating museums, and spectacular architecture, Riyadh is a paradise for travelers from all walks of life. The city attracts tourists all year round owing to its dynamic lifestyle and wealth of tourist attractions.
Popular attractions in Riyadh:
- Explore Saudi Arabia’s history at Diriyah.
- Understand the history of the ancient Al Masmak Fortress.
- Check out the extensive collection of antiquities at the Saudi National Museum.
- Go on a shopping spree at the vibrant Souk Al Zal.
- Attend a show at the famous King Fahd International Stadium.
3. Jeddah – A vibrant cultural hub
Counted amongst the country’s major cosmopolitan hubs, Jeddah plays a vital role in Saudi Arabia’s tourism. The beautiful city has many pristine reefs, gorgeous beaches, ancient ports, and offer mouth-watering seafood and breathtaking views of the vast Red Sea. Despite being home to glamorous malls, towering skyscrapers, and luxurious resorts, the city of Jeddah effectively preserves its historical past.
Popular attractions in Jeddah:
- Explore Jeddah’s historical center Al Balad, which is listed amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Discover the swimming bays, piers, and restaurants lining the gorgeous Jeddah Corniche.
- Dive deep into the history of fishing tribes at Tayebat City Museum.
- Witness King Fahd’s Fountain, known for being the world’s tallest fountain.
- Pay respect at the striking Al Rahma Mosque.
4. Abha – The heart of the Asir region
Serving as the capital of the beautiful Asir region, Abha is a culturally rich city situated at the Red Sea coast’s southern end. Surrounded by the country’s mountainous areas, this lovely city has a plethora of attractions ranging from architectural gems and natural wonders to bustling markets and historic neighborhoods. In addition, the city is an excellent destination for history lovers with its age-old traditions and lively culture.
Popular attractions in Abha:
- Admire the spectacular architecture of Rijal Almaa.
- Enjoy an exciting cable car ride between the towering mountains.
- Go trekking across one of the many hiking trails in Soudah.
- Take in the mesmerizing views at Jabal Thera.
- Witness the grandeur and magnificence of Shada Palace.
- Delve deep into the area’s history at the ancient Al Muftaha Village.
5. Tabuk – A historical gem
Featuring vibrant culture, notable heritage, and storied history, Tabuk is the capital city of the Tabuk region, which lies in northwestern Saudi Arabia. For many decades, it has served as a resting point for Egyptian and Jordanian pilgrims. The city is home to gorgeous beaches and idyllic coastal towns, making it an excellent destination for nature lovers. Also, it is a perfect place for history and adventure enthusiasts.
Popular attractions in Tabuk:
- Learn more about the city’s history at Tabuk Castle.
- Enjoy awe-striking views of the sunset at the stunning Al Disah Valley.
- Explore Maghaer Shuaib to discover the ancient tombs built into sandstone rocks.
- Shop for the famous goat-hair tent covers and patterned rugs at Souq Twaheen.
- Spend a day at the beautiful Haql and Sharma beaches.
Saudi Arabia Travel Requirements
Saudi Arabia tourism is open to tourists from anywhere in the world. Therefore, anyone who wishes to explore the country can plan a trip. The only condition is to meet all the Saudi Arabia entry requirements. The first and foremost of Saudi entry requirement is to obtain a visa. Tourists can apply for a multiple-entry visa, which remains valid for a year and allows them to stay in Saudi for a maximum of 90 days. This type of visa is only granted to those looking to visit the country for tourism-related activities or Umrah. Tourists belonging to 49 eligible countries can easily apply for the visa online. While those from the rest of the world can obtain their visas through Saudi embassies and consulates.
Do’s and don’ts for tourists visiting Saudi Arabia
Here are some important tips to keep in mind during the trip to Saudi Arabia:
- Foul language and loud behavior is a disrespectful act. Therefore, it is advisable to maintain respectful public decorum.
- Keep the prayer timings in mind as certain shops remain closed during those periods, especially during Ramadan.
- The consumption, purchase, or sale of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited in the country.
- Make sure to follow the dress code of individual establishments.
- While visiting a place of worship, take care to dress modestly.
Saudi Arabia is a great place to plan a trip to visit one of the holiest places on Earth and explore beautiful destinations. Saudi Arabia tourism has grown leaps and bounds due to the country’s amiable cities, picturesque landscapes, rich culture, and new tourism policies. Tourists can visit Saudi Arabia and experience the incredible tourist destinations in the Kingdom.
Suggested Read: 10 Largest Cities In Saudi Arabia That Are Totally Worth A Visit
Saudi Arabia Tourism FAQs
Which of the cities in Saudi Arabia are worth visiting?
Some notable Saudi destinations include Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Al Ahsa, AlUla, Yanbu, Hail, Taif, Asir, and Al Baha.
Which are the best local delicacies to try in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is widely known for its delectable local cuisine. Some must-try local dishes include: Shakshuka, Saudi Banana Masoub, Kabsa, Laban, Matabaq, Jareesh, Thareed, Umm Ali, Maamoul, and more.
Which language is typically spoken by the Saudi locals?
Saudi Arabia official language is Arabic, typically used in dealings and transactions. However, English is informally the second language of the country and is widely spoken by most locals. All the road signs show information in both English and Arabic.
What is the currency of Saudi Arabia?
Saudi riyal is the national currency of Saudi Arabia. One Saudi riyal is subdivided into 100 halala.
Which are some of the best hotels in Saudi Arabia?
Some of the best hotels you can stay in a while in the country include Hilton Jeddah, Sheraton Riyadh Hotel and Towers, Crowne Plaza Madinah an IHG Hotel, Jabal Omar Marriott Hotel Makkah, Hilton Garden Inn Tabuk, and Bay La Sun Hotel and Marina, KAEC.