Stargazing in Al-Ula, while a precious one-of-a-kind experience, remains obscure in the mind of a tourist in Saudi Arabia. Al-Ula draws over 100,000 visitors each year to its sands. However, it is quite evident that Al-Ula is still somewhat unknown amongst bigger names in global tourism like Madinah, Jeddah, Riyadh. Few things and few places give a traveler the true measure of the mystical charm in the world and Al-Ula is precisely one of them. Al-Ula provides an uninterrupted and undiluted view of the night sky as few other places in the world do.
How to reach Al Ula
Flights to Al-Ula from Riyadh or Jeddah leave at regular intervals every day. Also, Al-Ula is quite close to Madinah and can be reached by road as well. Making the right travel choice is important to not lose time and enjoy what the stunning Al Ula has to offer.
Why Al-Ula is ideal location for observing the stars?
Have you ever wondered why a black sky is so desirable for stargazing? You only need to understand how a city’s light pollution reduces your ability to see stars and constellations. As the sun sets here, the magnificent shades of orange, pink, and gold are the precursor to a magical trip as the sky drops its curtain. We all live under the same sky, yet in the ancient desert region of Alula, its clarity and unfathomable beauty are a wonderful sight to see. Tilting your head up and seeing a dark horizon illuminated by infinite glittering stars is profoundly an emotional experience.
Star-gazing sites in and around Al-Ula
1. Stargazing in Gharameel on the outskirts of the city
Lying back and gazing in awe at the magnificent sight of billions of stars above you is in itself the most refining experience any stargazer can dream to achieve. However, Al Ula offers much more than that. The astronomy excursion in Al-Ula’s secluded Gharameel area provides some of the most fabulous views of night skies. As a classic mixed grill dinner is cooked for you, an experienced guide will talk about the atmosphere, the planets, and the constellations. Huge open expanses in distant desert territories produce some of the most coveted black skies in the world, making Al Ula an ideal location for stargazing.
2. From the Old City Rooftops
Old city walking tours are already one of the most popular tourist attractions in Al-Ula, what a tourist can also do there is stay around for nightfall and experience the landscape of the night sky from the old city rooftops and alleyways.
3. Canyon of Madakel
Canyon of Madakel is a miniature version of the Twisted Maze and getting there involves walking through tight canyons, making you feel like a true adventurer. The excursion is challenging, but the view from the canyon of the night sky is truly worth the hike.
4. Atop the Madakel Canyon (the highest point in Al Harra)
Around the actual canyon, numerous plateau-like hills can be climbed after a challenging hike involving guidance from experienced professionals. Although a challenging feat, people with some exposure in the field can opt for the more thrilling escapade.
5. Elephant Rock (Jabal Alfil)
A rock formation sculpted into the shape of an elephant head over thousands of years by the forces of rain and wind erosion, elephant rock is truly a sight to behold. The beautiful plains around it are wonderful sights for night-sky gazing and the view of the constellations and the moonlight falling on the elephant rock is timeless.
6. Maraya Al-Ula
Maraya translates to mirror or reflection in Arabic and it is the largest fully mirror-walled building in the world. Over 9000 mirror panels were used in its construction and it is a sight to behold under an open night sky. A reflection of the entire star-filled sky is visible on the walls of the Maraya and the experience is other-worldly.
7. Al-Ula Oasis
The Al-Ula oasis is a green haven where fruits, perfumed oil plants, and herbs have been farmed for hundreds of years. A view of the night sky from this secluded bit of civilization in the middle of the desert is truly an experience to make your travel backward in time.
8. Madain Saleh Necropolis
Madain Saleh is an expansive rock formation with intricately designed tombs showcasing amazing man-made carvings. There are at least 5 major tombs in the vicinity of each other. The night sky with the view of these medieval structures is truly awe-inspiring to all who get to experience it.
9. Al-Ula Arch rock formation
Similar to the Elephant rock, the Arch is a natural rock shape formed by thousands of years of natural erosions. You will often find pictures of a starry sky taken at this location with a bottom-up view of the arch on travel websites and magazines.
10. Lonely Castle (Qazr Al-Fahid Tomb)
Any remains of rocks or canyons around it have fully vanished to time. A lonely rock stands in the middle of a sprawling desert near Al-Ula, sculpted with an internal chamber and external intricate designs by human hands to form the Qazr Al-Fahid Tomb. There is no sign of anything of its ilk or anything suggesting civilization in its vicinity. This feature gave it the name Al-Ula’s lonely castle. Star-gazing around the Lonely Castle is a tourist favorite and it is no surprise as to why.
Alternative ways for stargazing in Al-Ula
1. Camping in the wild
Join a camping trip to spend uninterrupted time in nature as you relax around a campfire, have an open-air grill dinner, and indulge in overnight stargazing. It is an all-day activity ending with the stargazing as the main event.
2. Sightseeing tour in a 4×4
On booking a 4×4 sightseeing excursion, you’ll see some of Al-Ula’s most incredible rock formations. It has the added benefit of relaxing in the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle as a local Al-Ula guide takes you on a safari to view the magnificent sandstone canyons of Arch Rock, Madakel, and Matlab. The nighttime views from the vehicle are amazing and you can stop anywhere to soak in more and more of the night sky.
3. ATV Tour by Al-Ula Buggies
Want to experience the rush of excitement while visiting AlUla? As Husaak’s skilled guides drive you through tiny gorges, towering dunes, and rugged terrain, you will have the time of your life. A night-time ride whether on or off-road will have you experiencing adrenaline as well the soothing views of the constellations in the open starry skies.
4. The Ridge Path
This short 4-kilometer walk provides impressive views of Wadi Al-Ula. The route begins with a strenuous uphill walk but gradually becomes more manageable. The view of Al-Ula and the night sky at the end of the hike is truly astounding and a sight to behold.
5. Booking an all-day trip
Day trips immerse guests in the spectacular desert terrain, but the natural beauty happens when night falls. A desert stargazing trip can start early in the day, covering all the natural and archaeological spectacles to see during the day. After which, tourists can stay over and wait for nightfall in the desert and gaze at the magnificent stars.
Other events to keep in mind when visiting Al-Ula
1. Winter at Tantora: This is a cultural festival that takes place during the winter months, featuring musical performances, art exhibitions, and other cultural activities.
2. Al-Ula Souk Okaz: This is an annual event that celebrates the pre-Islamic Okaz market, which was a famous gathering place for poets, writers, and traders. The festival features poetry readings, storytelling, traditional music and dance performances, and a market where local artisans sell handicrafts.
3. Al-Ula Balloon Festival: This festival celebrates hot air balloons in the desert surrounding Al-Ula. Visitors can witness the colorful balloons soaring over the stunning desert landscape.
4. Al-Ula Summer Festival: This festival is held during the summer months and features a variety of cultural and sporting activities, including traditional music and dance performances, camel racing, and soccer tournaments.
These events and festivals provide visitors with a unique and immersive cultural experience, showcasing the rich heritage of Al-Ula and the surrounding region.
Alula provides a family stargazing experience unlike anyone else. Alula’s pure desert topography, clear skies, and low light pollution make it the ideal location for seeing the wonders of the night sky. Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or simply seeking a one-of-a-kind and spectacular experience, stargazing in Alula is a must. Arranging and planning a trip to Alula is quite easy and only a short detour from any other place you may be visiting in Saudi Arabia or the magical middle east. It is a must to see the splendor of the stars for yourself. It will undoubtedly be an adventure to remember.
Suggested Read: 7 Things To Do In Al Ula For A Memorable Time With Family
Stargazing In Al Ula FAQs
What is the best time of year to visit Alula?
The best time to visit Alula is between October and April. The weather during these months is more relaxed and comfortable for outdoor activities.
What are the top attractions to see in Alula?
Alula is home to several fascinating historic sites, such as the Dadan and Hegra ancient cities. It also offer stunning natural scenery that can be explored through desert safaris and hot air balloon rides.
s Alula safe for tourists?
Yes, Alula is generally considered safe for tourists. However, as with any travel destination, exercising common sense and taking necessary precautions to ensure your safety is important.
Are there accommodations available in Alula?
Several accommodations are available in Alula, ranging from luxury hotels to more budget-friendly options. Visitors can choose from various lodging options to suit their needs and preferences.