Saudi is a destination that has allured tourists for decades. You must dive into the crown jewel of the Middle East if you’re an ardent backpacker. It is a geographically diverse land where you can feast your eyes on green mountains, pristine beaches, endless cliffs, red dunes, Bedouin camps, and picturesque villages. The icing on the cake? Hospitable locals who are eager to share their culture with visitors.
Without further ado, here’s a packed itinerary for backpackers to guide you on a memorable trip through Saudi.
Your adventure starts in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi and the largest city in the country. It has grown from a small tribal city to one of the greatest economies in the world. Although Riyadh is just like any other city across the globe, it has held its traditional values close to its heart. The beautiful and historical city has bustling bazaars, skyscrapers, young hipsters and plenty of natural beauties just outside the city. With all this and more, Riyadh will surely leave its mark on your heart. We recommend you to stay for at least two days in Riyadh.
Start your day early so you can head outside the city with enough time to view the Masmak Fortress and the Edge of the World during the second half of the day.
Sky Bridge at Kingdom Center
One of the top things to do in Riyadh is to visit the Sky Bridge at Kingdom Center. It has a big shopping mall inside and the panoramic view of the city from the top is second to none.
Ticket cost: Rs 1,100
National Museum of Saudi Arabia
If you would like to learn about the history of Saudi, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia should be at the top of your list. A visit to this place on your first day will help you understand the history and culture of Saudi before you set out to explore it. Stepping into this museum will make time fly.
Ticket Cost: Rs 206
The Masmak Fortress
Another unmissable spot is the Masmak Fortress, located in the old town of Riyadh. In 1902, the fort was the epicentre of a battle led by Ibn Saud to recapture Riyadh. Inside the fortress, there is a very interesting museum about Saudi heritage.
Ticket cost: Entry is free
Visit the Najd village for a scrumptious dinner. This is one of the best places to visit as a tourist where you can experience the true essence of Saudi without leaving the city. With traditional ambience and food, end your day on a flavourful note at the Najd village.
Price for dinner: A 3-course meal is approximately Rs 900 and just the main course around Rs 500 to 600
Where to stay: If you’d like a warm bed to rest your feet, you can choose to stay at a budget hotel such as the OYO 114 Dome Hotel Al Sulaimaniah. A standard studio costs Rs 3,000 per day.
Address: OYO 114 Dome Hotel Al Sulaimaniah
King Abdul Aziz Road, Al Sulaimaniah District, Al Sulimania, 31311 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Food and activities for the day: Rs 1,500
Cost for the day: Rs 7,000 .
Red Sand Dunes
On your second day, you can visit the classic Arabian destination - the Red Sand Dunes. It is a 30-minute drive outside Riyadh and you can easily get an Uber. A location loved by locals and tourists alike, the Red Sand Dunes are impeccable. The golden sand of the dunes shines brightly under the afternoon sun, making it look like a place out of this planet. You can rent a quad bike and go on an adventure or simply hike up the dune and surf down. As the evening approaches, sit back and watch as the sun paints the sky with the same shades as the sand and let the warm wind rustle through your hair.
Transport cost: You can rent a car for Rs 2,000 per day or take an Uber which would cost you Rs 3,000.
Where to stay: It is possible to camp at the Red Sand Dunes, with precautions and a promise to leave the place tidy.
Food and activities for the day: Rs 1,000
There are low-cost eateries such as McDonald’s and some local cafés around the Red Sand Dunes.
Cost for the day: Rs 3,000
Abha is the capital of the Asir region and was once an independent kingdom. The Asir region is a mountainous slice of land in southwest Saudi Arabia. This can be your base to go sightseeing around the region.
Several attractions around Abha that will leave you fascinated are the historic Rijal Alma, the lofty Jabal Sawda, the Abu Kheyal Park, and souvenir shops in the Souq al Thulatha.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and historic village, Rijal Alma is a must-see. In the 19th century, the Asiri tribes defeated a 50,000-strong Ottoman army at this fortress and won independence for the region. 60 multi-storeyed buildings built with stone, clay and wood make up this surreal attraction.
Next, you can take a cable ride up from Rijal Alma to Jabal Sawda. Jabal Sawda is the highest peak in Saudi, reaching up to 3,133 m. It is the perfect escape from the scorching heat of the country. You will find monkeys that will be noisy companions once you reach the top.
Transport cost: You can take a flight or bus from Riyadh to Abha. A flight would cost about Rs 3,500 and the bus fare could amount to Rs 2,500.
Where to stay: The Oyo 540 Abha Alsho is the perfect location for budget accommodation. A standard studio costs Rs 3,000.
Address: Oyo 540 Abha Alsho
Al-Imam Muhamed Ibn Saud, Al Faisaliyah, Abha, 62521 Abha, Saudi Arabia.
Food and activities for the day: Rs 1,000 approximately
Cost for the day: Rs 7,500
Jazan is the southernmost city in Saudi and lies on the coast of the Red Sea directly across from Eritrea. Nestled in the southwest region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the coast of the Red Sea, Jazan has many natural wonders that certainly qualify to be on every backpacker's bucket list. Although it is not the main place to visit on our itinerary, Jazan is the base camp for the regions around it. You could spend two nights in Jazan and visit the nearby regions of Fayfa and Farasan Islands.
Fayfa is a mountainous village located about 100 km from Jazan. Its locals have carried on traditions such as wearing traditional flower hats and carrying daggers at their waists. It is one of the most impressive locations in Saudi and the locals fondly refer to it as ‘The Hanging Gardens of Saudi Arabia’, ‘Neighbour of the Moon’, and ‘Heavens of the Earth'. The region is perched at 2,600 m and the mountains are home to lush green terraces that were carved to bring agriculture to this fertile but steep land.
In the evening, explore the city of Jazan and spend the night there.
The Farasan Islands in the Jazan region are an unmissable destination. Located about 40 kilometres off the coast of Jazan, the islands are a beautiful archipelago that is home to amazing beaches, undiscovered reefs, and unique wildlife. The marine sanctuary of the Farasan Islands is home to 231 different species of fish, critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles, dugongs, lobsters, manta rays, three species of dolphins, and even whale sharks.
A day is not enough to admire the beauty of the Farasan Islands. If possible, opt to camp for a couple of days or come back for a second night in Jazan.
Transport cost: You can take a bus from Abha to Jazan. The bus fare could amount to Rs 1,100. You can also rent a car for Rs 2,000 per day.
To get to Fayfa you will need to rent a car or hitchhike as there is no public transport that will get you there.
The only way to get to the Farasan Islands is by the free public ferry from Jazan that departs twice a day. The ferry leaves Jazan at 7 am and at 3:30 pm.
Where to stay: The Al Safa Hotel Suites is a great option for budget accommodation. A one-bedroom apartment will cost you Rs 2,500.
Address: Al Safa Hotel Suites
Jizan-Safa Street, Jazan, Saudi Arabia
Food and activities for the day: Rs 1,000 approximately
Cost for each day: Rs 4,600
If you want to explore some epic wadis, mysterious shipwrecks, endless deserts and more, make sure to visit the Tabuk Province.
Georgios G Shipwreck
Start early to explore the Georgios G. shipwreck, also known as Saudi’s Titanic. Made by the British in 1958, the vessel was used as a cargo liner. In 1978, while carrying a shipment of flour, the ship got stuck in the corals of the coast. The ship caught fire while trying to reignite the engines. Today all that remains are the rusting iron parts of the ship. It is located on the coastline of the Gulf of Aqaba which means that you can get a glimpse of Egypt from here.
As you leave the city limits of Tabuk, the scenery changes to a sandy desert with unique rock formations. It will take you five hours to reach the shipwreck.
Arrive by evening at Wadi Al-Disah. You can pitch a tent here as camping is permitted. The gorgeous view of the stars twinkling in the night sky will be your entertainment.
Wadi Al-Disah is synonymous with the word ‘beautiful'. Al Disah translates to ‘the valley of palm trees’, which you will understand once you arrive here. The valley floor is surrounded by massive sandstone cliffs and pillars that are perfect for exploring. The main entrance to Wadi Al-Disah is located about 260 kilometres from the city of Tabuk. In a couple of hours, you can hike the entire length of the valley and back.
Transport cost: You can take a bus from Jazan to Tabuk. The bus fare could amount to Rs 4,000 and around Rs 8,000 for flights. You can also rent a car for Rs 2,000 per day and drive for 18 hours.
Neither the shipwreck nor the Wadi Al-Disah is accessible by public transport. So you can hitchhike for free or rent a car for Rs 2,000 per day.
Where to stay: Camp for free under the twinkling stars at Wadi Al-Disah.
Food and activities for the day: Rs 1,000
There are budget eateries such as McDonald’s and local cafés in Tabuk where you can pack both meals.
Cost for each day: Rs 4000
On your last day, drive back to Tabuk and then fly back to Riyadh to get home.
With a wide array of spots for sightseeing, Saudi is a backpacker haven. Saudi with its unique geographical landscape has everything that a backpacker is looking for. From local cafes to street eateries with delicious fare, there is no dearth of places where backpackers can enjoy unique flavours or grab a quick bite.
The country is also very accepting of the hitchhiking culture and has backpackers from all over the world, exploring the uncharted lands of Saudi. Now that you’ve reached the end of this article, are you looking forward to discovering the pearl of the Middle East?
In association with Saudi Tourism Board
Ready to travel for free? Earn credits and redeem them on Tripoto’s weekend getaways, hotel stays and vacation packages.
Watch travel stories come to life with Tripoto on Youtube!