Due to the recent loosening of visa restrictions and the growing number of travelers who appreciate the excellence of Saudi Arabia as a place to visit, the country is becoming a more revered destination.
In Saudi Arabia, you will find some of the holiest cities on the planet, as well as some of the most delicious dishes, the best scuba diving, and hidden gems that even your most travel-savvy friend won’t have been to.
If you are unsure why you should be planning your next trip there, then keep reading for four reasons to travel to Saudi Arabia in your lifetime.
1. It is home to Islam’s holiest cities
Saudi Arabia is home to Makkah (Mecca) and Madinah (Medina) which are Islam’s two holiest cities. For over 1 billion Muslims, a visit to these two cities is a lifelong dream. The inner areas of the cities are off-limits to non-Muslims, but you can still have a fantastic time by opting to stay in a hotel in Madinah near the Haram.
By choosing to visit Saudi Arabia, you are opting to encounter the spiritual home of Islam, which can be an emotional experience. These cities have spirituality dripping from the walls of the buildings and a long history that needs to be understood.
Makkah is where the Prophet Muhammad was born, which makes it the most beloved city in the country. In Makkah, you can find the Great Mosque of Makkah, the Kaaba (the cubical building that was first built by Prophet Abraham), Mount Arafat, and Abraj Al Bait Mall.
As the second most important city, Madinah also has numerous historic sites such as:
- Quba Mosque, the first mosque of Islam
- Al-Baqi’ cemetery, where many of Islam‘s holy individuals were laid to rest
- The Mountain of Uhud, the position of the battle of Uhud
Additionally, in Madinah is the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, whom Muslims regard as the concluding messenger of God.
2. The cuisine is delicious (and underrated around the world)
Saudi Arabian cuisine isn’t usually a mainstay of any city’s international restaurant offerings, which is a shame because the cooking is delicious. One of the exciting details about this type of cuisine is that the dishes have barely changed in thousands of years. It is true. The people of Saudi Arabia have devoured the same kind of food for generations and generations.
When looking for restaurants in Madinah, Makkah, or elsewhere in the country, here are some classic dishes and drinks that you absolutely must taste!
- Kapsa is the national dish of the country and is comprised of chicken and rice plus flavorings such as saffron, cinnamon, black lime, cardamom, nutmeg and bay leaves.
- Mutabbaq is a folded pancake that initially came from Yemen. Many locals eat these for midday snacks, as they can be found being sold by street vendors all around the cities.
- Another typical home-cooked dish is Saleeg, which has a similar look and consistency to risotto, but the rice is heated in milk and broth and is customarily accompanied by chicken.
- Finally, no visit to Saudi Arabia would be complete without trying the yoghurt drink, Laban, one of the most refreshing beverages you can consume. You will quickly come to understand why so many locals drink these.
Keep in mind that Islamic dietary lawsprohibit the consumption of pork and the drinking of alcoholic beverages. There are no exceptional circumstances granted to tourists, so don’t even think about trying to sneak some into the country.
3. It offers plenty of outdoor activities
When you first hear Saudi Arabia, you may not immediately think of outdoor activities, but this country has a lot to offer. In fact, it has some of the most magnificent scuba diving in the world thanks to the awe-inspiring beaches on the Red Sea.
It is almost inevitable that Saudi Arabia is soon going to be one of the top spots in the world for scuba tourism because the Red Sea has warm temperatures and excellent visibility, making it easy to see sharks, rays, turtles, morays, barracudas, and reef fish.
After your scuba-diving tour, opt to take a boat trip from one of the cities to visit ancient sites with shipwrecks. Generally, spending some time on the water is a highlight of anyone’s time in Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, the Red Sea and the Gulf coasts offer excellent bird watching opportunities if you are interested in witnessing some of the country’s wide-ranging birdlife.
Other outdoor activities that may be of interest to you are quad-biking in the Red Sand Dunes, Riyadh, hiking Riyadh’s Hidden Valley, dune bashing in Thumama Desert, and visiting the lake at WadiHanifah.
4. There are secret gems just begging to be explored
In the past, Saudi Arabia has been one of the most challenging countries in the world to visit, which makes any trip to the country slightly off-the-beaten-path. But the nation also has some secret gems that aren’t confined to Makkah and Madinah.
For example, the Farasan Islands merge shimmering waters, beautiful sandy beaches, a plethora of wildlife, and historical sites. On these islands, you can go diving, explore an Ottoman Castle, wander around the delightful Al Qassar Village, and spend some time at the Kedmi Site, which is a captivating range of stones organized in geometric patterns.
If you are in Saudi Arabia during the months of April and May, you must check out the unique Hareed Festival that takes place on these islands.
Another hidden gem is the mountain of Jabal al-Lawz, one of the world’s most incredible natural environments where hikers can spend time with many diverse plants and wildlife. Think waterfalls, bird-watching, and mountains galore. Here is where you come for some peace and quiet during your travels.
If you are a traveler who isn’t satisfied with sticking to the usual, then Saudi Arabia has plenty to keep you content.
Ever thought about taking a trip to Saudi Arabia? What intrigues you about the country? What stops you from going? Let us start a conversation about it in the comments below!