Best Things To Do In AlUla


June 18, 2024

Best Things To Do In AlUla

AlUla got my heart. I tried almost each activity you can do in AlUla and here are my favorite things to do in this Saudi Oasis.

Located in the heart of Saudi Arabia and easy to reach by plane, bus or when renting a car. AlUla is becoming the top spot for travelers in the Middle East. I visited AlUla now for the second time and I’m still in love with this beautiful place. From ancient tombs to incredible fun experiences, AlUla is a destination that promises unforgettable moments.

Let me take you through my journey and share the best activities you can do in AlUla.

Be connected at all times in AlUla.
I got a e-SIM with Airalo and bought a plan of 10 GB for my whole stay in the country.

Alula from a hot air balloon
Alula from a hot air balloon

Explore Hegra

Hegra, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the Nabatean Kingdom. It is the key landmark of AlUla and visiting AlUla without exploring Hegra, is considered an incomplete visit. Visiting Hegra is like stepping into a time machine. The ancient tombs carved into sandstone cliffs are awe-inspiring, and the stories they hold are even more fascinating.

What to Expect: As you wander through the site, you’ll encounter majestic tombs, ancient inscriptions, and breathtaking rock formations. Hegra is less crowded than Petra, its more famous counterpart in Jordan, allowing for a more intimate and reflective experience. Even though the site is quite vast, walking independently is not allowed and you will go by vehicle from place to place. Don’t worry, each tomb tells a story, and having a knowledgeable guide can enhance your visit immensely.

What Makes It Special: Hegra at night was my favorite activity. The tombs are illuminated, creating a mystical atmosphere. The silence of the desert night combined with the glowing ancient structures is a sight to behold. Night tours offer a different perspective, with the cool desert air and a blanket of stars overhead adding to the enchantment.

How to Do It: You can visit Hegra by booking a guided tour at the official AlUla tourism website: Experience AlUla. Prices for a simple bus day tour start around 95 SAR (22 EUR) and go up depending on the experience you want.  Hegra at night is a bit more expensive, but totally worth it, and if you are more than 4 people together, I totally recommend you to do Hegra with a Vintage Land Rover.


  • Hegra Day Tour: 95 SAR (22 EUR)
  • Hegra with a Vintage Land Rover: 700 SAR (180 EUR) up to 7 people
  • Hegra after dark: 120 SAR (30 EUR)

Read more: Best Places To Visit In Old Town Jeddah

Hegra with a vintage Land Rover
Hegra with a vintage Land Rover

Visit the Maraya Building

The Maraya Building is a marvel of modern architecture. This mirrored concert hall blends seamlessly into the desert landscape, reflecting the beauty of its surroundings.

What to Expect: Visiting Maraya is a surreal experience. The building’s exterior reflects the desert, creating an illusion of invisibility. Inside, it hosts concerts, art exhibitions, and events. The contrast between the ultra-modern structure and the timeless desert landscape is striking. The interior is just as impressive, with state-of-the-art facilities and an ambiance that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the future.

Forget the Instagram pictures (they are all from the same boring angle). The best way to enjoy Maraya is visiting the location and wander around the area finding your favorite viewpoint.

What Makes It Special: The blend of modern architecture with the natural landscape is stunning. It’s a perfect spot for photography and to enjoy cultural events. The building holds the Guinness World Record for the largest mirrored building, which adds to its allure.

How to Do It: You can only reach Maraya with your own vehicle (or an UBER). Entry to the site is free, but you have to book a spot in advanced. It might work out if you talk through it at the security gate, but its not sure.

Keep in mind. The Maraya is a museum. Tickets for events at Maraya vary depending on the show but expect to pay around 150 SAR (35 EUR) for a concert or exhibition. For more information and bookings, check the Maraya website.

Also, at the top floor of Maraya, there is a restaurant. This is a great spot to finish your stay in AlUla – That’s where I also celebrated the last night in this magical city.

Maraya building in AlUla
The best time of the day to come to Maraya is in the middle of the day or before sunset.

Visit Old Town AlUla

This is my favorite free spot. Old Town AlUla is a labyrinth of narrow streets, ancient mud-brick houses, and charming markets. It’s a place where history comes alive and the local culture is palpable.

What to Expect: Strolling through Old Town, you’ll find traditional crafts, souvenirs, and local delicacies. The atmosphere is vibrant and welcoming. The narrow alleyways and restored buildings offer a glimpse into the past, making it a perfect spot for history buffs and culture enthusiasts. Don’t miss the chance to interact with local artisans and shop for unique handicrafts.

Keep in mind. If you are looking forward to see a 100 year old Old Town like in Oman, Jordan or Lebanon, you will be disappointed. AlUla was an abandoned city and now the government is practically renovating everything. All shops are new and you will see a lot of designer shops and fancy restaurants mixed.

My highlight at the Old Town: For the perfect Old Town experience, stay at the Dar Tandora. This boutique hotel captures the essence of AlUla with its traditional architecture and modern comforts. The rooms are tastefully decorated, combining rustic charm with modern amenities. The rooftop terrace offers stunning views of the old town and surrounding desert.

Coffee break at Dar Tandoora
Coffee break at Dar Tandoora

How to Do It: Visiting Old Town is free. A stay at Dar Tandora costs around 500 SAR (118 EUR) person, offering a unique blend of history and luxury. For more details and bookings, check out Booking or Agoda and make a quote.

Old town AlUla
Old town AlUla is very very photogenic. I loved it.

Enjoy the sunset at Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock is one of AlUla’s most iconic natural landmarks. This massive rock formation resembles an elephant and is a great spot for sunset views. Actually! It is THE spot for sunset views.

What to Expect: As the sun sets, the rock glows in shades of orange and red. It’s a perfect place to relax with a drink and some shisha. The setting is calm but also quite hip, making it an ideal spot for sharing a fun time with friends. There are a few spots nearby where you can sit and enjoy the view while sipping on a beverage or smoking shisha.

What Makes It Special: The serene atmosphere and the natural beauty of the rock formations make it a must-visit. The silhouette of the “elephant” against the colorful sky is an unforgettable sight.

Keep in mind that Elephant rock is a lounge area and not a natural formation in the middle of nowhere. There will be a DJ, it will be a bit loud and the atmosphere is not calm and relaxing like many other blogs mention.

How to Do It: Entry is free. You can also sit in one of the cool Instagram sofas for free. However, drinks and shisha at the nearby café cost around 50 SAR (12 EUR). It’s best to visit during sunset for the most spectacular views.

You can reach Elephant rock by driving 10 minutes with your car or taking an UBER from the Old Town.

Lounge at the elephant rock
Lounge at the elephant rock

In my opinion, the best view of the Elephant Rock is from the bowling pin rock formation (just a few minutes away by car). Visit this hill and climb all the way to the top. The views are amazing and you will really get the sense of exploring nature while observing the elephant rock.

How conservative is AlUla

Saudi Arabia is known for being one of the most conservative countries in the world. However, over the past years the country has tried to move forward and become more “westernize” while maintaining their traditions alive. AlUla is probably the first project to show how liberal AlUla can be. Alcohol is still not allowed and you won’t see women in short clothes, but you will notice that hotel staff won’t use traditional attires and the atmosphere is way more relaxed.

View of Elephant rock from the bowling pin formation
View of Elephant rock from the bowling pin formation

Get Lost at the Rock Formations of Gharameel

Gharameel is a surreal landscape of towering rock formations that look like they belong on another planet.

What to Expect: Exploring Gharameel feels like a journey through a natural sculpture park. The rock formations are varied and fascinating. Each rock formation has its own unique shape and character, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. It’s a fantastic spot for photography, especially during the golden hour.

What Makes It Special: The isolation and beauty of Gharameel make it a perfect place for photography and quiet contemplation. The eerie silence and stark beauty of the rocks make you feel like you’re on another planet.

How to Do It: Guided tours to Gharameel cost around 150 SAR (35 EUR). It’s best to visit in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat. For booking and more information, visit Experience AlUla

You can also simply drive by yourself and explore independently. Just keep in mind to download Google Maps, as there is no internet connection in this location.

Get Lost at the Rock Formations of Gharameel
The Rock Formations of Gharameel are very photogenic and you can take great photos everywhere you go. It is a very nice road trip day plan.

Do an Adventurous Activity at Adventure Hub

Adventure Hub in AlUla offers thrilling activities for adrenaline junkies. I tried two of the three activities they offer and this was for sure one of the highlights of my trip. These are the three activities.

Zipline: Soar above the desert and enjoy breathtaking views as you zip across the landscape. Price: 120 SAR (28 EUR)

Stairway: A challenging yet rewarding climb that offers stunning views of AlUla. This activity involves a series of steps and ladders that lead you up a steep rock face. Price: 150 SAR (35 EUR)

Ferrata/Gorge Swing: This is the most adventurous activity in the region. The ferrata includes a series of iron steps and bridges, while the gorge swing is an exhilarating jump into the canyon. The combination of climbing and swinging is sure to get your adrenaline pumping. Price: 250 SAR (65 EUR)

What Makes It Special: The combination of thrilling activities and stunning natural landscapes makes Adventure Hub a must-visit. Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or a beginner, there’s something for everyone.

How to Do It: Book through the official AlUla tourism website or at the Adventure Hub directly. For more information, visit Experience AlUla. Unlike other experiences you book on Experience AlUla, you need to reach the location by yourself. You can either take an UBER or go with your own car.

Read more: Best adventure activities to do in AlUla

Hands down! Craziest thing you can do in AlUla

Visit the Daimumah Oasis

The Daimumah Oasis is a lush, green haven in the middle of the desert. It’s a perfect spot to relax and enjoy nature.

What to Expect: Palm trees, fresh water springs, and a variety of flora and fauna. The oasis is a peaceful retreat where you can take a leisurely stroll, enjoy a picnic, or simply sit and soak in the natural beauty.

What Makes It Special: The contrast between the arid desert and the vibrant oasis is striking. The oasis offers a refreshing break from the heat and a chance to reconnect with nature.

You can also learn more about the life in AlUla before the tourism boom and get an ice cream or a cold drink in one of the cafes popping up around the area.

NOTE: You can get a drink at a snack for free at the AlUla Welcome Center at the entrance of the Oasis.

How to Do It: Entrance to the oasis is free. It’s best to visit in the late afternoon when the temperature is cooler. Explore independently and simply relax. I spent like one hour at the giant forest net and it was simply amazing.  

This is how I spent my day at the Oasis
This is how I spent my day at the Oasis

Do Either a Helicopter Ride or a Hot Air Balloon Experience

For a bird’s eye view of AlUla, opt for a helicopter ride or a hot air balloon experience. This is one of the best experiences you can do in AlUla if your budget allows it. Don’t worry. I tested both of them for you, so you can choose better during your visit.

What to Expect: Stunning aerial views of AlUla’s landscapes, from ancient sites to natural wonders. Both experiences offer a unique perspective, showcasing the vastness and beauty of the region. The helicopter ride is about 30 minutes, while the Hot Air Balloon will be around one hour.

What Makes It Special: Seeing AlUla from above provides the most beautiful views of AlUla. The feeling of floating above the landscape in a hot air balloon or soaring high in a helicopter is exhilarating. These two activities were on top of everything I did in AlUla and if you get the chance to book both, go for it.

How to Do It: Helicopter rides cost around 1000 SAR (235 EUR), and hot air balloon rides are about 1,000 SAR (235 EUR). If I had the chance to only do one, I think the Hot Air Balloon gets the price. This was my all time favorite activity in AlUla (as well the Gorge Swing – see above), and I would love to repeat it again.  

Helicopter ride in AlUla
Helicopter ride in AlUla

Visit the Harrat Viewpoint

Harrat Viewpoint is a cool bar/café that offers panoramic views of AlUla and its surroundings. It’s a perfect spot for sunrise or sunset. It’s the perfect place for a wild party with a view in a country where wild partying is somehow on a grey area.

What to Expect: This is probably the place with the best views of AlUla. The vibe is also quite modern and I can understand the hype around it.

What Makes It Special: With great views, hip spots and fancy drinks (non-alcoholic of course), Harrat is a popular spot for photographers. The light at sunrise and sunset adds a magical touch to the already stunning landscape.

How to Do It: Visiting the viewpoint is free. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit.

The viewpoint is a bit distant for a hike or an UBER. The best way to get there is going with your own car and drive all the way up. Use Google Maps to find the location.  

Read more: How to plan your visit to Medina in Saudi Arabia

Visit Wadi AlFann

Wadi AlFann is a picturesque valley surrounded by dramatic cliffs and lush greenery. This is one of the latest attractions in AlUla and even though this is the only attraction I didn’t personally visit, I got fascinated  when I learn more about t.

What to Expect: A peaceful walk through the valley, with opportunities to spot wildlife and enjoy the scenery. The valley is a haven for nature lovers, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle. There are also a few modern pieces of art, which add some kind of weird dystopian (but cool) futuristic vibe to the landscape.

What Makes It Special: The natural beauty and tranquility of Wadi AlFann make it a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle. The lush greenery contrasts beautifully with the rugged cliffs, creating a picturesque setting.

How to Do It: Entrance is free. Early morning or late afternoon are the best times to visit.

Read more: How to travel around Saudi Arabia

Views from the helicopter ride in AlUla
Views from the helicopter ride in AlUla

What about Dadan and other archeological sites?

Although Dadan is historically significant, I found the activity a bit boring and exhausting, especially because it’s in the middle of the day when the heat is intense. For this reason, I decided not to include it in the list.

However, tours to Dadan are quite affordable and if you have an afternoon free, its not a bad way to kill a few hours.

Additionally, as I mentioned before, I tried almost ALL the activities mentioned here and I think all what I included in this list would make the perfect AlUla trip. For a trip like this, plan anything between 5-6 nights. My recommendation would be also to stay at two different locations. Maybe one of the hotels located in the middle of the mountains (I stayed at the Habitas AlULa) and another one near the Old Town.

The famous tampolines in the middle of the desert - Habitas AlUla
The famous tampolines in the middle of the desert are located at Habitas AlUla

Car or no car in AlUla?

A car will give you a lot of flexibility when traveling AlUla. If you can rent a car, DO IT. It will significantly improve your experience. On the other hand, I do not think having a car would limit you to just a few activities. All (or at least most) activities have transfers and if you stay in the Old Town, you can easily move from A to B.

Explore AlUla like an expert.
Book a tour with Viator or Get Your Guide and find the perfect itinerary for you.

Some spots like this one can only be reached by car
Some spots like this one can only be reached by car




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