Jeddah to AlUla Road Trip
History and Beaches Tour
RECOMMENDED TRIP LENGTH: 4 DAYS - 1 WEEK
First-time visitors will want to spend at least a day or two exploring this vibrant coastal city known as the "Bride of the Red Sea and Saudi Arabia" oldest city. This commercial hub and seaport long served as a gateway for Muslim pilgrims travelling to the holy city of Makkah, and today it is known for its colourful souks, historic architecture, flavourful cuisine and beautiful coastline, as well as modern additions like theme parks and shopping malls.
Begin your journey in the Al-Balad historic district and wander cobblestone streets and winding alleyways to see traditional homes with intricately carved doorways and latticed windows. Marvel at the architecture of the Nassif House Museum: a 106-room Ottoman Turkish-inspired stone mansion that was originally home to a wealthy merchant and also served as a temporary royal residence for King Abdul Aziz, the first monarch of the third Saudi State, today known as Saudi or Arabia. Then, explore the Gabel Street Souk, where cosy shops are packed with hand-woven baskets, fragrant spices, jewel-coloured fabrics and traditional clothing. Cool off with a refreshing drink of freshly pressed sugar cane juice from a street vendor.
Continue learning about local history and culture at GAl Tayebat City Museum, a sprawling 18-wing museum featuring ancient architecture, Islamic art, traditional clothing, antique weaponry and other exhibits detailing the city’s rich past.
To explore the new developments, stroll through the waterfront district of Jeddah Corniche, where dazzling skyscrapers, palm tree-lined walkways, sculptures by international artists, amusement park rides and the Fakieh Aquarium, provide plenty to see and do. Nearby, Al Rahma mosque is a turquoise-domed beauty, suspended over the Red Sea on white stilts, giving it a floating appearance.
When the sun goes down, don’t miss King Fahd’s Fountain, the highest fountain in the world with its majestic column of seawater illuminated against the night sky.
Jeddah to Yanbu
Begin the drive to Yanbu, a port city with botanical gardens, waterfront parks and swim beaches — an ideal stop to rest and relax after experiencing the cosmopolitan energy of Jeddah. Along the way, you’ll pass through vast expanses of desert, rolling farmland and small towns with petrol stations and restrooms.
About 140 kilometres north of Jeddah, pull over for lunch at the waterfront King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), a master planned city with new hotels, a lush golf course, manicured parks and international restaurants. Stretch your legs with a walk along the tree-lined promenade or out on the pier for panoramic views of the Red Sea’s turquoise waters. Then, fill up on fast-casual international cuisine, such as grilled kebabs at Bhar Restaurant, pizza at Piatto Express, or tacos at Fire Grill Fresh Mex Kitchen.
Continue your drive and watch for tents along the route with local vendors selling food and handmade crafts. You might also spot roaming camels in the desert land.
NATURE AND HISTORY IN YANBU
Once a crossroads for spice merchants traversing the peninsula, today the port city of Yanbu is an exporting powerhouse. Likewise, its attractions are a mix of old and new, weaving together two cities in one: the newly developed area to the south and the historic old town to the north. Spend a day exploring this multifaceted city.
Enjoy the sandy shoreline of Yanbu Al-Bahr Beach, beautifully maintained public parks such as Prince Saud Bin Thunayan Athletic Park and Yanbu Lake Park, and wide-open green spaces with playgrounds. The annual Yanbu Flower Festival features a rainbow of flowers, as well as tropical birds, carnival rides and fireworks. For an exciting adventure, book a diving or snorkelling trip to explore the clear waters and coral forests just off the coast.
In the small historical quarter, see old stone walls and the home of T.E. Lawrence, a World War I English officer famously known as "Lawrence of Arabia". The traditional Hijazi building where he lived between 1915 to 1916 has been restored and turned into a museum.
For plush accommodation, stay at the five-star Mövenpick Hotel & Resort and indulge in first-class amenities such as a private beach, infinity-edge pool overlooking the Red Sea, steam and sauna facilities, and gourmet international cuisine.
Yanbu to Umluj
Fill up with gas on your way out of Yanbu, and enjoy a peaceful drive through wide-open desert landscapes, with hazy forms of craggy mountains off in the distance and glimpses of the Red Sea along the way.
COASTAL GETAWAY IN UMLUJ
Crystalline waters, white-sand beaches and tropical foliage have earned Umluj its reputation as "the Maldives of Saudi Arabia". You could easily spend a day or two taking in the coastal splendour and relaxed ambience.
Stop in this small town and stroll along the main beach beneath swaying palm trees, which are watered by underground springs flowing out to sea. In the historic area of town, you’ll see shipbuilders and craftsmen at work, as well as local fishing boats bobbing in the coves.
The true gem of Umluj is its 104 unspoiled islands scattered throughout the Red Sea. Book a boat tour to see these natural beaches and nature preserves where migratory birds rest from the vantage point of the sparkling waters. From your boat, keep an eye out for frollicking dolphins, or put on a mask and flippers to snorkel among coral reefs bursting with vibrant colours and textures. See glinting schools of fish, hawksbill turtles, dugong (sea cows) and a variety of shark species, including hammerhead sharks.
After a day in the sun, return to shore to dine on fresh seafood pulled straight from the waters.
Umluj to AlUla
Watch as the scenery shifts from desert sands as far as the eye can see to lush farmlands to rugged mountain terrain with volcanic cones jutting up from the earth’s surface. This drive showcases the diversity of Saudi Arabia’s natural beauty as you meander from the coastline into the oasis of AlUla.
Along the way, pull over in the city of Al Ais, where you’ll find numerous cafes, juice shops and seafood restaurants for a quick bite to eat.
For an optional detour, consider venturing to the rocky Harrat Lunayyir lava field, where you’ll find approximately 50 volcanic cones.
Final Stop: AlUla
Throughout the millennia, civilisations have been able to create a home in this desert valley due to the natural springs that flow beneath the sands, creating an enclave of agricultural bounty: more than 200,000 citrus trees, dense groves of date palms, bushes of aromatic herbs and figs, and stands of wispy Moringa Peregrina trees, known for producing high-quality, luxury moringa oil. Go on a farm tour and savour the sweetness of freshly picked date fruits to experience this life-giving oasis for yourself. Eat local specialties at the AlMakher café or Barzon restaurant in Old Town.
For thrilling outdoor excursions, AlUla is a paradise of natural beauty and adventure. Explore the trails in AlUla, including the Oasis and Adventure trails, by camel, bicycle or dune buggy. Spot Nubian ibex, Idmi gazelles and red-necked ostriches in the 1,500-square-kilometre Sharaan Nature Reserve. Trek around Jabal AlFil, also known as "Elephant Rock," one of AlUla’s most recognizable rock formations. Or spark your sense of wonder as you contemplate the depths of the universe in the dark skies above; sign up for a stargazing tour when they are available.
There are so many more amazing places to explore in AlUla that you’ll want to linger here a few days. Reserve lodging at area resorts, camps and RV parks.
Discover more incredible road trips to AlUla from around Saudi Arabia
Natural wonders. Holy lands. Modern capitals. Futuristic sites. UNESCO World Heritage. Stunning coastlines. The nine inspiring road trips lead to it all, just select which route you're in the mood for. Includes travel tips to help you plan.