Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi
Surprising Saudi

Surprising Saudi

From: 
Regular price
$17,615.00
Sale price
$17,615.00

Ramadan: 10 March - 08 April 2024 and 28 February -31 March 2025
Hajj Season: 09 May 2024 - 20 July 2024
Rates on application
 
Private Holiday
10 Days ex Riyadh
Daily Departures
 

As it is so unfamiliar to tourists, Saudi Arabia is often misperceived. Casual observers often class it as a hyper-conservative destination with laws as harsh and unforgiving as its desert landscapes. But the vast Kingdom is far more nuanced than it is generally given credit for.  

This revelatory adventure unlocks the door to multi-faceted cities, remarkable culture, and breathtaking landscapes.

Highlights:

  • Experience Riyadh’s contemporary culture: a mix of the ancient and the modern, a showcase for today’s Saudi Arabia
  • Stargaze when camping in the "Valley of the Palms": Experience the silence and observe the night sky above Wadi Disah - one of Saudi Arabia's most beautiful natural highlights
  • Discover ancient desert civilizations in AlUla and explore remarkable rock formations with giant tombs from the Nabatean era carved into the cliff faces
  • Discover the Holy City of Medina, one of Islam's holiest pilgrimage sites
  • Explore the vibrant city of Jeddah: Saudi’s oldest and most liberal city

Day 1: Riyadh

Welcome to Saudi Arabia. On arrival you will be met by a representative of our local operator and transferred to your reserved hotel for a two-night stay.

One of the wealthiest cities in the world, Riyadh is a showcase for modern Saudi Arabia. Once a walled, mud-brick way station along desert trading routes, the capital is now a hyper-contemporary metropolis with the best hotels and restaurants in the country. Its organized grid layout is lined with more than 4,000 mosques, numerous busy shopping centres and traditional souks, public parks, and a diverse set of communities and neighbourhoods.

On this first day in the Kingdom, you will check the pulse of the city by taking the high-speed lift to the 99th floor of the iconic Kingdom Center for access to Riyadh’s best urban panorama. Suspended 300 meters above the city, the tower’s curved Sky Bridge offers spectacular views across the Riyadh skyline and beyond.

Optional afternoon excursion (supplement applies):
Half day by 4x4 to the stunning Edge of the World
Leave the city center and head out to Jebel Fihrayn, more famously known as “The Edge of the World”. It got its nickname from the uninterrupted view of the horizon it offers atop its 300-meter-high cliffs, which overlook the plain below. Go for a stroll along the edge before you get cozy on your carpet and takwa, the Saudi picnic seat, for a prime view of the sky as it seems to melt into the barren earth. Experience freshly brewed Arabic coffee and tea, the flames of the fire and picnic-style snacks before returning to your hotel in Riyadh.

Day 2: Riyadh (BLD)

Discover the captivating contrasts of Riyadh's rich heritage and modernity in a day filled with historical landmarks and futuristic marvels. Begin your journey in the heart of the old town, exploring Al Masmak Fortress, a 150-year-old citadel witnessing the birth of the Kingdom. Stroll through traditional marketplaces like Souq al Zel and Souq Bisht, immersing yourself in the city's charismatic past and perhaps purchase an Abaya for use during your travels.

Transition into Saudi Arabia's history at the Murabba palace and the National Museum, blending ancient splendours with modern exhibits. Across town and pointing high into the sky as a symbol for power is KAFD, or King Abdullah Financial District, the strikingly modern heart of business in the Kingdom and increasingly the wider Gulf area. Have a look at the mosque in an equally bold design before travelling further into the future visiting The Line Experience, offering insights into the futuristic city of NEOM and how life inside will be for its 9-million inhabitants.

Conclude your day with a journey into the past at Ad Diriyah, birthplace of the first Saudi state, At-Turaif. Uncover the UNESCO World Heritage site's restored glory, delving into its architecture and heritage. Learn about the construction of mud-brick houses and the lifestyle of a bygone era. End the day with a delightful dinner at Bujairi Terrace, savouring the flavours of Riyadh before an overnight stay in this enchanting city.

Day 3: Riyadh - Tabuk (BL)

This morning you leave the capital by air for Tabuk, the gateway to Saudi Arabia’s northwest, and for centuries a resting point for Jordanian and Egyptian pilgrims on their way to Mecca and Medina.

Life moves slowly here as you will feel wandering along the main street, checking out the ‘smach’ shops (Saudi headwear for men) and the all-purpose stores selling anything a Bedouin needs in the desert. The small fort sits at the top of the street and houses a museum. The distinct Ottoman architecture is a testament to the city’s position as the gateway to Saudi and the Arab world. To prove this, explore one of the best-preserved railway stations in Saudi Arabia. Hijaz Railway Station was built almost a century ago to take Muslim pilgrims from Damascus to the holy cities of Makkah and Medina but ended in ruins less than two decades after its start. This iconic attraction allows you to admire refurbished buildings that offer various Ottoman relics at this historical monument.

Optional afternoon tour (supplement applies):
Hisma tour by 4x4
Immerse yourself in Hisma’s unique desert landscape. Explore unknown areas of the majestic desert of NEOM from the comfort of a 4×4. The tour will include wonderful sightseeing opportunities from some of the best vantage points in NEOM. See historical inscriptions and spectacular rock formations. You will have an opportunity to hike in shaded areas, reaching hidden locations The trip will end with breathtaking sunset views and an authentic Bedouin experience at the camp.

Day 4: Tabuk - Wadi Disah (BLD)

After a leisurely morning, embark on a captivating journey to the wonders of the north. Head south, into the arid desert and mountains of NEOM. Along the way, get a glimpse of the work being done on The Line Giga Project, to prove that what you learned in Riyadh is for real. Arrive at Wadi Disah, a breathtaking natural marvel known as the Valley of the Palm Trees, featuring colourful mountain forms, rocky columns, and a freshwater spring. Experience an off-road adventure in a 4x4 through the wadi or enjoy a leisurely stroll amidst the picturesque surroundings. Continue to Disah village and settle in on a fruit farm where more will be learned about agriculture in this arid climate.

When the daylight fades, jump in a local 4x4 for a short transfer to a secluded corner of the valley to reach a private, tented camp, set up just for you! Recline on takwa, the Saudi picnic seat, while the campfire creates a warm glow. A traditional BBQ dinner is served under the star-filled night sky and your guide will explain to you how these stars help desert travellers navigate and share a good story or two over freshly brewed Arabic coffee.

When it is time to sleep, cozy Bedouin tents await for an unforgettable night under the stars. Bedouins traditionally sleep in tents to be able to follow their herds, which go after the rains that fall scattered across the desert. Your tent has a proper bed and other required comforts for a good night sleep. Bathroom facilities are shared. Overnight in a private tent in Wadi Disah.

Day 5: Wadi Disah - AlUla (BL)

See the sun appear from behind the mountains while a fresh local breakfast is prepared around the fire. Next, like true Bedouin, break up camp and move on.

The destination today is AlUla, home to Hegra Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated deep in the desert, the draw to AlUla is its remarkable natural rock formations and canyons, extensive and varied pre-Arabic rock art, and immaculately preserved tombs built more than 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans - it’s a vast area with many highlights.

When the afternoon light starts to turn golden it is the right time for a pilgrimage to Elephant Rock. Set in desert sands and climbing into the blue Arabian skies, the rock (also known as Jabal Alfil) is one of AlUla’s most impressive geological marvels. Overnight in AlUla.

Day 6: AlUla (BL)

The draw to AlUla is its remarkable natural rock formations and canyons, extensive and varied pre-Arabic rock art, and immaculately preserved tombs built more than 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans. Start the day with a visit to the Nabataean site of Hegra, which was the southern capital of the Nabataean kingdom, dating back to the first century BCE. Today, follow your ‘rawee’ or storyteller, to explore several of the more than 100 well-preserved monumental tombs, most with elaborate facades carved from rock formations scattered around the desert.

Next, head for the green zone that is AlUla oasis where you might like to stop for a cup of coffee at The Pink Camel, situated beautifully amid the date farms. Take a stroll where lush palm trees sway gently and the smell of citrus fills the fresh air, adding to the oasis-feeling that AlUla still retains. Follow the winding, shaded Oasis Heritage Trail through the orange grove, hear birds and imagine how the nomads of the past found water and refuge from the desert here.

Exit the lush oasis at AlJadeeda, an area known also as ‘Art City’ which has a colourful vibe with street art and art exhibits spread out in its walking streets. Continue exploring AlUla historic city, often called ‘the Old Town,’ a charismatic place that once sat at the crossroads of the Silk Road and the Incense Route, and that rewards a leisurely stroll. Recent renovations have turned it into a magical mix of ancient alleys and trendy restaurants and upmarket souvenirs shops.

Remainder of the afternoon is at leisure for relaxation or an optional activity (surcharge applies): To name a few; see the sandstone mountains from above in a helicopter or hot air balloon (in season), hop on a mountain bike and venture off the beaten path into desert dunes or climb the valley’s edge to better soak in Al Ula’s expansive vistas.   Overnight in AlUla.

Day 7: AlUla - Khaybar - Medina (BL)

Today’s journey goes through the desert and mountains to Medina along an ancient pilgrimage route passing the oasis of Khaybar. Do not expect only sand dunes, this is a volcanic area with black lava stone and mountain vistas and rich in historical significance. Before the rise of Islam in the 7th century, the Khaybar region was inhabited by Arabian Jewish tribes. In 628 AD, Muslims under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad took over the city during the Battle of Khaybar. Visit the remains of the mud city situated in a steep wadi or valley, with its several fortresses towering over thousands of green palm trees.

One of the two holiest cities in Islam (the other is Mecca), Medina is centred around Al Masjid an Nabawi, a 10-minaret giant that can accommodate 1 million people also known as the Prophet’s Mosque. Join the throngs of pilgrims in the heart of the city, it is hard to describe the vibe. Non-Muslims are welcome to enjoy exterior views of the mosque from the edge of the square. When the sun sinks it is a great time to visit Mount Uhud, a major pilgrimage site and viewpoint across the Holy City. Overnight in Medina.

Day 8: Medina - Jeddah (BL)

There is much more to Medina than its primary holy site. There will be an opportunity to visit the terminus station of the Hijaz or Ottoman railway, which once brought pilgrims to Medina from as far away as Damascus in Syria, and to spend time browsing the city’s central market. Saudis are known for having a sweet tooth and the stalls at this bustling souk are ideal snaffling territory for goodies such as ma’amoul (butter cookies stuffed with pistachios, walnuts, almonds, or dates), luqaimat (hot, crispy dumplings drizzled in honey) and kunafa (a kind of sweet cheese pie made with semolina pastry and rose water syrup).

After lunch overlooking Al Masjid an Nabawi, it is time to board one of Saudi Arabia’s state-of-the-art high-speed trains to make the short (under 2 hours) hop to the coastal city of Jeddah. Celebrate your arrival with drinks on the city’s attractive corniche. Spread out your carpet and your ‘takwa’, the smart Saudi picnic seat. Join the locals when the sun sets, the call for prayer sounds and the world's tallest fountain comes to life in front of the beachwalk. Overnight in Jeddah.

Day 9: Jeddah (BLD)

Jeddah is a commercial hub sitting to the west along the Red Sea with the second busiest seaport in the Middle East. It is the principal gateway to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, and sees over a million pilgrims a year on their way to perform the Hajj. Despite this, Jeddah is perceived to be the most liberal city in Saudi Arabia offering the beauty of ancient architecture mixed with the latest luxuries.

Experience the Red Sea on a private speedboat. Snorkelling gear is packed to discover the wealth of underwater life the region is famous for including different types of colourful coral and old sorts of exotic fish. Top off the trip with a seafood barbeque, skilfully prepared by your skipper.

Find out that things are equally convivial on dry land in the atmospheric old town, Al Balad, which achieved UNESCO World Heritage status in 2014. Its traditional multi storey buildings and merchant houses are an architectural treasure trove. It is a dive back in time with the buzz of trading, pilgrims shopping and the occasional tourist mixed in. The roshan or wooden window covers are the ancient way to create shade and cool in this hot and humid climate, and they make these alleys especially picturesque. Have your guide take you out for one final taste of Saudi cuisine before you can say ‘hay maa al-salama, goodbye, until next time.’ Overnight in Jeddah.

Day 10: Jeddah (B)

At leisure until you check out of your hotel and transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

TOUR INCLUSIONS:

  • Airport arrival and departure transfers during daytime hours (NOTE: for flights arriving before 6.00am & after 10.00pm and departures before 8.00am &after 11.00pm, surcharge will apply)
  • 8 night’s hotel accommodation in shared twin/double room with daily breakfast
  • 2D/1N exclusive, private camping experience at Wadi Disah - all activities (like BBQ dinner, camel riding and stargazing) take place in the desert.
    • Overnight camp 1-4pax in the desert. Desert facilities provided are private tents (2pax/tent, with real beds) and shared, portable toilet and washing basin.
    • Overnight camp for 5pax up on the farm. Farm facilities provided are private tents (2pax/tent, with real beds) and shared bathroom with toilets and showers
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • All transfers and tours by private air-conditioned vehicles, unless otherwise mentioned
  • Domestic flight Riyadh/Tabuk
  • English speaking local tour guides (often station guides: 1 guide per location)
  • Bottled drinking water totalling to 1l/pax/day during touring days
  • All entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary
  • Exclusive corniche experience with soft drinks & local snacks in Jeddah
  • 4x4 for off road adventure in Wadi Disah
  • Private boat trip on the Red Sea in Jeddah with seafood lunch
  • 15% VAT tax & up to 5% municipality tax are included for all services mentioned in the program
  • 24/7 support in Saudi Arabia
  • Assistance of local representatives
  • Saudi Arabia Travel Notes – issued by Innovative Travel

TOUR EXCLUSIONS:

  • International and domestic airfares, unless specified otherwise
  • Meals other than those mentioned in itinerary
  • Beverages with meals
  • Optional tours and excursions
  • Camera/video entrance fees
  • Tipping/Gratuities (please refer to tour notes for a recommended guideline)
  • Personal Expenses
  • Supplements for early/late transfers
  • Departure taxes
  • Hotel charges for minibar or any extra charges
  • Visas (unless specified)
  • Any other services not clearly mentioned in the inclusions above
Accommodation based on the following or similar.
The hotel selection may change – please use this as a guideline only.

Riyadh

First Class: Joudyan Hotel by Elaf

Deluxe Class: Narcissus Hotel & Spa

Tabuk

First Class: Holiday Inn Tabuk

Deluxe Class: Grand Millenium Tabuk

Wadi Disah

First Class: Private Tented Camp

Deluxe Class: Private Tented Camp

Alula

First Class:  Shaden Resort Al Ula

Deluxe Class: Habiitas Resort AlUla

Medina

First Class:  Millenium Hotel

Deluxe Class: Le Meridien Hotel

Jeddah

First Class:  Shada Shate'a Boutique Hotel

Deluxe Class: Sheraton Hotel

Arrival and Departure Transfers
For flights arriving before 6.00am and after 10.00pm and departures before 8.00am and after 11.00pm, surcharges will apply (night transfer)

Dress Codes
Tourists visiting Saudi Arabia are expected to dress modestly and respect the country's conservative customs and traditions. The dress code for women is more strict, and it is important to be aware of the guidelines before traveling to the country.
Most Saudi men prefer to wear the thobe (or thawb) on both formal and informal occasions, but in most public places, shorts (below the knee) and short sleeved shirts worn by Saudi or tourist men are allowed, except in governmental offices and mosques. Men must not be shirtless under any circumstances.
Officially Saudi women only need to dress modestly and are not required to wear the abaya (traditional Saudi cloak), the hijab (hair covering veil) or niqab (face covering veil), yet in many parts of the country Saudi women are still expected or choose to wear them in public. Although tourist women are exempt from such rules, providing they dress modestly, it is highly appreciated that tourist women wear some type of abaya and hijab, particularly when entering mosques or other religious sites.
It's worth noting that the dress code is more relaxed in some areas, such as in Jeddah and other coastal cities, but it's always better to be safe than sorry and err on the side of caution.

Holiday periods
Surcharges or compulsory meals may apply for holiday periods such as Christmas, New Year, Water Festival etc.

Luggage
Includes 1 carry-on baggage (max. 5-10 kg depending on the airline) and 1 check-in baggage (max. 20 kg). Traveling light with smaller baggage sizes is more practical on the road and is recommended.

Ramadan
During the Holy Month of Ramadan Muslims fast, abstaining from eating, drinking & smoking during daylight hours (approx. 7am-6.30pm). As a sign of respect, tourists should also try to refrain eating in public during the fasting hours. Restaurants and Cafes in Hotels and Cruise boats will be open, however limited alcohol may be available over this time. In 2024, Ramadan is expected to begin on the evening of Sunday 10th March. After 30 days, or on sighting the full moon, Eid Al Fitr is celebrated & most public and private institutions close for at least three days.

Sightseeing
All sightseeing tours require a moderate amount of walking around historical / cultural sites. A good level of fitness will ensure you get a maximum enjoyment from your visit.

Vehicles
Outside the big cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, using a 4x4 vehicle adds to the Arabian experience so this is included for groups of 1-4passengers - the guide also acts as the driver. In the busy cities, a non-4x4 vehicle with separate driver and guide is provided for additional safety and convenience.

Trip prices and dates are correct at the time of the website going live, however all offers are subject to reconfirmation at the time of booking. All featured tour itineraries and offers may be subject to change due to seasonal variations without notice, or due to local conditions or other conditions. Please confirm all details at time of booking. Travel insurance is mandatory for all Innovative Travel bookings. All passports must be valid for 6 months prior to your return to your home country. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller. Special VIP meet and assist offers are valid for New Zealand passport holders, for other nationalities please check at the time of booking. For full terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Conditions page.