Saudi Arabia: Desert Kingdoms – A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2023/24)

The birthplace and spiritual home of Islam, Saudi Arabia is rich in attractions and stirring symbolism.

Journey Overview

The birthplace and spiritual home of Islam, Saudi Arabia is a mysterious desert kingdom that has been closed to much of the outside world until recently. On this journey you’ll discover the hidden delights of uncharted territory on an exclusive glimpse at a realm veiled in secrecy. Encounter the carved temples of Hegra, known as the second Petra, and stand in awe of the sophisticated rock art of Jubbah, some of the kingdom’s greatest pre-Islamic treasures. Explore fascinating Riyadh, a showpiece for modern Saudi Arabia, while the World Heritage coral architecture of Jeddah reveals a bustling pilgrim port on the glistening Red Sea. From the capital’s lively centre to the mud-brick village of AlUla, rock art galleries and contemporary museums, Saudi Arabia conceals a host of architectural and ancient icons.

Journey Highlights

  • Explore the mysterious mountain and desert landscapes of AlUla, and the surrounding breathtaking sites including Hegra, Al Ragasat and Elephant Rock
  • Visit ancient monuments and wonders, including Jeddah’s ‘Floating Mosque’
  • Attend a special guest lecture by an esteemed local expert
  • Be immersed in the local language with a Thamudic script demonstration
  • Savour Saudi hospitality as you sit down to a traditional lunch at a local farm
  • Witness a captivating demonstration of Saudi dance alongside a flavourful farewell dinner
  • Typically features a small group size of 10–12 guests
Itinerary

Journey Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Arrive in Saudi Arabia’s buzzing capital where you are met by A&K and transferred by private vehicle to your hotel. Riyadh is one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Once a walled, mud-brick way station along desert trading routes, it is now a modern metropolis that is changing at a rapid rate. Freshen up before an arrival briefing followed by a welcome dinner with your Resident Tour Director.

Ritz Carlton Riyadh | Meals: D

Day 2: Riyadh | Ancient Crossroads Meets Modern Powerhouse

Start your day by visiting UNESCO World Heritage listed At-Turaif, Diriyyah on the outskirts of Riyadh, said to be the birthplace of the first Saudi state and the current home of the royal family. Take a walk through the old town to admire its many ancient ruins including the once-splendid palace, houses and marketplace, before continuing on to Musmak Fort, in Riyadh’s old quarter. Afterwards, explore Dirah Souq, a market famed for colourful textiles, before stopping for lunch.

This afternoon, be guided through the National Museum, a national treasure that tells the complete story of Arabian history. Continue to Murabba Palace, built by King Abdul Aziz in 1937 and afterwards, discover Saudi fashion on a visit to the Kingdom Tower shopping mall. Travellers will be fascinated by a women-only shopping mall, where there are opportunities to meet local women who will share their stories and insight into life in the kingdom.

This evening, meet a special guest from within the antiquities, finance or creative sectors, learning about their projects, their impact and how work has changed over recent years.

Ritz Carlton Riyadh | Meals: BL

Day 3: Hail | Ancient Rock Art at the Crossroads of History

This morning fly north-west to Hail in the Shammar mountain region. Visit UNESCO World Heritage listed Jabal Umm Sinman, Jubbah, where magnificent rock carvings and petroglyphs adorn the surrounding sandstone outcrops depicting thousand-year-old illustrations of camels, lions and other wildlife.

A historic crossroads of trade, especially during the Hajj season when camel caravans passed through, Hail has played an intriguing role in the history of modern Saudi Arabia and is home to a buzzing souq. Be treated to some Saudi hospitality and learn about the importance of camels in Saudi culture as you sit down to a traditional farm lunch.

Return to Hail and pay a visit to Qeshla Palace, admiring the monumental structure from the outside before exploring the ancient A’arif Fort. Afterwards, meet with Fraih Al Shummari, a local guide, and his family, who will immerse you in the local language with a written demonstration of the elegant Thamudic script.

Millennium Hotel Hail | Meals: BLD

Day 4: AlUla | Legendary Landscapes and the Mirrored Desert

This morning, visit the intriguing Hail Local Heritage Museum, the private museum of a local resident set in a traditional Najd house. Peruse his eclectic collection and glimpse a bygone era. Drive to AlUla for lunch with your fellow travellers at the Harrat Viewpoint to take in the epic landscape. Visit the city of Dadan which was built meticulously from stone and sits astride the valley’s oasis. After exploring the ruins, drive to Jabal Ikmah and view the rock art and petroglyphs set in a stunning desert canyon.

Later, witness the sunset reflecting on the 9,740 mirrored panels at Maraya. This beautiful piece of art is set in the desert canyon of Ashar Valley and is designed to blend into the surrounding landscape like a mirage. It has been the setting for spectacular concerts and thrilling performances to art residency programs and arthouse films

Enjoy dinner tonight in the Old Town.

Habitas AlUla | Meals: BLD

Day 5: AlUla | Towering Ancient Monuments

Spend your morning exploring the wonders of UNESCO World Heritage listed Hegra. The southernmost settlement of the Nabataean Kingdom, the city was known as ‘Al Hijr’ during ancient times and was once a stopover on the trade route. The site spreads over 2000 square metres, with an abundance of relics and rock-cut tombs. Discover the Nabatean Well, Qasr Al Bint, Diwan Tomb, and Al Farid Palace as well as the preserved railway station.

After lunch adventure to Al Ragasat and its towering carved rose-coloured sandstone mountains, known as ‘The Dancers’.

This evening, embark on an exhilarating helicopter flight over the surrounding landscape taking in breathtaking aerial views of AlUla.

Habitas AlUla | Meals: BLD

Day 6: AlUla | Desert Oasis and Stargazing

This morning, explore the Heritage Oasis Trail. This lush haven in the midst of the windswept Saudi Arabian desert has provided life to AlUla’s residents, weary travellers, flora and fauna for thousands of years. Learn firsthand about the landscape from local farmers whose crop is native to Saudi Arabia. Visit their fields to understand the ideal conditions for growing produce in this climate before lunch.

This evening it’s off to the iconic ‘Elephant Rock’ monolithic sandstone rock formation that stands three stories high. Have dinner and drinks basking in the golden sunset from this spectacular vantage point. Far from city lights, vast open spaces in remote desert lands create some of the world’s most enviable dark skies, making AlUla an idyllic locale for star watching. A local expert guide will lead your stargazing experience, regaling you with Saudi stories of the night sky.

Habitas AlUla | Meals: BLD

Day 7: Jeddah | Captivating Port City

Transfer to the airport for your flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s commercial capital and the main gateway to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. Your first stop in this cosmopolitan city is the open-air museum on the Corniche where you can admire an extraordinary array of modern sculptures ranging from traditional Arabic designs to the abstract and monumental.

Afterwards, gaze upon the ‘floating mosque’ and pause to take in the spectacular views over the Red Sea. Next, discover King Fahd’s Fountain, also known as Jeddah Fountain, which is the tallest of its kind in the world, shooting saltwater from the Red Sea 300 metres into the air.

This evening is yours to enjoy at leisure.

Ritz Carlton Jeddah | Meals: B

Day 8: Jeddah | Ancient City Explorations & Design Your Day

This morning, be led on a tour of UNESCO World Heritage listed Jeddah’s traditional architecture. Visit some of the old Ottoman houses, constructed from coral and reinforced with wooden beams, including Nasif House, which was built in the 1850’s by the distinguished Nasif Family, influential traders. This afternoon, enjoy one of these Design Your Day activities:

  • Explore Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum, showcasing the 2,500-year-old history of the city. Exhibitions span the history of the pre-Islamic era, pre-modern civilisations and the rich Islamic cultural heritage.
  • Gaze at geological wonders while exploring majestic Moon Valley, known for its unique rock formations that have naturally formed over millions of years.
  • Jeddah boasts some of Saudi Arabia’s best beaches. Escape the city to relax in the sun or explore the underwater tropical forest on a snorkelling adventure.

Return to the hotel for your farewell dinner accompanied by a traditional dance performance.

Ritz Carlton Jeddah | Meals: BD

Day 9: Depart Jeddah

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

Meals: B

Journey Details

Internal air included: Riyadh/Hail; AlUla/Jeddah
Minimum age is 10 years.
First group event: welcome briefing at 7:00 p.m. on Day 1.
Last group event: farewell dinner at 7:30 p.m. on Day 8.
Departures are guaranteed to operate with a minimum of 2 guests.

Please note: Proof of COVID-19 full vaccination is required for this program.

Included with this Limited Edition Small Group Journey

  • All accommodation as detailed with private facilities
  • Meals as specified in itinerary, including welcome and farewell dinners
  • Internal flights as mentioned in itinerary
  • Services of English speaking A&K Resident Tour Director
  • Airport welcome
  • Porterage
  • Group transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle
  • Bottled water during transfers and touring
  • Individual Wireless Audio Systems where appropriate
  • All entrance fees
  • Planning, handling, operational and communication charges
  • All tipping

Customise this Journey

Talk to one of our expert Journey Designers or your travel agent about booking this tour as a private journey for your own small group with family or friends. Or, if you would prefer to travel privately, find out more about creating the perfect bespoke tailor-made journey based on this itinerary.

Show Full Itinerary
Preferred Accommodation

Preferred Accommodation

This journey features the following Preferred Accommodations:

Millennium Hotel Hail

Saudi Arabia: Desert Kingdoms – A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2023/24)

Centrally located Millennium Hail Hotel Saudi Arabia offers luxury accommodation in its 166 luxurious rooms and 17 suites, each spacious,... Read more

Dates & Prices

Journey Dates & Prices

Prices are per person, based on double occupancy

Oct 19, 2023 - Oct 27, 2023 Special
Price AU$15,995pp Single Supplement AU$0 was AU$4,560 Internal Air (From) Included Availability Available Enquire
Nov 23, 2023 - Dec 1, 2023 Special
Price AU$15,995pp Single Supplement AU$0 was AU$4,560 Internal Air (From) Included Availability Available Enquire
Feb 15, 2024 - Feb 23, 2024 Special
Price AU$15,995pp Single Supplement AU$0 was AU$4,560 Internal Air (From) Included Availability Available Enquire
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