Travel + Leisure (USA)

At the Crossroads of Time

Discover AlUla, where ancient Arabia meets contempora­ry culture—all wrapped up in luxurious comforts and unforgetta­ble experience­s.

- Explore more at experience­alula.com.

IN A WORLD when travel can often feel overexpose­d or over-hyped, there is still a one-of-a-kind destinatio­n guaranteed to awaken your sense of discovery. Only recently opened to foreign travelers, AlUla is a stunning region in northweste­rn Saudi Arabia that will ignite a range of passions and interests. Art and architectu­re, culture and cuisine, history and innovation—you’ll find it all in this world-class gem that has become a best-kept travel “secret” among globe-trotting adventurer­s.

AlUla is above all a place that feels timeless—because it’s both where time stands still and where cutting-edge culture thrives. Here, incredible examples of ancient Arabia live alongside luxurious new hotels, gourmet cuisine, and striking structures by some of the globe’s top visionarie­s. Easily accessible via direct flights to Saudi Arabia from several U.S. gateways on lauded national airline Saudia, AlUla also pairs perfectly with other parts of the country, such as Jeddah, Riyadh, and the Red Sea, making for a well-rounded itinerary.

Here’s a look at the iconic and modern attraction­s that await you in AlUla.

TRAVELS THROUGH TIME

In AlUla there are several ways to wander through ancient history—no time machine required. Start with a visit to Hegra, AlUla’s signature attraction. Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra boasts 111 preserved tombs dating back to beyond the first millennium BC, each set into the stunning desert landscape. In contrast to other destinatio­ns where you might be jostling for space among thousands of visitors, Hegra allows you to take in these awe-inspiring relics in near-privacy.

Head next to the ancient capital of Dadan. Built meticulous­ly from stone, the valley oasis offers engaging day tours and is a gateway to the Jabal Ikmah, the world-famous desert “open air library” home to the highest-concentrat­ion of pre-Arabic inscriptio­ns across numerous sites. Also nearby is Jabal Alfil, aka “Elephant Rock”, a monolithic red sandstone—complete with an elephant-like “trunk” and “body”— formed by millions of years of erosion.

More of the region’s story comes alive at AlUla Old Town, a key stop along the pilgrimage route from Damascus to Makkah in the 12th century. Just reopened last October, the Old Town is where you can visit Tantora Plaza, surrounded by over 900 historic houses; tour AlUla Castle, a citadel dating back to the 10th century; shop the handicraft and artisan souks; and enjoy lunch overlookin­g the market.

MODERN MARVELS

AlUla’s story doesn’t stop with history— there are countless exciting developmen­ts being unveiled here each year. One of the most eye-catching is Maraya, an arts and culture hub that reflects the wonderous landscape, rock formations, and sunset with its exterior clad in 9,740 square meters of mirrors. While there, don’t miss the mocktails and gourmet bites at Maraya Social, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton.

AlUla has also been designed to be an epicenter for cultural and artistic events. Planned annual happenings include Winter at Tantora, featuring star-studded concerts, adventurou­s activities, and immersive heritage experience­s; and Desert X AlUla, a visionary series of site-specific installati­ons by acclaimed contempora­ry artists. Other can’t-miss events include the AlUla Arts Festival, AlUla Skies (a celebratio­n of hot air balloons), and AlUla Wellness.

Hotel lovers also have AlUla on their radar as the area will soon be a hotbed of exciting luxury properties. Newly opened Habitas AlUla offers 96 design-forward villas tucked into the Ashar Valley, each with private decks and dramatic canyon views. Slated to open this year is the 79-room Banyan Tree AlUla, an upscale tented resort, while five-star brand Aman will bring three distinct properties to the area between 2022 and 2023. Finally, 2024 will bring Jean Novel’s Sharaan Resort, a masterpiec­e structure envisioned by one of the world’s premier architects.

 ?? ?? The Arch (aka Rainbow Rock)
The Arch (aka Rainbow Rock)
 ?? ?? Tomb of Lihyan Son of Kuza, Hegra
Tomb of Lihyan Son of Kuza, Hegra
 ?? ?? Jabal Alfil
Jabal Alfil
 ?? ?? Habitas AlUla
Habitas AlUla
 ?? ?? Maraya
Maraya

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