Riyadh Best Day Trips
Saudi Arabia's capital is one of the largest cities in the Arab World. It's also a great base for exploring more of the country. Riyadh is in the centre of Saudi Arabia with excellent road connections making it easy to discover the wonders beyond the city's skyscrapers.
EDGE OF THE WORLD
In about 100 km (a 2 hour drive) from Riyadh, you can reach Jebel Fihrayn. Once you see the views of the cliffs and valley you will know why this is better known as the Edge of the World. This isn't a polished tourist attraction so don't expect handrails and safety barriers. But you will get to experience one of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world. Do note, you will need a 4x4 to get here as this is a desert trek. And try to time your visit to be there for sunset as it's very special to see.
Another wonderful natural contrast to Riyadh's city centre is Heet Cave. Located on the side of Mount Jubay, about 40 km from Riyadh, the cave gets known as 'Ain' meaning eye due to the eye-shaped entrance. The opening is about 20 metres wide and leads to an underground lake with amazingly clear aqua-green water. You will need to wear decent footwear for the climb down and remember not to touch the sides of the 'pool' as they are sharp. The water can be up to 30 metres deep and it gets busy at the weekend. To swim without the crowds, it is recommended to go early in the morning, before 9 am.
At just a 20 minute drive from Riyadh, Diriyah is a popular short-day trip from the capital. It is 'Old Riyadh' as Riyadh was a town that expanded rapidly from the 1970s onwards. The ancient architecture has been preserved and has been fully-restored. The mud-brick palaces, mosques and houses at this UNESCO World Heritage Site are impressive as this was the home of the royal family during the 18th and 19th centuries. You can combine the trip with a hike around the Hanifa Valley and cooling off by the Wadi Hanifa. The Al Elb dam area is good for families and for admiring the local herons as they catch fish.
THUMAMAH NATIONAL PARK
You can reach Thumamah National Park in under an hour from Riyadh. The desert has lots of activities including horse-riding, dirt biking and more off-road adventures. It's fun to fly a kite here and you will definitely want to go for a camel ride. Have a barbecue or buy lunch from the local food stalls and then visit the mountainside or the valleys to see historical buildings.
RED SAND DUNES
About 40 minutes to the south of the capital, near Al Awsat, the Red Sand dunes are popular for quad biking. It takes a bit of getting used to so you don't drop in the soft areas but remember to change gears when you feel you are sinking and that should keep you moving. Go early in the day as the heat can be intense and always wear a face mask as you don't want to swallow sand. The area is popular at the weekends for those based in the city who want to have some fun. Locals tend to ride their 4x4 vehicles here with the tyres slightly deflated due to the soft ground. You can enjoy the area without any vehicles with a sandboard: hike up the dunes and sandboard back down. The Tuwaiq Mountains provide an atmospheric backdrop and the scenery includes the contrast of green irrigated sections for the local farmers.
USHAIGER MUD VILLAGE
In the heart of the Najd, 200 km northwest of Riyadh and about 1.5 hours drive away, is the Ushaiger heritage village. Ushaiger means 'small blonde' and was named after the red mountain next to the village as the Arabic word for red was also used for blonde. You enter through wide decorated doors made of ithal (tamarisk) wood to explore the maze of narrow streets and shaded pathways. This is one of the oldest mud villages in the Najd region with 400 mud houses and many picturesque mosques, some of which are still in use. There is a museum that explains the traditions and the rich history of Ushaiger and how local families treasured their heritage so much they decided to fund the renovation of some buildings and parts of the town. You can also visit Raghbah mud village along the same route from the capital.
In a country still learning about itself and what it can offer visitors, this mini canyon has grown in popularity over the last few years. It is 130 km southeast from the capital city in Al Dulum which should take about an hour to drive. After heavy rainfall in the winter, the canyon fills and creates pools of sparkling green water between the rocks. This is a great trip for a refreshing swim and for taking photos.
The Rub' al Khali encompasses most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The sand desert covers 650,000 km² including parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. (To get some perspective on that enormity, that's 40,000 km² bigger than France.) It's easy to understand why this largest area of sand on earth is known as the Empty Quarter and you will soon see why the desert has been used as a film location for Star Wars and The Matrix films. Just 2-3 hours drive from Riyadh, bring plenty of water as this is one of the driest places on earth and subsequently one of the most sparsely populated. But is a stunning natural landscape and well worth seeing.
WHERE TO STAY
Located in downtown Olaya, Fraser Suites Riyadh has 95 Gold Standard fully-furnished luxury serviced apartments including studios plus one-bedroom and two-bedroom luxury residences. The gym has fantastic views over the city and the rooftop swimming pool is perfect for relaxing. If you are bringing the family, the children's Playzone will be appreciated and Faisaliah Mall is nearby. Join Fraser World to become eligible for exclusive perks such as complimentary breakfasts, discounts on rates, early check-ins, late check-outs and more.
Written by Laura Porter - Travel writer for Frasers Hospitality