Adventure goals: 48 hours in and around Al Soudah

This mountainous area in the Aseer region of Saudi promises much: adventure, culture, heritage, and warm hospitality. What it guarantees – with its cool climate and lush verdant landscapes – is to totally change any perceptions you might have about the look and feel of this destination. Here’s how to spend two days in Saudi’s largest adventure playground.

<p>In Aseer National Park in Soudah, nature and adventure lovers can hike trails with incredible views </p>

In Aseer National Park in Soudah, nature and adventure lovers can hike trails with incredible views

Day 1

Enjoy a Saudi safari, where you’ll meet local creatures like the Nubian Ibex

Known as the unofficial adventure capital of Saudi, Al Soudah is part of the impressive and extensive Aseer National Park. The first port of call for any adventurous visitor to Al Soudah should be to lace up the hiking boots and strike out into this 6490.7 km2 expanse of unspoilt wilderness.

The park is chock-full of nature trails, hiking paths and staggering lookouts all best explored under the watchful eye of a local guide. Using their expert knowledge of the park’s natural wonders, they will lead you along challenging yomps through juniper forests, Acacia woodlands and thorn scrub as exotic birds whirl overhead.

Eagles, herons, and griffon vultures all call the park their home, but keen-eyed guides may also be able to point out iguanas, deer, lynx and Nubian Ibex. Hamadryas baboons can also occasionally be seen, especially in the southern region.

For lone rangers who’d rather cover more ground, the vast park offers mountain biking tours and horse riding trips taking in the shifting colours and changing terrains of the park’s landscapes. Thrill seekers will feel right at home too among the excellent rock climbing routes and paragliding opportunities.

If you’d rather take in the sensational scenery of the park without exerting too much energy, take the cable car from Mount Soudah – claimed to be the highest peak in Saudi at 3,133 metres – and descend through the clouds to the Sarawat Valley below. The experience isn’t for the faint hearted but bold adventurers will be rewarded with unforgettable panoramic views of the deep valleys and out to the southern Red Sea coast.

For full immersion in the nature of the park, and to experience the glittering majesty of the unpolluted desert night sky, you’ll want to stay at one of the park’s 67 campsites and stargaze as you cook over an open fire. As night falls and fog envelops the surrounding peaks you’ll be treated to a celestial light show unlike any other in the world.

Day 2

The unique architecture of Rijal Almaa, a mountain village in the Aseer Mountains, is a must-see

Dedicate your second day to cultural adventuring with a visit to Rijal Almaa, less than an hour’s drive from Al Soudah. This historically significant village is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the Kingdom thanks to its intriguing architecture, remarkable surroundings and rich heritage.

Once a pivotal trade centre for the region, Rijal Almaa is surrounded by steep hills and heavily fortified watch towers that overlook the winding road once considered the most important trade route in the Arabian Peninsula.

Visitors today can expect a warm welcome from the locals who are committed to preserving their history and culture. To that end, they established the Rijal Alma Museum in the 400-year-old Al Alwan Palace. Nosing about in here you’ll find unique monuments, manuscripts, tools and weapons, and more than 2,000 archaeological pieces showcased over several floors.

Outside of the heritage village you’ll stumble upon small shops and restaurants owned by locals, who will often be seen wearing traditional flower wreaths. The wreaths are made of arranged flowers and herbs; a vibrant custom that has earned villagers the nickname “Flower Men”.

If the spirit moves you to extend your trip (a likely eventuality) head back east and visit the mountain villages of Bani Mazen along the famous Tahalul Mount. Walk slowly through the jacaranda-lined streets or wander through lush hilltop farms, stopping at family owned restaurants and being treated to some of that legendary Arab hospitality.

From its diverse terrain to its thriving art and music scene, Insta-worthy food and natural wonders to travel for, Saudi is ready and waiting for you to discover. For more incredible, off-the-beaten track ideas for sites to see, experiences to try, and places to stay, check out Visit Saudi

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