Discover this archeologist’s treasure trove by bike
AlUla is Saudi Arabia’s hidden gem and it is nicknamed ‘the world’s masterpiece’ for a reason. Perfectly preserved tombs 2000 years old are elaborately carved into the landscape, an expanse of lush oasis springs from the desert, and dramatic rocky outcrops loom over the sand. But after recently opening its doors to tourists, it is also fast becoming a place to find thrills, symbolised by the arrival of the iconic Dakar Rally in January and the unique opportunity to host the launch of Extreme E, a new motorsport series backed by F1 world champions Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg which kicks off in AlUla this weekend.
So perhaps the first and most important thing to do here is to choose your adventure. Want to strap on a pair of hiking boots and get out there? This is the simplest way to see AlUla, where you can walk out to Elephant Rock, the giant sandstone beast standing in the desert. Visit in the daytime as it casts its shadow, then return for sunset, before lying back to watch the stars above shining in the crystal-clear AlUla sky. For a challenge take on the Adventure Trail, a guided trek through time which explores historic rock carvings known locally as ‘ancient Twitter’, where over 500 inscriptions in 10 different languages reveal what was on the mind of past civilisations. Hike through a canyon and, after winter rain, wade through waist-high water pools.
Or you can see AlUla on horseback, on a guided two-hour ride through the desert taking in panoramic views. If you’d rather ride on two wheels then take an off-road bike around Hegra, the UNESCO World Heritage site filled with ancient tombs, on a tour ending at the most famous and awe-inspiring of them all which stands 22m tall and isolated from the rest, called Qasr al-Farid – The Lonely Castle. Another cycling route cuts a trail through the sand dunes, while a new bump-and-pump bike track blends into the landscape and provides a way to test your skills.
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For the serious thrill-seekers there is another, unmissable perspective, high over the valley. AlUla’s zipline delivers a bird’s-eye view of the stunning scenery while flying from peak to peak through the Harrat Uwayrid mountain range, a 100km/hr rush of adrenaline.
Every fitness level is catered for and every daring taste can be fulfilled. The region is a place of calming tranquility and peace, of unique history and cultural heritage, and yet it is possible to experience the spectacular desert environment and discover its secrets by immersing yourself in myriad ways. So how to choose between all these different adventures? Perhaps the best way to discover the hidden world of AlUla is to try them all.
Learn more about AlUla and all it has to offer at experiencealula.com
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