The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia feels like it’s a world away, and it’s also considerably larger than most people realize. In fact, Saudi Arabia is more than three times larger than the state of Texas, and it’s the largest country by land area in the Middle East.
With that in mind, having three days to spend in the Kingdom means you’ll have some important decisions to make upfront. Because of the vast amount of land area you would have to cover to visit more than one place, you’ll probably want to decide on one major region of the country for your Saudi vacation.
But, where should you spend three days in Saudi Arabia? And, what should you spend your time exploring once you decide?
While an array of popular and off-the-beaten-path tourist spots in Saudi Arabia could easily surprise you, here are a few options and attractions to consider for a shorter Saudi trip.
Explore Saudi Arabia’s Capital City of Riyadh
Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh is as stunning as it is surprising, mostly due to its interesting combination of cutting-edge architecture and technology alongside ancient ruins and historical buildings. Visitors to the city can see some of the Kingdom’s most famous structures, including the iconic Kingdom Centre Tower with its must-visit sky bridge. Luxury hotel options also abound in Riyadh, with the option to get some sleep in the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh or the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, or even in the celebrated Al Faisaliah Hotel.
Riyadh’s 19th-century Al Masmak Fortress, which looks like a giant sand castle, is also worth exploring in the capital city, as is King Abdullah Park with its lawn, trees and lakes with shooting fountains.
Riyadh’s National Museum may require a full day to see due to its many marvels, including a prehistoric mastodon, ancient rock carvings, replicas of the buildings of old Jeddah and more. Visitors here can learn all about Saudi culture while getting a glimpse at how the Arabian Peninsula looked millions of years ago.
Finally, don’t forget about all the fabulous shopping and dining in Riyadh. Not only do the city’s restaurants offer nearly every type of cuisine from around the world, but Riyadh has its share of famous malls, including the Kingdom Centre and the Riyadh Gallery Mall.
Visit the Oceanfront Enclave of Jeddah
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is another excellent location to spend a vacation of three days or more, particularly if you want to explore with a more laidback vibe. This beachfront town boasts the famous Jeddah Corniche, or waterfront walking path and tourist area brimming with restaurants, shops, parks and dancing fountains.
Jeddah’s historical district, the Al-Balad site, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and definitely worth a visit on its own. Filled with ancient homes and narrow cobblestone streets, this part of Jeddah features art galleries, shops and specialty cafes in addition to the ancient houses and buildings it is known for.
Jeddah is also home to the world-famous Red Sea Mall, which offers an unparalleled shopping experience with all the best brands from Burberry to Joe Malone and Polo Ralph Lauren under one roof.
Maybe you prefer ancient artifacts over city exploration, in which case a visit to Al-Ula may be in order. This region of Saudi Arabia is home to some of its rarest and most interesting finds, including its ancient 12th-century old town with more than 900 well-preserved houses, 400 shops and five town squares.
No visit to Al-Ula would be complete without a jaunt to Hegra, an elaborate selection of tombs carved into large boulders in the midst of the desert. There are more than 100 ornately decorated and well-preserved tombs throughout Hegra in total, all of which have their own stories and history that date back to the middle of the first century BCE.
Al-Ula is also where you want to be if you’re hoping for adventure travel in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After all, you can book a helicopter ride to see the ancient old town with a bird’s eye view or to marvel at Maraya, which is the largest mirrored building in the world. Of course, other opportunities for adventure abound in Al Ula as well, from zip lining to hiking, rock climbing and ATV rides.
The Bottom Line
If you want to experience Saudi culture, shopping and exquisite dining, it’s possible three days in the capital city of Riyadh or the oceanfront village of Jeddah is your best bet. If you want action and adventure with the chance to see undiscovered tombs and artifacts from a time gone by, on the other hand, a visit to the Saudi marvel of Al-Ula is an absolute must.
If you have three days to spend in Saudi Arabia, you’ll want to think over the type of trip you want to take and ways you can maximize your time. Whatever you decide, it can help to research everything you can about Saudi Arabia and its customs before you pack your bags. With some research and planning, you can have the Saudi trip you want the most and an experience you’ll never forget.