Although this country is notoriously difficult to visit, those who do make it here are rewarded with desert landscapes and religious sites unlike any others.
Known as the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia is littered with religious sites, including two of the most sacred mosques. Explore the Saudi capital, a bustling metropolis filled with shopping malls and skyscrapers, which offers a wonderful contrast to other more traditional parts of the country.
Wander around the vibrant capital Riyadh, one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Among the most famous landmarks here is the Masmak Fortress, a huge 19th-century clay and mud-brick construction surrounded by sand. While in Riyadh, take a tour to Diriyah, a historic town located on the banks of the Wadi Hanifa that is thought to be where the Saudi State was first established in the 18th century.
Fly from Riyadh to Medina, famous for the Islamic pilgrimage site of Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque). From Medina, it’s about a 3.5-hour drive north to Madain Saleh where there is a collection of well-preserved tombs carved into the rock face. A 30-minute drive south of here is the ancient, and now deserted, mud-brick town of Al 'Ula.
Haggle with the stallholders in the Souq Al Alawi, one of the biggest in the whole kingdom. This souq cuts through the heart of the old city of Jeddah and vendors here sell everything from clothing and jewelry to art.
Go diving off the coast of the Red Sea near Jeddah, where the waters are warm and the coral reefs are teeming with marine life. Visit the large Fakieh Aquarium to see fish and sharks up close.
Obtain a visa before you travel and fly into one of Saudi Arabia's seven international airports. Hire a driver or use private taxis to take you to the major tourist sites. Visit during the peak winter months (December and January) for lower daytime temperatures and cool nights.
Tourism is not big business in Saudi Arabia due to fairly strict laws surrounding who can enter the country. Those who do gain permission for a visit must adhere to the strict local laws. This is particularly true for women, who must keep their bodies covered at all times while out in public.
The unspoiled desert oases, mountain ranges and sunny coastlines of Saudi Arabia make it an alluring destination for intrepid travelers.