Expert-Led Group Tour

Saudi Arabia and Jordan - Ancient Empires of the Nabatean

Explore the ancient twinned settlements of Mada'in Saleh and Petra

9 days

from £4,895pp
  • Gain an insight into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Visit the spectacular site of Madain Saleh, the largest Nabatean settlement after Petra
  • Step into the world of Indiana Jones and explore the once lost city of Petra

Steeped in history, and home to some of the world's earliest settlements, both Saudi Arabia and Jordan are a treasure trove for curious travellers with an interest in ancient cultures. While tourism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a fledgling enterprise, Jordan has long been a favourite on travellers’ bucket lists. The Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and its most spectacular site, Petra have been magnets for Steppes’ clients for many years.

Both countries have a fascinating history, and were part of the trade routes of ancient Arabia, levying tolls and sheltering caravans laden with Indian spices and silks, African ivory and animal hides. Follow in the footsteps of the Nabateans, with Steppes' expert host, Peter Harrigan, on a fascinating journey between Petra and Madain Saleh.

Madain Saleh - 'The capital of monuments’

Accessed from the oasis town of Al-Ula, no visit to Saudi Arabia is complete without visiting Madain Saleh. With its well preserved, ancient, rock hewn tombs set amongst a dramatic desert back drop, it is easy to see why Madain Saleh was chosen as a World Heritage site. The settlement of the site took place during the 1st century AD, when the Nabateans made Madain Saleh the kingdom's second capital, after Petra in the north. The sense of history at Madain Saleh is palpable in the rock art and sculpture that can be seen all over the site, giving fascinating insight into the lives of the Nabateans over 2,000 years ago.

Petra – ‘The rose City’

Undoubtedly the highlight of any trip to Jordan and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra is the legacy of the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled in Jordan more than 2,000 years ago.

The rose-pink Nabataean city of Petra is no longer the lost city (that was rediscovered by Johann Burckhardt) but is now a bustling tourist centre attracting people from all over the world.  Although much has been written about Petra, nothing really prepares you for this amazing place. It must be seen to be believed.

Why should I travel to Saudia Arabia?

There can be few countries that are so misunderstood as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and perhaps no other country is as worthy of a first visit. Although dominated by the rolling sands of the Empty Quarter, in addition you will find beautiful oases and dramatic mountain-tops, ancient cities, beaches and rivers. New hotels are springing up in all the main cities with ever more famous chefs, while excellent restaurants and chic cafes are everywhere.

Long closed to the wider world, Saudi Arabia is slowly starting to allow visitors to explore its wild reaches and cosmopolitan city centres. Travel in Saudi Arabia is still in its infancy and visiting can be daunting given the cultural rules to adhere to, but there are rich rewards for the intrepid traveller.

Why should I travel to Jordan?

Jordan is a remarkably easy and sophisticated country to visit. From the moment you arrive into Amman airport the system works smoothly and effortlessly. Excellent hotels, good roads and charming guides all go to make any holiday in Jordan a memorable experience.

Is this group tour suitable for solo travellers?

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour Lecturer.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.

Departing on:
  • 15th November 2018

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

DEPART UKARRIVE UKPrice Excluding Flights (£)Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour LecturerStatus 
15th Nov 2018 23rd Nov 2018 £ 4,895 £ 775 £ 900 Peter Harrigan Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accommodation as detailed
  • Accompanied by an English speaking local guide
  • Accompanied by Peter Harrigan throughout
  • All meals throughout
  • All transfers detailed in itinerary
  • Entrance fees to all sites visited
  • Fee to cover visa authorisation for Saudi Arabia
  • Gratuities for the local guides, drivers and porters

what is excluded

  • All drinks
  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas for both Saudi Arabia and Jordan - Steppes Travel can help with arranging this. Speak to our experts Paul or Katie.


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Suggested group flights
The suggested group outbound flight for this tour is:

British Airways BA263, scheduled to depart London Heathrow at 13:20 on Wednesday 7th November, arriving into Riyadh international airport at 22:45 the same day. An arrival transfer will be provided to connect with this flight. You will then be met and transferred to your hotel in Riyadh.

For those making their own way to Riyadh and not taking the sugested group flight, the starting point for the group is the hotel in Riyadh. Please speak to one of our team should you need help organising an arrival transfer.

You will meet with the rest of the group for a short briefing at the arrival hotel the following morning - meeting time to be confirmed in your final documentation.

Riyadh, meaning 'The Garden', is Saudi Arabia's capital, and with a population of six million the largest city on the Arabian Peninsula. Once a simple and compact walled, mud-brick town located on the desert trading routes, Riyadh has grown at an astonishing pace to become one of the most affluent cities in the world. Work is currently in progress to complete a 160 kilometre, six-line metro system.

No meals included today.

You will be staying at Radisson Riyadh, Full board

Day 2

Musmak Fort and Deira Souq
In the morning visit Musmak Fort and Deira Souq for some local shopping. Musmak Fort is one of the most important monuments and an important historic landmark in the city of Riyadh. Musmak Fort was built during the reign of Abdullah bin Rashid in the year 1895 A.D. The reason for building this historic palace was to serve as military garrison for his army, which operated under a Governor in Riyadh from Hail. Ibn Saud on the 15th January 1902 captured the fort.

You will stop for lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch visit Diriyah, one of the most important sites, from where the history of Al Saud Dynasty began. It is situated in the eastern part of the so-called Najd area in the valley known as Wadi Hanifa. Drive to the National Museum, a place of learning and discovery, meant to kindle pride in the Arab heritage and reverence for Islam. This national Landmark is composed of eight galleries telling the complete story of Arabian History from the creation of the universe to our modern era. Murabba Palace is among the most important palace built by King Abdul Aziz in the year 1937 A.D. Built to accommodate his family, the palace was composed of a number of a presidential palaces, service buildings and King Abdul Aziz Divan. That same year the King and his family moved in this palace. This palace was built on the local traditional Najid style by using local building material only. The exterior only can be seen.

breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Radisson Riyadh, Full board

Day 3

Fly Riyadh to Jeddah

Transfer to a local restaurant for lunch, then, check into your hotel.

After lunch, drive to old city of Jeddah to visit the old Ottoman houses, mostly constructed from coral and reinforced with wood so that beams criss-cross the interior walls. The most beautiful and well known is Nasif House, which was built during the 1850s by the well-known Nasif Family, one of the most influential trading families in the history of Jeddah. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the house was one of the most important buildings in Jeddah. It was here that King Abdul Aziz spent his first night in Jeddah, as the guest of Mohammed Nasif, after he led his victorious army into the capital of the Western Province.

Saudi Arabia’s commercial hub, Jeddah is arguably its most relaxed and easy-going city but doubles as the main gateway for pilgrims travelling to the Holy city of Mecca. Despite its thirst for modernity, the Al Balad district has been preserved to showcase its humble beginnings where beautiful coral architecture and historic buildings sit beside bustling souqs. While Jeddah is rightly renowned for its stylish and excellent restaurants it can also offer some excellent scuba diving for the more adventurous traveller.

breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Hilton Jeddah, Full board

Day 4

Jeddah to Al Ula
After breakfast, visit the corniche of Jeddah (sea-side promenade) a major attraction that acts as an open-air museum displaying an array of modern sculptures and gathering social place for locals. Finally, visit Abdul Rauf Khalil Art Museum, which displays significant as well as unusual collections.

breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Sahary Elolaa Resort, Full board

Day 5

Full Days Sightseeing including Madain Saleh
Travel on to Madain Saleh, the first site in Saudi Arabia to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once known as Al Hijr, this ancient Nabataean city served as an important stopover on a very prosperous trade route. What now remains include iconic rock carved tombs, inscriptions, excavated remnants of the old city, water wells and channels, which reveal the remarkable hydraulic and architectural expertise of the Nabataean people.

At the entrance to Madain Saleh, visit the Hejaz Railway Station - originally built to transport pilgrims from the city of Damascus in Syria to the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia. The railway was completed in 1908, but was severely damaged during the First World War by T.E Lawrence during the Arab Revolt.

Located on the ancient Incense Road, the now modern settlement of Al Ula is still home to an impressively preserved old town, originally inhabited by the Lihyanites some 2,000 years ago. A short drive from Al Ula lies the Nabataean city of Madain Saleh.

breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Sahary Elolaa Resort, Full board

Day 6

Al Ula Tabuk via Taima
This morning you will be driven from Al Ula to Tabuk, on the way stopping at Taima the last Papillion's empire. Nabonedos settled there and built al Hamra palace. You will also visit the biggest water well on the Arabian peninsula, the Haddajj water well and Taima Museum. After lunch at a local restaurant. Drive on to Tabuk where you will visit the Turkish fort and the railway station and before driving to your hotel.

breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Holiday Inn Tabuk, Full board

Day 7

Full day 4X4 at Wadi Hesma and Desa then, travel to Jordan
Today will involve a long day of travelling as you travel from Saudi Arabia into Jordan.

This morning you will have 4x4 visit to the Hesma valley, where you can enjoy (see) the coloured mountains combined with coloured sand dunes and the ancient rock art carvings before having lunch at Desa located between mountains and springs of water

After lunch, drive to the main road where you will you will transfer to your (coach) bus and drive to Jordanian Border. Arrive at the Amman Dura Border where you will be met by your local Jordanian guide. Travel onwards to Petra.

breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Movenpick Resort Petra, Full board

Day 8

Full Day Sightseeing of Petra
Visit the city of Petra, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a private local guide.
Petra is the legacy of the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled in south Jordan more than 2,000 years ago. From here they dominated the trade routes of ancient Arabia, levying tolls and sheltering caravans laden with Indian spices and silks, African ivory and animal hides. The kingdom endured for centuries and became widely admired for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels. By 16th century, however, Petra was completely lost, and remained so for 300 years until it was rediscovered by a Swiss traveller, Burckhardt, in 1812. View the 'Treasury', Roman-style 3,000-seat theatre, and numerous temples, facades, tombs, baths and funerary halls as well as the Petra Archaeological Museum and the Petra Nabataean Museum.

Drive from Petra to Amman (Road Journey)

Drive to Kathgodam Railway station to board your train to Delhi - Kathgodam Express (1535/2050hrs)

breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Marriot Amman, Full board

Day 9

Amman to Jerash and the Dead Sea
After breakfast at your hotel, drive north of Amman to visit the ancient city of Jerash, a road journey of around one hour.

Jerash, a close second to Petra on the list of favourite destinations in Jordan. The ancient city of Jerash boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. Jerash lies on a plain surrounded by hilly wooded areas and fertile basins. Conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, it came under Roman rule and was one of the ten great Roman cities, the Decapolis League. The city's golden age came under Roman rule, during which time it was known as Gerasa, and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Hidden for centuries in sand before being excavated and restored over the past 70 years, Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.

After visiting Jerash, travel onto the Dead Sea, which should take around two hours, where you will have two to three hours at leisure to explore and relax at the Dead Sea spa.

The Dead Sea at 410 meters below sea level, and is the lowest place on earth. Jordan's Dead Sea coast is one of the most spectacular natural and spiritual landscapes in the world and it remains as enticing to international visitors today as it was to kings, emperors, traders, and prophets in antiquity. The main attraction of the Dead Sea is of course the soothing, abnormally salty water itself. The salt content of the water is 31.5% making the water so buoyant that it is impossible for the visitor to sink. The water also contains 21 minerals including high levels of magnesium, sodium, potassium, and bromine and 12 of these minerals are found in no other body of water in the world.

Afterwards, travel back to Amman.

breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Marriot Amman, Full board

Day 10

Suggested group flights
The suggested group inbound flight for this tour is:

British Airways BA0146, scheduled to depart Amman international airport at 09:15 on Friday 23rd November, arriving into London Heathrow airport at 13:05 the same day.

A departure transfer will be provided to connect with this flight.

For those not taking the suggested group flight, please speak to one of our team should you need help organising a departure transfer.


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Movenpick Resort Petra

Movenpick Resort Petra

Located at the entrance to the Petra site, the Movenpick Resort Petra is one of the most notable hotels in the Middle East....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Jordan

Amy Waters, Travel Expert

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Charlotte Lawton, Sales Consultant

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Katie Benden, Travel Expert

"Katie was brilliant and very helpful. Helped to put together the itinerary I was dreaming of for my honeymoon and she was excellent with communication."

"Very happy with Katie Benden. Great service – always prompt reply to queries and always polite, attentive and informative. A wonderful holiday."

Read More

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Lecturer

Peter Harrigan

Peter Harrigan
Peter Harrigan is founding director and commissioning editor of Medina Publishing and senior contributor to Aramco World Magazine. He has travelled extensively in the region and writes on the culture and history of Saudi Arabia. He is author of the book Riyadh: Heritage and Vision, (September 2016) which is the first detailed and illustrated history of the Saudi capital up to the present time.

Peter has been study leader of alumni tours to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States including Stanford and University of Washington, World Leaders Symposium and a private jet trip, Crossroads of Eurasia.

Peter is a board member of the Saudi British Society and in 2013 received of the Rawabi Prize for “Exceptional contribution to Saudi-British relations.”
Enquire about this Expert Led tour:
Speak to a Saudi Arabia holiday expert:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 15

Tour Expert:

Peter Harrigan

Departure Date (S):

  • 15th November 2018

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