Expert-Led Group Tour

Saudi Arabia Group Tour - Behind the Veil

11 days

from £4,895pp
  • A rare opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia in the company of author and Saudi expert, Peter Harrigan
  • Visit the spectacular site of Madain Saleh, the largest Nabatean settlement after Petra
  • Visit the old city of Jeddah and the historical sites around Riyadh including Diriyah

Steppes has had Saudi Arabia in its sights for some time now. The prospect of travelling in the footsteps of Richard Burton, T. E. Lawrence and Wilfred Thesiger is a tantalising one.

In more modern times, Saudi has become an emblem of everything most inexplicable to the West and therefore carries an aura of mystique and intrigue that is a compelling drawcard for the curious traveller. Having found a reliable partner on the ground and an exceptional western leader with the knowledge and experience required to give insight into the Kingdom we are excited to offer this new group tour.


One of the most important archaeological sites in the whole of Saudi is Diriyyah. A UNESCO World Heritage site located just outside Riyadh, Diriyyah has a history that goes as far back as 627 AD, during the era of the Prophet Muhammad and served as the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty from 1744 to 1818. Our Tour Lecturer, Peter Harrigan serves as an advisor to the Arriyadh and Diriyyah Development Authority providing counsel on a restoration project which includes five major museums on the site of the capital of the First Saudi State.

The trip starts in Jeddah – a city with a history that can be traced back to more than 2,000 years ago. There will be time spent in the old town and the Abdul Rauf Khalil Museum which not only represents the rich Islamic heritage of Jeddah but also the city’s pre-Islamic past, with artifacts on show that can be traced back to the fishermen tribes who first inhabited this region. Saudi cities are full of fascinating sites with major historic significance, often juxtaposed with very modern, high-tech architecture and infrastructure. This is most noticeable in Riyadh – a city that forty years ago had a population of 100,000 people but is now home to over 7 million people. 


Outside of the cities, Saudi is equally as evocative. Visit the highland province of Asir and feel the fresh mountain air of Soudah – the highest peak in Saudi at 2,995 metres. Take a cable car ride to the hanging village of Habala, built into the side of a vertical cliff face, and once only accessible by ropes. The story goes that the villagers of Habala fled the Ottomans and chose to live an isolated existence until they were discovered by a Saudi army helicopter in more recent times. For all its commercialisation, Habala is still worth the visit, not only for its history but for its natural splendour. Other highlights outside of the cities include the 7th century Sakaka Fort and the mosque of Domat Al Jandal close to Al Jouf; Nafud Desert and Jubbah to see the magnificent rock carvings and the imposing forts of Oraif and Qishla in the city of Hail.


No trip to Saudi would be complete without a visit to Madain Saleh. Accessed from the oasis town of Al-Ula, Madain Saleh, Petra’s twin, was Saudi’s first World Heritage site. 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.


There are few places left that can be said to represent the last frontier of tourism. Follow your curiosity and put experience before prejudgment.


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:
  • 4th November 2017
  • 18th February 2018
  • 2nd 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 
4th Nov 2017 14th Nov 2017 £ 4,895 £ 700 £ 685 Peter Harrigan Limited
18th Feb 2018 28th Feb 2018 £ 5,795 £ 775 £ 825 Peter Harrigan Limited
2nd Nov 2018 12th Nov 2018 £ 5,795 £ 775 £ 825 Peter Harrigan Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accommodation as detailed
  • Accompanied by Peter Harrigan whilst in Saudi Arabia
  • All meals throughout
  • All transfers
  • Domestic flights
  • Entrance fees to all sites
  • Fee to cover visa authorisation in Saudi Arabia
  • Gratuities for the local guides, driver and porters

what is excluded

  • Drinks not mentioned
  • International Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa - Steppes Travel can help with arranging this. Speak to our experts Paul or Katie.


Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

Suggested group flights
British Airways BA133, scheduled to depart London Heathrow at 22:25 on Friday 3rd November arriving into Jeddah international airport at 07:20 on Saturday 4th November.

An arrival transfer will be provided to connect with this flight. You will then be met and transferred to Red Sea Palace hotel in Jeddah (to be confirmed).

For those making their own way to Jeddah and not taking the suggested group flight, the starting point for the group is the Red Sea Palace hotel in Jeddah (to be confirmed). 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 - meeting time to be confirmed in your final documentation.

Morning at leisure

Jeddah half day sightseeing of Corniche and sculpture park
Wander along the seaside promenade, lined with an array of modern sculptures (Moore, Miro etc.) and views over the Red Sea. At sunset, the promenade becomes a popular gathering place for families.

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.

Lunch at a local restaurant and dinner at your hotel.

You will be staying at Hilton Jeddah, As specified

Day 2

Jeddah sightseeing including the Abdul Rauf Khalil Art Museum and Nasif House
After breakfast, visit the colourful fish market, showcasing the morning's catch.

Continue with visits to some of the cities traditional buildings, many of which previously belonged to the 'mercantile elite'. These distinctive properties combine Red Sea coastal coral building traditions, as well as influences from the ancient trade routes. One of the more well-known is Nasif House, built during the 1850s by the Nasif family, an influential trading family. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the house was among the most important buildings in Jeddah as it was here King Abdulaziz spent his first night, after leading his victorious army into the city. It may also be possible to see the former British Consulate, in the old British quarter.

Afterwards, visit the Abdul Rauf Khalil Art Museum.

Breakfast and dinner at your hotel. Lunch at a local restaurant.

You will be staying at Hilton Jeddah, As specified

Day 3

Please note today will involve a full day of travel.

Fly Jeddah to Madinah

Madinah city tour
There will be a tour visiting the outskirts of Madinah, which will offer a brief insight into this religious city.

Afterwards, you will have an early lunch before driving to Al Ula.

Madinah, meaning "City of the Prophet" is the second holiest city in Islam, after Mecca and is home to Al-Masjid an-Nabawi or "The Prophet's Mosque". Built next to the site of the Prophet Muhammad's home the mosque now contains his tomb. After fleeing Mecca in 622 Medina is the place where the Prophet attracted his first followers.

Drive from Madinah to Al Ula (Road Journey)

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

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 at your hotel.

You will be staying at Sahary Elolaa Resort, As specified

Day 4

Al Ula old town sightseeing
Start the day with a visit to the old town of Al Ula with its traditional Arab mud brick and stone buildings. It was abandoned in the 1960's. There are fine views of the town and surrounding rocky outcrops from the castle, built to protect the town.

Lion Tombs and Elephant Rock
Drive north-west of Al Ula to Khuraibba (the abandoned place) where tombs have been cut into the eastern wall of the wadi decorated with lions - an unusual motif in Arabia. The site is sometimes referred to as the Lion’s Tomb.

Stopping at Al Harrah for its view, continue to Elephant Rock, a towering monolith carved by the wind out of the soft, red sandstone. There will be a BBQ as the sun goes down.

Breakfast and lunch at your hotel. BBQ dinner at Elephant Rock.

You will be staying at Sahary Elolaa Resort, As specified

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.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner at your hotel.

You will be staying at Sahary Elolaa Resort, As specified

Day 6

Travel Overland from Al Ula to Sakaka visiting the ancient oasis town of Tayma en route.

Tayma and Dumat Jandal
Visit Tayma, a large oasis settlement, found in a corridor between the Nafoud Al-Kebir to the east, and the Sarawat mountains to the west. Formally it was a major trading post for frankincense and other valuable commodities from Yemen.

Continue onto Sakaka with a stop in Dumat Al Jandal. Visit the famous well, fort, and mosque of Dumat Al Jandal. The ancient stone fortress, also known as Marid Castle, is over 600 metres high and occupies a hillside location overlooking the old city from the south. Omar's mosque is named after the second Muslim Caliph: Omar Ibn Al Khatab.

The oasis town of Sakaka is the capital of the northern province of Al Jouf. Enclosed by sandstone hills, this fertile region is renowned for its olive oil production with the largest organic olive plantations in the world, date palm groves and traditional handicrafts. Strategically located on ancient trade and pilgrimage routes, the area historically provided summer grazing for nomadic tribes.

Breakfast and dinner at your hotel. Picnic lunch.

You will be staying at Al Nusl Hotel, As specified

Day 7

Za abal fort, Nabatean well and Al-Rajajil
Morning sightseeing tour of Sakaka with visits to the Za'Abal fort, a Nabatean well and Al-Rajajil, sometimes referred to as the Standing Men, or Standing Stones. These pillars, or stones are more than 6,000 years old and are arranged in curved groups of four, joined at the base. Now leaning at random angles, the 30 pillars, weighing over five tons each, attract much speculation as to their origin.

Travel overland from Sakaka to Hail with sightseeing

Begin the day with a visit to Sakaka Fort. Located on high ground overlooking the town from the northwest, Sakaka is at the centre of many legends and it is widely believed that this fortress was built in the 7th century B.C. Continue to Al-Rajajil - the site of a group of enigmatic standing stone pillars that date back to the Chalcolithic period. Visit the famous well, fort, and mosque of Domat Al Jandal. The ancient stone fortress, also known as Marid Castle, is over 600 metres high and occupies a hillside location overlooking the old city from the south. Also visit Omar's mosque, named after the second Moslem Caliph: Omar Ibn Al Khatab.

Continue to Hail crossing the Great Nafud sand desert and stopping to view the remarkable rock art carvings at Jubbah, recognised in 2015 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fringed to the north by the Great Nafud desert and, surrounded by the rugged granite peaks of Shammar mountain, valleys, oases and ancient paleolakes, Hail is a region of varied landscapes. It is also home to the largest corpus of petroglyphs in the country.

Breakfast and dinner at your hotel. Lunch at a local restaurant.

You will be staying at Golden Tulip Hail, Full board

Day 8

Hail sightseeing
Today explore the A'arif fort and the nearby private museum situated in a local clay house. Spend time with local artisans who make the well-known traditional coffee pots. Visit the remains of the Hotainah volcano.

Fly Hail to Riyadh

Breakfast and dinner at your hotel. Lunch at a local restaurant.

You will be staying at Holiday Inn Meydan, As specified

Day 9

Riyadh sightseeing
Visit Diriyah, the 18th century oasis capital of the first Saudi state. It was here in 1744 that the enduring pact was forged between Mohammed bin Saud as ruler and Imam and Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulwahhab, founder of the Islamic Reform Movement. The Al-Turaif District of Diriyah is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the mudbrick treasury, citadel, palaces, mosques and homes of the district, are now part of a major restoration project.

Travel to Diriyah on the road that dissects the dramatic Tuwaiq escarpment. Diriyah is located on the banks of Wadi Hanifah, a 120 kilometre stretch of ancient watercourse, which has been partly rehabilitated into a wetlands project that has received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

In Riyadh, visit the National Museum, which presents the story of Arabia from pre-history, to the coming of Islam up to the modern era.

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.

Lunch at a local restaurant and dinner at the hotel

You will be staying at Holiday Inn Meydan, As specified

Day 10

Riyadh sightseeing
Explore the lanes of the Dira Souq with shops offering everything from gold and silver jewellery to textiles, garments and carpets. Near the souq is the Masmak fort, now an interesting museum charting the history of Saudi Arabia froms its inception as one nation. Also visit Murabba Palace built in the traditional Najdi style for King Abdulaziz in 1937.

Visit one of the new skyscrapers in Riyadh for a view over this ever changing city.

Late Check Out
Return to the hotel where rooms will be available to rest and freshen up before departing for the airport at 21:00hrs.

Breakfast and dinner at your hotel. Lunch at a local restaurant.

Day 11

Fly Riyadh to London

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

British Airways BA0262, scheduled to depart Riyadh international airport at 01:05 on Tuesday 14th November, arriving into London Heathrow airport at 05:20 on 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.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Saudi Arabia

Paul Craven, Travel Expert

" I spoke to five different companies, but Paul was by far the most knowledgeable and empathetic."

"The service which I received from your Travel Expert Paul Craven was excellent, he was able to answer any queries I put to him."

"Paul must be congratulated on his expertise and great patience in dealing with all my programme changes. He must dread my phone calls!! A big thank-you from both of us to Paul and Carol."

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 expert

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 holiday:
Speak to a Saudi Arabia holiday expert:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 15

Tour Expert:

Peter Harrigan

Departure Date (S):

  • 4th November 2017 - Guaranteed to run
  • 18th February 2018 - Guaranteed to run
  • 2nd November 2018

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