Our People
  • Amy Waters snow biking Our Team

    Steppes Travel is made by the people who work here. Incredible holidays are made possible because of their vast travel experience and the great enthusiasm they bring to their work.

  • William Dalrymple Our Tour Experts

    We carefully select our experts based on their knowledge, companionship and influence, ensuring that you can travel with the most knowledgeable leaders in the field.

  • Liz Bonnin Heroes and Heroines

    the people who lead the way when it comes to those things which matter to us: exploration, the environment, women’s empowerment and education

Kingdom of the Nabateans

  • EXPERT-LED GROUP TOUR
Start date End date Days
Prices from
Single Supplement Tour Expert Group Size Status
07/11/22 18/11/22 12 days £6,395 ex. flights £650 Peter Harrigan 15 Max AVAILABLE Reserve place

Key Highlights of this Itinerary

local man in saudi arabia 1

Pioneering

There are few places left that can be said to represent the last frontier of tourism.

Diriyah Old City, Near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 2

Diriyah

Explore the historical sites around Riyadh including the UNESCO site of Diriyah.

Maidain saleh archaeological site 3

Madain Saleh (Hegra)

Visit the spectacular Nabatean site of Madain Saleh.

Arabian house, old Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 4

Jeddah

Take guided walks around the historic part of Jeddah.

Explore our suggested itinerary

  • Day 1

    Riyadh

  • Day 2

    Riyadh

  • Day 3

    Riyadh - Unaizah

  • Day 4

    Unaizah - Ha'il

  • Day 5

    Ha'il - Sakaka

  • Day 6

    Sakaka - Tabuk

  • Day 7

    Tabuk - AlUla

  • Day 8

    AlUla

  • Day 9

    AlUla

  • Day 10

    AlUla to Jeddah

  • Day 11

    Jeddah

  • Day 12

    Jeddah

Day 1

Riyadh

Arrive into Riyadh. Meaning ‘The Garden’, Saudi Arabia’s capital has a population of over seven million making it the largest city on the Arabian Peninsula.

Day 2

Riyadh

Meet your Saudi guide this morning. Al Masmak Fortress, in the heart of old Riyadh, will be your first stop. Built in 1865, this mudbrick citadel turned museum witnessed the birth of the third Saudi State in 1902 when King Abdulaziz captured the fortress and took control of Riyadh (his ancestral home) after having lived in exile in Kuwait. From this fortress, Abdulaziz Al Saud conquered and united the different kingdoms and provinces that make up the Saudi nation as we know it today. A short stroll will then take you past the Qasr Al Hoqm (Palace of Judgement) and the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque to the bustling Souq Al Zal where you can shop for rugs, traditional Saudi robes and headscarves, incense, and bric-a-brac while at the same time witnessing a way of life that has been unchanged for centuries.

Later, drive on to the Murabbah Palace- the former home and court of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud. This attractive two-story building is built of mudbrick in traditional Najdi-style and was occupied by the founder of Saudi Arabia from 1938 until his death in 1953.

Afterwards, step back in time and discover the World Heritage Site of Diriyah, where the story of modern Saudi Arabia began. Within Diriyah’s historic At Turaif district you’ll see stunning examples of traditional Najdi mudbrick architecture and get a sense of the way of life in the first Saudi capital some two hundred years ago.

Day 3

Riyadh - Unaizah

Leave the Saudi capital behind you and drive through the desert. This journey of around 200 kilometres brings you to Ushaiger Heritage Village, a stunning example of traditional Najdi architecture, that was once a stopping point on the Hajj pilgrim route. Visit one of the village’s heritage museums and wander through Ushaiger’s warren of shaded winding alleys where you’ll find many fine examples of traditional mudbrick buildings.

Continue your journey to Unaizah, where you will be able to admire the stunning traditional architecture of the Souq Musawkaf and wander through its two main squares that are ringed with shops selling food, handicrafts, clothes, and tea and coffee. The souq comes into its own after 4 pm and is a popular place for locals to meet friends and socialise.

The day finishes with a short drive to your hotel – a property that has been inspired by the local architecture and is set on a ridge above a working date plantation.

Day 4

Unaizah - Ha'il

Rise early to visit one of Saudi Arabia’s most colourful and photogenic spectacles, the Buraidah Camel Market (Saturday to Thursday). This is the largest camel market in the world where some 700 animals are traded daily (swelling to two thousand animals on Saturdays). The noise and theatre as dealers attract eager huddles of merchants as they auction camels is incredible to witness, especially when prices can reach a million dollars. Afterwards, enjoy a specially prepared al fresco breakfast in one of the beautiful date gardens that Buraidah is known for.

Later, continue to the Uyun AL Jawa Village, which is less than 30 kilometres northwest of Buraidah, before continuing through the picturesque landscape of the Jabal Aja to Ha’il – once the capital of the independent Emirate of Jabal Shammar. After a short tour of the city, check in to your hotel.

Day 5

Ha'il - Sakaka

Continue south this morning through the red sands of the Great Nefud Desert, the second largest sandy desert in the Arabian Peninsula. Reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jubbah and spend time exploring this site (subject to special permission). Once a great lake, this forgotten oasis is littered with ancient rock art sites. The rich variety of petroglyphs located here shed light on how life was in ancient times and the wildlife that was found in this region.

Afterwards, continue to the standing stones of Al Rajajil – Saudi Arabia’s ‘Stonehenge.’ These 6,000-year-old stele are carved from sandstone and some are as tall as three metres and weigh as much as five tonnes. Their origins and purpose remain an enigma to archaeologists.

Finish the day by driving to your hotel in Sakaka.

Day 6

Sakaka - Tabuk

After breakfast, a short drive brings you to Sakaka’s imposing mudbrick Qasr Al Za’abal – a castle built during Ottoman times that sits on a tall rock with vertical sides in the centre of the city. Climb up to the castle to admire the view, then continue a little way outside town where you will discover Domat Al Jandal.

This is an outstanding example of an early Islamic town and it was already an important commercial centre in the ninth century BC when it was referred to in Assyrian texts as ‘Adummatu.’ Domat Al Jandal is dominated by the Al Marid castle, a vast circular walled fortress with foundations dating back to the first century AD. The castle is said to have once been connected by a tunnel to the seventh-century Umar Ibn al-Khattab Mosque – one of the oldest intact mosques in the world. This mosque is thought to resemble the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina in its early stages.

Afterwards, explore the well-preserved Al-Der residential quarter, with its long alleys and impressive stone architecture, to see a rare early example of town planning. Continue your journey to Tabuk and have a short tour of the city before you check in to your hotel.

Day 7

Tabuk - AlUla

Set out on a full-day 4×4 excursion to Wadi Al Disah (“valley of the palm trees”), which is a canyon of spectacular natural beauty. The Al Disah Valley extends for around 15 kilometres and is framed by giant columns of rock and perpendicular smooth cliffs that rise up above the lush vegetation. The floor of the valley is dotted with water pools and palm trees.

Once you leave the canyons behind, follow the route of the former Hijaz Railway south. Continue to AlUla, which has been referred to as one of the world’s great natural masterpieces. This historically rich oasis sits at the crossroads of the Silk Road and the Incense Route. It is an enormous living museum, with its dramatic rock formations, sand-swept dunes and lush valleys of swaying palm trees.

Day 8

AlUla

Start the day by visiting Madain Saleh (Hegra), where you will discover the magnificent rock-hewn tombs of the ‘second Petra’ on a shared tour. This UNESCO World Heritage site was built 2,000 years ago by the Nabataean Arabs and had been lost to the world until its rediscovery in 1876.

Afterwards, stretch your legs on a walk along a beautiful nature trail that will take you through the Al Wadi area, with its verdant farms and numerous date palms. Continue to visit Elephant Rock where you will take a comfortable sunken seat and sit back to enjoy the sight of AlUla’s most famous geological rock formation as it looms over you. An onsite café offers delicious sweets and warm beverages (payable locally).

Day 9

AlUla

Delve further into AlUla’s past this morning. At Dadan you will join a ‘rawi’ (storyteller) on a shared excursion to see the famous Lion Tombs that are chiselled into the cliff-face. The Kingdom of Dadan was one of the most developed cities in the Arabian Peninsula during the first millennium BC. Dadan was the capital of the Dadanite and then the Lihyanite kingdoms and one of the most important centres of the caravan trade. The area was once just a basin covered in dust and sand. Now, it’s a live excavation site where archaeologists are discovering more about this little known era in Arabian history.

Across the valley, at Jabal Ikmah, continue on to see the impressive rock art. The hundreds of inscriptions and writings on the cliffs and rock faces date mainly to the Dadanite and Lihyanite periods. Five different languages have been found at Jabal Ikmah, including one that is a precursor to modern Arabic. The inscriptions help decipher the way of life and the things that mattered to the people who once lived in AlUla. Lunch today will be under the palm trees on a date farm.

Day 10

AlUla to Jeddah

Drive to Medina to visit Islam’s second most important place of pilgrimage. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the city’s mosques, but they can now visit some of the central ‘Haram’ area where the main places of pilgrimage are located. Sightseeing will include visiting the early battlefield site of Jabal Uhud, viewing the Qiblatain Mosque, seeing the location of the ‘Battle of the Trench’ and a visit to Medina’s attractive Ottoman railway station to see the Hijaz Railway memorabilia and early 20th century locomotives.

Stop for lunch at a hotel with beautiful views of the exterior of the vast Masjid al-Nawabi (The Prophet’s Mosque). This is where the tombs of the prophet, as well as his daughter Fatima, and the first caliph Abu Bakr can be found. Also, visit the International Exhibition and Museum of the Life of the Prophet and Islamic Civilisation.

In the late afternoon, transfer to the railway station for train to Jeddah (17:30-19:11).

Day 11

Jeddah

After a relaxed breakfast, meet your guide and drive along Jeddah’s beautiful manicured modern Corniche to the Al Rahma Mosque, better known as “the floating mosque”, due to its positioning over the water.  In the afternoon, the new city of Jeddah is juxtaposed with the old as you walk through Mecca Gate and enter Jeddah’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed old quarter of Al Balad. Discover the lively souqs and multi-story houses built of coral stone with their distinctive ‘roshan’ wooden windows that comprise one of the finest old towns in the Middle East.

Day 12

Jeddah

Depart after breakfast and transfer to the airport.

local man in saudi arabia
Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Expectations

Saudi Arabia is new to tourism, only allowing tourists to visit the Kingdom from at the end of 2019. As such, it is important to set expectations. Things may not run as smoothly as in other destinations.

Please be aware that when travelling in Saudi Arabia, plans may change at the last minute, journeys may take longer than expected, sites may not always be open when they say, guides, whilst good, are not used to groups of foreign nationals. Meal times may be ad hoc, depending on the location, days of the week and prayer times. However, for those with a thirst to discover the unknown, the jewels The Kingdom has to offer are well worth it. 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. 

As part of our tour, we have secured a wonderful tour expert, Peter Harrigan, who has experience of travelling and working in Saudi Arabia over many years and will accompany the group adding insight into this country from his perspective. In addition, a local guide will travel with this group and will be in charge of all the group logistics.

Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia, Justin Wateridge
Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia

Madain Saleh (Hegra)

No trip to Saudi Arabia would be complete without a visit to Madain Saleh (Hegra). 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.

Riyadh Skyline, Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Al Rahma Mosque - Jeddah Coast - Saudi Arabia
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Riyadh and Jeddah

Saudi Arabian 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, the starting point for our group trip – a city that forty years ago had a population of 100,000 people but is now home to over 7,000,000. Finish 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 artefacts on show that can be traced back to the fishermen tribes who first inhabited this region.

Group Tour FAQs

Why should I travel with Steppes Travel to Saudi Arabia?

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

What are the highlights of this Group Tour?

No trip to Saudi Arabia 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 backdrop, 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 a fascinating insight into the lives of the Nabateans over 2,000 years ago.

Is it safe to travel to Saudi Arabia?

When it comes to the safety of tourists, the Saudi Arabian people are extremely friendly and will do their best to make foreigners feel safe and welcome. However, we advise leaving valuables at home, keeping an eye on personal belongings in crowded areas and avoiding unknown areas without your guide.

Do I need a visa to visit Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to the world through its new tourist visa. The fast and easy-to-use online portal allows international visitors from eligible countries (including UK and USA) the ability to apply for an eVisa. The eVisa is a one-year, multiple-entry visa, allowing tourists to spend up to 90 days in the country.

What is the standard of accommodation on this tour?

Accommodation has increased in quality in recent years, but most hotels are of a very similar style – large, modern and seemingly catering to business travellers. However, they are all very clean, comfortable and functional, so they serve their purpose as a base to explore from.

Is this 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 expert.

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.

What is the best time to visit Saudi Arabia?

Nov–Mar Cooler temperatures make daytime weather bearable and nights surprisingly chilly, especially down south.

Apr-Oct Daily temperatures above 40°C, high humidity along the coast; watch for April sandstorms.

Is there a dress code in Saudi Arabia?

It is important that both men and women dress conservatively when travelling in Saudi Arabia. In non-business situations, women do not need to wear an Abaya, a long robe-like dress or a headscarf. However, they should always carry a headscarf.  If visiting a mosque, the head, hands and legs should be covered and shoes removed. Men should make sure that their arms and shoulders are covered up. They should not wear shorts at all except for sport.

What is the food like?

Saudi Arabian cuisine today has many outside influences including Lebanese traditions such as hummus, tabbouleh, and spices that are now common in Saudi Arabia and throughout much of the Middle East. Other influences are Persian, Indian, and European.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?


VISIT OUR FAQ PAGE

Why a Steppes expert-led group tour

1.Experience Matters

We have been running insightful and groundbreaking group tours since our inception in 1989. We have worked with institutions such as the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum and run wildlife tours in conjunction with conservation agencies such as Fauna & Flora International, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Orangutan Foundation, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute.

2.Size Matters

Our average group size is typically eight to ten people, smaller than other group tours typically offered – a factor which many of our clients appreciate. Travelling as part of a smaller group provides a more intimate, personalised and relaxed atmosphere.

4.It’s about who you know

We have developed an enviable pool of expertise from which to choose our tour experts, who we carefully select based on their knowledge, companionship and personality. Often, these experts can use their influence to facilitate private access to sites not typically open to the public.

3.Like-Minded People

Steppes Travellers are like-minded people – interesting, interested and curious. Our group tours aim to create an easy and informal atmosphere – we have a lot of fun on our tours and many friendships have been formed.

5.Value for money

Our tours are well-priced to ensure you get real value for money. We include gratuities on the majority of our tours and do not pass on currency surcharges. We strive to look after single travellers as well as we can, keeping single supplements to a minimum.

6.Peace of Mind

When you travel on one of our group tours, you will be looked after by our local agents and your tour expert with the back-up of our 24-hour emergency number and duty manager. All our holidays are fully bonded and protected – our ATOL number is ATOL 6495.

Includes / Excludes

Important Information

Activity Level
Active
Single Supplement

Travelling on your own? Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places provides 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 expert.

Flexibility

To allow flexibility, our group tours do not include international flights as standard. We can arrange international flights on your behalf, please get in touch with our travel experts for a quote. All international flights from the UK are ATOL protected.

What is included

  • Accompanied by Tour expert throughout
  • Accompanied by English speaking local guide throughout
  • Accommodation in 3-4* hotels
  • Transport throughout in air conditioned vehicles
  • Internal flights
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and porters
  • Meals as per the itinerary

What is excluded

  • International flights
  • Visa
  • Travel insurance
  • Items of a personal nature

Our future tour dates

For further information about any of these tours please call 01285 880 980

Start date End date Days
Prices from
Single Supplement Tour Expert Group Size Status
07/11/22 18/11/22 12 days £6,395 ex. flights £650 Peter Harrigan 15 Max AVAILABLE Reserve place

Reserve your place on this group tour

Our travel experts have a wealth of first-hand knowledge, so if you have any questions about this expert-led group tour, please get in touch. They would love to help. We hope you can join us on this tour.

01285 880 980

Send us an enquiry

Send us a message and one of our travel experts
will get right back to you.

Enquire Today

Explore similar expert-led group tours

With an average group size of just eight to ten people our group tour itineraries enable you to travel to some of the most intriguing regions of the world in the company of expert guides in the field and, of course, with likeminded people.

Why Choose Steppes?

Our knowledge and expertise set us apart. So too our curiosity. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you, all the while ensuring we travel and operate sustainably.

Are you ready to discover extraordinary once again?


More about Steppes

F L E X I B I L I T Y P R O M I S E B O O K W I T H C O N F I D E N C E

Get in touch

  • By sending your enquiry you are stating that you agree to our T&C

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.