Middle East,  Saudi Arabia,  technology

AlUla unveiled: essential apps & tips for your trip

AlUla isn’t one of those destinations at the top of bucket lists. Why go all that way to visit a couple of rocks in the middle of the desert that are nothing compared to Petra, even though they share the Nabatean tomb style with? Well, I’ll give you my reasons, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not AlUla is worth adding to your bucket list

The first thing that struck me, yes, were those two tombs in the middle of the desert. The first time I saw an aerial shot of that area, I immediately said “I have to go there!”. It must have been those Indiana Jones-style vibes, of desert and dust, of vanished civilizations, of a never-before-heard-of destination that just clicked for me right away.

AlUla journey through timeThis oasis in the Arabian desert has the same size of Belgium and has served as a crucial junction for trade and pilgrimage for centuries.

 It connected the bustling trade routes from southern Arabia to the Mediterranean and welcomed pilgrims en route to Mecca and Medina, becoming a hub of diverse cultures and traditions. AlUla’s strategic position on the Incense trade route linked Asia, Africa, and Europe, facilitating the exchange of spices, myrrh, cotton, ebony, and silk. If you’re curious to know more, National Geographic developed this interesting series of articles about AlUla

It’s worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia has only recently opened up to tourism, when it started issuing tourist visas in 2019. Before that, entry was practically allowed only for work, business, and religious reasons.

The other thing that fascinated me, as soon as I started to look into it and read more, is the Saudi approach to tourism, and in the case of AlUla, the blend with modern art. If you’re interested in my experience (and the 3 day itinerary) in AlUla and  Desert X 2024 go read this post!


Saudi Arabia’s approach to destination marketing is both ambitious and strategic, focusing on unveiling the kingdom’s hidden treasures to the global audience. By leveraging its rich cultural heritage, historical sites, and natural wonders, KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)  aims to position itself as a premier destination for cultural, adventure, and luxury tourism.

Through high-profile projects and events, such as the development of Neom, and the overall Vision 2030 plan, KSA is crafting a narrative that, perhaps due to professional deformation, I find very interesting as a design and innovation strategy. Certainly, we’ll have to wait and see what they manage to achieve, but on paper (and in the 3D renders), it all seems very fascinating.


Destination marketing for AlUla focuses on creativity, knowledge, and immersive experiences as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 to modernize and diversify its economy. The “Journey Through Time” Masterplan aims to make AlUla an iconic tourist spot, providing top-notch experiences for both local and international guests, with a goal to attract 2 million visitors yearly by 2035. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman envisions AlUla as a “living museum” where the rich heritage of the area is the main attraction, offering a unique experience through time for all who visit. It’s positioned as a place of mystique and wonder, attracting those who seek unique, upscale experiences. However, exclusivity comes with a price tag, but I’ll talk about that in the travel guide post. Yes, unfortunately AlUla is definitely not a budget destination!

Wadi of Hospitality, Valley of Arts, these sound already very interesting, right? Basically, the Journey Through Time is a route that covers five districts across the AlUla region:

  • District 1: Al Ula Old Town
  • District 2: Dadan 
  • District 3: Jabal Ikmah
  • District 4: Nabataean Horizon 
  • District 5: Hegra Historical City 

Getting ready for your trip to AlUla: from music to apps
to VR and immersive experiences

As you gear up for an unforgettable journey to AlUla, immerse yourself in the Arabian vibe with a few essential resources. First thing first, music! To begin, let the enchanting melodies of Arabian music transport you to the desert’s heart, even before you leave home. Accompany your trip planning with a calm, meditative playlist that sets the perfect backdrop for your adventure. If you’re into music and want to know more about Saudi Arabian Musical Heritage, here’s a short but very comprehensive blog post by WithFeelings, a team of award-winning composers in the MENA region. 

Are you into podcasts? For those keen on diving deeper and learning more about the destination, I recommend tuning into the  AlUla FM Podcast. This podcast has currently 6 episodes with engaging stories and insights about AlUla’s rich natural and cultural heritage, taking listeners on an immersive journey through its captivating history and vibrant culture, uncovering hidden secrets and ancient mysteries that have intrigued explorers through time.



As an experienced travel planner, I have to admit that navigating AlUla’s offerings has proven a bit challenging this time, due to inconsistent, sometimes vague, and occasionally confusing information. It’s evident that with its recent opening to tourism, AlUla is in the process of catching up with service levels and enhancing the overall user experience. While I appreciate the effort, there’s still quite a lot to do to ensure a smooth, flawless experience for those who plan a trip to the city. 

First of all make sure to download the official Experience AlUla App

This comprehensive app provides the latest visitor information for AlUla, Khaybar, and Tayma, helping you explore points of interest, landmarks, dining options, cafes, and events. You can download it on the Apple Store and Google Play.  This will also be your go-to app (and website) to book all the tours. 

The nearest airport is AlUla International Airport (30 mins drive from the city centre), and from there, renting a car is your best bet for exploring. Moving around AlUla might seem like a quest from an Indiana Jones movie, primarily because online information (and taxis) is as scarce as water in the desert. 

Uber, Careem (UAE and Saudi) and Kaiian Ride Hailing ( the local Saudi app) will be your best companions if you don’t feel like driving. 

Shuttle buses operate around AlUla connecting the bigger hotels with AlUla Old Town Village and other drop-off points. Visit the official Experience AlUla website to check the updated timetables and routes. 


In AlUla, luxury accommodation options abound, offering exquisite settings and top-notch amenities. I’m sure you’ve seen those on Instagram, the most famous one is, of course, Habitas AlUla. While they may come with a higher price tag, the experience is often worth every penny.

Since I was traveling solo, the price tag of the super luxury, Insta-famous accommodation didn’t seem justified, so I chose a bit more budget-friendly option (200$ per night!) of staying in a caravan. I picked Four Caravan for its mountain vistas, and a not so common accommodation. It has a kitchenette, AC, and it’s soundproofed, ensuring comfort and solitude. And when the weather’s fine, you can unwind by the outdoor fireplace or have a picnic at the campground’s designated area. You can start dreaming about your next accommodation by browsing on Booking.com. Whether you’re looking for luxurious stays or adventurous options like glamping, tents, or traditional farm stays, you’ll find plenty of exciting choices to explore.


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If you’re still not sure if adding AlUla to your bucket list, you might want to start exploring it from home. If you’re into the Metaverse, you’re in for a treat! You can now explore AlUla and its 3D model of Hegra’s Tomb of Lihyan, Son of Kuza, created in the vast online landscape of Decentraland site, from the comfort of your home. Honestly nothing amazing, I do definitely prefer more realistic immersive experiences.

AlUla metaverse

So if the Metaverse feels overwhelming (or useless) for you as well, you can still explore AlUla Old Town through 360 videos or dive deeper with your VR headset for a more immersive experience thanks to Limina Studio’s virtual tour.

And there’s more on the horizon, like “Virtually There: A Saudi Tourist Experience” by Maram Alghamdi, offering virtual tours that showcase the kingdom’s breathtaking landscapes to attract more visitors. 

As we’ve journeyed through the digital sands of AlUla, it’s clear that the intersection of technology and heritage is opening up new pathways for exploration and discovery. And this showcase Saudi Arabia’s commitment to blending its treasured past with the forefront of digital innovation.

If you are ready to go, jump to read my AlUla Travel Itinerary and discover the experiences I did in my 2.5 days of exploration. 

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