Expert-Led Group Tour

Saudi Arabia Group Tour - Behind the Veil

12 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.

SAUDI CITIES - JEDDAH AND RIYADH

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. 

WHAT CAN I SEE ON STEPPES TRAVEL'S TOUR OF SAUDI ARABIA

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.

MADAIN SALEH - 'THE CAPITAL OF MONUMENTS'

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.

WHY 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.

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:
  • 3rd November 2017
  • 16th February 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 
3rd Nov 2017 14th Nov 2017 £ 4,895 £ 700 £ 685 Peter Harrigan Limited
16th Feb 2018 27th Feb 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

PLEASE NOTE THE ABOVE FLIGHT COST IS A SUGGESTED FROM PRICE. FLIGHT COSTS WILL BE CONFIRMED AT TIME OF BOOKING. ALL FLIGHTS ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

Fly London to Jeddah

Day 2

Morning at leisure


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

Located on the Red Sea, Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia and the country's commercial hub. It is also the main gateway for pilgrims travelling to the Holy City of Mecca. The thriving, cosmopolitan port city offers shopping, scuba diving and has an attractive corniche, modern open-air sculptures that include Henry Moore and Miró, numerous restaurants offering multi-ethnic cuisine that includes excellent seafood. Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Mecca, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the old quarter of the city, Al Balad, is home to historic buildings and bustling souqs.


Lunch at a local restaurant and dinner at your hotel.


You will be staying at Hilton Jeddah

Day 3

Jeddah sightseeing including 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 with architectural elements, 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.

Continue to visit Abdul Rauf Khalil Art Museum, which displays significant as well as unusual collections.


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


You will be staying at Hilton Jeddah

Day 4

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 Lula.

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)


Located on the ancient incense trade route, 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 ancient Nabataean city of Madain Saleh.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner at your hotel.


You will be staying at Arac Al Ula Hotel

Day 5

Al Ula old town sightseeing
Visit the old town of Al Ula, home to many 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
Today, you will be driven to an extraordinary archaeological site, situated to the north west of Al-Ula, Al-Khuraibba Tombs (the Abandoned place), which are cut into the cliff-face along the eastern wall of the wadi. Lions have been carved about the small tombs - this is an unusual motive in Arabia, and the site is sometimes referred to as 'The Lion's Tomb'.



Afterwards, go to Al Harrah, a local high point, allowing views of the surrounding scenery.

Continue north of Al-Ula, around 11 kilometres, to Elephant Rock, a towering monolith carved by the wind out of the soft, red sandstone. A BBQ will be set up so you can watch the sunset.


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


You will be staying at Arac Al Ula Hotel

Day 6

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 and ancient water wells plus 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 Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Revolt. Parts of the Railway survived and some of the sections are still functioning today.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner at your hotel.


You will be staying at Arac Al Ula Hotel

Day 7

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 on the east, and the Sarawat mountains on the west. Formally a major trading post for frankincense and other valuable commodities from Yemen, you will visit the water well and museum.

Continue onto Sakaka with a stop in Dumat Jandal before continuing onto Omar Bin Al Kattab Mosque and the partially restored old town.

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 pasture and camping ground for desert nomads in the region.


Breakfast and dinner at your hotel. Picnic lunch.


You will be staying at Al Nusl Hotel

Day 8

Za abal fort, Nabatean well and Al-Rajajil
Morning sightseeing tour of Sakaka with visits to Za'Abal fort, Nabatean 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 a curved groups of four, joined at the base. Now leaning at random angles, the 30 pillars, weighing over five tons each, are surrounded by speculation regarding their purpose.

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, surrounded by the rugged granite peaks of Shammar mountain, valleys, oases and ancient paleolakes, Hail is a region of dramatic and picturesque landscapes. It is also home to the largest corpus of petroglyphs in the country including those found at the archaeological site of Jubbah.


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


You will be staying at Golden Tulip Hail

Day 9

Hail sightseeing
Today explore the A'arif fort and the nearby private museum situated in the local playhouse. Spend time with local artisans who make the well-known traditional coffee pots. Around Hail are many volcanoes and a visit to the Hotainah volcano will be made.

Fly Hail to Riyadh


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


You will be staying at Holiday Inn Meydan

Day 10

Full Day 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. 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.

Diriyah is located on the banks of Wadi Hanifah and a 120 kilometre stretch of this ancient watercourse has been rehabilitated in a wetlands project that has received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

In Riyadh visit the National Museum, composed of eight galleries, which presents the story of Arabia from pre-history, to the coming of Islam and 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. The city covers an area of 1,500 square kilometres and boasts varied and exciting architecture. 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

Day 11

Full day 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 a very interesting museum laying out the history of the country since the creation of the 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 12

Fly Riyadh to London

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 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 holiday:
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Group Size:

Min 3 / Max 15

Tour Expert:

Peter Harrigan

Departure Date (S):

  • 3rd November 2017 - Guaranteed to run
  • 16th February 2018

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