Ben Hoffler, a hiking consultant, reveals the untapped beauty of Saudi Arabia’s diverse landscapes, far beyond the stereotypical desert image. Having developed trails in Egypt and Jordan, Hoffler is now working to unveil Saudi Arabia’s ancient routes for hikers worldwide.
A Hiker’s Paradise Beyond Deserts
Saudi Arabia, known for its vast deserts, offers much more to the keen explorer. Places like Wadi Al Disah, a lush, spring-fed valley in the southwest Tabuk province, and the Tuwaiq Mountains near Riyadh, with its breathtaking “Edge of the World” viewpoint, showcase the country’s natural diversity. From volcanic craters like Al Wahbah to the serene and historical Wadi Al Disah, Saudi Arabia is a treasure trove for hikers.
Moonlit Surprises and Bedouin Hospitality
Hoffler’s experiences, like waking up surrounded by camels in the Hisma desert, add a magical touch to the adventure. His encounters with the Bedouin, known for their hospitality, enrich the hiking experience, offering a glimpse into the local culture and heritage.
Developing a Hiking Infrastructure
While the hiking infrastructure is still developing, the Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation, led by Yasmin Gahtani, is working to make the trails more accessible and tourist-friendly. The aim is to create guidebooks and maps to help independent explorers navigate the varied terrain safely and enjoyably.
Epic Landscapes and Biodiversity
The Hejaz mountains offer stunning views stretching from the Red Sea to Africa. The mountains inland of Umluj feature unique volcanic landscapes, including lava fields and enormous lava tubes. The Hisma desert, with its red sand and towering rock formations, is a geological wonder, stretching into Jordan.
Southern Serenity and Mountain Majesty
The Sarawat mountain range in the southwest Asir region is home to Saudi’s highest peaks, including Jabal Sawda and Jabal Ferwa’. Al Soudah, a tourist hub with a cable car to Jabal Sawda, is part of the government’s Vision 2030 to develop luxury destinations. This region, with its wet seasons and lush vegetation, offers a stark contrast to the arid desert landscapes typically associated with Saudi Arabia.
A Future Hiking Destination
Saudi Arabia, with its diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage, has the potential to become one of the world’s leading hiking destinations. As Hoffler and others work to develop and promote its trails, this hidden gem awaits discovery by hikers and nature enthusiasts from around the globe.