Saudi Arabia travel guide

No country in the world is as misunderstood as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and perhaps no other country is worthy of a visit.

Saudi Arabia is an incredibly dynamic tourist destination, boasting seemingly endless sand dunes, palm-shaded oases, dramatic mountaintops and numerous marine reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

In the west of the country you will find untamed stretches of coral-filled Red Sea coast and southwestern mountain towns such as Taif, famed for producing rose oil and rose water. The ancient history in the north is perhaps one of the country's greatest draws – the region of Al-Jouf is packed with ancient castle ruins and massive pillars carved from sandstone dating back thousands of years, while the city of AlUla is the gateway to the Hegra Archaeological Site, which features a collection of stone dwellings similar to Petra in Jordan.

A large part of the country is desert and the sands are wondrous. The Empty Quarter (Rub' al-Khali), a beautiful expanse of undulating dunes unlike anywhere in the world, is a must-see.

Then there are the cosmopolitan cities of Jeddah (on the Red Sea coast), Riyadh (the capital), and Dammam (on the Persian Gulf), all of which have undergone a remarkable cultural transformation, successfully blending ancient customs and ever-evolving lifestyles in the modern world. Here, visitors can also find world-class museums, fine-dining options, and fantastic shopping choices.

Saudi Arabia is also rich in culture and heritage. It is, after all, the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad and home to the two holiest sites in Islam: the Grand Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) in Makkah and the Prophet's Mosque (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi) in Medina; both of which draw millions of visitors each year. Understandably, the Saudis take pride in protecting the integrity of this holy land.

Saudi Arabia is perhaps an elusive and mysterious place, steeped in religion and cultural tradition to a novice visitor. But if you're willing to come for a visit, you'll discover a magnificent country with much to offer.