5 lesser-known escapes located less than five hours from Jeddah
From islands to hot springs, there is something for everyone…
There is so much to do and see in Jeddah, but if you are looking for an escape, there are a lot of great staycation spots just a quick drive away from the city.
Here are five spots for a quick holiday near Jeddah.
Taif is easily one of the dreamiest cities in Saudi Arabia, with a look and a feel like no other. The hilltop city rests at an altitude of 1,900 meters and is easily accessible by road. Because of its altitude, the weather is always breezy – even during the summer when nearby cities such as Mecca and Jeddah are scorching hot.
Taif is agricultural, so you can spend a whole weekend just walking around the streets and trying delicious fresh fruit such as pomegranates, figs, grapes, and more, grown in the city and sold by local vendors.
There are also several parks, great restaurants, and some historical sites and museums worth exploring. It takes approximately two hours from Jeddah to get to Taif, and the city has hotels for all budgets – making it a perfect staycation spot.
During the stay, don’t forget to visit one of Taif’s rose gardens. Al Gadhi Rose Factory is one of the oldest in town and is open to visitors.
Local rose farmers weigh their rose petals on antique scales so they can be pressed into rose oil, which is used in luxury perfumes across the region.
There is just so much to explore at the Farasan Islands that you can spend days there and still have places left to discover. But if that is not in the cards right now, a long weekend getaway works just as well to experience the white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, mangrove forests, and so much more.
The Farasan Islands are a large coral island group in the Red Sea to the south of Jeddah. You will need to drive to Jizan, which is around an eight-hour drive, and then take a ferry to the island. Free public ferries depart Jizan twice a day at 7am and 3.30pm, but you should be there an hour (or two if you plan to take your car) early for the security checks.
You will also need your passport and a ticket that can be purchased at the port. Ferries leave the islands and return to Jizan twice a day at the same time.
The cluster of the 80-plus islands are a complete escape from city life and offer scenic views of the sea and local mangrove forests. Expect white beaches, dunes, some heritage sites, including an Ottoman fort and an old mosque.
The island is also home to a very rare breed of the Arabian gazelle.
Dive Sites by the Red Sea
The coral reefs by Saudi Arabia’s west coast are some of the most pristine in the Red Sea, and there are many dive sites near Jeddah that offer experiences for everyone, from beginners to advanced divers.
Sharm Obhur, which is just a 45-minute drive from Jeddah, is one of the most easily accessible shore dives with beautiful waters that are home to clownfish, eels, bull sharks, and a variety of coral reefs.
In addition, several diving schools, including the Blue Reef Divers, are located nearby and offer gear rental and courses for beginners.
Al Lith is a cosy little town around three hours’ drive from Jeddah. Nearby is a valley that offers a charming escape from the city life.
Think sandy hills and patches of green, with a hot spring valley and quaint houses surrounded by grazing livestock. The hot springs are soothing, and so is the view, with hills on one side and grass stretching for miles on the other.
And the best part is that the spot is still relatively unheard of locally, so it is usually peaceful. The isolated valley is easily found on Google Maps.
Al Baha is another rare hilltop city in Saudi Arabia, and visiting it is like taking a step into another world. The city is surrounded by forests, making it an oasis in the desert.
The drive from Jeddah will take just less than five hours by car, and there is a lot to explore, so start your trip early in the morning.
You will know that you are nearing the city when you see baboons from the nearby forest standing by the road and watching vehicles passing by.
A road through the forest also leads to an ancient village of Dhee Ayn, which has ruins from four centuries ago.
Images: Visit Saudi / Twitter