The best hotels in AlUla for your next desert escape
From dazzling tented villas to glamping retreats that look like they’ve been plucked straight from a film set, discover the best hotels in AlUla…
There are few places where you can still feel like a true explorer charting the unknown. AlUla, deep in the desert in the northwestern region of Saudi Arabia, is one of those places. It is anything but ordinary. And as the spotlight continues to shine on this awe-inspiring desert, a meeting place for multiple cultures for thousands of years – its hotel scene continues to grow.
These are the best hotels in AlUla.
Banyan Tree AlUla
In a neat enclave in Ashar Valley you’ll find Banyan Tree AlUla, which has given a welcome glow-up to the former Ashar Resort while still maintaining that Bedouin-inspired luxury. The sprawling 300-hectare site means the resort requires a north and south side, although it’s easy enough to get scenic buggy rides from one side to the other. All villas have the same earthy palette of warm creams, terracotta and sand reflective of the surrounds, with rolling desert vistas enjoyed from floor-to-ceiling windows. Many rooms also have their own private pool, so guests can simply indulge in the privacy of their own digs should they wish – although a dip in the jaw-dropping Rock Pool, nestled between the rugged rocks – is an unmissable part of this resort. On-property, the resort has also bolstered an impressive programme of things to do, like star gazing and horse riding with local guides. As is customary with Banyan Tree, there’s a big focus on wellness – but even the spa has been designed to blend into its surroundings. Saffron Restaurant is a Banyan Tree signature Thai restaurant that benefits from stunning views at Banyan Tree AlUla’s north pavilion. All-day dining is given an AlUla upgrade with locally-inspired breakfast dishes, expansive desert views, and a lunch menu that includes an array of healthy juices and mocktails. Read our review here.
Banyan Tree AlUla, Ashar Valley, AlUla, Saudi Arabia, rates from SAR1,873. Tel: (966) 14 512 0000, banyantree.com
Boutique eco-retreat Habitas made roots in the Ashar Valley of AlUla in 2021. Complete with 96 villas dotted across the vast desert landscape, rooms are set between manmade dunes for optimum privacy, and many feature epic mountain views from their private terraces. The best way to get around is on an electric bike, and there’s something truly freeing about whizzing through the valley that way (although there’s buggies too for those looking to give their legs a rest). The main restaurant Tama, which means ‘here and now’, is designed as a space for bringing guests together, with big lounge spaces and lots of long tables for dining in big groups. On the menu, nourishing dishes are globally influenced with a strong Middle Eastern presence, and ingredients sourced from local farms take centre stage. There’s a separate, open-air seating space, which leads out to a shimmering infinity pool: it’s the perfect spot to dip between the water and the relaxing ambience of the lounge. Habitas started as a community-focused series of events, so it makes sense that there’s plenty of other gathering spaces too, including the glass-lined reception, Moon Shell coffee lounge, and an open-air space for breathing workshops and meditation. Installations originally commissioned for the first Desert X AlUla are also shaped into the resort offering, allowing guests to ignite their inner child with a giant swing set backdropped by huge rock formations and trampolines hidden in the desert sands. Read our review here.
Habitas AlUla, Ashar Valley, AlUla 43511, rates from SAR1,350. Tel: (966) 14 821 3900, ourhabitas.com
Caravan AlUla (reopening October 2023)
Looking to really connect with the otherworldly AlUla landscape? Habitas has added a new string to its bow in the kingdom, which invites guests for a glamping experience – but not as you know it. Caravan AlUla is located a five-minute drive from the Habitas resort, so glampers checking-in benefit from all of the perks of the resort including Tama restaurant, access to the infinity pool and fitness and wellness spaces. Rather than Bedouin-inspired tents, accommodation here is in the form of retro Airstream trailers tucked into the AlUla valley. Each is fitted with cosy twin or neat double beds and has its own kitchenette, dining space and separate shower and toilet, making it a comfortable and well equipped base to serve as your AlUla starting point. It’s been given the Habitas treatment with a day bed fitted under a shaded terrace and soft furnishings in aztec prints scattered throughout. There’s separate facilities for Caravan by Habitas guests too, including the new Gathering Tent, where guests can connect over games under the shaded tent, an open-air cinema beaming films onto a rock face, and a duo of vintage food trucks where guests gather for fresh croissants at breakfast or pizzas in the afternoon.
Caravan AlUla, Al Atheeb 43570. Tel: (966) 14 821 3900, ourhabitas.com
Ashar Tented Resort
The understated, rustic design of Ashar Tented Resort is part of its charming allure, unrolling along the sandy plains of Ashar Valley. An elevated glamping resort, guests check-in to one of 44 boutique tents and villas dotted throughout the valley. Each of the deluxe digs, which come as either one- or two-bedroom configurations are designed with traditional Nabatean architecture in mind, with heritage prints, earthy tones and motifs inspired by the locale dictating the aesthetic. Inside, guests have all the facilities they could need for a comfortable stay, with en-suite bathrooms, AC and Wi-Fi in all rooms. All tents open out onto shaded decks that gaze out towards the magnificent views, while the villa rooms also come with private pools where you can cool off after a day of exploring. There’s a modern all-day dining restaurant on-site, while a short buggy ride away, guests can enjoy unrestricted access to the five-star facilities at Banyan Tree AlUla, including the spa and dazzling rock pool.
Ashar Tented Resort, Ashar Valley, rates from SAR1,027. experiencealula.com
ALSO READ: A travel guide to AlUla
Cloud 7 Residence
One of the best hotels in AlUla for feeling like you’re close to the action, Cloud7 Residence is located on the outskirts of AlUla town. But it’s slightly off-beat location means Cloud7 benefits from vast vistas of some of the most spectacular scenery in AlUla, and everything is still easily accessible. Laid out like a quaint, low-rise complex of neat bungalows, it’s designed to allow guests to create connections not only with one another – thanks to an array of community-focused spaces – but also to connect with the local area. In your modern, stripped-back unit, there’s an open-plan living room and a well equipped kitchenette for self-catering. And each of the one-bedroom bungalows has a private terrace, where you can retreat at the end of the day for a peaceful moment of reflection. But Cloud7 Residence really shines in the communal areas, with an inviting pool lined with plush loungers serving as the perfect spot to sunbathe, snooze or relax with a book in hand.
Cloud7 Residence, Al Aziziyah District, AlUla 43552, Saudi Arabia, rates from SAR1,100. Tel: (966) 50 685 7090. cloud7hotels.com
One of the best hotels in AlUla for family stays is Shaden Resort. It’s one of the original AlUla hotels, so as such the aesthetic is more traditional than some of the destination’s newer counterparts. But that’s all part of the appeal. There’s a wide array of room options – from bright guest rooms that open up to terraces and balconies, to villas that come with their own private pools. For the ultimate group getaway, there’s a Royal Suite with six bedrooms, perfect for accommodating your whole crew. The resort’s physical and metaphorical heart is a super-sized swimming pool, dotted with rainbow-hued loungers and lined with fountains, where guests can gather, take a dip, or simply soak in the stunning AlUla surroundings. The leisure facilities are impressive, with an on-site hammam and a well-equipped gym, plus there’s three restaurants and a cafe to dine at, including the AlUla outpost of Saudi Arabia’s beloved Myazu. Tap the concierge to help you plan your ultimate AlUla itinerary, who can arrange activities including tours of Hegra, fruit picking or even ziplinging.
Shaden Resort, Al-Ula, Street، AlUla, rates on request. Tel: (966) 50 604 3344. shadenresort.sa
Plus seven more hotels in AlUla opening soon…
Named after AlUla’s famous sundial, Dar Tantora is set to open in AlUla’s Old Town. Slated to open in 2024, the boutique 30 hotel rooms are made from sensitively restored mudbrick buildings bringing back a touch of ancient living with just a hint of luxury. The eco-hotel will give guests a wonderful sense of history for an authentic AlUla experience. There are up to five rooms with traditional decor and minimal modern technology to ensure you can fully relax and go off the grid for a little bit. Other amenities include a pool, spa, restaurant, and café.
The Chedi Hegra
The legendary Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first official UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a collection of 110 tombs set in the middle of the desert. It’s here that guests will be able to check in to The Chedi Hegra: a new boutique luxury hotel opening in Q4 2023. The Chedi Hegra will be built directly into already existing structures including an old railway station, Hegra Fort, and surrounding buildings. Each of the 35 guest rooms are designed to evoke the “art of travel” with minimal interiors to bring the focus to the surrounding environment as well as custom lanterns and leather furniture honouring the heritage.
Sharaan Resort by Jean Nouvel
Built into the Sharaan Nature Reserve mountain, Sharaan Resort is designed by legendary French architect Jean Nouvel. The luxurious 53-key resort will be split into suites and villas, with a fine-dining restaurant that will sit up a glass elevator and atop the mountain, offering panoramic views of the surroundings. Working in harmony with its environment, the resort’s construction is inspired by the Nabataean inhabitants who crafted their monuments as integral to the local landscape more than 2,000 years ago. The resort will also be home to an international summit centre which will host events and leaders from around the world, with a total of 13 hospitality pavilions.
Aman Hegra, Aman AlUla and Janu AlUla
First announced in 2019, Aman Resorts will open three properties in AlUla in the coming years. The first to open will be Aman Hegra in 2025, which will see an ultra-luxury Aman property built to offer sweeping views of the UNESCO-listed site. This will be followed by a second Aman property in 2027, and a resort from the brand’s new lifestyle arm, Janu. A tented camp and a desert resort style ranch are among the destinctive feels planned for the properties.
This stunning eco-luxury property is set to open by 2027 in the Nabatean Horizon District of the JTT master plan. The venue will be located near the AlMutadil Equestrian Village development and Wadi AlFann, which is a permanent desert art venue scheduled to launch by 2024. The property will feature 76 luxury villas of six different kinds, a spa, a VIP club, welcome lounges, all-day dining, and an SFER IK museum. AZULIK AlUla also aims to promote the guests’ connection to AlUla’s heritage and history by incorporating ancient rock art inscriptions in its design. No private vehicles will be allowed on the property, in their place, an all-electric mobility system along with horse and camel routes, and hiking trails for guests to enjoy the surroundings too.
Images: Experience AlUla, supplied