Your complete guide on activities, sights to see, and hidden gems in Umluj, a coastal town and region dubbed as the "Saudi Maldives"
9 August 2020| Last updated on 10 August 2020
We found the Maldives of Saudi Arabia and it's absolutely breathtaking
The magic of the Maldives has been an irresistible call for years, turning this beautiful island paradise into a bucket list destination for many travelers. But for some, the dream of experiencing all the wonders the Maldives has to offer can be difficult to turn into reality, typically due to travel expenses.
While the plane tickets to and accommodation bookings at the Maldives aren't getting any cheaper, we found an affordable and closer alternative right here in the kingdom.
Without breaking the bank, you can still enjoy the serene stretches of silk-like sand and refreshing turquoise waters that the Maldives is famous for at Umluj, a stunning local coastal town-city. The best part? It's peaceful, quiet, and doesn't see huge crowds, but it is attracting international attention so it's recommend that you visit while it's still a hidden gem!
Visit Umluj in Saudi Arabia to get your fix of a summertime getaway that is a very close dupe to the sought-after island destination. Here is your travel guide to the Maldives of Saudi Arabia.
You'll find these picturesque beaches in Umluj, a city in the Tabuk province of Saudi Arabia that is 150km north from Yanbu and is home to over 100 islands.
Some locals and past travelers have called it the Saudi Maldives, and for good reason. You'll find stretches of white sand, deep crystal blue waters, and coral reefs to explore while snorkelling.
How to get to Umluj
It takes a little over 7 hours to drive from Tabuk to Umluj by car.
Packages can be found in most domestic travel agents, offering routes to Umluj by air or sea.
Things to do in Umluj
Find the best of Umluj with our list of things to do in the area.
Umluj has no shortage of beach and water activities, with 104 little islands to enjoy. The beaches themselves feature smooth sands, swaying palms, and a serene atmosphere perfect for a relaxing stroll or reading a book.
The area isn't as well known as the other Red Sea tourism spots, so you'll have plenty of space for picnics or beach games such as volleyball. At night, gather your friends and families around for a beach barbecue under the stars.
Explore sea life
The warm and clear waters makes Umluj a fantastic destination for diving and snorkeling. Here, you'll find an abundance of colourful coral reefs, green and Hawksbill sea turtles, nudibranches, dugongs, dolphins, over 1,200 species of fish, and more than 300 coral species - that's four times as many as the corals in the Caribbean!
If you rent a boat, you can check out secret caves and marvel at the surrounding volcanoes.
You'll find species such as kingfishers, cranes, white-tailed lapwings and much, much more by the Umluj coast. These migratory birds fly just to nest around the beaches and thrive off the local sea life.
Other islands to discover
Travel by boat for just an hour or so to visit Umluj's neighbouring islands such as Jabal Hassan. Jabal Hassan was named after the mountain that rises 200m above sea level and stretches up to 7.3km in all directions. This island, rich with beautiful beaches, fishing spots, and coral reefs, was once an ancient passageway for ships travelling between Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.
On land, you can travel from Umluj to the nearby mango farms where you'll find fresh local fruits. A little further will take you to Harrat Lunayyir, a black lava field of craters and 50 volcanic cones, perfect for those seeking sights that are off the beaten path.
Pictured: Harrat Lunayyir near Umluj, Saudi Arabia / Source: Global Volcanism Program
Take a glimpse into local history
Take a rare peak into Saudi's ancient history at the restored Umluj Castle (Tabuk Castle). The castle dates back to around 3500 BCE and has been restored many times over the years.
The Tabuk province itself is perfect for history buffs - the region is abundant in archaeological sites such as palaces, forts, and petroglyphs, as well as antiquities. You'll spot hundreds of historical rock art and inscriptions dating to different periods, including the Paleolithic and Islamic period.
Amenities and facilities in Umluj
You'll find a good number of retail, dining, leisure, and medical options in Umluj:
- Supermarkets and smaller grocery shops
- Restaurants, cafes, and cafeterias featuring a range of cheap eats to indulgent dishes
- Shopping malls and shopping centres
- Hotels and other short-stay accommodation
- Petrol stations
- Saudi Post office
- ATM machines
- Farmer's market
- Government offices
- Shops selling a wide range of goods, such as perfumes, stationery, candy, etc.
- Hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other medical centres