7 Must Visit Places in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia | ExpatWoman.com

7 Must Visit Places in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Discover our top 7 picks of the best places to visit in Riyadh and fall in love with the city

Posted on

21 May 2018

Last updated on 28 October 2019
7 Must Visit Places in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Image Credit: @hamzaahmedisme

Most people have the wrong perception about Riyadh, thinking that it is a dull and strict city with very little to do. This is however very far from the truth. Even though strict, Riyadh offers a number of activities and places which you can visit and explore. In fact, you actually needn’t drive too far to find a place with something to do, or hidden treasures for you to explore.

The next time that you are sitting at home looking for an adventure, why not go and explore the city and discover some of your own hidden treasures in Riyadh? In the meantime, to get you started, here are 7 of our favourite must-visit places in Riyadh:

The Diplomatic Quarter Parks

Located on the edge of Wadi Hanifa, the Diplomatic Quarter Park (DQ) was first built in the 1970’2 as accommodation for diplomats and as well as the embassy area. The accommodation in the area is now open to anyone to live. The park itself consists of over 30 parks or gardens with lush greenery and an ample amount of open spaces where you can walk. There is also a 20km track around the DQ and the best part yet is that this is an abaya free zone - expat residents are often seen walking in ‘normal’ clothes in the park.

The park itself is beautifully maintained and offers grass fields, fountains, picnic areas, pavilions, courtyards, benches, shaded walkways, private seating areas, flowers that are in bloom all year round and interesting rock formations to admire.

The gardens also offer fascinating architecture as they were designed by a group of international landscape architects. The architect’s aimed to preserve the natural environment using natural materials and native plants. As a result, all of the plants in the DQ parks are endemic to the Arabian Peninsula.

You can visit the park free of charge all day, any day of the week!

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Red Sands Flower Fields

This destination is unfortunately somewhat seasonal and depends on how much rain the desert received. Heading out on the Mecca highway West, just past a town called Jauw you can find not only beautiful red dunes but also dunes that are covered in grass growing from underneath rocks and numerous flowers in bloom.

Even though the dunes, unfortunately, have a lot of litter on them, this is still a beautiful and surprisingly quiet destination that can be a great destination for some amazing pictures or even a picnic out in nature if you feel the need for something different.

We recommend that you go during springtime and take an SUV for this trip, else you might get stuck!

The Edge Of The World

Located in the Acacia valley, this is one of the truly unique and special destinations that you should visit in Saudi Arabia. “The edge of the world” is a large escarpment with a breath-taking view of Riyadh. Once you arrive at the cliff, you can choose to either climb up to the edge or down to the valley. Either way you are going to climb and walk a lot so be sure to pack enough water.

Also be sure to look for fossils while you are there. This after all use to be the bottom of the ocean approximately 50 million years ago!

It is located approximately 90 km outside of Riyadh and should be travelled to using a 4x4 vehicle. We recommend rather driving in a convoy and ensuring before leaving that all the cars have a full tank, shovel, tow strap, spare tires and tire repair kits. The road is quite rough and gets very sandy in certain patches – you might get stuck if you go by yourself.

The gates to the Acacia Valley close every evening at 6 pm so it is important to note that you will be stranded in the park for the night if you don’t make it out in time. This is also a natural sight with no fences or warning signs, anywhere. If you choose to go there it is at your own risk and your responsibility to be extra careful and vigilant with children around.

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Red Sand Dunes

The red sand dunes in north-eastern Riyahd is also known as the hidden valley. This is a fun day adventure over the weekend for some fun in the desert. The red sand dunes are located approximately an hour away from Riyadh, close to the Al Khararrah Park. This is a popular destination for both expats and locals alike. You are able to rent four-wheelers there, drive around yourself or have a BBQ.

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The King’s Forest

More commonly known as Rawdat Khuraim, the King’s Forest is the perfect oasis to head to for a picnic or just to break away from the city life’s rat race.

The park is not only a tranquil retreat for people, but is also a sanctuary for various rare species such as gazelles. This means that there is a restricted area that the public cannot access.

There is an estimated 132 species of wild plants and 42 species of animals present in Rawdat Khuraim. This is another great destination if you love the outdoors, want a place to go hiking, go for a picnic or just spend time outdoors.

It is not uncommon to have the place to yourself during weekdays and women are also allowed to remove their abayas if they wish.

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Wadi Hanifa

Wadi Hanifa is a valley that runs for 120 km from northwest to southeast through Riyadh. It has unique geographical features for the dry region of Riyadh and was nearly lost because of the rapid development of Riyadh and waste being dumped in the Wadi.

Luckily the Arriyadh Development Authority stepped in and implemented a comprehensive development strategy that aims to restore and preserve this natural wadi as well as develop it into as an environmental, recreational and tourism resource.

The wadi was originally known as Wadi Al-Irdh in the pre-Islamic era but was renamed to Wadi Hanifa after the Bani Hanifa that lived in the area.

The Secret Lake

The secret lake of Riyadh has been a very well-guarded secret for a number of years in the fear that picnic goers and other visitors will leave the area littered and filthy. Unfortunately, (but fortunately for us) the location of Riyadh’s secret lake has eventually been leaked. It is located in an area called Wuber and is most probably the closest of all the locations listed here.

You do not require a 4x4 to reach the destination although it will make the commute a bit easier. There is a hike that you can embark on at the hiking trail else it is a lovely spot to just sit and relax by the water and enjoy a picnic with your loved ones.

There have been some rumours that the lakes have started to run dry this year because of the little rainfall. We can however not confirm this hence you would have to go and explore whether there are still any water left or not.

You won’t get bored anytime soon with so many untouched natural landscapes in Saudi Arabia to explore. Simply get in your car, choose a direction and off you go! Our only request to you while exploring these destinations are that you will take nothing but memories and leave nothing but footprints.