AlUla: the Saudi Arabian destination has swept through the world in the past few years, finding fame on social media and provoking intrigue and excitement desire. Once a stop on the Incense Route, linking the East with the West, and the epicentre of the ancient Nabatean civilisation, AlUla has been inhabited by humans for millennia. But until recently, its tawny expanses of desert valleys and rocks remained relatively untouched by tourism and outsiders – with very few hotels in AlUla, until now.
Now, AlUla is one of Saudi Arabia’s most exciting destinations as the country continues to position itself as an exciting tourism destination. Like centuries before, AlUla is once again becoming a culturally rich meeting point for people from around the globe. Until recently, AlUla’s accommodation was limited to campsites and local hotels, but the past few years have seen the arrival of some big-hitting global brands marrying modern-day luxury with Alula’s heritage. There has also been an increase in the number of Airbnbs in AlUla, with now dozens available, from chic minimalist apartments to heritage-inspired dwellings. Two luxurious resorts have opened in the past two years, and by 2035, AlUla’s expected to have more than 9400 rooms, with each luxury resort providing its own unique take on desert luxury. Here are the best hotels in AlUla open now, and opening soon.
Hotels in AlUla open now
Dar Tantora by The House Hotel
AlUla’s hotels are currently dotted around the landscape, but a new property is allowing guests to stay right in the heart of the bustling, cool and historical Old Town. Dar Tantora by The House Hotel is the newest opening in Saudi Arabia’s living museum, located in repurposed mud-brick buildings in the charming Old Town village and offering a true boutique experience with just 30 rooms. The hotel offers a more intimate, guest-house-like experience than other hotels in AlUIa, with Saudi-inspired design and details, textures and furnishings, and five rooms can be booked with minimal modern technology for a true step back in time to the AlUla of yesteryear. Breakfast is served in-room or in the verdant oasis-like garden, and the rooftop is home to a trendy artisan coffee shop offering views of the maze of mud-brick buildings.
@dartantora, irthospitality.com, email@example.com
Built from an idea born at Burning Man festival, millennial-focused Habitas began life as a brand that brought together a like-minded community of travellers around immersive events. Known for its bohemian resorts in Mexico’s Tulum and Namibia (and opening soon, the coast of Qatar), the dynamic brand opened a 96-villa luxury eco-resort Habitas AlUla in the desert canyons of Ashar Valley in 2021, marking a new dawn of luxury in the ancient desert landscape. Guests stay in stylish container-like villas scattered across a vast swath of sand, built to not disturb the landscape, with well-appointed terraces facing the soaring expanses of rock. Villas boast outdoor showers and traditional Saudi design touches like majlis and woven blankets. The pool and Tama restaurant preside over it all from the far end of the resort, designed at the highest point to bring people together, while the Thuraya wellness centre offers yoga classes and spa treatments. Self-described as a brand that prioritises “human connection and experiences over the traditional luxury experience of five-star hotels”, Habitas AlUla consciously blends seamlessly into its desert surroundings, offering visitors historical and cultural experiences to connect them with the Ashar Valley and wider AlUla region. AlUla is a burgeoning art destination, and several installations from DesertX 2020 are still tucked away across the grounds – use the complimentary e-bikes parked by each suite to set out on a fun adventure to find them all.
Villas from AED1,700; ourhabitas.com
Banyan Tree AlUla
While Habitas brings laid-back cool and a feeling of community, Banyan Tree AlUla, the debut property for the brand in Saudi Arabia, brings opulent desert luxury. The desert resort opened its doors in the otherworldly Ashar Valley in late 2022, overlooking Maraya – the world’s largest mirrored building – and sparsely spread across the desert and rocks. Banyan Tree AlUla’s 79 tented villas blend seam seamlessly with the UNESCO-protected Ashar Valley: modern and stylish with Arabian design touches and desert tones, plush king-sized beds and bathrooms spilling outdoors. All villas have terraces with fire pits and valley view, and pool villas become their own desert oases. Restaurants include Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant Saffron and local Harrat, with its terrace overlooking Maraya. Other highlights include an awe-inspiring rock pool, sandwiched between the soaring cliffs, and the serene Banyan Tree spa with its Thai treatments.
Villas from AED2,915; banyantree.com
Caravan by Habitas
Tucked away from the main site of Habitas AlUla guests will find a very different desert living experience: Caravan by Habitas. While the main site offers private desert luxury, Caravan offers a glamping-style stay with a more energetic and convivial vibe – a collection of 22 kitted-out Airstream trailers parked around communal majlis tents. Caravan offers a more pared-back, high-fun experience compared to its neighbours while offering the creature comforts AlUla travellers are after. Airstreams are thoughtfully designed with comfy beds and locally sourced antiques, and there’s a small bathroom with a toilet and shower, kitchenette and outdoor deck for enjoying the serene desert landscape. While there’s no restaurant, a cluster of food trucks keep guests fed and watered, made to order by lively and obliging staff and serving pizzas, sandwiches and coffee.
Airstreams from AED930; ourhabitas.com
Hotels in AlUla opening soon
The Chedi Hegra – opening 2024
The five-star Chedi brand is known for its luxurious properties which blend in seamlessly with their environment and are inspired by the locale, and its AlUla property will be no different. The Chedi Hegra is set to open in 2024, bringing the service and design-led experience the brand is known for in properties like The Chedi Al Bait Sharjah, The Chedi Muscat and The Chedi Katara to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hotel will sit near the ancient Nabataean site and be integrated with existing historical structures like an old railway station, with some original mud-brick walls also featuring throughout. The Chedi Hegra will have 35 guest rooms distinctly inspired by the landscape and traditions of Hegra and AlUla along with a restaurant, a cafe, spa and a swimming pool.
Sharaan by Jean Nouvel – opening 2024
Renowned French architect Jean Nouvel is set to seriously raise the stakes with the opening of Sharaan by Jean Nouvel resort, a subterranean hotel carved into the multi-million-year-old sandstone hills of AlUla. Set to open in July 2023, the resort will be unlike any other, featuring, 40 guest suites and three resort villas, plus a retreat summit centre near the resort with 14 private pavilions. According to plans, the resort is set to be located near the ruins of the ancient city of Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and will pay tribute to the 2,000-year-old’s architectural legacy by incorporating it in its design. Though much of the resort will focus on AlUla’s natural landscape and ancient heritage, guests will also enjoy state-of-the-art facilities and a hefty dose of modernity. Public spaces will highlight the natural environment from day to night, guest rooms will embrace the natural colours and materials of AlUla, and a scenic express lift will bring guests to the heart of the resort.
Aman AlUla and Janu AlUla – opening from 2025
Aman’s resorts are found only in the world’s most beautiful locations, so it’s only right the pioneering brand should set its eyes on magical AlUla. The luxury brand, known for its paradisical Asian resorts and high-luxe European hotels, is opening three new hotels in AlUla from 2025, each offering guests a different way to discover the region. The main resort will open in 2025, the tented camp in 2026 and, part of Aman’s more affordable sister brand Janu, a spectacular ranch-style desert resort to live out your Lone Ranger fantasies will open in 2027. s with its existing resorts, Aman will work diligently to preserve the archaeological sites in AlUla and ensure a seamless blending of their properties with the surrounding nature. Each of the three new properties has a different personality for different kinds of vacationers.
Newly announced: Six Senses Alula – opening 2027
Saudi Arabia has just announced that, in 2027, a Six Senses resort will open in AlUla. Perfectly aligned with the brand’s wellness and environmental DNA, the resort will open in a spectacular natural oasis gramed by lush palm groves and dramatic red-sandstone cliffs. The resort will have 100 guest villas, 25 residences and promises to have the ultimate wow factor – not only in its architecture but also in its experiences and activities available for guests. When it opens, the property will offer sunrise yoga and meditation classes, moon bathing, evening singing bowl ceremonies, and moon and starlit dining. There will also be initiatives to preserve the local wildlife – particularly the Arabian leopard – and Six Senses AlUla will host international music and artist collaborations, global wellness, yoga, and retreat programming.