in the middle
This vast land of dried river beds, wavy desert landscapes and twisting dust storms occupies the very heart of the Arabian Peninsula. Steeped in religious history, it claims the birthplace of The Prophet Muhammad at Mecca, along with a fascinating place at the point where the West has mingled with the East for centuries along the tendrils of the desert trading routes to the Orient.
Before travelling here, be sure to check out the latest travel advice and then use dealchecker to get the best cheap hotels in Saudi Arabia, and come explore the modernism of Jeddah, the colossal Masmak Fortress of Riyadh, the shimmering Red Sea and the shifting deserts for less.
Both the past and the present are palpable in Jeddah, which is one of the reasons why so many travellers, traders, pilgrims and business folk will flock to Saudi Arabia's self-proclaimed commercial kingpin every year. Opt for a hotel near the crumbling coral stone homes of al-Balad (Old Jeddah) to feel the history. Or, go for a stylish new resort atop the Red Sea Corniche, where palms rise against the ocean and supercars whizz by.
Ridyha rises from the middle of the Arabian Desert like some spaceship in the sands. Packed with reflective high-rises and amazing institutions, it goes from the beating heart of Cairo Square to the medieval forts and souqs of Deira.
Out-of-bounds to non-Muslims, Mecca – the birthplace of The Prophet – is one of the most-visited cities in the nation. It packs with pilgrims every year during the annual Hajj, who flock to the Kaaba in the midst of the Sacred Mosque, two of the holiest sites in all Islam.
For Muslim visitors (non-Muslims are forbidden from entering the city centre) the historic reaches of Medina are a must. At its center stands the great Al-Masjid an-Nabawi – a patchwork of mihrabs and minarets that are home to the revered tomb of Muhammad. And around this majestic piece of Islamic architecture there's a sprawl of enthralling markets, stacked with prayer rugs, religious memorabilia and Tasbeeh.
When the summer heat gets just a little too much, consider looking for Saudi Arabia hotels in the hills of the southern provinces. Away from the desert, this is where Abha cascades down the mountains, and the cable cars of Jabal Sooda rise high above the monkey-dotted ridges of the Asir National Park.
There's also plenty of interest between the arid dunes of the outback. Check the UNESCO site of Madain Saleh for carved monolith tombs from centuries gone by, created by the Nabateans of Petra fame. Or, simply hit the dunes in a 4X4 to get the adrenaline flowing.