Visiting the Asir Province in Saudi Arabia

Asir Province
Share Me!

The Asir Province (also the Asir Region or Aseer) is located in the southwestern part of Saudi Arabia, bordering Yemen and the Red Sea.  The capital city of the region is Abha with 1+ million residents making it the sixth most populous city in the Kingdom (in total the Asir Region has about 2 million people living there).  This Province is well known for its temperate climate, having the highest point in Saudi Arabia, historic villages, and Al-Qatt Al-Asiri (a famous art-style native to the region).

I was living in Riyadh and when I decided it was time to get out of the city and start exploring, I originally picked the Asir Province and it was the most pleasant surprise!  It was my first trip out of Riyadh (and solo might I add), so escaping the heat for a few days and hunkering down in the cool mountains was the perfect two-day getaway.  Below you’ll find everything that you need to know about visiting this region in Saudi Arabia!

 

Should You Visit the Asir Province in Saudi Arabia?

Before reading further, I only recommend visiting this region if you’re able to hire a guide (details below).  Visiting Abha itself isn’t worth it as the true gems of the region lie outside of the capital.  I also don’t recommend coming to Saudi Arabia just to see this region.  While I loved the Asir Region and would suggest it if you’re doing a tour of the country (or you’re living in the country looking for a short weekend trip), it isn’t worth it to visit Saudi Arabia for Abha or the region alone.

 

Read more:

 

Where is the Asir Province?

The Asir Province is a region located in the southwest of Saudi Arabia, defined by its rich green mountains and cool climate – a stark contrast to the country’s desert landscape. It borders Yemen to the south and stretches up to the Red Sea coast to the west.  Abha, the capital of Asir Province, serves as a central hub for exploring the surrounding areas known for their stunning natural beauty and cultural depth. The province offers a unique glimpse into traditional Saudi life through its preserved heritage and local crafts.  Asir is also famous for its terraced farming and the Al-Soudah Park, the highest peak in Saudi Arabia.

 

What is the Best Time to Visit Abha & the Asir Province?

The Asir Province in Saudi Arabia offers a unique climate ideal for visitors, particularly during the milder months.  The best time to visit is from September to March when the weather is cooler and more pleasant compared to the scorching heat typical of the region during summer.  The shoulder season, particularly April and May, also provides an opportunity to experience the region with fewer tourists and still agreeable weather.

I visited in September and the weather was great.  I also didn’t think there were too many tourists as overall Saudi Arabia doesn’t get a huge amount of tourists to start with.

 

Is Abha/the Asir Province Safe?

I visited this region in Saudi Arabia as a solo female traveler and yes, I felt safe but I still took major safety precautions.  First, I hired a guide and he made sure to tell me not to let anyone know where I was staying.  (That was something that was strange, many locals would come up to me and ask me where I was staying and I assume it was a mix of intrigue from not seeing solo female American travelers in the region, and perhaps a mix of sheer nosy-ness).  I also made sure to follow the local customs and dress appropriately, etc.

Overall – yes, Abha and the Asir Province is safe but you might feel out of place or “weird” as a westerner.  But again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t safe – it’s just very different.  It’s a hard feeling to put into words.

 

How to Get to the Asir Province

Depending on where you’re visiting from, you can fly or drive into the Asir Province.  If you fly, the main city in the area is in Abha – Abha International Airport.  (If you’re visiting from Riyadh the flight is about an hour and a half and the drive is about nine hours).

There are two budget airlines that fly to the region – Flyadeal and Flynas.  Both airlines run multiple routes throughout the day from Riyadh to Abha and the prices are pretty affordable.  You can also fly the national carrier – Saudia – to the region.

From the airport you can either plan ahead and hire a private driver to pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel, or grab a taxi/rideshare upon arrival.  Know that there will be men who ask if you need a ride and try to take you to cars that aren’t designated taxi cars.  While this isn’t necessarily unsafe, it just costs a lot more than taking a traditional taxi or rideshare.  If you do happen to do it this way, know that you can haggle and prices should cost around 30-60 Riyals to get to the city of Abha.  If you want to take a rideshare both Uber and Bolt operate in Abha, but I had better luck with Uber.

 

BOOK A FLIGHT TO THE ABHA HERE!

 

Where to Stay in the Asir Province

Depending on the type of trip you’re craving to have, you can either choose to stay in a nice, plush hotel.  Or you can experience life more “locally” by staying in a village.

When I visited, I chose to base myself in Abha and explore from there.  I stayed at the Blue Inn Boutique hotel in the heart of the city.  This hotel was in centrally located, comfortable, had a buffet breakfast, and great amenities.  My only complaint was that the Wi-Fi was weak and didn’t work well.

If you’d rather go the more traditional route and stay in a village, I happened upon a 300-year old “house” located in Rijal Almaa.  The house is spacious and well-kept, but you’re sleeping in an open air room with small beds that don’t have mattresses.  (I did lay down on one of the beds and it was comfortable but might not be the best option if you’re wanting to stay more than 1-2 nights).  Rija Almaa is about a 2-hour drive from the airport so you’ll have to hire a private guide to drive you back and forth.  The owner of the home is Ibrahim – if you want to stay and need a private driver you can contact him on WhatsApp – +966 56 129 3126.

Here are some more hotels in Abha I’d recommend…

 

BOOK YOUR STAY IN ABHA HERE!

 

How Long Should You Visit the Asir Region?

To see the highlights of the Asir Region you don’t need more than a couple of days.  I recommend spending one or two nights in the region while having at least a full day to explore.

I flew into Abha in the afternoon, spent one night in Abha, then toured the region the next day.  I returned to Abha for a second night and left the following morning.  My two night, three day stay was the perfect amount of time.  However, if you can find a flight late at night from Abha on the second night, you only need to spend one night in the region.

 

Things to See and Do in the Asir Province

I spent an entire day driving around the region and saw some incredible spots!  Of course, there were things that I didn’t get to due to time constraints which I’ll mention in case you’d like to build them into your itinerary.

 

Al Yanfa

Al Yanfa is a village built on the Sahn Tamniah mountain range.  It’s a wonderful representation of unique homes, being built of stone and mud (amongst other things).  It’s also unique for having built in passageways to get through the village, all of which close at night to protect against intruders.  You can read about the unique intricacies of Al Yanfa here.

 

Al Habala Hanging Village

Al Habala also known as the “hanging village” is a 370-year old village built into the face of a mountain, in a valley.  (It’s quite hard to explain, but reference the photo above). Back in the day, the only way to reach Al Habala was by rope, but now this village is reachable by cable car on Fridays and Saturdays.  Unfortunately, once tourists started to visit, locals were required to move out.  But some of them still come back to perform local dances for tourists.

 

Bees Tower Honey Refinery

Located near the village of Rijal Almaa you’ll find a quaint honey farm.  Honey is popular in the region because of the climate and the amount of flowery shrubs and trees that are available to bees.  At the Bees Tower Honey Refinery you will pay 10 Riyal to enter and can tour the honey hut, see bees hard at work, and taste different types of honey.  You can also relax with a cup of coffee and learn about different medicinal properties of honey.

 

Drive Souda Mountain

I highly recommend making the drive down Souda Mountain to Rijal Almaa.  As you go down the mountain you’ll be navigating hairpin turns, and trust me when I tell you that the ride is as thrilling as it is beautiful.  There’s also an option to take a cable car down to the village, however I don’t recommend it.

Before you make the drive down, make sure to stop at the top for views of the road you’ll be driving.  Lots of baboons hang out in this area, so your chances of seeing some are pretty high.  There’s also a beautiful fruit stand at the top of the mountain before you make the drive down.

 

Rijal Almaa

Rijal Almaa is a 900-year old village that gained popularity as a regional trade center for people moving between Yemen and Levant through the Holy City of Makkah and Medina.  Today, nobody lives in the historic “old village” but you can pay 20 Riyal to tour it and see the famous art form of the region painted on the buildings – Al-Qatt Al-Asiri.  The buildings here are made of clay, stone, and mud and there are about 60 in total.  There are a few cafes and restaurants in town so come for lunch and enjoy the beautiful views.

 

Tuesday Market

While the name is deceiving, the Tuesday Market is held in Abha and it occurs every day of the week (although Tuesday is the most popular day).  Here you’ll find different vendors from all over the region and you can buy hand crafted goods, traditional Saudi food, spices, and more.

 

Popular activities in the region that I didn’t get a chance to do include paragliding, walking the Al Dhabab Walkway, visiting The Art Street in Abha, and touring the Al Basta District.

 

2 Day Itinerary for Visiting the Asir Region

DAY 1

  • Fly into Abha in the afternoon
  • Eat an early dinner at Jorry Elite (you can choose between Italian, Lebanese, and international food – I recommend Lebanese)
  • Enjoy the views from Abu Kheyal Park
  • Visit Art Street to check out artwork and have coffee at a cafe
  • Overnight in Abha

 

DAY 2

  • Arrange for a tour around the region – let your guide choose where to go or plan your own itinerary (don’t miss Souda Mountain, driving to Rijal Almaa, and the Tuesday Market)
  • Return to Abha and fly out at night (after 2100 if possible; if you can’t find a night flight stay one more night and leave the following morning)

 

Tips for Visiting the Asir Region

Below I’m sharing my best tips for visiting the region:

  • Hire a guide – As stated earlier, I highly recommend hiring a guide when exploring this region.  You certainly could drive it alone, but the roads can be scary at times and the guides will know the best places to take you.  At the time of writing (2022), full-day tour guides in this region cost about 1500 SAR or $400 not including food and entrance to sites.  If you’re looking for a guide, send a WhatsApp message to Adnan +966 55 399 4853.  If he’s busy he can point you to someone else that is free to take you on a tour.
  • Dress appropriately – Being in Saudi Arabia, especially in a smaller area, please consider your dress code before venturing out.  You don’t need to wear an abaya or a hijab, but you need to make sure that your shoulders, knees, and chest are covered.
  • Be aware at all times – Saudi Arabia is a generally safe country, but that doesn’t mean that you should let your guard down.  Basic safety tips to follow include:  don’t tell anyone where you’re staying (locals like to ask), if you’re alone lie and say you’re meeting a friend/husband, don’t tell anyone where you’re going next (my guide told me stories of “stalkers” following them around once they found out what the stops on the tour were), if you’re a woman I recommend just saying that you’re married right off the bat to avoid probing questions, etc.
  • Always ask permission before taking photos – If you’re wanting to photograph something (or someone) always ask permission first.  Know that it’s illegal to photograph women in the country and that you can get fined for posting a photo of someone without asking for their permission first.  Common sense is to just ask permission before you start clicking away!
  • Don’t forget travel insurance – I make sure to use SafetyWing when traveling to ensure that everything is insured in case something were to go wrong.

 

Saudi Arabia Essentials – What You Need & Need to Know About Visiting Saudi Arabia

TRAVELING THROUGH SAUDI ARABIA

  • Download Uber to get a taxi
  • To book a flight to Saudi Arabia, I recommend using a big search engine to compare options
  • Saudi Arabia does require a visa, you can purchase one through iVisa
  • I highly recommend travel insurance when traveling through Saudi Arabia – I use and recommend SafetyWing
  • If you want an English speaking driver waiting to pick you up at the airport, use Welcome Pickups (select cities only)
  • If you need a SIM card, aloSIM for an easy and affordable e-SIM – use code “KYLEE5” for a discount

ACCOMODATION IN SAUDI ARABIA

  • To easiest way to book hotels in Saudi Arabia is through Booking.com or Expedia
  • The easiest way to book rentals in Saudi Arabia is through VRBO

TOURS IN SAUDI ARABIA

  • For tours and activities in Saudi Arabia, I recommend using Viator

WHAT TO BRING TO SAUDI ARABIA

 

This region is a beautiful part of Saudi Arabia rich in culture, history, and sites to explore.  It’s a lovely escape during the summertime and I hope to come back to get to know the region more in depth.  Keep in mind, I visited the region as a solo female traveler and by following the general safety tips that I mentioned above, I felt safe in this part of the country.  If you have any questions about visiting the Asir Province, let me know in a comment below!

 


For a more visual look at the Asir Province in Saudi Arabia, head to my Instagram page/highlight reel by searching #ppinsaudiarabia or the “Saudi II” highlight


 

Pin Me!

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no cost to you.  Passports and Preemies is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees.

 


Share Me!
Follow:
passportsandpreemies
passportsandpreemies

Kylee is a NICU nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee has been a NICU nurse for 9 years and a travel nurse for 7 years. Since starting her career in travel nursing, she’s worked in six different states, 10 different hospitals, volunteered as a nurse in North Macedonia, worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, and has traveled to 45+ countries. Her favorite travel nurse assignment was in Seattle and her favorite destination is Georgia (the country). Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *