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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’ve been 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!
Visiting 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: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Saudi Arabia
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.
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.
How Long Should You Visit the Region/When’s the Best Time to Visit?
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.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Asir is during Saudi’s summer months – June-August. Because you’re in the mountains the temperatures are much cooler while the rest of the country is blazing hot, so it’s a nice escape. Of course, everyone knows that these are the best months to visit the region so you’ll be dealing with more crowds, but generally it shouldn’t be too overwhelming as it’s still a region that needs to pick up in tourism. The coldest time to visit Asir is in January, and the rainy season is from March-May.
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 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 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.
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.
Proposed 2 Day Itinerary for Visiting the Region
- Fly into Abha in the afternoon
- Eat an early dinner at Jorry Cafe (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
- 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 World Nomads when traveling to ensure that everything is insured in case something were to go wrong.
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 very safe in this part of the country.
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