Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Top Ten Things To Do In And Around Abha

My article on Destination Riyadh's May travel issue:
Top 10 Things To Do In Abha And Around

Abha region is a very popular holiday destination in the summer due its beautiful scenery, the famous misty mountain tops and cooling breezes.  Tourists from all over the GCC flock here to escape the sweltering summer heat. At an elevation of 2200m above the Red Sea, the area enjoys pleasant weather year round.  Asir region has plenty of activities to do and it might be a challenge to decide between all of the activities. Here are my top ten to do list from Abha and around in no particular order:
1.  Visit the New Abha resort and The Abha Lake Dam. Stroll around the lakeside in the 300,000sqm garden and dine at the luxurious Abha Palace Hotel with fantastic views of the lake and the city. You can take a scenic cable car ride from the resort to the Green Mountain.
2. Take a thrilling cable car ride down to Habala, the Hanging Village. This ancient village was built halfway down a cliff face and it used to be only accessible by ropes. It’s believed that the villagers fled the Ottomans here and lived in isolation completely self sufficiently until they were rediscovered by a Saudi army helicopter. The site is a unique piece of Saudi history but unfortunately it has become quite commercialized in the last few years but it’s still worth the visit.
3.Drive up to the Green Mountain in the middle of Abha city. The “mountain” is actually a hill overlooking the city which is beautifully lit with green lights in the night. There’s a restaurant and cafĂ© on the top with a nice outdoor terrace enjoying amazing views of Abha. Try the mint tea and sheesha while enjoying the sunset and the cool breezes on the terrace. On the way up be sure to stop at the excellent souvenir shop. There’s also a small restaurant decorated like a traditional Asiri mud house in the basement of the shop.

4. Take a bird watching or tour with the Asir Tourism Board to the various parks inside Asir National Park such as Al Qara'a, Al Souda, Al Wardeh, Dalafan, Al Jarrah, and Al Hassab.  Wander around the juniper forests and spot some of the 170 bird species that make this region their home.

  5. Take in the jaw dropping scenery in Soudah and marvel at the highest mountains in Saudi Arabia including the tallest peak, Jebel Soudah rising to 2910m. The mountains are famous for the mist covering the mountain tops which makes the atmosphere almost mystical. It’s always cool and serene up here.  Enjoy a picnic in full privacy with only the wildlife to interrupt the silence.

 6. Take the Al Soudah cable car ride down to Rijal Al Ma’a mud brick village. Visit the museum and library and the traditional food restaurant or just take a stroll in the beautiful valley.

 7. Try some extreme sports in an extremely beautiful environment. Paraglide or mountain bike down the Soudah mountains. A French group organizes these in the summer months in addition to rock climbing near Habala.

   8.  Discover Asir regions traditional architecture by visiting the Shada Palace, Al Milfa Palace and the old mud houses dotted around Abha. Visit the Al Miftaha village turned museum to see how people lived back in the day.
9.  Meet the famous Arabian Baboons that can be spotted beside most of the mountain roads. There’s a population of them near the Soudah cable car ride scavenging food from tourists. Be mindful of children with food in their hands, the baboons might attempt to grab it!

  10.  Explore the legendary Asiri souqs that have been named after the days they've been held on for centuries; Abha’s Tuesday market (Souq Al Thulatha) and its sister city Khamis Mushayt’s Thursday Market ( Souq al Khamis). The Tuesday market has a separate women’s souq run by all female vendors and the Thursday Market boasts some of the best gold and silver Bedouin jewelry in the region. Other finds are white or gold honey, colorful straw baskets and hats, traditional embroidered women’s dresses, Jambiyah (daggers), frankincense and ‘shab’ a white powder used by locals as a natural deodorant and antiseptic.


No_Bishopers said...

Oh my goodness! When I read about the baboons, I thought it referred to the photo of the man ABOVE the caption! I was shocked! Then I scrolled down and laughed at myself for being stunned.

The other stunning features are your photos. It's a vacation without leaving my dead oaks and poison ivy.

Mrs Aquarius said...

Beautiful photos Laylah! I really want to travel more inside the kingdom, this post was a great reminder of some of the great things there are to see in Saudi Arabia!

Layla said...

Thank you No Bishopers! I looked at it like you mentioned and laughed too :)

Layla said...

Mrs. Aquarius! Ya there are so many things to do and places to see, I feel like I've only seen a small portion.

Unknown said...

Hello Laylah,

Awesome post. Got me all I needed to visit Abha. Will be going Inshaa'Allah this Eid.

Do you have the GPS coordinates for Shada Palace, Al Milfa Palace and Al Miftaha Village?



Layla said...

Hi Ahad! Thank you, so glad to hear that!

Unfortunately I do not have GPS co-ordinates for them, but maybe a Google search might find them for you :)