Saudi Arabia north west 9-10 days backpackers itinerary: Jeddah, Medina, AlUla, Yanbu

Discovering the Northwestern Marvels: A 9-10 Day Journey itinerary through Saudi Arabia.

Embark on a breathtaking adventure through the enchanting northwest of Saudi Arabia, where ancient history, natural wonders, and underwater treasures await. Starting in the bustling city of Jeddah, this 9-10 day itinerary will take you through the historical charm of Medina, the captivating landscapes of AlUla, and the underwater paradises of Yanbu. This is do your own itinerary, no travel guide or agency needed.

Day 1: Arrival to Jeddah

This itinerary is based on arrival to and departure from Jeddah. This five million inhabitants strong city has very good connections to many major airports and low cost airlines fly to Jeddah too. As Jeddah is a pretty large city, I suggest you leave exploring the city for the last day or two of your itinerary and move to your destination in the north straight from the airport. The airport is located at the north of the city, making such decision a logical move.

You can do the loop as we did: Jeddah, Medina, AlUla, Yanbu and back to Jeddah or you can star with Yanbu first.


Pro tip: Plan to be in Yanbu during weekend if you are here for diving. Which you should. Prices are cheaper on weekends. As Jeddah middle class heads north to Yanbu, you will have someone to share the cost of a boat with. During weekdays, you will have to bear the cost alone. Must say it: the Muslim weekend days are Friday and Saturday. (You knew that, right?)


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Days 2-3: Medina - The City of the Prophet

Travel Distance: Jeddah to Medina (Approximately 450 km), Travel Time: Around 4-5 hours.

Drive to Medina and spend two days exploring the sacred city. The Prophet's Mosque, adorned with intricate Islamic architecture, welcomes pilgrims from around the world. Quba Mosque, the first mosque built by Prophet Muhammad, offers a peaceful retreat.

Non Muslims are now allowed to enter Medina and explore its culture and vibe. This is a holy city, so I suggest you to dress and behave modestly. While non Muslims are not allowed to enter Prophet's mosque inside, you can reach nearby the mosque and feel the vibe and power of this holy place. Sunset prayer is the best time. Arrive before sunset and stay till late. The area is huge, you will need a few hours to get around.

Time permitting, explore the historical sites of Uhud, where the Battle of Uhud took place. The Uhud Mountain and the Martyrs' Cemetery provide a poignant glimpse into the city's profound significance.

Medina, Saudi Arabia. A family day in the holy city.

Days 4-6: AlUla - A Tapestry of History and Nature

Travel Distance: Medina to AlUla (Approximately 700 km),
Travel Time: Around 5-7 hours. The road is excellent and largely empty.

Discover the archaeological wonders of Madain Saleh in Hegra a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its well-preserved Nabatean tombs and rock-cut structures. The intricately carved facades tell stories of a bygone era. This will remind you Petra in Jordan. Yes it is the heritage of the same Nabatean tribe from the same historical period. Hegra is much less touristy than Petra.

Marvel at Elephant Rock, a natural geological formation resembling an elephant, standing tall in the desert landscape. Explore AlUla Oasis, an unexpected green haven amidst the golden sands. Stop by the old town, to see, how the restoration is going on. It will be nice when finished.

Ride to the Harrat viewpoint for a breathtaking view of the expansive desert valleys, revealing the true beauty of the AlUla region.

We only had 2 days and 2 nights in AlUla, butI honestly find 2 nights in AlUla too little for this amazing place. I would be nice to have 3 full days to quietly enjoy everything this region has to offer.

Hegra, AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Journey thru time – video.

Day 7-9: Yanbu - Underwater Paradise

Travel Distance: AlUla to Yanbu (Approximately 800 km), Travel Time: Around 8-9 hours.

Yanbu Diving and snorkelling

This is what you come here for. Dive into the azure waters of the Red Sea in Yanbu, known for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. Explore its mesmerizing underwater ecosystem teeming with colorful fish and intricate coral formations.

Yanbu Sharm dive and snorkeling location.

Discover Yanbu Sharm, a popular shore dive site, offering crystal-clear waters and the chance to encounter various marine species. Some 10 minutes swill away from the shore, a surprise sunken ship will make your diving day perfect. Yanbu Sharm is also great for snorkeling.

Yanbu sharm shipwreck steering wheel
Yanbu Sharm shipwreck steering wheel

IONA ship wreck

Do not miss the massive IONA ship wreck and reef which sunk the ship 100 years ago. It is some 30-40 minutes by a speed boat. IONA ship has hit the reef here some 100 years ago and this giant ship is now partially covered in corrals. The reef is also nice for snorkelling.

If diving is your priority, also add the 7 sisters reef into you itinerary.

You will need a full day to visit each IONA and another full day for 7 sisters reef. Yanbu Sharm is a shore dive so half a day is enough. We spent two full days in Yanbu and you would need 3 days or at least 2 and half day to all 3 locations. As I mentioned above, plan for the weekend, Friday and Saturday, so you will have someone to share the cost of diving boat with.

Yanbu Old Town

The Yanbu Old Town's historic charm and the scenic Yanbu Corniche provide a perfect blend of culture and relaxation. Enjoy a relaxing evening stroll along the picturesque Corniche, where the sea breeze and old town building create a serene atmosphere.


Day 10: Back to Jeddah - Gateway to the Red Sea

Travel Distance: Yanbu to Jeddah (Approximately 350 km), Travel Time: Around 4 hours.

Arrive in Jeddah and spend the first day exploring the vibrant streets of Al-Balad, the historic heart of the city, where coral-stone buildings showcase traditional Hejazi architecture.

On the second day, visit the stunning King Fahd Fountain, the world's tallest water fountain, and stroll along the iconic Corniche, offering panoramic views of the Red Sea. Indulge in the city's diverse culinary scene, sampling local delicacies.

North-west Saudia conclusion

As your journey through the northwest of Saudi Arabia concludes in Jeddah, you'll carry with you the memories of ancient civilizations, natural wonders, and the mesmerizing beauty that this region has to offer. This detailed itinerary promises a perfect blend of history, culture, and adventure, leaving you with a profound appreciation for the treasures hidden in the heart of Saudi Arabia.

Where next after visiting north-west Saudi Arabia?

If you have time, continue south from Jeddah in the direction to Yazan, near Yemeni border. There is plenty of interesting things to see south of Jeddah. The south - wester, itinerary is coming soon and will be published here. Stay in contact via social networks below to be among first informed.

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