The mountainside destination boasts fantastic festivals, flowers and fog.
Saudi Arabia is filled with dazzling destinations. While most people visit Jeddah, Riyadh or, of course, Mecca, there are plenty of places off the beaten track. Thanks to Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom opened to tourists in 2019. The country is one of the final frontiers when it comes to tourism and contains hidden gems within a hidden gem.
Abha is the capital of the Aseer region. Nicknamed the Bride of the Mountain, it sits 7,450 feet above sea level in the Aseer Mountains. The weather is good throughout the year, but it is a popular place in the summer, due to its cooler temperatures. Note: bring an umbrella.
The city was once cut off from the rest of the world. It was previously under Ottoman control and then conquered by Ikhwan tribes. Now, it is popular with domestic travellers during festivals. Aseer Season runs from July to August and brings together cultural events. Flowerman Festival takes place in September, celebrating flowers unique to the region.
Things to do
Abha is famous for its lush landscapes, which have the most mesmerising views. Al Dabbab walkway (also known as the cloud corniche) may be the closest you’ll get to being on cloud nine. Located on the edge of the Saraway Mountains, visitors can breathe in the fresh air and walk through the clouds. Other spots with a view include Abha Dam, Abha High City and Abha Al Jadidah Cable Car Station.
Aseer’s heritage sites include the Heritage House in Al Namas, Jaresh archaeological site, Rijal Almaa village, and Tabab with ancient castles. Cultural sites include the Alraqdi Museum, Abha’s Image in Museums, and Fatimah’s Museum of Aseeri Woman’s Heritage. Plus, Art Street has 10 galleries, a theatre and restaurants.
Start the day at a buzzing breakfast spot. Dough Sourse serves pastries to pies, and Meshraq brings Western flavours to the Middle East. Milos is a Greek-inspired restaurant and best known for its full Greek Breakfast, which comes with apricots, eggs, feta cheese, tomato and more.
Take your pick from classy or casual restaurants. Alkarkand Sea Food, Jorry Elite and The Glass Garden boast brilliant views. And there’s even an Al Baik in Sama Abha Park – fried chicken with a view, anyone?
Many restaurants source their ingredients from the nearby area. Local dishes range from Aseeda Porridge to Miva Bread. When only traditional will do, visit Haneeth Ali Ramzi, which serves a slow-cooked Lamb Haneeth.
When you visit Abha, you’ll leave with a sweet taste in your mouth – it is famous for its honey, after all. In the area, beekeeping is both a profession and a pastime, and it is common to find beehives in people’s gardens.
Get ready to barter at the traditional souqs. Souq Al Thulatha is a great place for a sweet souvenir, especially that local honey. Souq Al Nesa stocks female accessories, clothing and jewellery. Souq Al Khanajer sells heritage items, from daggers to handicrafts.
Malls in the city include the family-friendly Aseer Mall and Al Rashid Mall, and the upmarket Khamis Mushait Boulevard.
Abha is ideal for the adventurous traveller. Visitors can make the most of the setting and stay in camps and mountain lodges.
The city is not currently home to big-brand hotels, instead boutique hotels prevail. Abha Palace Hotel overlooks the mountains and water; Assalam Palace is within walking distance of Art Street; Blue Inn Boutique has stylish rooms; and Boudl Abha is near Al Shalal Park.
The resorts are located further out and include New Abha Resort with villas overlooking a lake and Marina Jewel Resort with a garden, pool and family rooms.
How to get to Abha
Abha is accessible by road from numbers 5, 10 and 15, and Al Sahel Road. SAPTCO buses travel between cities. Warning: driving involves mountain-top roads, and the weather can change suddenly with fog.
The easiest way to enter Abha is via Abha International Airport. Flights from Riyadh take approximately 90 minutes and are operated by flynas and Saudia. Flights from Dubai take approximately two hours and 40 minutes, and are operated by Air Arabia and flydubai.