From desert sands to cycling paths - my AlUla adventure

Uri Martins

Jan / 9 / 2024

​I'd like to share my experience with you about a magical and unique place I visited early last year. During our search for distinctive and meaningful destinations, we stumbled upon this exceptional and unknown place that completely surprised us and changed our perspective on the concept we had of a "perfect cycling destination."

In March 2023, I had the pleasure of visiting AlUla, a tranquil desert sanctuary in Saudi Arabia and my overall experience was amazing. This trip provided me with the opportunity to witness firsthand the progressive changes taking place in the country. I met some inspiring individuals who were committed to social development, particularly in the area of cycling. In this journey, I was joined by Keith, the founder of Grand Tours Project and was equally impressed with the quality of cycling routes, natural beauty, history, culture, food, and accommodation, as well as the changes occurring in Saudi Arabia.

We started our trip from Switzerland and the first thing we noticed was the fantastic weather: short sleeves and 26° Celsius as soon as we left the airport. Given that it contrasted with the snowy mountains at -2 degrees Celsius in Switzerland, this trip was already looking more than good!

From our transfer from the airport to our superb accommodation, we were able to notice the unique rock formations of the area between dunes in the desert, and also the extremely wide and empty roads with very few vehicles.

This time we stayed at the Banyan Tree AlUla, a paradisiacal hotel that cannot be distinguished from afar since the infrastructure was designed to blend in with the nature of the place with amazing luxurious accommodation in the desert. What better way to try out all the facilities and rides of our Pro/Am AlUla Camp and our AlUla Explorer Tour.

Once we checked in, we couldn't wait to get out on our bikes. However, the night came, and with it, the tranquility of the desert. So we decided to have a walk in the desert and finish with a little relaxation on the terrace, looking at the desert and its mountains. The next day, our bikes were ready, so all we did was pedal, and we were off! The first thing we did was discover the Ashar Valley, a special place in the AlUla desert, where 3 hotel resorts are based and secured, including the Banyan Tree and the famous architectural marvel, the Maraya Concert Hall.

The following days were unforgettable; we spent them exploring everything we could. We visited Hegra and the one hundred and one tombs in its UNESCO territory. We rode eclectic bikes around that area, which was an extraordinary experience, allowing us to stop at each archaeological site calmly. We also managed to visit the old town in AlUla and climb the steepest climb in the area, the Harrat climb, which is typically the end of the queen stage at the AlUla Cycling Tour. Many rides in the early mornings were just perfect, with no cars on the roads, beautiful light, and perfect weather conditions, finishing them in the pool between 2 carved rocks facing the endless dunes. I was surprised to find that the roads were in great condition and so wide that the safety line looked like an immense bike path. By the way, AlUla recently announced the construction of an amazing bike path exclusively for bikes. It passes through many beautiful sites and goes into the desert, covering nearly 80 km. I can only imagine how cool it would be to ride there!

After our return, I was really moved by the magic this place transmits and the unique combination of activities we were able to experience and, with the help of our team at GTP, immediately started to craft a few experiences to visit and be back in AlUla! The Pro/Am AlUla Camp and the AlUla Experience Tour were the result of this great adventure.

We believe that hosting cycling tours to Saudi Arabia is a good way to gain a better understanding of the culture, history, and issues. We have seen an increasing number of women cyclists from the Middle East joining our tours in Europe, and we have taken the opportunity to discuss with them and learn about their experiences. We are proud to have Saudi women cyclists as part of our team, and we will continue to support and promote women’s cycling in the region with our tours. So, I personally invite you to see with your own eyes the wonders of AlUla and Saudi Arabia by bike!

Thank you!