After spending centuries shrouded behind a veil of mystery, Saudi Arabia is now eager to welcome visitors. Together with our founder Melissa Biggs Bradley, I scouted in Riyadh, Tabuk, AlUla and Jeddah last year, and Melissa led an intrepid group of Indagare travelers soon after on the inaugural Indagare Insider Journey to the Kingdom—all to get a first look at the tourism development boom that is underway in the country, as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. (Our team also produced a three-part video series taking a deep dive into Saudi's past, present and future, which you can watch here.)
Vision 2030 is an ambitious initiative to transform Saudi Arabia into a top destination for international travel—and diversify the economy away from reliance on oil in the process. Core to this vision is the creation of over a dozen "giga-projects," so named for their overwhelming scale and imagination. These projects are highly controversial and contested, but they claim to champion sustainability, cutting-edge design and technology and international collaboration—all in pursuit of innovating for the next global generation.
Of these giga-projects, the three most focused on attracting travelers are NEOM (which includes island resort Sindalah, mountain resort Trojena and zero-carbon city The Line), the Red Sea (encompassing the Red Sea and Amaala island developments) and Diriyah. Each involves a host of state-of-the-art attractions, from brand-new airports (the Red Sea International Airport just celebrated its first touchdown on September 21) to previously untouched marine, wildlife and archaeological reserves, yacht clubs, ski resorts, adventure parks, museums, fine-dining restaurants and wellness complexes. And, of course, this necessitates a plethora of over-the-top places to stay, as you sample it all.
By 2030, more than 100 new hotels are expected to open across the Kingdom—a truly staggering feat, and a marked change to the landscape of our first scouting trips, when the limited number of luxury hotels on offer included only the Habitas and Banyan Tree in AlUla, the Four Seasons Riyadh and the Rosewood and Shirvan City Yard in Jeddah. If all goes according to plan, you can expect nearly every major luxury hotel brand, from Aman to the Six Senses, to open at least one, if not several, spectacular resorts in the next five years—alongside scores of four-star and boutique accommodations. Of this great hospitality wave, discover the top properties that are on our radar below.
Curious about traveling to Saudi Arabia? Explore the Indagare Guide to the Kingdom and email email@example.com with your questions. You can also discover this emerging destination in the company of fellow Indagare travelers on our Indagare Journeys small group trip taking place March 5 - 12, 2024. Plus: Get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to travel there now in this three-part video series.
The first of several Aman properties to come to Saudi will be located in the desert surrounding the capital city of Riyadh and nearby Diriyah. Aman Wadi Safar will celebrate the region's traditional Najd architecture with a community-oriented design masterminded by Jean-Michel Gathy, including 78 guest accommodations and over 30 residences, as well as an Aman spa and dining venues. Expected to open in 2026
Joining sister property Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre, the Four Seasons Hotel Diriyah will feature 150 rooms and suites, meeting and event spaces, a wellness spa with seven treatment rooms and a fitness center, two outdoor pools with private cabanas and four culinary outlets, including a poolside restaurant and sunset lounge. The property is one of many hotels slated for the Diriyah Gate Development—spearheaded by Jerry Inzerillo—which will create a new city just a 15-minute drive from central Riyadh, upon the historic birthplace of the first Saudi State and the original seat of power for the kingdom’s Al Saud family. In addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif, which was designated in 2010 and is now being restored, Diriyah will include 13 innovative urban districts—and, upon completion, it will become the world’s largest cultural and heritage site. Discover more about the giga-project here. Expected to open in 2027
From a new hospitality brand founded by the royal family, The Red Palace will offer a rare boutique luxury experience in the capital—within a restored palace dating back to the 1940s, for a true experience of Saudi history. There will be just 51 guest rooms, 45 suites and eight spa suites, as well as five dining concepts. Opening date to be announced
Also On Our Radar: Janu Diriyah; Fauchon L'Hôtel Riyadh; Fouquet's Riyadh Hotel and Café; Nobu Hotel Riyadh; The Mondrian Riyadh; The Langham Diriyah Gate; Rosewood Riyadh; Tuwaiq Palace
Aman is also slated to open two new resorts in AlUla (alongside a third property from sister brand Janu). They are expected to include both tented-camp and ranch-style designs. The desert dreamland of AlUla is quickly becoming Saudi’s undisputed culture hub, thanks to the crafts and internationally competitive cuisine of the charmingly restored Old Town (a settlement along the pilgrimage route from Damascus to Mecca that dates back to the 12th century) and up-and-coming Jedidah neighborhood. Here, you can also tour some of the Middle East’s most impressive archaeological sites—including the tombs of Dadan and the colossal 1st-century AD Nabatean tombs at Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site (which rivals Petra, the Parthenon or Machu Picchu). AlUla also plays host to music festivals and cultural events, including the contemporary art fair DesertX. Opening date to be announced
The Chedi will be one of the very first hotels to open at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, with just 35 rooms that pay homage to the area's history, as well as three fine-dining restaurants, a spa and a pool. The property will contain several historic structures, which are now being restored and preserved, including an old railway station with an Ottoman-era train and the Hegra Fort. Expected to open in winter 2023
Much-discussed and much-anticipated is a rumored new resort designed by Jean Nouvel, which will be carved into the canyons of the Sharaan Nature Reserve, drawing inspiration from the Nabateans. Opening date to be announced
The boho-chic Tulum-based Azulik brand will arrive in the deserts of AlUla with a fantastical, organic design created by architect Eduardo Roth to blend in with the surrounding canyons. Like the nearby Habitas and Banyan Tree, the property will feature private villa accommodations. The eco-luxury brand is especially focused on wellness, spirituality and gastronomy. Expected to open in 2027
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The first resort opening within the Red Sea Development Project, which will ultimately encompass 22 islands and five inland sites, Six Senses Southern Dunes is a futuristic desert camp designed by the British firm Foster + Partners, located on the coastline—with aqua views to the west and, all around, vast dunes stretching to the Hijaz Mountains. The 36 open-plan guest rooms and suites and 40 one-to-four-bedroom pool villas will all feature outdoor terraces set over sand, in an arrangement around a beautiful “Oasis,” where the signature Six Senses Earth Lab, seasonal restaurant and bar, a cooking school and more will be housed. A unique addition is the “Artisan Village,” which will offer immersive experiences focused on the region’s Nabataean history and cultural heritage, including arts and crafts, dance and music. Highlights of the two-floor fitness center and spa will include cold plunge pools—a welcome escape from those hot desert days—and a “Holistic Anti-Aging Center,” as well as specialty treatment spaces, a meditation dome and an outdoor pool lounge with cabanas. Sustainability and environmental preservation will also be a major focus of development. Expected to open in late 2023
Also part of the Red Sea development is Amaala, a nearly 2,500-square-mile luxury tourism, wellness and yachting destination on the northwestern section of the coast, scheduled to launch in mid-2024 and expected to be complete in 2027. Amaala will sit within a nature reserve, fronting the world's fourth-largest reef, and the project has major sustainability goals: "We are powered by 100 percent renewable energy, with zero connection to the national grid, and we will have a zero carbon footprint with zero waste to landfill once fully operational" (quoted here). On Amaala's Triple Bay, a hub for wellness, sports and marine exploration, the Six Senses is also opening a new beachfront resort with 64 rooms, six suites, 30 villas and 25 residences, designed by architects U+A, with interiors by Studio Carter that were inspired by the region’s traditional coastal villages. Opening date to be announced
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Rosewood will also be opening resorts on the Red Sea's Shura Island and Amaala. The Shura Island property will have 149 guest rooms and suites, three restaurants, two lounges, a Manor Club and an Asaya spa; plus, it will provide access to the Red Sea Development's 18-hole championship golf course and marina. The Amaala resort was envisioned by APCV ARCHITECTS Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel, with 110 guest rooms and suites, 25 residences, signature culinary and spa programs and two specially designed rock pools that will allow guests to enjoy the sea directly, while protecting the coral reef. Opening dates to be announced
On Amaala, wellness brand and longevity clinic Clinique La Prairie is set to open a nearly 120,000-square-foot waterfront health resort, with 66 suites and 13 residences designed by architect John Heah. Experiences will center around the brand's four pillars of science- and data-backed medical care, nutrition, movement and wellbeing, with facilities like a diagnostics lab, museum, cooking school, beach club, gardens and training and workshop rooms for both cutting-edge and ancient wellness practices. Opening date to be announced
The Indagare Adored wellness retreat brand Miraval (with locations in Tucson, Austin and the Berkshires) will open its first property outside of the U.S. in the Red Sea. The serene 180-key resort designed by Foster + Partners will sit across three million square feet of beaches on the southern end of Shura Island. Of the 180 accommodations, 20 will be private villas. The signature Life in Balance spa is anticipated to be the largest in the Red Sea, at 40,000 square feet. Opening date to be announced
On the pristine, über-private Red Sea island Ummahat, which is accessible only by chartered boat or seaplane, Marriott will be opening two new properties in the next six months: The St. Regis Red Sea Resort and Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Both will offer prime access to white-sand beaches, aquamarine waters, mangrove forests and bright coral reefs—so days here can be filled with hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and boating. Nujuma will also have a state-of-the-art diving center. Both properties will have overwater and beachfront villas, with panoramic views and contemporary aesthetics that harmonize with the surroundings; the St. Regis is being designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (with 90 keys) and Nujuma is the creation of the British firm Foster + Partners (with 82 keys). Expect signature amenities like outdoor pools, wellness centers, kids clubs, multiple restaurants and the St. Regis Butler service. St. Regis: Expected to open in December 2023; Nujuma: Expected to open in 2024
The futuristic Sheybarah Island Resort is one of the Red Sea's most imaginative creations, featuring reflective overwater steel orbs that each weigh approximately 150 tons and maximize views of the sea, sky and surrounding reef (Sheybarah fronts a 30- to 40-meter drop-off—making this a fantastic destination for divers). The entire island property will offer 73 keys total, across the orbs and private inland villas that were designed to mimic sand dunes. Sheybarah is a 45-minute boat ride away from the mainland, and it is currently being designed by the Dubai-based firm Killa Design. Opening date to be announced
Also On Our Radar: Faena The Red Sea; Aman Project Sama; The Red Sea Edition; Raffles Red Sea; Desert Rock Resort; Four Seasons The Red Sea
At giga-project NEOM's Red Sea island resort Sindalah (which will include a beach club, yacht club and marina, spa and wellness complex, nine-hole golf course and dozens of luxury retail and dining outlets), the beachfront Four Seasons Resort will feature 225 guest rooms and suites, with terraces overlooking the sea, and 52 villas with one-to-four bedrooms with plunge pools. The Presidential and Royal Villas will also have their own private swimming pools, gyms and access to private yacht docks. The resort is being designed by LUCA DINI Design & Architecture, with interiors by RBTA and LW Design. In addition to an expansive wellness center, property highlights include an on-site diving center, so guests can search for the over 600 native species that can be found in the surrounding waters. Opening date to be announced
Utilizing both natural and engineered landscapes, NEOM's mountain development Trojena is located inland and has some of Saudi's highest elevations and lowest temperatures (Trojena experiences sub-zero winter temperatures and has a year-round moderate climate). A new outdoor ski resort—the region's first—is currently being built to offer three months of winter skiing and snowboarding, with natural and machine-made snow, over 22 miles of slopes. Across six districts (called "clusters"), Trojena will launch some of Vision 2030's most futuristic architectural plans, including "The Vault," a vertical winter village. Several new resorts are expected to open here, but the Anantara is among the first. Located in the Valley district, the property will have 270 guest rooms and suites (some with private pools). Amenities include a hammam spa, a panoramic infinity pool, a star gazing deck, an outdoor cinema, kids and teens clubs and a sports club with such activities as tennis, camel- and horseback riding and guided walks. The property will also be accessible via its own on-site helipad. Opening date to be announced
According to the NEOM website: "Trojena is planned to complete and welcome visitors and new residents in late 2026 and will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029.... Like the rest of NEOM, Trojena will be powered by renewable energy while sustainably protecting the region's rich cultural and environmental heritage." The resort stands at an estimated 500 billion USD investment.
Situated in Trojena's Relax district, this forthcoming outpost of the Chedi brand will offer a wide variety of leisure, sport and wellness activities, in a futuristic complex with a prime vantage point over Trojena's planned man-made freshwater lake. Expected to open in 2026
Jeddah is a vibrant port city on the Red Sea, which has long functioned as the gateway to Mecca. It is lauded for its multicultural atmosphere and exquisite, well-preserved architecture (best admired in the Al-Balad historic district, dating back to the 7th century). In many ways, it is reminiscent of Barcelona or Beirut. The city is also celebrated for its arts and shopping scenes—and the Corniche seafront promenade, which also features an outdoor sculpture gallery.
Ian Schrager's unmistakeable look—and scent—are heading to the Jeddah Corniche, where the new Edition hotel (the brand's third property set to open in Saudi) will neighbor the Yacht Club & Marina, with 63 rooms, including 11 suites, a signature restaurant and bar, lobby lounge, rooftop and pool. Opening date to be announced
Next year, Raffles will expand its footprint in Saudi Arabia from its flagship in Mecca to Jeddah's Corniche (a Red Sea property is also in the works). The complex will feature 182 guest rooms, 120 residences and the penthouse Raffles Royal Suite—as well as plush dining outlets (Atorie Lounge & Patisserie, Surl’O Brasserie and Riviera), with top-notch alcohol-free mixology programs. Expected to open in 2024
From the same hospitality group behind the Red Palace in Riyadh, the Al-Hamra is another royal-owned historic palace that will soon become an immersive boutique hotel. The Al-Hamra palace was built in the 1950s and was inspired by Andalusian design. In its second life, it will offer 77 guest rooms, including 33 suites and 44 villas. Opening date to be announced
In the Corniche District, just off the beach, Four Seasons will open a new complex with 269 guest rooms and suites, 21 serviced apartments for short- and long-term stays and 64 private residences, including two penthouses. The hotel will be within easy reach of Al-Balad, the Tahlia Street shopping district and the Formula 1 Jeddah street circuit. Expected to open in 2024
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