While anyone visiting from outside Saudi will think that Taif is a hidden gem, this resort town has a long history of attracting travelers from all over Arabia and beyond. At the summit of winding roads, this mountain town is known for its pleasant temperatures, beautiful views, and the ancient traditions that live on in its bustling markets and blooming agriculture. Color is everywhere here, from the trees that line deep valleys to the stalls of fruit vendors, the buildings that stand out against the desert landscape and the countless rose farms, which bloom in dazzling red and pink every April. Cultural celebrations throughout the year just add to the richness of Taif, which has something to offer every kind of traveler. Those who enjoy getting outside and seeking out the best views will love the unofficial summer capital of Saudi.
The drive up to Taif is a unique experience in and of itself: the serpentine roads form fascinating loops around the various mountain peaks that surround the city. These inspiring views will have adventure on your mind before you even get out of the vehicle, and one of the most enticing things about Taif and the surrounding area is the ease of getting out into nature, and however you decide to interact with the landscape is up to you. While certain locations lend more naturally to a specific activity, the natural beauty all around is so staggering that you’ll feel comfortable pushing your boundaries and having a one-of-a-kind experience in Taif.
If you want to get your bearings before heading up the mountains around Taif, but still spend some time outdoors, escaping to nature in Saiysad National Park is convenient and a great place to start your adventure. The landscape is rugged, but inviting with a river running through the middle of the expansive park that provides many a great picnic location or place to watch the sunset. If you’re able to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle, make a day out of driving across this terrain and enjoying some of the fresh fruits for which Taif is famous. A picnic of local dates, pomegranates and peaches is the perfect treat.
Once you’ve gotten acquainted with the area, it’s time to take things up (literally) a notch and get your head in the clouds. If you want to get great views without having to do all the climbing yourself, take advantage of the longest cable car in Saudi, which runs from the wadi floor at Al Hada to the mountain peak. Not only will you be able to get a panorama of the winding roads and camel trails that zigzag down and around the mountain, you’ll also be on the fast track to some astounding beauty that awaits at the top. Boisterous and comedic baboons live and play in the mountain valley, where delicate rose fields bloom in April. Stick around for a sunset and you’ll see locals gathering at lookout points, taking in a most magical golden hour.
If you’re looking to break a sweat in the cool mountain air, there are a number of peaks that offer fantastic hiking and rock climbing opportunities. Jebel Daka is one: the tallest peak in Taif is ripe for off road adventures and more panoramic views. Make sure you’ve got your camera and your wide-angle lens with you for this one. The rolling hills and valleys dotted with trees make this a spectacular sunrise location for waking up with some warm Arabic coffee and warm rays. At nearby Jabal Qarnayt, a tall rocky outcropping makes for great rock-climbing.
Back in the city proper, there are a number of attractions that showcase the long history of Taif and the richness of the local culture. The best place to start and become acquainted with the region’s history is at the Shubra Palace, a former residence of King Abdulaziz and now a museum that houses artefacts such as pottery and inscriptions. The institution is both informative and eye-catching: it is fitted with chic marble floors and a number of ornate doors that make fascinating photography subjects. The nearly all-white exterior catches light all day long, making return trips worthwhile to capture the landmark at dawn or dusk.
If you enjoyed seeing the roses blooming in the fields around Taif, you can get an even more intimate look at this fascinating industry by taking a tour of a rose factory in the city. The Al Gadhi Rose Factory showcases the process of rose oil distillation, the history around it, and a number of other products that can be made with roses. Signs and displays in both English and Arabic explain all that you see before you, though seeing the vat full of thousands of bright pink petals defies words — this is just one of the many brilliant displays of color you’ll see during your time in Taif.
A visit to one of Taif’s markets is a natural continuation of the mercantile culture you can experience in the rose factories. The central market at Bab Alrea is the best place to sample the region’s delicacies and admire its craftsmanship. In addition to the fresh and delectable fruit such as peaches and pomegranate, you can also find amazing honey, cheese, and perfume, which you will not be surprised to discover is mostly made with rose oil and rose water! There are a number of crafts forged in metal, as well, from silver rings made with blowtorches before your very eyes or intricate swords whose decorations tell the story of this area.
If the timing of your trip is right, take in a cultural festival or dancing fountain show to put the final flourish on your surely multifaceted time in Taif. In August, the Souq Okaz cultural festival celebrates one of the oldest places of trade (souqs) in Arabia. This is a place where ancient tribes of Arabia used to meet and hold a cultural, social, and commercial fair for all the region, a tradition revived by King Abdulaziz. There are displays of roses, actors dressed in ancient and traditional costumes, exhibits on the trade routes and practices of Arabia, and one of the world’s foremost camel races, the Crown Prince Camel Festival. All of this adds up to create one of the most authentic experiences of Arabian culture in Saudi, open to the whole world and not to be missed.
Explore more in Taif on the destination’s official Visit Saudi page!
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