Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority

Eco-Lodge, Dar Tantora Opens Its Doors as the First Old Town Hotel in AlUla

Saudi Arabia Epic Stays
by Katie Scott Aiton Jun 21, 2024

Staying overnight in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of AlUla has been possible for some years. Since Saudi Arabia opened its borders to tourism a few years ago, the region has welcomed guests with immersive luxury desert stays at sustainable resorts like Banyan Tree and Habitas AlUla and glamping at Ashar Tented Resort. And now it’s possible to stay in AlUla’s Old Town.

In May, Dar Tantora The House Hotel, an eco-conscious hotel, opened its doors in the labyrinthine complex of mud-brick and stone houses of AlUla’s Old Town. Constructed using traditional techniques and local materials, Dar Tantora is the world’s first earth-built hotel and minimizes its environmental impact through features like natural ventilation systems and candlelit illumination.

Photo: Dar Tantora
Photo: Dar Tantora

At Dar Tantora, the celebration of tradition and respect for the UNESCO World Heritage Site is seamlessly integrated with a luxurious experience. The hotel has an exceptional restaurant, JOONTOS, which prides itself on using fresh ingredients sourced directly from nearby farms and suppliers. This not only reduces the hotel’s environmental footprint but also allows guests to enjoy the distinct flavors of the region. The hotel also offers a gym, a yoga and meditation studio, and a stunning infinity pool.

Dar Tantora costs around $356 per person for one night, and it’s worth considering a stay in Old Town coupled with a night or two in the desert — there’s a lot to explore in AlUla, after all.

AlUla’s Old Town

Shopping in AlUla's Old Town Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority
Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority

AlUla’s Old Town offers a glimpse into the region’s past. Inhabited as early as the 12th century and occupied until the 1980s, the town provides an opportunity to explore the area’s history through its remaining structures. The Old Town feels like an open-air museum, a maze of narrow, winding alleys lined with hundreds of mudbrick houses. You can visit the Old Town for free and explore at your own pace. That said, guided tours are available for those who want a deeper understanding of the site’s history and significance. The Old Town also has some exceptional restaurants. For fine dining, book in advance at Suhail Restaurant. The menu celebrates elevated Saudi cuisine and regional ingredients.

Other activities in AlUla

Elephant Rock Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority
Dinner and stargazing in Gharameel of AlUla at sunset Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority
Maraya Concert Hall Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority
An ancient Nabatean tomb of Hegra Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority
Hot-air balloon festival Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority

When visiting AlUla, you must take a tour of the ancient city of Dadan and archaeological site, Hegra. Consider a half-day tour that combines both these fascinating sites with Jabal Ikmah, a spiritual site of cliff faces and rocks inscribed with thousands of ancient inscriptions.

For adventure seekers, AlUla offers a thrilling array of activities. Soar above the breathtaking landscapes in a hot-air balloon or helicopter, embark on a 4WD tour through hidden valleys to discover the iconic Elephant Rock, and experience a guided stargazing session followed by overnight desert camping. These activities, led by experienced locals, promise an unforgettable adventure.

Throughout the year, AlUla Moments also stages a diverse range of events. You can enjoy world-class music festivals in the architecturally stunning Maraya Concert Hall, multi-day festivals focused on fitness, mindfulness, and healthy living, or the grueling AlUla Horse Race, a 120km trek through the desert landscape. There’s also an annual hot-air balloon festival called AlUla Skies, which takes place in September this year.

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