As I sat under the waning sun, eating a traditional Bedouin meal of fire roasted lamb and rice with my fingers and watching the twinkling stars begin to appear in the sky, our host said, “You have to earn visiting AlUla,” and he was not wrong. It’s a place that insists upon admiration of its natural beauty and remarkable history, and with that comes a luxury price tag that is well worth saving for.

Since Saudi Arabia opened its borders to tourism in 2019, the region of AlUla has become a popular destination for travelers thanks to its stunning scenery, rich history, and innovative tourism initiatives. Two of the most popular and luxurious resorts in the region are Habitas AlUla and Banyan Tree AlUla, which are both committed to sustainability and offer guests an immersive experience that celebrates the region’s unique culture and heritage.

eagle excursion at habitas alula

Photo: Banyan Tree AlUla

After staying at both properties, I can say that they offer slightly different experiences for varying levels of luxury. Habitas AlUla is a more casual resort with a focus on outdoor activities, while Banyan Tree AlUla is a more luxurious resort with a focus on pampering and relaxation. However, both resorts are located in the stunning surroundings of the sandstone rocks of the Ashar Valley, and both offer guests a unique opportunity to experience the magic of AlUla and are helping to put it on the map as a must-visit destination for travelers looking for something truly otherworldly.

We hope you love the accommodations we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.

Habitas AlUla

accommodations habitas alula

Photo: Habitas

Habitas AlUla is located within the dramatic landscape of sandstone cliffs and palm groves in the Ashar Valley. The resort is designed to blend in with its natural surroundings and guests can enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking, biking, swimming, yoga, and stargazing. In a commitment to sustainability, the property has been designed to minimize its impact on the environment through utilizing solar power, rainwater harvesting, and a strong focus on recycling and waste reduction.

villas at habitaas alula

Photo: Habitas

The resort features 96 guest villas in three tiers: premium Celestial Villas, Alcove Villas and Canyon Villas. Each style is spacious and comfortable, with stunning views of the desert vista. You can relax on your own private terrace, jump into the soft king-size bed, or take an outdoor shower in the enclosed reeded back porch. Each room also comes with an electric bike that you can freely use to transport yourself around the property, but if biking isn’t your forte, you can call the front desk to bring a buggy straight to your door for a ride.

habitas accommodations alula

Photo: Habitas

With an infinity pool that was made to be Instagrammed and deckside seating with Middle Eastern cuisine restaurant Tama onsite, you can relax and soak up some sun with a mocktail in hand or a lamb gyro platter. Or if you prefer a cafe-style vibe, Moon Shell serves coffee and vegan and vegetarian food in a chic space on the grounds. And for those craving a quick, sweet snack, an iridescent ice cream truck serves up a variety of flavors perfect for a social media snapshot.

habitas pool

Photo: Habitas

What truly makes Habitas AlUla an immersive experience is the inclusion of Desert X art installations on the property. Sprinkled throughout the resort, you can find a variety of interactive pieces that will ignite the child within you. Look for the giant swing set with a view of the canyon, colorful orbs scattered through a rocky valley, and multiple trampolines embedded into the sand.

colored rocks by habitas alula

Photo: Habitas

And if you’re wanting to experience Habitas AlUla, but desire to go for the more budget route, the resort offers Caravan by Habitas, which is a nearby offshoot that features 22 deluxe Airstream trailers and access to all the amenities of the main campus.

Banyan Tree AlUla

villa at banyan tree alula

Photo: Ales Photography FZ LLE

Banyan Tree AlUla takes desert luxury to the next level, all while being surrounded by the same beautiful landscape of the Ashar Valley of the nearby Habitas. With 47 guest rooms (and more currently being built), you can choose from one to three bedroom villas, with most including a private pool. In addition, within each villa resides a personal butler who will make sure your stay is immaculate in every way through turndown service, snacks and beverages, and buggy rides to the property’s facilities.

pool by banyan tree alula

Photo: Banyan Tree AlUla

Sustainability efforts include sourcing local materials in both the architecture of the villas, as well as the amenities, including being a single-use plastic-free environment. Over half of the food on the property is sourced from local farms, and helps to benefit the local community’s efforts. Similarly to Habitas, the resort recycles rainwater and utilities solar power for electricity. The design of the property mimics the landscape to blend in with the sandstone canyons.

villa seating banyan tree alula

Photo: Banyan Tree AlUla

Included in the room price is a lavish breakfast buffet at Harrat, the on-site Arabic and International Fusion restaurant, which also serves lunch and dinner for a fare. But the real prize is Saffron, one of the first Thai restaurants in the entirety of Saudi Arabia, which has a full team of Thai chefs and servers who craft a beautiful and authentic meal experience.

saffron thai restaurant banyon tree alula

Photo: Ales Photography FZ LLE

When you want the full relaxation experience, a quick ride up to the health center will give you access to an indoor gym, outdoor yoga area, and a full service spa where you can be at one with your inner peace. And to make all your TikTok followers jealous, the infinity pool placed between two natural canyon rocks is the perfect place to cool off during a hot, sunny day.

banyan tree alula rock pool

Photo: Banyan Tree AlUla

Within walking distance of the villas is the incredible Maraya, the largest mirrored building in the world. The multipurpose venue hosts concerts, art exhibitions, and a restaurant and is worth a visit for photo proof of its mirage-like features. The grounds of Banyan Tree also make for a great hike, with lots of desert paths, caves, and even ancient rock carvings spread throughout the property to be found.

Things to do around AlUla

walking to maraya in alula from banyan tree

Photo: Banyan Tree AlUla

Of course, visiting AlUla isn’t just about relaxing in a hotel pool all day when there’s so many unique activities and excursions to explore in the region. There are many can’t-miss things to do around AlUla, but start here if you’re staying at Habitas or Banyon Tree.

Explore Hegra

These ancient carved Nabatean tombs were crafted by the same tribe as nearby Petra in Jordan, yet without the large crowds, so you’ll have the grounds practically to yourself as you journey through Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. For even more historical spaces, add Dadan and Jabal Ikmah to your itinerary.

Tour Sharaan Nature Reserve

Get transported around a beautiful landscape in a 4×4 jeep and try to see some local animals like ibex during this safari adventure. Learn about how the protected area is helping to reintroduce the endangered Arabian leopard. For another outdoor experience, visit the Heritage Oasis Trail for a stroll.

Take an Art Workshop

Madrasat Addeera is a local girls school that teaches art trade, but opens its doors to anyone wanting to take free courses in traditional practices of the region. For an immersive art experience, reserve a tour at Desert X where you can walk around the installations from the most recent edition.

Seek an Adrenaline Rush

If you want to get your blood pumping, visit the Adventure Hub for ziplining, a giant swing, via ferratas, and more. Other ways to get in the air include helicopter tours and visiting during the yearly AlUla Skies festival where you can fly in a hot air balloon.

Taste World-Class Cuisine

AlUla has some fantastic restaurants where you can eat your fill of incredible food. Somewhere serves tasty Mediterranean fare in Old Town. For food with a view, try OKTO at Harrat viewpoint for Greek cuisine. Or for a unique and authentic experience, book a stargazing tour where you’ll eat a traditional al fresco Bedouin meal while learning about the constellations above.