For a long time, Saudi Arabia has been an exotic mystery to the western world. An economic and political powerhouse, for sure, but one which always felt less accessible than places in the Middle East more commonly frequented by westerners like Egypt and the UAE. Still, those who are willing to take a chance often find that the warm welcome they receive is exceeded only by the sense of luxury, incredible infrastructure and wealth of spots from which to take photos that will be the envy of their friends, family and social media followers.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Saudi culture knows that they don’t go in for half measures. The sense of prestige and opulence that permeates the cities, as well as the majestic natural sights all, combine to form the makings of an amazing luxury holiday.

Here we’ll look at some of the reasons why Saudi Arabia is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations for luxury tourism in 2020.

Incredible sporting events

While the Saudi Arabian tourism industry has grown exponentially in recent years (contributing over $70BN to the kingdom’s GDP in 2019) sports tourism is one area that has been missing. Until now. And with the first-ever Saudi Cup, which takes place this February, the kingdom puts itself on the equestrian map like no other can.

There will be no half measures at this prestigious event which promises to be the most luxurious horse race ever held. The prize money for the event will be a record-breaking $20 million USD. $10 million of which will go to the lucky winner. But that’s not all. All the top 5 contenders will receive 7 figure prizes and even the jockey in 10th place will earn an enviable $200,000. This event promises to be a hugely luxurious event with HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal himself in attendance. A fantastic opportunity for horse racing enthusiasts or those who enjoy the opulence that comes with this kingly sport.

Stunning structures

A great luxury holiday needs lots of luxurious spots to snap and post to your social media feeds to make you the envy of your friends. And when it comes to luxurious, imposing and jaw droppingly bold structures, Saudi Arabia has more than enough to rival its neighbour’s skyscrapers in the likes of  Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Take a look at the needle sharp Jeddah Tower, or the super cool Kingdom Centre. These make for outstanding snaps and sum up the kingdom’s inherent elegance and reputation for exquisite design. See also the beautiful and imposing Makkah Clock Royal Tower.

Incredible nature

While Saudi Arabia has its fair share of incredible architecture, it also has a wealth of examples which show that mother nature is the greatest architect of all.

There’s far more to Saudi Arabia than just deserts- although the arid beauty of these is definitely worth a portion of your Instagram feed. Rub’ al Khali (AKA the empty quarter) for instance is home to beautiful sweeping sand dunes which glisten in the sunset.

There’s also the lush and verdant Wadi Hanifa, a beautiful oasis that runs through the capital of Riyadh. Or the fairytale beauty of the Yabu Lake Park- the ultimate place to enjoy a picnic with your loved ones.

For the ultimate holiday snaps, however, climb Jabal Sawda for the best view in the kingdom, 3,000 metres above ground level.

Take a walk through history

Although Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure lends the kingdom modernity that borders on futurism, there’s also a great deal of heritage in with the luxurious 21st-century trappings. Take a walk through the ancient streets of Jeddah, for instance, and you’ll walk the same streets which have been trodden by traders and pilgrims for over a thousand years. This beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a charming blend of old and new, combining modern luxuries with a wealth of ancient architecture.

Of course, if you really want to engage with the kingdom’s past, visit the National Museum of Saudi Arabia where you can learn all about the history, prehistory, art and culture of this splendid part of the world.

Chic cafe culture

Of course, after all that trekking, shopping and marvelling, you’re going to want to relax somewhere you can sip a flat white and watch the bustling world go by. Fortunately, Saudi Arabia has no shortage of chic cafe culture, particularly in Riyadh. Check out Tao Bistro, Five Elephants or the Ritz Carlton for outstanding coffee, great food and elegant surroundings.

Whatever you’re looking for in a luxury holiday, you can find it in Saudi Arabia.