Winter at Tantora: Reasons to visit this timeless festival in Saudi Arabia’s mystery destination, AlUla
Seldom does one discover places that are both a sanctuary of solitude and perfect for adrenaline-pumping adventure; places where history rubs shoulders with modern culture. AlUla in Saudi Arabia is such a place, rich with stories bricked together by the ancient Nabataeans. One of Saudi Arabia’s least-known destinations and home to its first-ever UNESCO heritage site, Hegra (also known as Al-Hijr or more recently as Mada’in Salih), AlUla is now looking to thrive with tourism. Its modern feat is the annual festival called Winter at Tantora, the best way to experience this mysterious destination.
What is Winter at Tantora?
Once an ancient civilisation that now sits on the intersection of the old and new, AlUla is Saudi Arabia’s pristine desert wonderland. Winter at Tantora is an annual festival that first began in 2018. It runs for nearly three months, allowing visitors to explore AlUla’s historically and culturally rich heritage via live music concerts, outdoor adventure, arts and crafts activities, and pop-up food stalls. The second edition of Winter at Tantora starts on December 19, 2019 and ends on March 7, 2020. Visitors can come for varying periods of time and indulge in different itineraries based on the duration of their stay. Read on to see what Winter at Tantora has in store this year.
Celebrate the culture in the heart of AlUla
The rock-and-desert landscapes of AlUla offer much more than just a surreal backdrop for photography. Besides admiring vertical sandstones that are rich with petroglyphs and inscriptions, at Winter at Tantora, you can enjoy live weekly concerts at the Maraya Concert Hall, in itself a man-made wonder with the outside walls covered entirely by mirrors reflecting breathtaking landscape. This year’s lineup at Tantora includes names like Omar Khairat, Andrea Bocelli, Yanni, Enrique Iglesias, and Lionel Richie, and the famed dance group Caracalla. A sculpture garden, multiple art exhibits, and an open market featuring locally made arts and crafts is for those who want to enjoy things at a more leisurely pace. Enjoy pick-your-own farm experiences, and visiting luxury brand boutiques and pop-ups amidst serene mountain surroundings.
Experience AlUla’s rich heritage and ancient wonders at Winter at Tantora
A timeless festival at this timeless necropolis would be incomplete without revisiting AlUla’s pre-historic sites that define it. Strewn across its desert landscape are iconic structures such as World UNESCO site Hegra, the geomorphological wonder that is the Elephant Rock, towering sandstones displaying rich, ancient petroglyphs and inscriptions, Wadi al-Qura (AlUla Valley) dotted with thousands of date palm trees, and the sand-swept canyons of Al-Raqqasat. You can also discover striking remnants of AlUla’s multi-layered history at Al-Dirah (AlUla’s old town), Hijaz Railway, Fort of Hegra, and Al-Aqra’a featuring 450 Arabic inscriptions.
Explore the perfect playground of adventure at Winter at Tantora
Picture a sprawling rockscape of massive canyons, cliffs, and overpowering natural formations – that’s AlUla in a nutshell – perfect for thrill-seekers. During Winter at Tantora, get a bird’s-eye view of the vista aboard a hot air balloon, and watch the exciting Fursan Endurance Horse Race, where the best riders in the world navigate AlUla’s topography for the third-largest price in endurance racing. You can also enjoy airship or vintage aircraft flights, or take a helicopter tour to see areas of Saudi Arabia virtually untouched by humans.
Plan a perfect holiday with perfect stays at Tantora
Away from neon lights, bustling bars, and skyscraper lined cityscapes, AlUla is a sepia-toned wonder. While you are here and engaged in all mediums of exploration, you might need some time to rejuvenate – after all, that’s at the heart of every holiday. At Winter at Tantora, the ambience is ideal to relax in the desert oasis or pamper yourself at a spa. Savour world-class cuisine at pop-up restaurants under the stars, enjoy local flavours at diverse food trucks, and pick your produce at local farms.
Before you embark on this new expedition, shortlist a stay you’d want to call home for the next few days (or weeks). Check out top three places to stay at Tantora: Ashar Resort, Shaden Resort, and Sahari Desert Camp.