This one site is still on my mind. So much rock and sand beauty in this one area! We chose the cooler night option at Elephant Rock, as I can’t imagine a day visit would be as enjoyable. After nearly 2 hot days of sightseeing, we ended our tour with Elephant Rock, so named because the rock formation in this area of desert, reminds onlookers of an elephant shape. When we asked our host who we were renting an apartment from during our stay in AlUla, how to buy tickets to this place, he said it’s free! “Why would you need to buy a ticket, anyone can go.” He’s partly right, as a local usually is.
Elephant Rock is located in an area of desert that is drivable by car, jeep, SUV, etc. In fact there isn’t a bus that will take you there. When you buy an online ticket from Experience AlUla, it is for an experience that has been created in the area surrounding this rock. You must get transportation to this site, as you drive off-road about 5 minutes and you are at the parking lot. So, for those of you who do not want a tour experience, or to be on a bus, then this is the perfect place for you!
If you are handicapped, this is the perfect place for you! Instead of parking the car, you can drive right up to the entrance area and off-load onto a walkway constructed of wooden planks, from which a wheelchair, walker, etc. can be maneuvered.
Nice to know: Once you get to this site, you will see why indeed it is free to see from the surrounding landscape, however there is a palm-frond fence that encloses the entire area of Elephant Rock. So for free you can see it from a distance, but if you want to get up close, and in fact do a bit of sitting and climbing around it, you need to pay. However if you don’t want to purchase a ticket, there is plenty of sand dune driving and sights to be had around this area. In fact we would have loved to have gone out more into the desert area (visible from the Elephant Rock entrance), to look through a keyhole entrance made from two rock structures in the distance. I hear the view is amazing, and you can see palm tree plantations, as one lady told me later at night. She and her Saudi family had driven their SUV to that spot, as they knew it was really nice and had been there before.
We had booked a night view ticket to be there at sunset time, with a 2 hour window. All the tickets to this site are 2 hours, however we overstayed that timing as it became night and no one asked us about a ticket once we were admitted. March’s sunset is around 6:30/7pm, so we booked 6-8pm. We wanted it to be cooler so we could enjoy being outside, while having the sunset experience. Wow, this place does not disappoint…talk about Arabian nights!
As we entered, the working staff took our picture, they said for advertisement. However as we later learned that night, one of the royals was there, a princess, so perhaps it was more of a security measure. We walked along the boardwalk and found a comfy place for our family with beanbag-style chairs and panels of cloth stretched overhead. The vibe is relaxing, meditative and fun! You can walk where you like and explore up to Elephant Rock and the other rocky outcrops in this area. My kids did some climbing once the night came and the moon shone down.
On this night there happened to be a drum teacher from the UK performing with a group from Africa. She was giving free lessons in a drum circle. It was really amazing to listen to the drumming and chanting.
The video here is a bit of the drum circle lesson group. I wrote a poem “Passing a Princess at Evening”, to go along with this night that is in another blog. You can read it here: https://datepalmsncamels.com/2021/03/28/my-poem-for-this-years-world-poetry-day/
As the sun went down, lights came on all around the area, and torches and heaters were lit near the sitting areas. I’m glad for the sweater I brought, as there was a cool breeze. Conversations were carried on the breeze, and as it cooled down people filled in the available seating.
We eventually moved our seating area to the sand pit, where seats have been dug out in a semi-circular shape, complete with fire pits! It kind of reminded us of something from a Star Wars set.
A worker will show up and light the fire for you. You can also order from the menu and a waiter can bring you food/drinks. It’s hard to describe in words what this time was like…I guess unforgettable! Kind of like a personal bonfire on a beach, the flames licking the air, making shadows, and lighting up faces around it. It is still etched in my memory one of the best experiences you must have while in AlUla. We wished we could have had one more day to do that one again. Many people come back for a repeat experience.
There is a cafe onsite, in which the line can become long, the service being a bit slow. They serve burgers, sandwiches, shakes and non-alcoholic drinks, and probably more choices by this time. Outside food is not allowed, however we brought in water bottles and some oranges. As the night gets on, it becomes more crowded, so at some point they may check tickets to see if you are supposed to be there for that time slot.
To read about our other adventures in AlUla, check out what we did with two days!
All tickets to any AlUla Experiences are purchased through the ExperienceAlUla.com website. It has the most amazing photography and videos of the adventures to match your spirit. The winter Tantora festival is back up and running again, as Covid numbers in Saudi are under control at this time. Make your own amazing memories!
Discovery Channel made a fantastic video about AlUla that is below. Check it out!