This is part 2 of our road trip from Jeddah to the Farasan Islands in the south of Saudi Arabia. While it is possible to simply fly from Jeddah to Jizan and then cross over by ferry to the island, we decided to take 4 days to do the trip by car and stop over a few places to see if tourism in Saudi Arabia is really possible. On the first day of our road trip, we left Jeddah and drove more than 300 km to check out Dhee Ayn and the Baha Region. We spent the night with some friends and left early in the morning to reach Abha and the Saouda* Region (* on the English web, you may want to check out other possible spellings such as Sawda, Sawdah, Sooda… It means “black” in Arabic).
Since we had already booked accommodation in Jizan to spend the night, and due to spending more time on the mountain road than initially planned, we had to limit ourselves to basically one activity: a mountain cable car experience. Just so you know, there are actually more than one place to take a cable car in Abha. We opted for the Saouda region cable car because it was supposed to be the longest and the most spectacular.
How to get there?
You can check out the Google map pins for directions from where you are. You will notice there are two pins: one for each end of the cable car ride. You can start either from the station at the top of the mountain or you can start from down in the valley.
We drove from Baha via the scenic mountain road, also called “Tunnel Road” because you need to drive through more than 20 tunnels, pretty much one after the other as the road makes it way from the top of one mountain to the top of another one. Absolutely spectacular!
Saouda Cable Car
We arrived at the station at the top of the mountain. There is a small car park near the entrance as well as places where you can buy fast food and water. Prices in the picture below are accurate as of August 2017.
The waiting time to get into the cable car wasn’t very long even though it was the summer holidays. You can also book a whole car to yourself if you are willing to buy off all the seats.
Down in the valley, there are a few shops, some outlets for food and picnic areas. However, the choice of food is extremely limited and the waiting time is quite long. You may want to plan a picnic instead. There is also a place where you can book a tour of Abha and some museums but we didn’t have time for that.
Is it worth it?
Ohhhh YES! The cable car ride is absolutely amazing. The ride down will give you some incredible views of the mountain ranges and during our ride back up, we actually rode INTO THE CLOUDS. The children were totally mesmerized. Before that we had the chance the spot some animals on the side of the mountain such as mountain goats and all kinds of big and small birds. Really interesting.
I wish we could have stayed longer in Abha and explore the city and go to its famous market but there simply wasn’t any time. We left Abha straight after the cable car ride and made our way to Jizan. But not before being caught in a rainstorm. Yep, big black clouds, heavy rain, slippery roads, even hailstones… Be extremely careful as the road is a spindly narrow mountain road and it requires caution to drive in a downpour. We actually saw a couple of accidents on the way down. Even if it is not raining, you’ll still have to drive very slowly.
On the bright side, once we were safely down the mountain, the valley was “breathing” from the rain and we were treated to some unexpected scenes of dark green valleys. Unexpected because this is not what you first think about when you travel through Saudi Arabia. Check out some of the videos I made:
We arrived safely in Jizan later that day. We had booked an apart’hotel not too far from the ferry departure port as we wanted to make an early start for the Farasan Islands. And boy did we need an early start. We had no idea that the last leg of our journey had quite a few more surprises for us…
Have you been to Abha? What did you do? What would you recommend?