Exploring AlUla via hot-air balloon, a sky-high obstacle course and eco-farming

There are a host of activities to try during the ancient city's Winter at Tantora festival

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There is no shortage of thrilling activities to try in AlUla.

In a series of events planned during the Winter at Tantora festival, taking place in the ancient city in Saudi Arabia until January 21, visitors have the chance to learn more about the vast kingdom through a host of action-packed adventures.

Hot-air balloon experiences

Take to the skies of AlUla in hot-air balloons, which offer unparalleled views of the vast desert landscape. From Hegra to a palm tree oasis, flights take riders on a journey around the rich ancient kingdom.

In March, AlUla secured the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Hot-Air Balloon Glow Show during the AlUla Skies Festival.

Eco-farming at AlUla Oasis

A variety of crops and foodstuffs are grown and cultivated in AlUla, from aromatic herbs and perfumed oils to citrus fruits and tomatoes. It is also home to more than two million date palms that produce more than 90,000 tonnes of dates yearly. The region has 200,000 citrus trees with 29 varieties of fruit, including a hybrid of lemon and pomelo called torounge, which was first cultivated by the Nabataeans.

Visitors from around the world can learn about eco-farming in the heart of the AlUla Oasis from local experts during a hands-on two-hour workshop, as the city reclaims organic farming techniques and tools for a better future.

Experts on the farm in AlUla are teaching visitors of all ages about the history and fundamentals of organic farming.

Sustainability is at the core of the kingdom's Vision 2030.

"It's really important for our young ones to learn the importance of eco-farming and agriculture," says Mariam, an official at the farm.

The farm is home to crops and animals including rabbits, turkeys, sheep and chickens. "There is a specific action and advantage to each one of the animals. For example, rabbit manure is higher in nitrogen than other farm animals, which helps fertilize and accelerate the growth of plants," an AlUla agricultural expert tells The National.

People can sign up in groups or pairs for the tour where they are taught about ways to keep farms healthy and productive; the process of crop cultivation, water resources and types of irrigation systems; and how to plant trees and vegetation in their homes. Visitors receive a plant, branded merchandise and have the chance to win prizes at the end.

"I had a great time with my friends, the weather is perfect to learn and spend hours here," says Amani, a Saudi teacher from Riyadh.

"We learnt a lot about planting trees and planted seeds ourselves. I want to start planting them at home using these techniques. We were given fresh refreshments and warm food, and I loved the trivia quiz at the end where we won gifts for answering questions about eco-farming."

Visitors can walk around the farm and unwind in the gardens for free. "I love the huge swings tied to the tall palm trees in the middle of the oasis, they're beautiful and definitely a must for social media pictures," says visitor Maaz Abdullah.

Via ferrata and canyon hammock

The canyon hammock is a 200-metre-high bed suspended in AlUla. Mariam Nihal / The National

Enjoy panoramic views of the canyon suspended in a hammock over AlUla. Not for the faint-hearted, the via ferrata suspended obstacle course promises to send hearts racing. A team of experts guides participants on a thrilling hour-long journey around the spectacular mountains of AlUla. Participants are suspended in a harness and manoeuvre through a mountain trail, via a 200-metre cliff to access the hammock.

For adventure sport lovers, AlUla also has a variety of activities from mountain biking, climbing and ziplining this season. All activities take place at the Adventure Hub in AlUla.

The farming workshop is available on selected dates and open to the public on December 30 and 31, February 3 and 4, and March 3 and 4; children over the age of six are welcome. More information and tickets are available at www.experiencealula.com

Updated: December 29, 2022, 1:51 PM
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