Peak Moments: Discovering the beauty of Taif
Peak Moments: Discovering the beauty of Taif
Travel winding mountain roads to the southwestern city of Taif, a summit of culture, history and nature
Shrouded in clouds, Taif sits along the idyllic Sarawat Mountains, a destination that leaves an indelible mark on those fortunate enough to explore it.
When the hotter months roll around, in-the-know Saudis and ahead-of-the-curve tourists flock – finding solace in the postcard charm of the city, unhurried pace of its people, and rugged beauty of its nature.
This scenic city begins at around 1,700m above sea level, but once you turn your attention towards its southern districts, it soars another 700m. Taif’s year-round cool climate is why it is home to figs, pomegranates, and berries, as well as hundreds of farms filled with prized Taif roses – the reason it is known as the City of Roses.
As Taif is replete with discovery, our guide offers a starting point to its trove of cultural sites, homegrown scenes, and verdant locations.
Where to Stay
You’ve got a busy itinerary ahead you, so it’s essential to choose a hotel that offers both comfort and convenience – a base to retreat to, after hours exploring. Here are some exceptional choices that will almost make you forget the world outside.
If you seek a luxuriously comfortable stay, look no further: this hotel has a top-notch selection of rooms, suites, and villas, as well as an indoor pool, health club, gym, and spa. It’s also a short drive from the city’s key attractions, making it an ideal choice.
Another stay where comfort is paramount, Iridium offers convenience with its facilities and services – from a spa, salon, and gym, to a kids’ club and trampoline park. If you opt for the suite, you’re in luck, as it has its own private pool and a great view of the city.
Awaliv International Hotel
This exceptional hotel offers modern rooms and an outdoor pool, and its suites have a living room, dining area, private balconies, and a jacuzzi. But perhaps the real star of the show is Awaliv’s revolving restaurant, located on the 29th floor.
Le Rêve Hotel
For a city-view retreat with elegant rooms, Le Rêve is a good choice. This hotel has an outdoor pool, sauna, restaurant, and fitness centre at your disposal, ensuring a relaxed and convenient stay in Taif.
What to Do
It’s time to drag yourself out of your accommodation because Taif has a lot to experience – and the sooner you start, the more memories you’ll get to take home with you.
Al Kar Tourist Village
At the bottom of Al Hada Mountain is this packed-with-fun destination for the whole family. It’s got theme parks, go-karts, and paintball. And if the day is too hot for all that, cool down with a swim or water slide ride, pop by its restaurants and cafés, or get on the nearby toboggan mountain ride.
Al Hada Cable Car
For spectacular views of the nature around, Al Hada Cable Car is a must-try. The longest cable car in the Middle East and fifth in the world, this scenic ride takes around 30 minutes, departing from Al Kar Tourist Village to Al Hada Mountain.
This park is known for expansive walking trails, play areas, and a lake where you can paddle boat or picnic. There’s also a lively fountain show with music, and the occasional cultural event such as the much-anticipated Taif Season.
Al Shareef Museum
One of the Kingdom’s largest museums takes you into Taif’s past with its diverse collection – from antique cars and ceremonial weapons to traditional attire. There’s also a gift store if you need to do some souvenir shopping.
Its architectural influences alone – Hijazi, Roman, and Islamic – make this palace a worthy visit. Designated a museum around 1987-1988, Shubra Palace once served as the government’s (summer) administrative centre.
More to Do
Taif Rose Farms
From Lancôme to Carolina Herrera, many world-renowned brands use Taif roses in their perfumes. If you want to experience these fragrant flowers first-hand, head to one of Taif’s rose farms, such as Al Kamal or Beit Al Ward Al Taif – and take home the many rose products available.
Al Balad Market
What’s a trip without dropping by an old souk? Taif’s Al Balad market is marked by charming passageways and historic structures filled with, well, everything – from jewellery to antiques, spices to rose products.
In the northern part of Arruddaf Park is Taif Zoo, home to giraffes, tigers, a lion, an elephant, monkeys, zebras, a bear, and more. It also has picnic spots, play areas, and a train ride that’s perfect for the kids – and kids at heart.
Located on Prince Nayef Street, this park is home to hundreds of bird species from different parts of the world – eagles, owls, parrots, flamingos, peacocks, and more!
What better way to enjoy local produce than to handpick it yourself? This sprawling farm lets visitors pluck juicy fruits straight from the bush. When you’re done harvesting and want to dig in, head to the seating area overlooking the field and pass by the duck pond.
Where to Eat
If you crave the authentic flavours of traditional Hijazi and Taifi cuisine, the comforting tastes of the Levantine, or even an American diner-style meal, Taif’s culinary scene – with its vast selection of cafés and restaurants – won’t disappoint.
Al Rosha Lounge
For mouthwatering mezze such as hummus, baba ghanouj, labneh, and moutabbal, head to Al Rosha. Don’t miss out on its mixed grill platter, and it also has pastas, steaks, and sandwiches on the menu.
This spot is known for its hearty saleeg, served with ghee and cream, and topped with succulent chicken. It also has a deliciously creamy kunafeh, the only way to end your meal.
Serving plenty of breakfast sandwiches including the cheese egg burger and grilled halloumi, Bingo offers satisfying dining options as well, from grilled salmon and rib eye, to the Bingo grilled burger.
For burger enthusiasts, this is a great spot. Try the steak burger drizzled with melted cheese and complemented with a side of fries (my favourite is the sweet potato fries).
Whatever time of the day you pop in, this eatery has a decent menu. With omelettes, shakshuka, and pastries for breakfast, it also serves lunch and dinner appropriate dishes, like kebabs and mixed grills.
Whenever I visit any Saudi city, I like to try its version of (arguably) the nation’s all-time favourite dish: kabsah. In Taif, Loomy is known for this rice infused with spice deliciousness, served with chicken.
If you’re looking for tender juicy meat, drop by Ribs Yard. It’s known for its Texas short ribs, infused with acacia and hickory wood smoke for 12 hours, served with a delightfully tangy sauce.
Saleeg and Madghout Old Taif
It doesn’t get homier than this – traditional food from the region served piping hot. The madghout is a must-try, a blend of meat (you can choose lamb or chicken), rice, and spices, cooked together beautifully.
The terrace of this café and lounge is the ideal spot to catch Taif’s striking sunset. Yaz serves a selection of Saudi dishes, as well as Italian staples like pastas and pizzas – and refreshing drinks if you’re not hungry yet.