The volcanic treasures of Saudi Arabia’s western region
Along the Red Sea coast on the western region of the Kingdom, 13 basaltic lava fields known as “Harrats” can be found. Long dormant with some presumed extinct, the activity of these volcanos in historical times has left behind blankets of black rock laid over a beautifully surreal landscape.
Travel YouTubers Eric and Ash on their visit to Harrat Lunayyer – which translates to “the lava field of the moon” – described the landscape as rolling hills of black lava rock that has been ground down over time into gravel and tiny sand granules extending as far as the eye can see; and that the scenery made it feel like trekking on the moon’s surface.
The largest Saudi volcanic field is Harrat Rahat covering a distance of 20,000 km2 and extending 300 km to the south of Medina. Eruption last recorded in 1256 CE, the accompanying lava flow formed numerous tunnels and caves across the area. It has been classified as the Kingdom’s first geological park and an open-air volcanic museum in efforts by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) to encourage geotourism and to diversify national tourism.
Of the most impressive volcanic sites are the black and white volcanoes of Harrat Khaybar, where the white formations are given their creamy color by the comendite ash covering their surface, which is a remnant of silica-rich felsic lava released in an eruption. A great example of these striking formations is Jabal Abyad, dubbed the tallest volcano in Saudi Arabia and standing at a height of 2,093 meters or around 6,800 feet. Tourists head to this location armed with proper hiking equipment ready to brave its rough terrain to be rewarded by the breath-taking scenes of black and white volcanic craters and peaks surrounding Jabal Abyad.
In the book Geoheritage of Volcanic Harrats in Saudi Arabia, researchers Dr. Mohammed Rashad Moufti, dean of the Faculty of Earth Sciences and professor of Igneous Petrology and Volcanology at King Abdulaziz University and Dr. Károly Németh professor in Geology at Massey University highlight the significance of the volcanic geosites in Saudi Arabia and state that many of them are linkable in some characteristics to protected volcanic regions found in Hawaii, Arizona, Japan and South Korea. They enumerate the different volcanic landforms found in the Kingdom and note that they are presented in a remarkably well-preserved state despite their age. The authors also encourage the development of geoparks to be offered through educational programs in order to bring understanding of the valuable volcanic geoheritage of the Kingdom closer to visitors of all kinds.
Volcanic sites provide the best opportunity to explore in nature – from hiking and camping, to watching the sunset over the picturesque scenery. See the best of what the western volcanic region of Saudi has to offer through Sana Tourism; let our experts set up your entire trip from A to Z. Click here to get in touch!