Our Top 5 - Desert Retreats

by Melanie Hawkins November 15, 2015 1 Comment

Have you ever noticed how contrast sharpens the appetite? A meal never tastes better than when you’ve had the chance to become truly hungry. A long, cool drink is the ultimate luxury on a scorching day. And a green garden is unbelievably appealing when it’s situated in a harsh desert landscape.

The creators of the world’s finest desert resorts have understood this principle. Building a beautiful resort in a stark desert setting gives them the opportunity to contrast opulence with minimalism. There’s no chance of the holiday spell being broken by a cacophony of traffic noises outside the front gate. Neither will you be faced with jam-packed streets and a row of restaurants or souvenir shops offering the same tourist specials. You’ve come here to get away – and now you can relax in splendid isolation.

It helps when the scenery is as magnificent as Utah, Arabia or the Kalahari. Wake up every morning to sunshine and blue skies as far as the eye can see. Take a dip in the pool and revel in the sensual pleasure of a cool soaking, while outside the landscape is shimmering in the haze. Treat yourself to a cocktail in the shade when the sun goes down. It’s a study in contrasts and a luxury holiday like no other.

Banyan Tree Al Wadi - Wadi Khadeja, UAE

Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras Al Khaimah, is an all-pool villa property of indulgence. The traditional mud-brick Arab-style villas are set in the eco rich Wadi Khadeja against the backdrop of the Al Hajar Mountains. A desert oasis just 85km from Dubai International Airport.

The villas face out to a dedicated nature reserve where guests can watch Arabian gazelles, camels and oryxes meander or take a desert horse trek over the dunes. Other features include an 18-hole championship golf course, private access to Banyan Tree’s Ras Al Khaimah Beach and the opportunity to learn the fascinating ancient art
of falconry. 

Known for its premium spa experience, it’s no surprise that the lavish state-of-the-art spa complex is situated over 4000sqm with stunning views out to the desert surrounds. Their innovative hydrothermal therapy, called ‘The Rainforest’ begins with a walk through a cascading water shower, followed by a number of water-themed detoxification and sense-awakening experiences.

Amangiri - Utah, Arizona, USA

The 32 suites of Amangiri are located on 600 acres in Canyon Point, Southern Utah, close to the border with Arizona. This resort is truly a desert retreat, tucked into a protected valley with sweeping views towards the Grand Staircase of Escalante National Monument – a geological formation spanning eons of time. The surrounding ancient landscape sits waiting to be explored – there are numerous hiking trails – or simply gazed upon from every window or outdoor vantage point.

The Spa is a vast complex of stone, water features and streams of light, offering a number of unique treatments that harness the power of the desert surrounds. Built around a central swimming pool and using natural materials, the resort blends into its dramatic environment leaving guests to immerse themselves in Aman hospitality while soaking up the beauty of the awe-inspiring setting.

Tswalu Tarkuni - Kalahari, South Africa

The private residence of Tarkuni lies in the heart of the Northern Cape Province, around 560 kilometres from Johannesburg. Owned by the Oppenheimer family, Tswalu is malaria-free and South Africa’s largest private game reserve, covering an area of over 100,000 hectares. It is situated in the southern Kalahari (‘Green’ Kalahari), which due to local climatic conditions receives somewhat more rain than the central Kalahari, allowing it to support a large diversity of life.

The emphasis at Tarkuni is on privacy and exclusivity – to create your own private Kalahari. Limited to 10 guests, the residence has its own dedicated team including a host and chef ensuring requirements and dining are personalised. A private vehicle, complete with personal field guide and tracker ensure an equally bespoke safari experience. Whether it’s sleeping out under the stars, exploring the Kalahari on horseback or dining with the bushveld as your backdrop, there is an extensive ‘must do’ list for guests to work their way through.

Six Senses Zighy Bay - Oman

Six Senses Zighy Bay is located on the northern Musandam Peninsula in the Sultanate of Oman. The setting is spectacular, with the dramatic Hajar Mountain Range on one side and the sandy beach of Zighy Bay on the other. The resort offers guests the opportunity for an exhilarating arrival – paragliding (as a companion passenger with their resident paragliding professional) from the top of Zighy Mountain 293-metres down to the awaiting resort below.

Omani village-style villas are situated within inviting enclaves complete with private pools and colourfully cushioned living areas – a Six Senses signature look. The resort’s private marina is the gateway to a plethora of water-based activities like scuba diving, snorkelling and sunset cruises.

Six Senses have long been committed to delivering integrated wellness experiences through innovative and ancient holistic treatments and programmes. Zighy Bay’s spa complex is no exception and the resort also regularly hosts visiting practitioners for guests to experience a potentially life-changing encounter.

Umaid Bhawan Palace - Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Perched high above the desert capital of Jodhpur, Umaid Bhawan Palace (part of the Taj Group) is one of the great palaces of India. Originally built between 1928 and 1943, for H.H. Maharaja Umaid Singh (Grandfather of the present Maharaja), it served as the principal residence of the Jodhpur royal family.

Made from golden-hued sandstone, the magnificent complex was commissioned to give employment to the people of Marwar during the period’s great droughts and famines.

With a vast range of opulent rooms and suites, fine dining and discreet butler service, guests will certainly get a sense of what life was like as a king or queen. There’s even the opportunity to explore the surrounding scenery seated inside a vintage car that was once owned by Indian royalty. 

Melanie Hawkins
Melanie Hawkins


1 Response

Urban Traveller
Urban Traveller

August 29, 2016

Great post, lots to see!

Leave a comment

Also in Features

Our Top 5 - Seaside Resorts
Our Top 5 - Seaside Resorts

by Melanie Hawkins September 12, 2016 1 Comment

Read More

Tahiti Cruising
Tahiti Cruising

by James Rangihika July 06, 2016

Read More

Anything but traditional - London’s coolest new hotels
Anything but traditional - London’s coolest new hotels

by Janice Burmaz April 17, 2016

Read More