What are the top 10 best desert escapes for the luxury traveller? Where can you indulge in the sand between your toes and laze under a scorching sun? Choose from camel rides with sundowners, from spa retreats to nature walks and sleep beneath a stretched canvas roof. Immerse yourself in the exotic desert air as we outline the top 10 best desert escapes in the world below.
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1. Amangiri, Utah
Experience the earth’s beauty at its most basic form in this red-rock, rugged desert-scape. Beyond the few pine-clad mountains, there’s little vegetation in this vast arid region. The unique rock formations have been sculpted by time, water and wind. Visit the red-rock spans in Arches National Park, the sheer-walled river gorges in the Canyonlands and the stunning buttes and mesas of Monument Valley.
Amangiri resort is your second reason to visit this stunning region. Tucked into a protected valley with sweeping views towards the Grand Staircase, The resort is built around a central swimming pool with spectacular views. Blending with its dramatic surrounds of deep canyons and towering plateaus, this wilderness escape could not be more rugged. Amangiri’s Aman Spa features a floatation therapy pavilion, water pavilion with sauna, steam room, cold plunge and step pool, fitness centre and yoga pavilion. Amangiri’s trail system allows guests to explore the region’s striking desert scenery on foot. Aman resorts are one of my favourite luxury hotel brands and you can read about my recent trip to Aman Grand Canal in Venice.
You will get discounts, free breakfasts and upgrades at Aman hotels with our Luxury Concierge.
2. Al Maha, Dubai
Al Maha desert hotel is a magical escape in the dunes. Arrive as the sun sets behind the dunes and the lights of resort starting to shine out from among the trees. The greeting here is towels and iced drinks and a level of service from staff that never fades throughout your stay.
Al Maha is an all-villa hotel with 42 rooms set among an oasis of trees. The Bedouin Suite is the entry level room, a spacious 75m. The interior is large and luxe, the ceiling mimicking a tented roof and living up to its name with authentic décor in the form of Bedouin water jugs.
The foyer doubles as the refreshment area – there is an extensive array of complimentary tea and coffee, even real cream in the minibar. Also a decanter of sherry refilled daily if you’re so inclined. The bathroom is enormous with an oversized soaking tub, walk-in shower, Bvlgari amenities, and separate toilet room. The main space features plenty of comfortable seating and doors to the patio on three sides.
The highlight to me was the enormous back patio and infinity pool looking out onto the desert plain. Though you might hear your neighbours, each villa offers substantial privacy with thick screening.
In addition to the infinity pools at each villa, Al Maha also features a main horizon pool with a beautiful view and balmy ambience. Al Maha is part of the Starwood portfolio and you can get discounts, free breakfasts and upgrades at luxury Starwood hotels with our Luxury Concierge.
3. Bab Al Shams Resort, Dubai
Also in Dubai, UAE and nestled among the dunes, the low-lying Bab Al Shams resort is the world’s favourite choice for dream desert getaways. This oasis of tranquillity combines rustic charm with top-tier hospitality and luxury to bring to life an authentic desert experience.
Sweeping vistas and world-class hospitality make it the perfect venue for relaxing stays. The resort’s desert ecosystem hosts gazelles, birds, geckos and a cornucopia of wildlife.
Bab Al Shams Resort, Dubai is also easy to get to, just a 45-minute drive from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports.
4. Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs
From high atop a bluff where the eye can see as far as the imagination will allow, The The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage rekindles the spirit of one of Palm Springs’ premier luxury hotels. This luxury retreat enables guests to surrender to the serenity of a relaxing spa, indulge in fine dining, or follow the pros to one of the more than 100 world-class golf courses that have made Palm Springs one of the world’s top golf destinations. Desert sunrises and sunsets leave a colourful imprint on the surrounding mountain ranges and Coachella Valley below. The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage leaves a sensory impression that will stay with you too. You can also get free breakfasts, room upgrades and more at Ritz Carlton hotels with our Luxury Concierge.
5. Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara
Back to UAE, experience unparalleled luxury and comfort amid the mystic desert charm of Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter at Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara. Ride on a camel over sun soaked dunes as this foreboding landscape unwinds eternally in front of you. Soak in the freeform swimming pool while desert wildlife grazes in the shade below. Be inspired by glorious Arabian décor that channels one of the world’s most ancient and revered cultures.
Located in the legendary Liwa Desert, one of the largest uninterrupted sand deserts in the world, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara embraces the epic adventures of this evocative landscape by providing a luxury oasis for discerning travelers. Recline by the plunge pool outside your own private villa, or stretch out on a sumptuous day bed surrounded by rich Middle Eastern fabrics and local artefacts. Every room, villa and suite is considered to be some of the finest abodes among luxury Abu Dhabi resorts and features desert views, blending the hotels rich interiors with the landscape.
6. Desert Luxury Camp In Erg Chebbi, Morocco
For something truly authentic, try Desert Luxury Camp, located in Erg Chebbi sand dunes by Merzouga in Morocco. These golden sand dunes climb to heights of over 150m and the camp is nestled right in these dunes. Access is solely by 4x4WD, camels or helicopter.
The Desert Luxury Camp itself is outrageously beautiful and very decadent with candles and silks everywhere. Tents are beautifully decorated, with stripped bold colours on the walls and huge comfy beds sitting on thick pile rugs. Bathrooms, which are in another tent attached to the sleeping tent, have a handheld shower, toilet and beautiful fossil sink (we still have no idea how the plumbing like this works in the middle of nowhere!). Dozens of extreme-ish activities are offered from the Desert Luxury Camp during the day, from sandboarding, camel treks, quad biking or guided walks, to slow pace activities such as yoga or watching the sunset.
At night, candlelit dinners are prepared beautifully by the Berbers and served under the stars. Live music is played around the campfire until late, then simply sit outside your tent to stargaze. Oh so romantic….
7. Montage Los Cabos, Mexico
Enter the sleek open-air lobby of the 122-room Montage Los Cabos and enjoy this resort’s two restaurants, three pools, or many lounge chairs and cabanas. Mezcal takes a starring role here as well, in welcome drinks; blended into essential oils for treatments in the peninsula’s largest spa; at bars, which serve 54 varieties; and, most prominently, in Mezcal restaurant’s nouveau-Mexican dishes.
Montage designed its first resort outside the U.S. with a minimalist feel befitting Baja’s breezy desert landscape. Copper and dark wood accents and woven wall hangings soften guest rooms and desert elephant cacti, desert rose, and other indigenous plants grow in the 39-acre gardens. Bedrooms offer expansive patios and terraces. The bay offers one of the few safely swimmable beaches on the entire coastline between Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo.
8. Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Resorts
How about a desert island near the desert? I give you Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Resort. Sir Bani Yas is a true desert island. There are palm trees but there is also mangrove. It is only a two and a half hour drive and a short speedboat ride away from one of the busiest hub airports in the world. Where? Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
If, like me, you find that you’re bored after an hour on a sun lounger, you might be interested in the variety of activities on offer. Oh, and the weather is a lot more predictable than the Indian Ocean. The sun shines. That’s it. Almost always.
We went to take a look at this well-kept secret during a recent tour through the region, spending two nights in a one-bedroom beachside villa at Al Yamm. This is the most exclusive part of the Anantara Desert Islands Resort. There are only 30 villas, half of which are on the beach and half face the mangrove-fringed lagoon.
When you tire of lazing in the sun next to the pool, or gazing at the beautiful blue sky, hop in one of the safari jeeps and let your guide show the amazing desert island wildlife in the reserve. Somewhere in there are two big male cheetahs who share their living space with one of the biggest herds of oryx in the world as well as countless gazelle, some spotted Indian deer and even giraffe and ostriches. The cats have to hunt to feed themselves and had taken a spotted deer the night before our visit so we caught up with them licking their paws in the shade of a Ghaf tree.
9. Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
Experience the beauty of the UAE desert at Ras Al Khaimah resort, set within the Al Wadi nature reserve. Just north of Dubai, The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert invites guests to connect with nature and culture amid the beauty of a 1,235-acre protected preserve. The resort’s Experience Concierge can arrange a desert trek on camel- or horseback, a private archery lesson or an evening of stargazing.
Luxury villas, inspired by Bedouin architecture, feature private outdoor pools and breathtaking desert views.
10. Arabian Night Village, UAE
Situated in Abu Dhabi’s Al Khatim desert, this property showcases Emirati-themed accommodation offers stone bungalows and barasti houses modelled on traditional coastal residences, and traditional Bedouin tents with the latest mod-cons. And inside the Al Manhal Fort Tower there are three opulent presidential bedrooms too. Interiors that are furnished with rich fabrics, natural materials and authentic and traditional designs.
There’s a large pool, and Al Maqam, which means ‘The Gathering Place’, is where everyone hangs out, day and night, to eat, drink and enjoy family time.all meals are enjoyed.
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