The 10 best desert resorts in the Arabian Gulf
Look at you sitting there in your air-conditioned house with your ice-cold water and your amenities. We bet you've never even set foot in the actual desert! Well, my comfortably temperatured friend, now is the perfect chance to get out there and dive into the sandy dunes on your doorstep as we've selected ten of best desert resorts for you to relax in and experience real desert living (with air-conditioning, ice-cold water, and amenities of course)...
Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman
Set beneath Oman's dramatic Al Hajar Mountains and nestling against a pricate, chalk-white sand beach not far from Dibba, Six Senses Zighy Bay is accessible only by four-wheel drive and speedboat. Or, if you're brave, you can paraglide down to the resort from a hilltop that overlooks its draw-droppingly beautiful location.
Its spacious stone villas, which are set amid thousands of date palm trees and sandy paths (best navigated barefoot or by bicycle), are engulfed by fruit trees. Villas come with plunge pools, sundecks, gargantuan bathrooms, and outdoor showers.
There are a range of restaurants serving produce from the resort's abundant organic garden, and a meal at Sense on the Edge - a mountain-top fine-dining establishment - should not be missed. The onsite spa impresses with its skilled therapists and renowned visiting practitioners offering an evolving programme of treatments, exercise and wellness therapies.
Arabian Night Village, UAE
Siutated in Abu Dhabi's Al Khatim desert, this delightfully low-key property showcases Emirati-themed accommodation (think stone bungalows, 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. Each of the lodging options present 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 all meals are enjoyed.
Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Resorts, UAE
As one of the largest natural islands in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the 9km-wide desert sanctuary that is Sir Bani Yas was established in 1971 by the late HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding President of the UAE, as home to one of the Middle East's most significant wildlife reserves. Today, more than 13,000 animals can be found on the island, including Arabian oryx, giraffe, deer, antelope, blue-necked ostrich, and even striped hyena and Sudan cheetah.
While its turquoise coastline is ideal for swimming, snorkelling or stand-up paddleboarding, it's a good place to spot spinner dolphins too. Three Anantara properties (Desert Islands Resort & Spa, Al Sahel Villa Resort and Al Yamm Villa Resort) are sotted across Sir Bani Yas and each offers experiences distinct to its locale.
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, UAE
Made famous through the adventures of the late British explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, the Liwa Desert forms part of the Rub al Khali (The Empty Quarter), the world's largest uninterrupted body of sand. It's here, perched atop towering dunes, that Anantara's five-star Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort shimmers like a mirage.
The resort looks like a sandcastle and its spacious rooms, suites and standalone villas (including the lavish Royal Pavilions) overlook a majestic natural valley, surrounded by towering, undulating sand dunes. A vast range of resort or area-based excusrions are available, and for downtime, there's the lovely sparkling swimming pool and opulent spa.
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, UAE
Popular among expats in the UAE, this desert destination may be only a 40-minute drive from central Dubai, but once there, you'll feel as if you are a million miles away from anywhere. Bab Al Shams (the name is a literal translation from Arabic, meaning 'gateway to the sun') is built to resemble a low-rise, Arabian-style fort with a maze of shadowy corridors, courtyards, burbling fountains and swimming pools. There's a number of restaurants and bars at which to dine, a spa and a host of activities on offer too.
Desert Nights Camp, Oman
This enchanting and comfortable camp is situated in Wahiba Sands - a two-hour drive south-east from the Omani capital of Muscat. Sprawled across acres of picturesque landscape, it is surrounded by undulating dunes and wadis.
The style is desert chic, and the Bedouin-tented accommodation is well-appointed with luxurious furnishings. Besides roaming freely around the dunes during the day, you could also visit a nearby fort, souk and Bedouin family house or try quad-biking among other adventures.
Al Wadi Desert, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah lies to the north east of Dubai and, beside its date farms and pristine coastal resorts, it's also known for housing Al Wadi Desert - a secluded, five-star spot nestled amid dreamy terracotta dunes in an expansive nature reserve.
Everything about this hotel, which was designed to be as sustainable as possible, blends seamlessly with the surroundings. The onsite spa is a renowned retreat in the region, known for its innovative pampering treatments. A highlight is the Rainforest Experience - a journey of invigorating hydrothermal experiences.
Dining highlights include everything from a private barbecue in the desert to eating on the roof of a watchtower under the stars. There is a host of activities on offer, perhaps the most romantic being a sunrise horseback ride through the dunes, which sees you passing gazelles and oryx.
Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, Oman
Set on the Saiq Plateau on Oman's Green Mountain in the central section of the ancient Al Hajar Mountains, this recently opened resort sits at 2,000 metres above sea level on the rim of a dramatic canyon. There's a range of cliff-facing rooms and villas (which come with huge private plunge pools) and the gargantuan two-storey, three-bedroom Royal Mountain Villa is as splendid as it sounds. The onsite spa is a wonderful retreat in itself, offering an extensive treatment menu with innovative therapies. When you aren't relaxing there, a variety of activities, from mountain biking to hiking, cooking classes, village visits and more, are available.
Al Maha Desert Resort, UAE
As the only commercial property allowed in the protect grounds of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the Al Maha Desert Resort is, quite literally, a luxury oasis. After the 65km drive from Dubai, simply clearing the conservation area's entrance gates feels like a big deal, and that is even before you see the rooms (all of which are stand-alone villas).
The resort prides itself on being eco-friendly, and the atmosphere is so tranquil that it is common to find oryx and gazelle lapping from the villa's private pools, with views overlooking the stunning dune vista. Originally built as a private desert retreat for royal Sheikhs, a stay at this award-winning resort does not come cheap, but it is worth every fil.
Alila Jabal Akhdar, Oman
Practically neigbours with Antara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, the Alila property is also perched at 2,000 metres above sea level, atop Oman's Green Mountain. The high-end resort is constructed from local stone and wood, and boasts variety of restaurants.
Given the setting, it's obvious that one of the resort's most striking features is the tremendous views that it offers over its craggy, untouched surrounds. The region beckons to be explored, so take advantage of the excursions and exciting 'Alila Experiences' that are available.