Oman Offers Off-The-Grid Experiences

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar has 82 rooms with views of the canyon. Seen here is the view from a One Bedroom Cliff Pool Villa.

Savvy travelers are seeking new, off-the-grid experiences and Oman should be at the top of their list. Not only does the country boast dramatic landscapes and sugary sand beaches but Oman is also a culturally rich destination; an ancient land made prosperous by the confluence of historic trade routes. Bragging rights guaranteed, discover an incredible place not yet Instagrammed by all your friends. A haven of peace and stability, Oman is heavily investing in tourism development, with a $1.8 billion airport slated to open in Muscat by the end of the year. And a duo of brand new Anantara resorts makes the country ripe for discovery. Luxury Travel Advisor recently embarked on an Oman odyssey, Anantara-style, and we found deep cultural immersion and lots and lots of lovely luxury.

Opened in October 2016 as the highest five-star resort in the Middle East, and one of the highest in the world, the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar seemingly sits at the edge of the world. The approach to the resort only serves to heighten the wow factor. Situated at 6,000 feet above sea level, high in the mythical Green Mountains, the resort is only accessible by 4WD vehicles, with a police check ensuring the proper car for the ascent. (It’s a two-hour drive from Muscat in a comfortable, Wi-Fi-equipped Anantara SUV.) The setting is nothing short of dramatic: The resort is perched on a cliff with endless views of precipitous canyons and gorges. This is where Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prince Charles spent a memorable day in November 1986, and to honor her memory, the canyon viewing platform is named Diana’s Point. A glass-lined walkway leads out to the edge, with the vistas stretching into infinity. Here you can indulge in “Dining by Design,” Anantara’s signature private dining experience; the walkway is lined with torches and the menu is fully personalized.

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar’s Three Bedroom Royal Mountain Villa is a two-story complex sprawling over more than 7,500 square feet.

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This ambitious resort was four years in the making. It’s a place of exceptional beauty, and the architects and designers at Atelier Pod conceived the resort to match the jaw-dropping setting. Works by Omani artists adorn the walls, and custom furniture includes traditional Omani chests. Spacious villas come with swimming pools, walk-in closets and bathrooms so luxurious you’ll want to primp and preen all morning. Bath products are by Amouage, the Omani brand behind some of the most expensive perfumes in the world.

Fun Perk: There is a soap menu with fragrances like patchouli, and a bath crystal salt menu featuring lavender, Ylang Ylang and lemongrass scents. Thoughtful in-room amenities include yoga mats, sketch pads, espresso machines and — in the villas — wine fridges. A “slumber guru” can also help ensure a good night’s sleep with an in-room ritual, which includes a bath, massage and sleep amenities.

Booking Tips: There are 115 accommodations; the room categories start with Premier Canyon View Rooms (40), followed by Deluxe Canyon View Rooms (42), and the Garden Pool Villas, which come with temperature-controlled plunge pools in the privacy of your own garden patio. The crème de la crème are the Cliff Pool Villas. Of these eight one-bedroom villas, two have 270-degree views of the canyon. Our favorite is No. 4 because of its position right at the cliff’s edge (talk about dynamite sunset views!). There’s also a retractable wall that connects with another villa. Top Digs: The Three Bedroom Royal Mountain Villa, a two-story complex sprawling over more than 7,500 square feet. Prior to arrival, your personal villa host will contact you to arrange activities and special requests. For VIP reservations, travel advisors can reach out to Firas Rashid ([email protected]; 011-96-822-060-747), director of sales and marketing.

Al Maisan is an all-day dining restaurant at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, where meals are served in the dining room or outside on the terrace that affords sweeping views. 

A big part of your stay here is experiencing this unique part of the world. Think canyon hiking, mountaintop yoga and stargazing. The recreation center, directed by Chris Wilson ([email protected]), can arrange abseiling and mountain climbing on the resort’s very own Jabal Activity Wall. Archery and tennis are also really popular. For children and the teenage set, there’s a fully equipped kids club staffed by a great team. Just adjacent to the resort, ancient villages cling to hillsides terraced with Damask roses, famously distilled into rosewater. Culture walks are led by Anantara’s “mountain gurus,” trained local guides.

After a day of exploration, return to the Anantara Spa for some R&R. In one word: Stunning. Water features echo the traditional Omani irrigation systems, while the gorgeous hammam comes with marble and hand-cut Moroccan tiles. But beyond the dazzling décor, the spa is distinguished by its approach to health and wellness. Anantara recruited Kim Milton ([email protected]; 011-96-825-218-090), director of spa & recreation — who was previously at One&Only Cape Town — to oversee the leisure operations. Milton brings a wealth of experience and creativity to the job. Treatments incorporate indigenous ingredients like rose, pomegranate and frankincense. Opt for the signature Anantara massage, and make sure to arrive early to enjoy the salt steam room, experience shower, and sauna infused with cardamom, cinnamon and aniseed spices.

In the evening, smoke shisha under the stars in the rooftop lounge, Al Shourfa, or try a Moroccan-inspired cocktail (like the rum-infused Marrakech Daiquiri) prepared by lovely barman Mahir at Al Burj. For dinner, sample authentic local dishes at Al Qalaa, the signature restaurant, or Al Maisan, the all-day dining outlet. Opt for Arabic family-style sharing and tuck into traditional mezzes, steaming hot flatbread, grilled meats, and beef stew fragrant with cardamom. Other F&B outlets include Bella Vista, serving Italian cuisine next to the infinity pool, and Al Baha courtyard café, where homemade ice cream and afternoon tea are available. Want to get giddy over breakfast? Reserve the exclusive “Breakfast by Design” — served on the terrace of the Royal Villa.

Al Baleed Resort’s One Bedroom Lagoon View Pool Villa has a private courtyard entrance and enclosed outdoor garden terrace.

In the far south of Oman in the coastal city of Salalah, the Al Baleed Resort by Anantara makes for a complementary experience. While Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar commands a sky-high perch in the mountains, Al Baleed sits on a pristine, sugary-sand beach lapped by the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea. Popular amongst tourists for its mild climate, the region is renowned for its frankincense production. In fact, just next to the resort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Al Baleed Archaeological Park — which is home to the ruins of an ancient port city and the fabulous Land of Frankincense Museum, tracing Oman’s maritime history. Other excursions include the local souq, the rugged coastline famous for high-tide blowholes, and the Empty Quarter, the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world. What this means is Al Baleed Resort by Anantara offers a winning combination — all the luxuries of a world-class beach resort plus the rich cultural heritage of Oman.

Opened in November 2016, the resort is designed as a traditional coastal fortress with white-washed walls, traditional carved Omani doors and myriad water features. There are 136 guestrooms and villas, including 40 premier and deluxe rooms, eight one-bedroom villas and 88 one- and two-bedroom pool villas. These stunning pool villas are a first for Salalah; the ones on the beach are the best. You’ll find treats in every nook and cranny — kimonos, frisbees, beach bags, sun hats, flip flops, yoga mats, and bars stocked with bottled water, espresso capsules and fine tea. Nice Perk: A personal villa host looks over the guests, starting with in-villa check-in with a relaxing foot bath. Top Dig: The Three Bedroom Royal Beach Villa, which is like a self-contained luxury beach rental but with all the resort amenities. For VIP requests, reach out to the fabulous General Manager James Hewitson ([email protected]).

Paradise Found: The beach in front of the resort is a swath of silky sand that’s perfectly irresistible. You could spend all day relaxing by the infinity pool or on a beach lounger, attended by friendly staff. There’s also yoga, diving and water sports, beach volleyball, and — for health geeks — a fitness room. Managed by Esmeralda van der Westhuizen ([email protected]), the Anantara Spa has a wide range of treatments, including the signature Frankincense ritual, a four-hands massage. Tip: Request Mariska as your spa therapist.

The premier sea view rooms at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara have luxury bathrooms with bathtub and rain shower.

Dining is excellent here. We enjoyed a diverse gastronomic tour of southeast Asia at Mekong, with spicy dishes paired with wines by “wine guru” Stefan St Pierre, a Canadian sommelier who’s worked in vineyards all over the world. The Sakalan all-day dining restaurant has a decadent breakfast buffet, including vitamin-packed smoothies. At Al Mina, the beachfront restaurant and lounge, there’s an impressive menu choice — wagyu beef, pizza, pasta (even gluten free), and seafood, like Samkeh Harra, which is a local dish of baked hammour fish smothered in spices and tomato confit. Sign up for the “Spice Spoons” cooking class and you can learn how to make such local delicacies. And for an unforgettable moment under the stars, reserve Anantara’s “Dining by Design” experience on the beach. Surrounded by flickering torches and a beautiful dining table set up in the sand, you can listen to the sounds of the sea as you toast a glass of rosé over a sumptuous feast.

ACCESS:

Qatar Airways, a member of oneworld, offers service from multiple U.S. cities to Muscat via Doha. Fly in style in business class — some of these flights are on state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A380 aircraft.

Business class perks extend beyond the attentive in-flight service — the lounges, like the elegant new salon at the Paris CDG airport, are so fabulous that you’ll almost wish for a long layover just to indulge in the multi-course meals.

In Doha’s Hamad International Airport — awarded the five-star rating by Skytrax — you’ll find multiple lounges for business and first-class passengers. For example, the enormous Al Mourjan lounge has two restaurants, a business center, sleep room, a kid’s area and more.

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