With a mega Royal connection...
There is a hotel situated in the Omani mountains that honestly has to be experienced to be believed. Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar is the highest five-star hotel, not only in Middle East, but the entire world. It sits two thousand metres above sea level and offers a new way of holidaying in Oman.
Two hours away from Muscat in the Jabal Al Akhdar mountain, the hotel is only accessible via a 4×4 (which the hotel will happily arrange for you if needed. Do take them up on this offer as your driver will point out important historical and cultural spots along the way and even stop and buy you local delicacies to try on your journey.). The reason you have to arrive and leave in this particular vehicle? Because until 2007 the road from Muscat to this vertiginous part of the country was very rarely used. Especially not for tourism, but then the Sheik instructed that a fully paved road be created. However, due to the sheer incline at some points during the journey they don’t allow regular cars to travel on it. Something to remember if you’re planning on renting a car.
The hotel is built into the mountainside and the views are honestly some of the most breathtaking you will ever see. In 1986, way before the hotel was erected, Princess Diana and Prince Charles were flown to the point where the hotel now sits to see the view for themselves. In honour of her memory, ‘Diana’s Point’ – a viewing platform that can be privately hired for a romantic supper for two – was built in the exact spot that she stood in.
From the 32 villas with private pools and separate entrances, to the 82 rooms with vast balconies, each one has an uninterrupted view of the valley. The decor is cosy, with warm neutral tones and latticed woodwork dotted about. Whilst we could go on about the fantastic rain showers, deep baths and comfy beds, you won’t really be bothered about that as you’ll spend most of your time with your feet up on your balcony taking in the views beyond.
Compared to other luxury hotels in Oman (and dare we say it, the rest of the Gulf too), this hotel is less about the glamour and ‘being seen’ and more about appreciation for your surroundings and making the most of beauty of this country. Families are highly encouraged (there’s a brilliant kids club that will look after your little ones whilst you go out and explore), as are adventurers. There are daily activities that include guided local walks that allow you intimate access to villages that were once inaccessible to tourists, sunrise yoga at the cliff’s edge, archery, mountain biking, you name it. Or of course, you could spend all day by the infinity pool with the view so awe-inspiring you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re experiencing shortness of breath due to the altitude.
One thing to think about before booking: because of the location up in the mountains, it has it’s own climate – different to that of Muscat’s on the coast. During the summer months, when it’s painfully hot in the city with highs of over 40°, the hotel provides a cooling refuge of late twenties/early 30s. In the Winter months, the day can easily get into the late twenties – perfect for poolside tanning, but in the evenings, be sure to pack a light jacket as it can get chilly if you’re sat outside.
There are two things that you simply must, must, must do during your time there and they are: take a trip to the spa, with treatments that will knock your socks off, and take part in the via ferrata climbing wall activity, which will terrify and exhilarate you in equal measure.
The spa is a calming haven after an active day spent out and about in the mountain. There are separate areas for men and women (however there is a couples treatment room should you be there à deux) each with their own plunge pool and relaxation room. The head massage was so good, this reviewer is yet to find one to rival it.
The via ferrata climbing wall activity is not to be missed – you will wind your way around the mountain’s cliff edge on steel cables and zip wires, on one of the Middle’s East highest climbing routes. You can be a complete novice as you’ll be with certified instructors the whole way. But it is so worth it for the pictures alone. #greatforthegram
Stays at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar start at £328 for the Premier Canyon View Room.