In the southern-Oman city of Salalah, Anantara’s Al Baleed Resort Salalah has an archaeological site for a neighbour, the Arabian Sea on its doorstep and a celebrated monsoon every summer. The bright white villas are cool, calm casas with palm-lined private pools, splashes of red, breezy terraces and, in some, direct access to the beach. There’s a super spa for tan-prolonging scrubs, three restaurants, a shisha bar and a shuttle to the nearby former harbour hub (now a Unesco-approved ruin). And the world’s largest sand desert is just a drive away for classic Bedouin camping trips under the stars.
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A bottle of wine; GoldSmiths will also get an early (11am) check-in and late (3pm) check-out, subject to availability
Double rooms from £276.96 (OMR142), including tax at 13.4 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of OMR5.00 per person on check-in.
Rates usually include breakfast. An additional fee of OMR5 for every adult applies for each stay to cover access to the Al Baleed Archaeological Park, Sumhuram Archaeological Park, Shisr and Wadi Dawkah.
The hotel takes its name from its archaeological-site neighbour, once a fortified town and Silk Road trading-post harbour where frankincense was sold.
At the hotel
Gym, tennis court, bicycles to borrow, kids’ club, beach, valet parking. In rooms: beach bags, sun hats, Elemis bath products (Amouage for villas), air-conditioning, tea and coffee kit, free bottled water, minibar and TV.
Our favourite rooms
We love the Beach Villas, mostly for their uninterrupted Arabian Sea views and swift shore access, but also for their huge terraces; you’ll wake up to the sound of the waves gently lapping outside. For the best sunset setting, book one of the Lagoon View Villas. The Premium Sea View Rooms are in the main building – which means you’ll miss out on pedalling along the palm-covered pathways to reach your villa.
There’s a cabana-lined infinity pool that stretches all the way down to the sea, with the Al Mina terrace and Sakalan nearby.
The spa has a traditional Arabic hammam, ‘experience showers’, relaxation areas, a nail salon and five treatment rooms for ayurvedic rituals. There are separate male and female areas. Tailored wellness programmes are available that combine healthy eating, personal training and spa spoiling.
You’ll need waterproofs if it's khareef time and sun-proof clothing the rest of the year – if you’ve ever wondered why Middle Eastern men look so cool and composed in the heat, try a dishdasha and all will soon be revealed.
The resort’s communal areas are accessible for wheelchair users and there are specially adapted rooms available.
All ages are welcome. There’s a kids’ club and lots to keep little Smiths entertained. Some rooms can interconnect and there are multi-bedroom villas for families.
Ask for a table by the window at Mekong so you can soak up those sunset and lagoon views.
Cover up your swimming costume at Sakalan and Al Mina, and switch out of it by nightfall. At Mekong, it’s a little formal – make sure your footwear’s closed.
There are three: Sakalan, Mekong and Al Mina. Al Mina’s terrace is right by the beach, making its Med menu of Italian, Greek and Spanish classics a great idea – don’t miss the just-caught sardines that you’ll have seen the fishermen hauling in if you were paying attention. Mekong brings Anantara’s heritage to Oman, with South-East Asian dishes like hot pots, papaya salads, chicken satays and green curries. An elaborate breakfast offering is set up each morning at Sakalan, spanning European and American essentials, along with more local flavours and several stations.
There’s a shisha bar at Al Mina and Mekong has a sundowner-ready terrace.
Breakfast service at Sakalan is 7am to 11am; lunch is noon to 3pm; dinner is 6.30pm to 10.30pm. Mekong serves dinner between 6pm and 11pm. Al Mina serves food all day, from 10am to midnight.
A selection of snacks, salads, pizzas and international favourites can be served in your room or villa on request.
PC 214, Al Mansurah Street, Al Baleed, Salalah 360, Oman
The resort is in the south of the sultanate of Oman, on the edge of the Empty Quarter in the balmy city of Salalah, the capital of the Dhofar region.
Salalah Airport is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. The flight down from Muscat is about an hour and 40 minutes. Transfers cost OMR30 for up to four guests and OMR55 for up to six.
If you like empty expanses of desert, you’ll love driving in Oman, but for those who want to skip on the long, non-winding roads, domestic flights from Muscat are your best bet for reaching Salalah. The hotel has free valet parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Get scrubbed down on some sparkling mosaic tiles with a traditional Arabic hammam at the spa, cycle the palm-lined paths to burn off breakfast, hit the beach and wander over (or take the resort shuttle) to the Unesco-listed archaeological site next-door. And instead of being idle on the beach, you can help the local fishermen (and the chefs) by assisting with the catch and delivering it to the kitchens, where the staff will gladly cook it for your dinner.
The hotel can arrange local guides to take you out on the frankincense trail, where you can learn all about the baby-Jesus-approved tree resin, which has been harvested and traded here for centuries. Wadi Dawkah is a natural park with over a thousand frankincense trees. Also nearby is the tomb of the prophet Job, and endless stretches of mountain-backed empty coast. Zig Zag Road is one of the most scenic spots – with added camel caravans to help improve your snaps. The hotel can point you in the direction of beautiful hidden beaches and pack you off with a picnic; some will involve a hike, but others you can drive right up to. Staff will also be able to arrange fishing, diving and boat trips, where you’ll meet the local dolphins and turtles if you’re lucky. You can swim with dolphins, too, and head out on a dhow for a sunset cruise. Stockpile precious metals at the Gold Souk (which also does a fine line in silver), or drop your jaw at the size of the chandelier and carpet inside the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Salalah.
Head to Shisr to see the Lost City of Ubar (no relation to a taxi app), a caravan site, also known as the Atlantis of the Sands. It’s a bit of a drive, but day trips into the Empty Quarter are possible – the desolate desert takes up 250,000 square miles and stretches into Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. You’ll be able to go full Bedouin and camp out overnight amid the 200-metre dunes on an excursion with Oman Expeditions.
The resort has three restaurants to choose from and you probably won’t want to leave your villa for long – but if you’re out and about in Salalah, try Baalbek (23rd July Street) for Lebanese food, Marmara for Turkish dishes and Art of Spices for South Indian faves.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this resort hotel in Oman and unpacked their frankincense and gold, a full account of their beachfront break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Al Baleed Resort Salalah…
For those of us who live in notoriously grey and rainy places, the thought of travelling somewhere drizzly probably doesn’t appeal – but for desert dwellers in the sun-scorched Middle East, Salalah is the place to be every July to September, thanks to the summer monsoon, khareef. It doesn’t rain, it pours during these months, turning the dry landscape a lush green, forming new waterfalls and topping up springs. Salalah is also the land of frankincense – the Magi’s favourite tree resin has been harvested and traded here for hundreds of years. And it’s on the edge of the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world, with some of its tallest dunes. At Anantara Al Baleed, bright white villas line the Arabian Sea shores, with palm trees and pathways weaving between them. Cycle up to the South-East Asian Mekong, the beachfront terrace at Al Mina and the breakfast buffet you’ll need to allocate a couple of hours to at Sakalan, before cruising the coast or inspecting the famous frankincense trees. Let it rain (you can stand under our umbrella).
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