A clement climate, a superlative spa and killer views are just some of boutique hotel Alila Jabal Akhdar’s blessings. Cradled by soaring mountains and dramatic canyons, its seductive pool and stone-clad clusters of luxurious suites are scattered on the edge of a clifftop, blending seamlessly into the rugged desert beyond – a welcoming and cosseting base from which to explore this extraordinary corner of Oman.
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One 45-minute facial at Spa Alila a booking. Booking of two nights or more will also receive a lunch for two
Noon. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Late check-out (until 6pm) is charged half a night's stay.
Double rooms from £300.30 (OMR154), including tax at 13.4 per cent.
Rates include a buffet and hot à la carte breakfast.
Oman’s rich traditions and ethnic influences are evident in the hotel, decorated with copper ornaments, initricate mandoos chests and fort-like doors. In nearby Bahla village, potter Mohammad and his son throw the eye-catching ceramics dotted around the lobby, lounges and library.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, lounge, library, children's play centre, board games, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, free bottled water, tea and coffee, Alila bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Spread out between the main building and low-rise clusters dotted around the grounds, rooms are decorated in soft nutmeg and rich chocolate tones, with dark carved-wood furniture, stone terraces and hand-woven baskets hung on the walls. Hand-painted by a local artist, a juniper-tree motif adorns the bedrooms. Bathrooms are vast and light-filled, with views over the picturesque wilderness and a majestic ovoid bath carved by water from a block of pale marble. With shaded balconies and spectacular views from the tub, Ridge View Suites are secluded and have the best vistas, but we also loved Horizon View Suite 83, with its colourful rugs and spacious outside seating area. Jabal Terrace’s vast wooden outdoor deck is a must for stargazers; for a blow-out retreat, the sprawling Jabal Villas each have their own steam room, private pool and Jacuzzi.
Surrounded by a rough-hewn stone and wood deck, the heated infinity pool is all seductive curves and jaw-slackening canyon views; cosy up in the stone cabanas built into the hillside, perfect for basking à deux. Behind a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass, the small indoor heated plunge pool is framed by imposing stone columns, inviting loungers and mood-setting candles.
A temple to healing and soothing therapies, Spa Alila has seven treatment rooms (including one for couples), a Vichy shower and changing rooms equipped with a steam room and Jacuzzi. Sourced from villages in East Bali, unrefined coconut oil is mixed with sweet almond, kukui nut and wheatgerm oils for out-of-this world massages. Locally grown herbs and essential oils are used in the signature treatments, an almost edible menu of scrubs, wraps and masks featuring coffee, ginger, cinnamon and lemongrass. Don’t miss the avocado hair cream bath, an intensely hydrating scalp mask made all the more blissful by a deep neck and shoulder massage.
It’s cooler and wetter in the mountains than on the coast, but you’ll still need sunscreen. Mosquitoes can thrive after winter rains; bring repellent to avoid the nuisance. There’s no need to pack a rucksack: each room has one ready for memorable hikes.
During the month of Ramadan, meals can only be served indoors during the hours of daylight, and the hotel will be unable to offer certain activities and excursions.
The hotel’s grown-up elegance and remote location are best suited to adults; if you’re keen to bring a mini Smith, under-6s stay free in cots or existing beds and Play Alila kids centre will keep them entertained.
Alila’s commitment to treading lightly is evident in the discreet architecture, built from local stone in accordance with LEED environmental design principles. Solar power is used to heat the water, which in turn is recycled to irrigate the grounds.
Ask for a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of that mesmerising view; at night, the city of Nizwa shimmers faintly in the distance. For a more intimate meal, staff can close off a private dining nook at the end of the room.
Silky, billowy kaftans and a fine knit for chilly evenings around the firepit.
Taking its name from the gnarled evergreen tree growing wild in the region, Juniper is an airy and elegant dining room dressed in cocoa-hued wood, its walls and pillars clad in the hotel’s signature stone and softened by a constellation of lanterns hanging overhead. Visible through the panoramic windows, the sweeping mountain views make a picturesque backdrop for the inventive Middle-Eastern fare; expect velvety baba ganoush, delicate pastillas and fragrant lamb-shank tagine flavoured with lemon, cinnamon and prunes.
Located near the restaurant, the Rose Lounge shares its earthy, granite-chic aesthetic and spectacular views. Drinks are served in Juniper Restaurant, or you can sip a a chilled glass of wine or cocktail out on the deck or, come the cooler months, snuggle up at the bar. No alcoholic drinks are served during Ramadan, but fragrant and fruity concoctions make worthy stand-ins.
Juniper is open 7am–11pm; the Rose Lounge pours drinks 11am–11pm.
Breakfast and light snacks can be served in-room from 7am to midnight, an additional tray charge applies.
An hour’s drive from the ancient city of Nizwa, Alila Jabal Akhdar is set on a rugged and secluded clifftop in Oman’s nothern Al Hajar mountain range.
The nearest airport is Muscat International (www.omanaiport.com), a two-and-a-half hour drive away, served by flights to the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The hotel can arrange one-way airport transfers for OMR90 a car (all cars are luxury four-by-fours and fit a maximum of four adults). The journey from the airport takes around two and a half hours. For an extra OMR10, the hotel will pick you up from any hotel in Muscat’s city centre instead. Your other option is to be collected at the Birkat Al Mouz checkpoint at the base of the mountain. Transfers from here cost OMR45 and take an hour.
The hotel is two and a half hours’ drive inland from the Muscat coastline. Driving yourself is possible (you’ll need a 4WD – there are hire desks at the airport), but it’s best to be familiar with the region and terrain. A 4WD is a must and there are police checkpoints at the foot of the mountains to enforce this; make sure to carry extra fuel, plenty of water and a fully charged spare mobile.
Worth getting out of bed for
Set 2,000 meters above sea level, Alila Jabal Akhdar is spectacularly secluded in the Al Hajar mountain range, a desert landscape of stark, rugged beauty. Guests might be forgiven for wanting to indulge in the indoor pleasures offered by the hotel – curl up in the library with a game of chess or backgammon, break a sweat in the glass-walled gym or surrender to the gentle soothing strokes of Balinese massage in Spa Alila.
The hotel’s true spirit, however, lies outdoors: strap on your hiking boots (staff can rustle up a picnic, complete with blanket and cushions) to explore pomegranate- and walnut-clad riverbeds and eerie ghost villages. Omani ‘Grand Canyon’ Wadi Ghul, and the tree-studded heights of the eponymous ‘Green Mountain’ Jabal Akhdar are worth the extra legwork. From March to May the slopes of the Saiq Plateau don a frilly damask-rose coat; stop at Al Aqr village for a spritz of cooling rose water. Close by, the abandoned slope-set village Wadi Bani Habib gives an insight into life before the region's mid-Eighties development.
For an off-piste experience of this tradition-steeped corner of the Arabian Peninsula, staff can also arrange tailored excursions running the gamut from mountain biking to culinary discovery. Nizwa, roughly a 90-minutes’s drive away, lies where Bedouin plains give way to a luxuriant palm oasis. Sample the souks and climb to the top of 17th-century Nizwa Fort for a bird’s-eye view of the crenellated roofs of what was once a centre for trade and Islamic studies.
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 canyon-facing hotel in Al–Dakhiliyah and unpacked their hiking boots and rose-flavoured halwa, a full account of their luxury desert break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick postcard from Alila Jabal Akhdal in Oman…
On entering Alila Jabal Akhdar, guests are greeted by a gargantuan fireplace and views of a precipitous canyon, both the embodiment – at once cosy and dramatic – of the delights waiting for them at this fabulous clifftop retreat. Clad in jagged stones blending into the surrounding wilderness, the hotel’s main building and clustered suites keep a low profile, teetering on the edge of a spectacular gorge. This is a hiker’s paradise of trails meandering through a landscape of shrubs and gnarled juniper trees, ancient ruins and sleepy villages, dusty riverbeds and gardens of sweet-scented roses. Inside, the suites are dressed in stylish ethnic minimalism, their crisp white linens and clean-lined furniture livened up with local handicraft and hand-painted touches. The temperatures are cooler here than on Oman’s coast; snuggle up in the library with some board games, feast on spice-tinged mezze and warming tagines, or retire to the spa to sample Alila’s famed Balinese treatments. The colder months may not permit an outdoor swim in the sleek infinity pool, but the spectacular views of the snow-dusted mountains more than make up for it – this is a winter-sun destination with a difference.