Two-thousand metres above sea level and two hours south of Muscat, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdaris one for lovers of vertiginous beauty. The lofty modern family-friendly resort is styled on a traditional Omani fort – the inaccessibility of this remote, rugged region once made it a natural defence point. The project cost megabucks – money well spent, since the hotel is already considered one of the most Amazing Hotels in the world, according to a BBC series.
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One dinner for two at Al Maison restaurant; early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm, also flexible.
Double rooms from £377.38 (OMR192), including tax at 13.4 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
The hotel can lay claim to being the highest five-star retreat in the whole of the Middle East – and long before there was an Anantara outpost, there was a visiting prince and princess: Charles and Diana helicoptered in to admire the canyon in the Eighties.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, tennis court, bicycles to borrow, kids’ playroom and playground, gym, free valet parking. In rooms: air-conditioning, minibar, Nespresso coffee machine, LED TV, Bluetooth sound-system, iPod dock, free bottled water and Elemis bath products.
Our favourite rooms
It’s got to be a One-Bedroom Cliff Pool Villa, where canyon views are constant thanks to your sliding windows, deck and private pool. The bathrooms are enormous, there’s a cosy living room as you enter and the beds are vast. Even the entry-level Deluxe Canyon-View Rooms showcase the famous verdant mountain since they’re up on the first floor; avoid their ground-floor counterparts if gorge-gazing is a dealbreaker. For green-fingered guests, who prize a patch of paradise above mountain views, go for a Garden Pool Villa. Families, groups and VIPs will love the multi-bedroom villa options, which come with their own private entrances.
There’s a heated, infinity-edged number up by Diana’s Point (as well as one in your room if you’ve booked wisely).
The mosaic-lined spa is designed to resemble a traditional hammam, with separate entrances and areas for men and women. There are five treatment rooms, two of which have twin beds for couples. Pilates, yoga and personal training are also available.
Take a hint from the locals and opt for cooling natural fabrics; pristine white dishdashas for men, optional.
The ground-floor Premier Canyon View Rooms are wheelchair accessible, as are all the restaurants.
All ages welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to rooms for OMR20, and there are interconnecting options. Babysitting is available with a day’s notice. There’s a club for kids and another for teens, an indoor playroom and outdoor playground.
Babies and up.
The multi-room villas will give you the most space, but extra beds and cots can be added to all rooms. Some rooms can interconnect via the outdoor deck.
There are kids’-club offerings for varying age groups.
The hotel is well-equipped to keep families entertained, with an outdoor playground, indoor playroom, bicycles to borrow, a tennis court and pool table. Braver/older/crazier kids can try abseiling along the via ferrata on the cliff edge.
A lifeguard is on duty at the communal pool.
Children are welcome in Bella Vista and Al Maisan, but not Al Qalaa or either of the bars. Highchairs are provided and meals can be adapted – Bella Vista has a dedicated children’s menu.
Anantara’s Dining by Design concept means staff can pitch up pristine tableware pretty much everywhere – but nothing beats sequestering Diana’s Point for your own personal dinner à deux.
Al Qalaa is the smartest restaurant, but things never get more formal than ‘smart casual’. For the sake of sunburn prevention and respecting local traditions, covering up won’t go amiss.
There is an impressive assortment of dining options, which is just as well, since there’s not much around for miles. Sit out under the stars (or beneath decorative hanging lamps) in Al Maisan, where an elaborate breakfast buffet consisting of several stations is set up every morning. Guests can pile their plates with everything from the local (za’atar-stuffed flatbreads; ful medames – essentially Arabic baked beans) to the Continental, Asian and American. Bella Vista serves an authentic Italian menu, with faultless pastas, risottos and tiramisu. And for something refined, head to the evening- and adults-only Al Qalaa, where mixed grills, fish from the Gulf of Oman and Middle Eastern favourites such as baba ganoush are given a fine-dining take. There’s also a café in the courtyard: Al Baha.
There are two: Al Burj, a Moroccan-style cocktail bar set in the tower of the fort, above Al Qalaa; and Al Shurfa, a shisha lounge above the courtyard. Both are open from 4.30pm until midnight.
Breakfast at Al Maisan is served from 7am (6.30am on Fridays and Saturdays) until 11am; dinner here is 6.30pm to 10.30pm. Al Qalaa is open for dinner (6.30pm–11pm). Bella Vista opens from noon until 6.30pm.
A mix of international and local dishes are offered in-room.
The hotel is high on the Saiq Plateau in the protected Jabal Akhdar region of the Al Hajar Mountains in northern Oman.
The nearest airport is Muscat’s, a two-hour drive away. Several carriers offer direct flights here; otherwise you can change in Dubai. Return hotel transfers cost OMR165 (plus tax) for up to three guests and must be arranged at least 72 hours before arrival.
Government regulations insist on only 4WDs entering the reserve – and you’ll be glad of it once you’re navigating these long and winding roads. Nizwa (and its famous fort) is the nearest town, an hour’s drive south. Driving from Dubai is also an option; allow four and a half hours. The hotel offers chauffeur-driven 4WDs between the base of the mountain and the resort, which takes 35 minutes each way; there’s valet parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
This is a resort for the adventurous (abseiling, anyone?), but if the thought of leaning back into a deep gorge in a hefty harness and traversing the via ferrata drilled into the rocks sends a vertiginous shiver down your back, stick to a walk into the local villages with your ‘mountain guru’, who will teach you all about the ancient falaj irrigation system as you limber across it and family life with goats before people headed to bigger towns to find work. There are telescopes up by Al Burj for stargazing. The Nizwa Fort, one of Oman’s most famous monuments, is an hour’s drive away. Muscat and its glistening beach resorts are two hours away by car.
There are one or two more basic hotel offerings nearby, but you’ll be better off sticking within your fantasy fort and working your way through its extensive F&B selection.
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 dates, a full account of their luxury break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar…
A star of the BBC’s Amazing Hotels series, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar cost a whopping £200 million to create. It’s the highest five-star hotel in the Middle East (not to be confused with the tallest five-star hotel – this is not a region that does things by half). The jabal means mountain and the akhdar means green, and you’ll see both things come together beautifully in this spectacular landscape. This remote, rugged expanse is only accessible by 4WD (and helicopter, mode of transport of choice for Charles and Di, who visited in 1986). The hotel’s fort-like design incorporates traditional Omani details at every chance, whether it’s the saruj plaster (a mix of mud, clay and straw), intricate screens, Arabian doorways, hanging lamps or handwoven rugs. The restaurants respect local cuisine, while offering international travellers a taste of home. The spa is spectacular, whether you fancy an intensive all-over body scrub in the hammam or a signature Anantara treatment, such as the sleep ritual (where a therapist assists the onset of slumber with massage, gives you some tea and halwa, and puts you to bed). Auntie always knows best.