If you’re fond of sand dunes, you’ll fall wildly in love with the soon-to-open Six Senses Shaharut, a luxurious spa retreat set amid the bluffs and dunes of Israel’s breathtaking Negev Desert. Detoxing and de-stressing comes in the form of hammams and massages or visiting practitioners who’ll read your aura and offer spiritual healing, accentuated by richly flavoured Israeli cuisine, house-infused liqueurs and riotously hued sunsets that sink into star-speckled nights.
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Choose from a 30-minute foot massage or body scrub for two
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £477.80 ($638). Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of 17% per booking on check-out.
Rates usually include the hotel’s generous buffet breakfast (with muesli, fruit, cooked-to-order eggs, cheeses, juices and your choice of one à la carte dish).
The hotel hosts alfresco film screenings in an amphitheatre nearby. If you want to take home a little piece of this arid paradise, the camel farm’s thirst-quenching pit stop, the Water Bar, sells locally crafted goods, too.
At the hotel
Spa with saunas and hammams, gym, yoga studio, camel farm, outdoor cinema, Earth Lab, kids’ club for over 12s, laundry, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: private terrace, Smart TV, Marshall Bluetooth speaker, yoga mat, minibar with free snacks, free bottled water, coffee- and tea-making kit, flip-flops, walking stick, sun hats, individually controlled air-conditioning and Six Senses bath products. Pool suites and above have a private plunge pool, and the Private Reserve has a spa treatment room, steam room, gym and indoor-outdoor kitchen.
Our favourite rooms
Opt for the Panorama Pool Villa to get your fill of sweeping desert views, which you can admire from your no-peeking plunge pool. There’s a fireplace to get cosy by in the cooler desert nights, too. But, all rooms have soothing tones of cream and white, Bedouin handicrafts and palms and cacti, and considered lighting to avoid spooking the furred and feathered locals.
There are two pools: a heated, outdoor freshwater infinity pool with otherworldly desert views, a Jacuzzi and a bar serving refreshing juices – plus a shallow section for kids; and there’s an adults-only heated pool in the spa with a line of loungers and cosy cabanas.
Six Senses’ signature spa has six treatment rooms (two for couples) for massages, facials, wraps and more holistic healing: alongside programmes for detoxing and health overhauls, visiting practitioners include Chinese-medicine practitioners, osteopaths, spiritual healers and aura readers. There are male and female saunas and hammams, a gym, mani-pedi station, yoga studio (daily classes are free, on-demand for an extra charge). Plus, there’s a peaceful 25-metre pool. Treatments use local products (olive oil, herbs and camel milk), but you can mix your own scrubs and masks from botanicals, fruits, salts and more ingredients from the hotel garden at the spa’s Alchemy Bar, too.
Floaty dresses and summer tailoring will suit, plus more rugged wear for hikes and camel trains. Camera-snapping is encouraged, but leave any drones at home – they’re not allowed at the resort.
The surroundings aren’t the smoothest to navigate, but the hotel is fully accessible, with a Suite with Pool and Panorama Pool Villa specially adapted for guests with mobility issues.
Children over 12 are welcome. Sofa beds and rollaway beds are available (US$250 a night for older guests). Babysitting is available for US$100 an hour; two day’s notice is needed to book.
Tweens and teens.
If you have a large family, the Panorama Two-Bedroom Pool Villa sleeps up to six.
There’s a programme of activities to keep your Smith teens engaged. They’ll also love a trip to the hotel’s camel farm, where they can see the animals being groomed and visit the stables; sustainability-showcase the Earth Lab is nearby, too. Plus, camel rides, craft workshops, jeep safaris and other gentle treats await.
Kids over 12 are allowed in the main open-air infinity pool.
Kids are very welcome in Midian, Zula and the Arava Pool Bar, where there are dedicated menus; the hotel's ice-cream station will be well-received too.
Babysitters (US$100 an hour) must be booked two days in advance.
No need to pack
Bring any favourite toys or comforters and suncare, but the hotel has a good range of kit: books, puzzles, craft supplies, trikes and bikes and kids’ toiletries
The hotel is impressively eco-friendly; so much so they have an Earth Lab to show sustainable measures they’ve taken and social and environmental projects they’ve funded. Food is organic and ethically sourced – some is even grown on site – and waste is composted. The hotel is built to be energy efficient, has banned plastic straws and bottles (they plan to be plastic-free by 2022) and uses biodegradable cleaning products.
Midian’s terrace has front-row seats for sundown; and the Arava Pool Bar has pouffes and pillows to laze on.
Cocktail kaftans and linen shirts in Midian.
The hotel has three eateries. Watch the chefs in Midian’s kitchen craft delicious Mediterranean-Israeli dishes and pull freshly-baked flatbreads from their clay tabun oven. The restaurant is modern with mid-century and driftwood furnishings, Kilim rugs and a fireplace; there’s also a terrace for alfresco dining when the temperatures are milder. Divvy up dishes at open-air mezze joint Zula, and sip fermented herbal drinks and house-made syrups; and the Arava Pool Bar serves sizzling meats and light bites, with home-made ice-cream for dessert. Many ingredients are grown in the hotel’s garden or sourced from local kibbutzim farms. On request, staff will pack you a picnic or set up a private meal for two in a scenic setting. And, if you’re staying in a villa, you can hand over kitchen duties to a private chef or ask them to fire up the barbecue.
Take high tea in Jamila or stop by for a craft cocktail, mixed with house-infused liqueurs. They also have a stash of vinyl which shows the rich musical heritage of the desert.
Midian serves breakfast from 7am–11am, lunch from 12 noon–4pm, and dinner from 6pm–11pm. Arava starts breakfast at 9am, switching to lunch at 12 noon until 4pm; dinner is from 5pm–8pm. Elbiel’s drinks and snacks run from 6pm–11pm.
The hotel blends seamlessly into the cinematic surrounds of Israel’s Negev Desert, spread over 46 acres in the Arava Valley.
If you fly into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, the hotel is a three-hour drive away; the hotel can arrange transfers in a range of luxury vehicles from US$450 each way. Alternatively, from Tel Aviv you can hop on a 50-minute flight to Eilat’s Ramon International airport, just a 45-minute drive from the hotel; transfers are US$250 each way.
Hotel transfers are the best option for driving to the hotel – this way you get to admire the curvaceous dunes and soaring bluffs you’ll see along the way. If you bring your own set of wheels, there’s free parking on site. The hotel's also a three-hour drive from Petra.
You can be picked up by helicopter from Tel Aviv (from US$3,890 to $7,950) or Jerusalem (US$4,260 to $9,300) if you want to make an entrance.
Worth getting out of bed for
You could well spend your time blissed out in the hotel spa, skipping from hammam to sauna, getting scrubbed down with camel’s milk and herbs, and seeing which alternative therapies you can try. Or dip in and out of the hotel's indoor and outdoor pools, keeping a watch for local wildlife. Journey out to the camel farm to see the animal’s humps get groomed before you head out on a trek into the desert. Don’t forget to stop into the Earth Lab, where you’ll learn how eco-friendly the hotel is, see how they support the local community and learn a few green ‘life hacks’.
Or you can use the vast surroundings as a natural playground; go off-road driving, climb or bike the dusty mountains of Wadi Rum, or rappel off them. Gentler activities for families or those not willing to hang from a cliff face, can be arranged too: see the Arava Valley’s archaeological treasures, such as the rock carvings in Timna Valley Park. See if you can spot the elusive Arabian leopards on a jeep safari or learn how to make hangings and weavings at a craft workshop. Eilat is an hour’s drive away and its calm waters and abundant sea life make it an excellent spot for snorkelling and diving. Staff can also plan day trips to Petra’s rock-hewn ‘Rose City’, the ancient forts of Masada, Mount Karkom and the Dead Sea. For cultural immersion, head out on camel to camp overnight amid the dunes, go walking with a Bedouin tribesman who’ll regale you with local lore, or visit the Kibbutz Neot Semadar, which was established in 1989 by a group of friends, to glimpse an outlier way of life.
What the desert has in immense beauty and near-supernatural landscapes, it lacks in a dining scene. You can pick up a picnic from the kitchen for hikes, but otherwise make use of the hotel's top-drawer restaurants.
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 sun-bleached retreat in Israel,unpacked the botanicals they hand-mixed in the spa and shook the sand from their suitcases, a full account of their desert spa break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Six Senses Shaharut in the Negev Desert…
Luxury spa retreat Six Senses Shahahrut offers a getaway of truly biblical proportions; not least because its patch of Israel’s wild-frontier Negev Desert is rich in Hebraic history. The Midianite tribe and the warrior Nabataeans once roamed its plateaus and valleys and later prime minister Ben Gurion retired to one of the kibbutzim that have sprung up amid the dunes that can rise up to 30 metres high. It's a landscape that whispers of adventure in gentle eddies of sun-warmed air, and a meditative spot for recalibrating, in which Six Senses signature spa plays an important part. Here you can have a simple massage or have your aura read, consult with a spiritual healer or have a course of Chinese tonics plotted for you. And more sensual salvation can be found in this desert-modern outpost: keep your eyes peeled for skittish ibex and prowling caracals from your lounger by the pool, tap into the hotel’s eco-conscience at the Earth Lab and dine on mezze and Israeli meals sourced from the hotel’s garden or kibbutz farms. Then, toast the sunset with house-infused liqueurs as oranges and pinks melt into the dunes, giving way to Arabian nights sprinkled with stars.