The award-winning Six Senses Zighy Bay beach resort in Oman is not just remote, it's like nowhere you've seen before: cradled by craggy mountains and dipping its toes into the opal blue waters of the Musandam's fjords. Die-hard Bond wannabes, this is your dream come true. Where else in the world can you choose to arrive by speedboat, 4x4 or paraglider?
Get this when you book through us:
Your choice of a 30-minute foot massage for two or a body scrub for two
Eighty-two, including 20 suites, private villas, two Private Retreats and one Private Reserve.
Noon (flexible, subject to availability and a 50 per cent charge up to 6pm); earliest check-in, 2pm. Guests arriving early or leaving late are welcome to use all the resort's facilities, including the spa and a day-use villa for freshening up.
Double rooms from £791.56 ($1,088), including tax at 13.4 per cent.
Rates exclude meals. The hotel's decadent buffet breakfast is US$40 a person a day. There's also a half board (US$80 a person a day) and full board (US$130 a person a day) rate with set menus at Spice Market and the Summer House. All rates exclude taxes.
'Minibar' doesn't do it justice: your room is kitted out with a mini wine cellar, half-litre bottles of premium spirits, fruit juices, beers and soft drinks, as well as an array of snack-happy treats. There's a compulsory New Year's Eve Gala Dinner on December 31; it's US$450 for adults and US$225 for children aged 6 to 11 years old.
At the hotel
Beach with watersports and dive centre; spa with hammam, sauna and gym; personal training; tennis courts; library of books, CDs and DVDs; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, pre-loaded iPod and dock; well-stocked minibar and wine chiller, free water, espresso machine, kettle, slippers and bathrobes, alfresco showers, in-room treatments.
Our favourite rooms
Laid out like a traditional Omani village, individual stone-walled dwellings house standalone villas and suites. Every villa has a private plunge pool with sunloungers, a terrace with dining area, private sand 'garden' and shady outdoor majlis (seating area) and an outdoor shower. Pick of the bunch are the sunrise-facing beachfront villas, with uninterrupted sea views and only a few sandy footsteps between you and the water. Add 'Suite' to your room name, and the bedroom and living room will be separate, with two bathrooms and two outdoor showers. Add 'Duplex', and you're going up in the world: these elevated villas have an extra bedroom and living space on the upper floor – Duplex Pool Villa Suites also have dining rooms and balconies. For total indulgence, the Retreats are huge two-bedroom villas on two floors, with large pools, and a fitted kitchen leading onto a small third bedroom for a butler or nanny.
The freeform infinity-edged pool winds down towards the sea, with plenty of palm-shaded loungers (and the occasional mountain goat) reflected in its surface. Staff are at your beck and call for snacks, drinks and cooling sorbets. There's also a saltwater swimming pool with Roman steps and a swim-round island.
Loose, long linens; Bond girl bikinis; sturdier swimwear for watersports; things containing Lycra (for mountain biking, canyoning, rock climbing, and overeating).
Most public areas are wheelchair accessible (although paths between are sand and stone); the spacious one-bedroom villas are all on one level and best suited to the elderly or less mobile.
Welcome. There's space for two under-12s (free) to stay in their parent's room, or one older child or extra adult (US$105). There are fantastic children’s menus, activities galore and babysitting is available from US$17 an hour.
Adventurous pre-schoolers and above: kids who can make the most of the seaside setting and all the activities on offer.
All villa types can comfortably sleep a family of four, but if you want them in a separate room, opt for a one-bedroom Pool Villa Suite or two-bedroom Zighy Pool Villa or above.
No crèche for under-4s, but the Chaica Club for children aged 4–12 has activities as diverting as yours are, with distractions from simple sandcastle-building to all-action water polo or beach bowling, plus sessions inspired by local culture: mehndi henna painting, Arabic lessons and cookery classes. Teens have their own club, Al Feetean's, with more adventurous options including abseiling, archery, capoeira, photography, survival skills, raft-building and snorkelling.
There's a never-be-bored list of activities to keep older kids entertained, with alfresco film screenings (don't miss the flavoured popcorn), mountain biking, tennis courts and watersports topping the list. Feed the goats, swim in the sea, splash in the pools or sign them up for cookery lessons while you book into the spa.
Every room type has a private plunge pool, so it may not be hugely relaxing if you have the kind of energetic toddler who seeks danger at every opportunity. There's a large freeform infinity pool as well as a saltwater pool – children are welcome at both.
Kids are welcome in both the Spice Market and the Summer House, at any time. Highchairs and booster seats are available, and there's a tasty children’s menu, with healthy dishes (such as wholewheat spaghetti, noodle soup, poached sheary fillets or grilled chicken strips), treaty favourites (mini pizzas and burgers) and fun desserts, too (marshmallow fruit salad, banana splits). Staff will happily heat up milk or baby food. Children under six eat free; those aged six to 11 eat for 50 per cent of the adult rate. Children over 12 are considered adults.
Babysitters are available with 48 hours' notice; it's US$17 an hour for one child, with additional children charged at US$17 an hour.
No need to pack
There's a buggy you can borrow at the resort – just bear in mind that most of the paths are sand or rough stone, so you're not likely to need it. Cots, black-out blinds, bottle-sterilising kit, stair gates, baby towels and basic toys also available.
Beachfront properties are great, but if your little ones are freedom-seekers, you might prefer to distance yourself from the shoreline. Bear in mind that the summer months are very hot – consider timing your visit from November to March, when offsite expeditions and all-action playtime are more pleasurable.
Six Senses is committed to sustainability, and has an admirable policy of supporting the community by working with local charities and schools. It has been involved in the creation of a protected marine area, to raise awareness of the Musandam peninsula's unique eco-system. There's an organic kitchen garden onsite, and, best of all, it eschews the import of trendy H2Os, makes its own mineral water with a crystal plant, and donates 1 rial from each sale to its social responsibility fund.
Sense on the Edge is literally the top table: set on a clifftop above the hotel, this exclusive perch commands a jaw-dropping view, particularly at sunset.
Wilderness chic (beachwear by day, low-key glamour by night).
The Spice Market offers an Ottolenghi-esque feast of organic Arabic dishes and regional specialities. Try mograbieh bil lamh (grilled beef tenderloin served on giant couscous scented with caraway powder), samak mahalli (a local fish fillet marinated in Arabic spices and served with tarator, a garlicky tahini sauce) or simar albahar mushakal (roasted seafood, including lobster and prawns). More relaxed, and with squishy settees on a breezy veranda overlooking the pool, the Summer House is all about laid-back grills, pasta, sandwiches and salads, plus a weekly-changing specials menu; it's no slouch on the food front, with smoked buffalo mozarella, Wagyu beef burgers, tuna tartar and home-made sorbets making regular appearances. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, book ahead for a table 293m above sea level at Sense on the Edge, Zighy Bay's mountaintop fine-dining showcase. At dinner, the delectable set menu shows off the full talent of the restaurant's adept chefs; lunch follows a looser format, with guests choosing from an enticing à la carte menu with wine pairings (but if any of the lunchtime dishes catch your eye at dinner, the staff are only too happy to work them into your meal). In season, the weekly Shua Shack barbecue offers Bedouin-style dining on the beach, with sand-pit oven-baked lamb, Arabic mezze and more served under a barasti shelter.
The refreshingly unsceney Zighy Bar mixes signature mocktails, lassies, smoothies, home-made lemonades and cocktails (date martinis, tamarind margaritas) as well being stocked with a globetrotter's guide to worldwide spirits, from Lebanese arack to single-malt whisky. There's also the subterranean Wine Cellar, a chef's table set-up for two to eight people who fancy a serious tasting sessions.
Drinks are poured from noon to midnight at Zighy Bar, with a 'no rush hour' from 9.30pm. Breakfast is served in the Spice Market and Summer House from 7am to 10.30am, and dinner at each is from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.
There's a round-the-clock menu of Arabic dishes and comfort cuisine spanning Asian and European staples. You can also order in-villa barbecues, cooked and served by butlers, to enjoy in your private 'sand garden'.
On the rugged northern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, this remote resort is as far removed from Oman's cultural capital Muscat as it is from the ritz and glitz of Dubai, the nearest point of entry.
Take note: the closest airport is actually Dubai International, a 120km drive (two hours) away in the neighbouring UAE, and not Muscat (Oman's capital), which is at least five hours' drive. Musandam's regional domestic airport Khasab is physically closer, but it's impractical to get to Zighy Bay from here. If you're entering Oman overland from the UAE or by boat, you'll need a pre-arranged border pass. This will be sorted for you – but you need to provide the Smith24 team with a colour copy of your passport's photo ID page at least three days in advance. The hotel can arrange airport transfers from Dubai Airport starting from US$225 (including tax) each way for up to three people and US$290 for up to five people.
Arrange a transfer, it's far less stressful if you're not familiar with the region. The drive from Muscat is arduous, and not especially scenic. From Dubai on the peninsula's west coast, you'll cross the Hajar Mountains – and the Omani border, so you'll need your passport and border pass handy (a Zighy Bay representative will facilitate the crossing if they're collecting you; or you can ring +968 2673 5555 for the hotel's assistance when you reach the border). If you're driving from Dubai, take the Emirates road towards Ras al Khaimah, and then turn onto the Dibba (Fujairah) road, following the E87 across the mountains and down to the east coast. At the Masafi roundabout, turn left onto the E89. At Dibba, head for the corniche road (with the sea on your right), where you'll pass border control. From the next roundabout, take the 2nd road on the right, and go straight over the next roundabout. Turn left at the next roundabout, leaving the Shell petrol station on your left. Go straight over the Sultan Qaboos Mosque roundabout. When you pass a petrol station, take the second left, following the sign for Quroon A'Sajd. Go right at the T-junction, uphill past the dam, towards Khasab. The road is unpaved from the next 5km, with the last stretch hugging the cliffsides as you approach the resort; it's not for nervous drivers and you'll need a 4WD (there's a Zighy Bay greeting point here, where you can leave your car and be driven the last few kilometres by hotel staff). There's a free onsite car park.
Book a car transfer from Dubai, and then hop aboard a speedboat for the final 15-minute stretch, spotting coastal fishing villages along the way; Zighy Bay has its own mini marina. If that's not ostentatious enough for you, consider flying in: you can paraglide down to the bay (strapped to an instructor) from a rocky outcrop in the surrounding mountains.
Worth getting out of bed for
In this scenic and secluded spot, there's little sound other than the lapping of the waves (and even that's subdued), and at night, the only lights you'll see are low-level – candles, torches and sparkling stars among them. Even the movies are silent, with wireless headphones at the alfresco beach cinema for every recumbent viewer. But if total tranquility is not what you're used to, there's a mind-boggling array of spirit-lifting diversions from cookery to canyoning to keep you busy. The acclaimed Six Senses Spa has two Arabic-style hammams, a holistic approach and a truly brilliant menu of locally-inspired treatments that use indigenous ingredients to pamper and soothe – frankincense, goat's milk, dates, almonds, honey, rosewater, sea salt, lime and mint… – all designed to leave you feeling as delicious as they sound. Explore the craggy coast and its clear dark depths on a traditional dhow cruise or scuba-diving expedition; borrow snorkelling kit from the watersports centre and wade into the water just beyond your villa; play Pétanque or beach volleyball; practice yoga or Pilates, or (if you're mad-keen), sign up for boot-camp training in the hotel's alfresco 'jungle gym'. Still not enough? Up the ante with waterskiing in adjacent bays, canyoning in rocky wadis, paragliding from the cliffs, mountain biking in the Hajar Mountains, hiking up goat paths, rock climbing or microlight flights. Further afield, Six Senses staff can also arrange Dubai day trips and 4x4 excursions to the ancient village and plateau of Sabatyn.
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 spectacular beach resort in Oman and unpacked their snorkels and sunhats, a full account of their luxury holiday will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick postcard from Six Senses Zighy Bay on the Musandam Peninsula…
Paraglide in, and you'll sleep-walk out: Zighy Bay takes relaxation to a whole new level. The barren, otherworldly setting of Six Senses' award-winning Oman outpost – backed by an arena of craggy cliffs on a pale crescent moon of sand – belies the riches on offer. The ethos is eco-friendly, with indulgent spa treatments focusing on indigenous ingredients, and the mouthwatering Middle Eastern cuisine created with organic produce from the kitchen gardens. Amazingly, the resort's Omani village theming manages to sidestep the ersatz Arabian Nights trap so many luxury Middle Eastern hotels tip headlong into; instead, Zighy Bay's rough stone walls, winding sandy pathways and open-sided barasti shelters create that elusive sense of belonging in this rugged, spectacular location. (Especially tricky when 'belonging' to this particular Omani village necessitates personal wine cellars, private plunge pools and alfresco showers.) Slip out of your beachfront villa into the languid ocean, be pampered in a goat's milk and honey bath, scale rocky cliffs and dive into deep rockpools, catch your own fish for dinner or salute sunset with canapés by a campfire… You'll want for nothing, and remember everything.