by: José Berrocoso
The desert is a magical place, offering shimmering vistas, intense colours, huge dunes, tranquillity, clear skies, bright stars and magical experiences. It’s no wonder that a desert break is high on the bucket list of every discerning traveller.
From the United States to Oman, Egypt, India or Chile, planet earth sure has some pretty awesome deserts to choose from. Whether you are trekking on foot, hitching a ride on a camel or driving through on a 4×4, the rugged beauty of the desert rarely fails to impress. Add in the opportunity to experience inspiring desert cultures and stargaze beneath some of the clearest skies on the planet and all that sand in your shoes starts to seem worth it.
Here are some dreamy desert escapes that I promise aren´t a mirage. Don’t you feel warmer already?
THE STARGAZING EXPERIENCE IN NORTHERN CHILE
Where: Alto Atacama, Chile
San Pedro de Atacama is a tiny oasis located at an altitude of 2,500 metres, in a geographic area showcasing some of the tallest peaks in the Andes Mountains, as well as the famous Atacama Desert – known as the driest desert in the world. Considered to be the archaeological capital of Chile, Atacama is privileged by beautiful landscapes and eternally clear blue skies.
Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa is the result of the humble dream of a Chilean Family, inspired by the magnificence of this land that seemed from another world. Located in the lush Catarpe Valley of the Salt Mountain Range, just over a mile from the plaza of San Pedro, the Alto Atacama’s design was influenced by local village architecture and conceived to blend seamlessly into its environment and appear as a part of the terracotta-coloured ridge that rises behind it. The setting, the sweeping views, the tranquility and silence, and the hotel’s wonderful outdoor lounge spaces make the Alto Atacama a destination in itself, and unlike any other hotel property in the region.
Chile’s desert is blessed with the clearest skies in the southern hemisphere and Alto Atacama’s unique location away from the bright lights of the village of San Pedro means there is zero light pollution, providing the most dramatic setting for an evening of stargazing. This experience is not designed to be a scientific one, rather a sensorial one, and an emotional link with the cosmos.
A SUSTAINABLE OASIS
Where: Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman
Discovering the wild and breathtaking natural beauty of Oman is one of the best reasons for visiting the Sultanate. Set beneath Oman’s dramatic Al Hajar Mountains and nestling against a chalk-white sand beach not far from Dibba, Six Senses Zighy Bay is accessible only by four-wheel drive and speedboat.
This resort effortlessly combines luxury and sustainability. It resembles a traditional Omani village in many ways, with narrow passages between the individual villas and palm shaded, sandy roads and almost no cars. Each of the villas is furnished to reflect Omani culture and features its own private infinity pool as well as a private deck and sun-house; you can relax here for most of the day, sunbathe, and enjoy room service from the resort’s extensive, five-star menu.
One of the pioneers in eco-friendly hotels, the Six Senses Resorts and Spas always manage to create a luxurious guest experience whilst protecting the planet. And Zighy Bay Resort takes the message of sustainability one step further, with a concept that allows hotel guests to experience the freshest of produce direct from the resort’s own on-site organic garden and organic farm.
NORTH AMERICA´S MOST DRAMATIC DESERT LANDSCAPE
Where: Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah, United States of America
In a protected valley in Canyon Point, surrounded by spectacular rock formations and the arid desert, you’ll find a resort made in heaven. Utah’s desert oasis, Amangiri – the most fabulous resort in the middle of nowhere – is where the encounter with nature is unforgettable.
Amangiri (peaceful mountain) is in the centre of the Grand Circle region of the Colorado Plateau, surrounded by such iconic attractions as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase – Escalante and Bryce & Zion National Parks.
Fly away from the everyday at this architectural gem that blends into the raw beauty of the surrounding landscape. Its architecture demands your attention, with minimalistic sandstone-and-concrete buildings, a giant pool and organic colours. Inside, you can find earth-inspired furnishings and fixtures that pay homage to the region’s Navajo heritage. Luxury, relaxation and nature meet here.
Explore the region’s striking desert scenery on foot, by helicopter or hot air balloon. Go horseback riding and rock climbing. Boat trips on Lake Powell or the Colorado River could also be arranged. Sounds amazing, don’t you think?
ON THE EDGE OF THE DRAMATIC GREAT SAND SEA
Where: Adrère Amellal, Siwa, Egypt
The ancient Egyptians called Siwa the ‘Field of Trees’. Today this most isolated settlement is home to a small population of Berbers. You won’t find marble sinks and black-suited staff here and you can’t use the wifi because there is no electricity.
Adrère Amellal is an amazing eco-lodge located just a few miles from Siwa at the foot of the White Mountain overlooking Lake Siwa. This environmentally-sustainable and socially-conscious lodge is one of the world´s most interesting hotels. It is a true getaway with its romantic, otherworldly atmosphere and breathtaking views of the lake and the Sahara Desert.
Each of the 40 rooms is hand-built in the traditional Siwan style, blending naturally into the landscape and featuring traditional furniture and crafts from local artisans. There are no telephones and cell phones are not allowed outside of guest rooms, providing a perfect escape into the tranquillity of the oasis.
Most of the food used in the incredible traditional cuisine is organic and grown on the grounds or by local farmers.
ROYAL RAJASTHANI CULTURE
Where: Travel´s desert tour in Rajasthan, India
Tucked away in the north-west corner of India, on the border with Pakistan, a world of colour, splendour and spectacle awaits visitors to India’s largest and most romantic state, Rajasthan. With its wild desert scenery, ancient sandcastle forts, pastel-coloured cities, dust-speckled light and its swathes of scarlet, fuschia and marigold textiles, the northern region is sure to induce a bout of wanderlust.
Travellers can explore the best of Rajasthan’s desert landscapes in style with Ampersand Travel’s desert tour of North India. The suggested itinerary starts in Jodhpur, the blue city, with two nights at Umaid Bhawan Palace.
After a few days of rest and relaxation, journey up to the desert town of Jaisalmer for two nights at Killa Bhawan, a heritage hotel built into the fort’s walls. Once rested and rejuvenated the tour will then take you to the Osian Camel Camp, a small and atmospheric tented camp. The following day, take a camel ride around the local tribal villages, or simply soak up your surroundings by the pool. The camp is owned by the grandson of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Reggie Singh, who you may be lucky enough to meet at the camp’s safari bar. The following morning return to Jodhpur’s magnificent Umaid Bhawan Palace for your final night in style.