Jabal Akhdar, Oman

Photo: Alila Hotels and Resorts
Photo: Alila Hotels and Resorts

The route from Muscat is long and winding. After passing through the expansive desert, you head into the green mountains. You drive by craggy hills and orchards full of apricots, peaches, and grapes. The air becomes cooler and clearer. Little villages have sun-baked houses and terraced fields. Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Eastern Arabia, stands in the distance. While a deep gorge and a cliffside hotel appear at the end of a zig-zagging road. You’ve finally reached Alila Jabal Akhdar.

The hotel may look like an old stone fort on the outside, but inside, it’s sleek and modern. You’re welcomed into the lobby with Turkish coffee and a tray of dates. An open fireplace sits in the center of the room, which is decorated with a rose pattern inspired by the region’s famous Damask roses that are used to make Omani rose water.

Your room is even more relaxing, though. It’s filled with earth tones, handmade pottery, and a fluffy bed. A walk-in stone shower, a free-standing stone tub, and juniper-scented soap are in the bathroom. While the balcony has a daybed and a view of the gorge.

Photo: Alila Hotels and Resorts
Photo: Alila Hotels and Resorts

You could sit on your balcony and stare at the view for your entire visit, but there are other amazing views you should see as well. The limestone Jabal Akhdar is part of the Hajar Mountains in northeastern Oman. It’s long been home to the Bani Riyam tribe and was recently named a nature reserve for its unique and fragile biodiversity. You spend the cool mornings hiking along the canyon’s rim, trekking into the gorge, and exploring dark caves. You pass sandy slopes, dry wadis, low shrubs, and wandering goats. Pomegranates and walnuts thrive here. It looks like a desert, but it feels like a Mediterranean climate.

After an exhausting hike, return to the hotel for a late-afternoon spa appointment. The spa smells like frankincense and juniper. Book a lung-cleansing herbal steam and an acupressure herbal compress massage. Then relax by the outdoor heated infinity pool. The canyon’s rocks look like they’re changing color as the sun starts to lower toward the horizon.

The temperature will cool down quickly once it gets dark. The fireplace will be roaring in the lobby. The smell of modern Arabic cuisine—including hummus, baba ghanoush, roasted beets, and curry chicken—will be wafting from Juniper Restaurant. Plus dessert will be served at the Rose Lounge. But first, you’re going back to your room to sit on your balcony. Your daybed is the best seat in the house for sunset over the gorge.

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