In Review

Alila Jabal Akhdar review: taking luxury to new heights

It is when I am roughly halfway down a cliff face that the true majesty of Oman’s Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel becomes apparent.

Perched 2,000 metres above sea level, the five-star hotel is an oasis of relaxation set in one of the Middle East's most spectacular and untouched areas. With scenery straight from a film set, any visit is regularly punctuated by moments of open-mouthed awe.

However, when you are roughly halfway down the cliff face you might also find yourself feeling about as far from being relaxed as it is possible to be.

Travelling on the via ferrata - which means ‘iron way’ in Italian - is an exercise in mind over matter. The attraction features a metal wire that runs vertically and horizontally up the mountain, sliding into and out of the many shaded caves and smaller crevices along the cliff face.

The climbing technique, which originated in the Italian Alps, allows for all the excitement of traversing dangerous terrain with much less expensive equipment than standard climbing and (supposedly) less risk.

Fortunately, for anyone predisposed to doubt, like myself, the hotel provides two excellent guides on every adventure down into the gorge. Well versed in saying the right things at the right times - “no-one has ever died” for example - their comforting words and sound advice ensured our group conquered the course (as well as our own fears) remarkably quickly.

The heart-racing excursion is just one of Alila's myriad offerings. The hotel's geological and astronomical tours are a true highlight, and the guided trip out to a recently deserted Omani village offers an incredible insight into the huge changes still occurring in the country.

Where is it?

Positioned on the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is bordered by Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while across the Gulf of Oman lie Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Initially less well-known than its neighbours on the gulf, this wealthy, peaceful stronghold is fast becoming a bastion for luxury tourism and outdoor adventure holidays.

To say Alila itself is secluded would be putting it mildly. Built in 2014 it is only accessible by four-wheel-drive with the journey taking you along sweeping newly built roads that look down on arid passes that have only had rain once in the past 13 months.

Although the hotel is in Jabal Akhdar - the “Green Mountains”, so called because these cooler parts have a history of agriculture - most of the country is desert and Jabal Akhdar itself is famous especially for its exceptional climate, where the temperature is moderate during summer and falls below zero on some of the days in winter.

The hotel

Committed to sustainability, the Alila has been designed in harmony with its environment, providing high levels of comfort while preserving the extraordinary natural beauty of the region.

Inspired by ancient forts, traditional Omani construction techniques using local stones are combined with a contemporary architectural design to create an astonishingly relaxing environment.

Inside, the decor is rustic yet elegant , making extensive use of local stone and sustainably sourced timber in beams and fortress-style doors, while dotted around the guest rooms are a mixture of vivid rugs and local, handmade pottery.

Omani’s pride themselves on their hospitality, which was apparent within moments of arriving. A fresh cold towel was gratefully accepted while the cardamom coffee, a regional speciality perfected by the locals living in the mountainous region and a seemingly unending supply of dates made checking in a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Amenities

My 52sq m Mountain View Suite was located on the upper level of the main hotel building and the advertised "mountain view" was something of an understatement.

The vista from each room takes in the entire gorge below, offering panoramic views that stretch right to the horizon no matter where you are in the resort.

Every aspect of the room inspires relaxation. Contemporary décor combines with local accents, and modern amenities including a freestanding bathtub, separate rain shower, remarkably fast Wi-Fi considering the hotel’s location and - for anyone who can tear their eyes away from that view - a massive flatscreen TV.

With seven treatment rooms, a Vichy shower, steam room, sauna and jacuzzis, the hotel's spa is a haven of calm. Many of the treatment oils and remedies are made on site, including local specialities such as the wonderfully refreshing rosemary mist spray.

Breakfasts featured a lavish buffet alongside an exhaustive menu of hot dishes from across the globe. while the two evening dining options, the more relaxed Rose Lounge and the luxurious Juniper restaurant served an array of outstanding dishes. The Omani tasting menu, inspired by the golden age of Arabic cuisine, and influenced by trade routes that stretched from the Middle East to the Mediterranean region was a particular highlight. 

It would be remiss not to mention the incredible swimming pool. Never has an infinity pool been more aptly named allowing, as it does, the opportunity to gaze out across the seemingly never-ending mountain-ranges while bobbing gently. The perfect yin to the via ferrata's yang.

Cox & Kings (020 3642 0861; coxandkings.co.uk) offers a four-night stay at the Alila Jabal Akhdar from £1,095pp, including breakfast, flights with Oman Air and private airport transfers.

A via ferrata climb costs 50 Omani rial (£99) for hotel guests; 70 rial (£138) for non-guests.

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