“I wish I could leave everything and move to the Himalayas,” a friend told me after a rather long ranting session a couple of years ago. I didn’t understand what she was on about; there’s no WiFi on the Himalayas, is there?
As a city-bred and city-dwelling young woman, high altitudes usually mean skyscrapers, and getting away means lounging on a beach near a skyscraper.
But my recent stay at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort has put me in a mountain state of mind and I’m not even mad about it.
The resort sits proudly on the Saiq Plateau, on the Al Hajar Mountains near Nizwa in Oman, alongside ancient villages, homes and goats. Driving up the mountain is a feat in itself owing to the steep winding roads — the hotel sits 2,000 metres above sea level — but once the property comes into view it’s a breathtaking sight.
Once you enter the hotel’s doors, what was just minutes ago a sprawling property turns into a cosy, secluded haven.
After getting quickly checked in and having a friendly chat with the staff, my friend and I are walked to our room through a cobble-stoned courtyard and down a path lined with fruit trees and plants, all of which are indigenous to the area thanks to the chilly mountain weather.
The deluxe canyon view room is a large airy space that is still cosy and warm, with dark wooden flooring and deep decorative tones. The bathroom comes with a huge tub, a rain shower and two sinks. The star of the room is not in the room itself; it’s the spectacular view of the mountains outside. Lots of pictures were taken right as the porter left the room, I can assure you. The balcony has a couch and coffee table, making it the perfect spot for a hot drink and quiet contemplation.
What to do
Getting in touch with nature is easy when you’re on a mountain. Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort offers a walk along the mountain side using a Via Ferrata (a steel cable that is fixed to the rock) and a rock climbing wall for abseiling. This journalist had the opportunity to try both and it was an epic, hair-raising adventure that I would do again in a heartbeat.
— Via Ferrata
After putting on my harness, I was taken to an edge of the mountain where the Via Ferrata is bolted into the ground. After a quick tutorial by two expert staff members, I secured myself onto the cable and began my walk. This sounds and looks scary at first, but it’s a lot of fun to be right at the precipice of danger, but completely safe at the same time.
This activity has you lowering yourself down a rock face using a rope attached to your harness. It was particularly tough because of my fear of falling but I put on a brave face and pretended that there wasn’t a three-storey drop below me. Completing the challenge was a proud moment for me, and hearing from the guides that I did it quicker than most people (they were probably lying) was a nice ego boost.
The three ancient villages near the hotel make for a nice walk through history and nature. The route is marked by the German flag painted onto walls so watch out for them. The hike is well worth the huffing and puffing (due to the thinner air on the mountain). There are ruins, tunnels through old homes and terrace farms to see while on the trail.
If getting really close to a mountain is not what you’re about, then head to the spa to achieve that mountain zen. The Anantara spa is a calming and luxurious space and the signature massage that I was treated to was one of the best I have every received. The facilities are top-class and feature everything you want from a spa experience: an indoor heated pool, a relaxation room, and a private space with an open roof.
Where to eat
There are seven dining options at the hotel so there’s no way you will ever go hungry on this mountain. Al Maisan is where the typical hotel buffet is located, with loads of delicious option. One of our favourite meals was at Bella Vista, an Italian restaurant, where we tried a rich, truffle-infused mushroom risotto ever, hearty ossobuco and a great vegetarian pizza.
Right beside this restaurant is Diana’s Point, which is a platform that juts out of from side of the mountain and offers the best mountain view. The location is named as such because it was visited by Princess Diana herself in November 1986.
What we recommend
Whichever room you book, it’s going to be a satisfying experience. The rock climbing is worth splurging on for the experience of jumping out of your comfort zone.
Room rates vary, but begin at Dh1,100. Special rates are available for GCC nationals and residents. For details, call +968-25218000
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.