The UAE's best eco-lodges and glamping spots

The emirates boast some top glamping spots to help you reconnect with nature, and all without giving up life’s luxuries

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Accommodation in a minimalistic chic dome at  Pure Eco Retreat on Jubail Island. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
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About 10 years ago, glamping hit the world's travel circuit, with a ­flurry of upscale ­tented accommodation that promised vacationers something between a ­luxury ­hotel break and an overnight ­camping trip. The trend ­evaporated almost as ­quickly as it had ­appeared, as ­people complained that the ­experience was actually ­nothing like ­either. But, today, as demand grows for ­sustainably-led, ­nature-immersed, Instagrammable holiday destinations, a new breed of glamping experiences is emerging.

Around the world, hoteliers are ditching concrete and erecting tents, replacing glass windows with transparent domes, and swapping ceilings for stargazing. From New South Wales’ Dome Retreat, perched above the Capertree Valley, to Bali’s coveted Sandat Glamping safari-style lodgings, this is a global trend – and the UAE is no exception.

From Hatta to Liwa and everywhere in between, glamping spots that embrace the idea of disconnection, while rating high on novelty factor, are popping up. For those looking to connect with nature without getting down and dirty, or ­seeking a new way to experience the ­desert or beach under starry skies, these glamping spots are worth a look.

Mysk Kingfisher Retreat, Sharjah

Gather round the firepit at Kingfisher Retreat, Kalba, Sharjah. Courtesy Kingfisher Retreat
Gather round the firepit at Kingfisher Retreat, Kalba, Sharjah. Courtesy Kingfisher Retreat

Nestled in Khor Kalba, the Kingfisher Retreat is set in an exclave in a region that was once known for its fishing market. This eco-focused site offers 20 beautifully designed tents, each of which comes with a private pool, and is designed to reflect the ­country's ­heritage. The main tent offers a communal space where freshly cooked food is served up daily, and fire pits offer pockets to cosy up in under the stars. Ecotourism is high on the agenda here. Located on the Gulf of Oman's coast, it boasts stunning Indian Ocean views, while the nearby mangroves are home to a turtle breeding area, and ­ornithologists will enjoy the plethora of birds that call the area home. The ­mountain-dotted backdrop offers a taste of adventure, with walking and hiking trails, as well as being a great base from which to jump if you want to do a spot of paragliding.

Hatta Sedr Trailers, Hatta

For a more rugged retreat, head out to Hatta. If retro vibes are your thing, the Hatta Sedr Trailers offer accommodation courtesy of Airstream-style campers. Inside, it's all electric lights, flat-screen televisions and super comfortable beds, not to mention your own bathroom. Outside, there's a private, rustic terrace where you can unwind. Nearby, the huts at Hatta Dhamani Lodges are surrounded by mountains and feel much like a small hotel room, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open on to a stilted deck. ­Communal barbecue ­facilities and viewing decks round off the ­experience. Hatta Wadi Hub is not far away and offers ­mountain biking, downhill carting, axe throwing, rope courses, wall climbing, and even a human sling shot, while the Hatta Drop-in is a water park with slides, doughnuts and jump runs. For something a bit more natural, head into the hills where the hiking is epic, or out on a kayak on the blue waters of Hatta Dam.  

Long Beach Campground, Ras Al Khaimah

Part of the Bin Majid Beach Hotel portfolio, the Long Beach Campground offers an authentic glamping experience. Right on the beach, you get the thrill of sleeping under the stars but without the hassle of having to pitch a tent, source your own food or find a spot close to the ocean where you won't be washed away after dozing off. Take your pick from a simple fabric-­covered bell tent with king-size beds and outdoor camping chairs, or try the safari suite tent where you will be on an elevated ­wooden platform and have your own bathroom. The top-­billing, panoramic dome suite tents offer hexagon-shaped lodges that come with private hot tubs and towering viewing areas, offering the best vistas. Dining takes place in a tented hall that sparkles with fairy lights come evening time. Alfresco cinema, sunrise yoga, kite flying and kayaking are just some of the outdoor activities on offer at this beachside retreat.

Pura Eco Retreat, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Outdoor seating for dinner at Pure Eco Retreat on Jubail Island. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Outdoor seating for dinner at Pura Eco Retreat on Jubail Island. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Newly opened Pura Eco Retreat at Abu Dhabi's Jubail Island puts nature at the forefront with its minimalist domes on the edge of the emirate's extensive mangrove forest. The adults-only hideaway offers a luxe and laidback escape from the bustling capital, without sacrificing any home comforts. Reachable via a sandy, single-track road that winds for three kilometres through Jubail Island's mangroves, the resort boasts five chic domes, each fitted out with a king-sized, coffee-making facilities, speakers and an en suite bathroom with linens and bespoke toiletries. A private butler will also be on-hand for guest's requests. Each dome has its own fire pit that staff can light on a nightly basis and a colourful cabana offering a private spot for relaxing al fresco. For guests wanting a rawer experience, three tents have been set up beside the mangrove forest that will soon be open for overnight reservations, and the retreat will be adding more dome accommodation in 2021

Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Bedouin Camp, Abu Dhabi

Enjoy a Bedouin experience with Anantara Hotels. Courtesy Anantara Hotels
Enjoy a Bedouin experience with Anantara Hotels. Courtesy Anantara Hotels

Organised by of one of the country's most luxurious and upscale desert hotels, the Bedouin Camp at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab delivers a glamping experience surrounded by ­Liwa's rolling dunes. ­Located in an environmentally-­protected area, there are nine tents as well as a central majlis and main kitchen tent, where fine-dining inspired dishes are created. This camp is part of the vast Empty Quarter – which means miles and miles of uninhabited sand, as well as very little light pollution, making it a great stargazing spot. Available on request and fully customisable in terms of food, entertainment and more, this is next level pop-up glamping.

The Retreat, Fujairah

The Retreat in Fujairah offers an eco-friendly wellness experience
The Retreat in Fujairah offers an eco-friendly wellness experience

If you are looking for a lodge with a minimal ecological footprint, head to The Retreat in Al Bidya, Fujairah. It was built using natural, locally sourced materials, while the landscaping consists of indigenous trees and plants. Solar heaters ensure that you can take a hot shower in the camp’s en-suite tents, while all waste water is recycled for irrigation. Food served during your stay is organic, with fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs grown on-site and incorporated into daily meals. Measuring about 28 square metres each, the camp’s tents can accommodate two adults in single or king-size beds. There are also four- and five-bedroom tents for families. Both kids and adults can entertain themselves in dedicated drawing and reading corners, or partake in more active outdoor endeavours, from kayaking and mountain climbing to yoga classes and guided walks. The camp also runs dedicated programmes for those looking to lose weight, detox or even gain weight.


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