Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Oman takes luxury stays to lofty heights - Hotel Insider

The resort, which sits 2,000 metres above sea level, offers nothing but peace, quiet and a chance to connect with the great outdoors

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Merely a five-hour drive from Dubai sits the highest five-star hotel in the Middle East, which is perched on the edge of a cliff in the Nizwa region, Oman.

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort has a commanding spot on top of the "green mountain" and is famed for its epic vistas. It is on the same beauty spot that Princess Diana visited on a trip to Oman with Prince Charles in 1986.

Today, it's a favourite for families, couples seeking a romantic escape and adventure travellers keen to enjoy fresh mountain air and adrenalin-pumping pursuits. The National checked in to find out what such an elevated stay entails.

The welcome

A 4x4 is required to reach the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, but if you don’t have your own, you can park at the foothills of the mountain and the hotel will send a car to collect you.

We have our trusty Jeep in tow so pass the police check point then wind our way towards the top of the green mountain. Valet staff are waiting for us and our luggage is swiftly collected as we’re taken inside where the unmistakable scent of rosewater hangs heavy in the air. A cold towel and a zesty beverage are offered after a lengthy drive, before we’re guided through the resort’s beautifully landscaped gardens to our cliffside villa.

The neighbourhood

In summer, Jebel Akhdar comes alive with blooms of green and pink pomegranates. In spring, guests will see it carpeted in pink rose petals while winter has the mountains plants and greenery thrive. So, it's fair to say the neighbourhood is quite picturesque. The hotel is also where you’ll find The Jabal Activity Wall — a mountain climbing, via ferrata, ziplining facility that's also open to guests from other hotels.

There are a few old villages located deep in the mountains canyons and guests can go on a guided hike to see them. A small community exists on Jebel Akhdar with some supermarkets, small restaurants and a handful of other resorts if you find yourself itching to get out and explore, while the surrounding landscape offers hiking, biking and trekking trails.

The safety measures

In line with Covid-19 safety measures in Oman during our visit, face masks are mandatory when indoors and all guests and staff we spot are happily complying. However, this rule has since changed and masks are no longer required in the sultanate.

The room

The hotel offers 82 canyon view rooms, which are housed in the main building, and 33 private pool villas, including a luxurious three-bedroom pool villa.

We’re lucky enough to be staying in an one-bedroom cliff pool villa, which comes with dramatic views of the canyon below.

At 188 square metres, it's one of the largest villas we’ve stayed in and high ceilings add even more to that sense of space. There's a lounge area, a king-sized bedroom, walk-in wardrobes and a spa-like bathroom that could easily be split into three.

A sense of location via design features such as local artwork, arabesque lanterns, handmade pottery and traditional Omani wooden craftwork is an elegant way to pay tribute to the Middle East.

The highlight is the private infinity pool perched at the cliff edge and overlooking the canyon below. Perfectly chilled and big enough for some proper laps if you're inclined, it's surrounded by sun loungers and an al fresco dining set. When the weather is cool, it'd be tempting not to simply live out here.

The scene

A favourite with couples and families, resort guests are a mix of Omanis, GCC visitors and holidaymakers from overseas. Thanks to its sprawling size, it never feels busy with plenty of open space to wander the gardens, take a bike ride or unwind by the main infinity swimming pool.

The entire resort transforms after dark thanks to flame-lit cauldrons, illuminated fountains and a star-filled canopy, which guests can make the most of at the stargazing point and telescope. Diana’s Point, the spot where the former royal visited with Prince Charles, is the best place to take in the sunset.

A world of relaxation awaits at the Ananatara spa and there’s also tennis courts and the Jabal Activity Wall (more about that later), plus a library and a Handicrafts House, which is a good place to pick up some unique locally made souvenirs and gifts.

The food

Lunch is served at Bella Vista, where we're suitably impressed by the chef’s special pizza of the day — a delightfully crisp pie loaded with locally grown courgette and topped with a generous helping of fresh burrata.

All-day dining restaurant Al Maisan, meaning amazing star in Arabic, is where we have both dinner and breakfast. The morning buffet is excellent with a wide variety of dishes and plenty of fruits and berries plucked directly from the hotel's gardens.

Dinner is an eclectic menu with Arabic, international and Asian dishes. We try the Akhdar salad to start and find it very fresh, but a tad salty. The beef skewers are better, tender and flavourful.

A paneer curry main has a tangy tomato sauce but is served with dry rice, the lamb chops are pleasant enough and well cooked, but not overly inspiring.

An orange chocolate tart to wrap things up comes with an intense chocolatey flavour, but would perhaps be better served with cream or ice cream to alleviate some of its dryness.

The service

The welcome is warm and friendly and that remains almost a constant throughout our stay. Poolside service is excellent with staff providing cool boxes with ice and water, as well as fruit skewers right to our sunbed. The instructors at the activity centre are knowledgeable and professional in settling any pre-activity nerves.

Evening staff at Al Maisan restaurant let the side down as we're greeted by a less than friendly hostess and not overly helpful waiting staff. We don't complain, but overhear guests at two other tables being quite vocal about disappointing service during the evening meal.

Highs and lows

Swimming in private infinity pool 2,000 metres above sea level with sweeping views of the craggy surroundings is both a literal and figurative high point.

Water "bottled at the foothills of Jebel Akhdar mountain” are offered in rooms, villas and by the pool and while it’s great that the water isn’t imported, it would be even better if it wasn’t served in plastic bottles.

In 2022, luxury resorts need to be more mindful of their impact on the environment, even more so when the hotel is set in such natural surrounds.

The insider tip

Book an experience at the activity wall for adrenaline-fuelled climbing, abseiling and scaling fun, as well as a priceless experience with a local guide who grew up on the mountain and will happily share stories of how life on Jebel Akhdar has changed over the years.

The verdict

For special occasions, family escapes or a blissful mountaintop stay at any time of the year, you can't go far wrong with a stay at the Middle East’s highest luxury resort.

The bottom line

Stays start from Dh1,116 ($303) per night, excluding taxes. Check-in is from 3pm and checkout is at noon;

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during the time, services may change in the future

Updated: August 28, 2022, 12:51 PM