I longed to stay at the Alila Jabal Akhdar the moment I saw artists’ impressions of how the boutique resort would look; perched high atop the stunning Hajar Mountains in Oman with the most incredible views across a craggy landscape, surrounded by wild mountain roses, pomegranates and peaches. Heavenly and oh-so-romantic, just the place for a mini-break. We had never been away without the kids and with the youngest aged almost 2, a little holiday a-deux was much needed and this was the absolute perfect choice.
I hadn’t realised how hard it would be to say goodbye to the minis who looked completely horrified that we were going off on an adventure without them. But mamas, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that it wasn’t long before excitement took over as we waited for our flight. Oh and without wanting to dwell on this bit for too long, flying without kids is amazing – a holiday in itself! (Sorry my little darlings, as much as I love you all, you’re really no fun on an airplane just yet).
Oman is only a very short hop from Dubai but has enough of a different feel about it to make you feel like you have really come away on vacation. A 2 ½ hour car journey up winding mountain roads and through tiny hamlets later, we arrived at our mountaintop retreat. The Alila looks as though it literally grew out of the ground, built in the same colour stone as the rock it sits on and with views so serenely beautiful they look as though they’ve been painted. We fell instantly in love. Mountains are seriously romantic, it’s all about getting away and getting cosy somewhere that feels remote and cut off from the daily stress and distractions of everyday life.
Having escaped the city during a particularly hot day, the cold mountain air felt amazing. Temperatures are always around 10 degrees colder than elsewhere in the region, even in the height of summer, making it the ideal spot for a little respite from the heat. If you’re visiting in the cooler months, then make sure you pack your cashmere as it’s pretty chilly! The whole resort is decorated in earthy tones using locally inspired materials to compliment the landscape. This is luxury but at its very best, not opulent but understated with meticulous attention to detail. Our room felt like it belonged in a cosy ski lodge complete with white fluffy duvet, white washed walls, earthenware accessories and a stunning wet room with a deep egg shaped tub that just screamed ‘bubble bath’. It shared a view with a private outdoor terrace overlooking the gorge and the infinity pool sparkling below. Just writing about it makes me want to go back.
Meals can be taken in two of the properties restaurants, we opted for The Rose lounge which serves lighter all day dishes and sat out on the outdoor terrace. We wrapped up against the cold and tucked into lamb burgers and salads while soaking up the silence and taking in the views. The Juniper is a little more formal (although there’s no need to dress up here) with heartier dishes and Arabic favourites. And then of course there’s always room service and a movie – such a treat for tired parents – and we breakfasted on our terrace under the warm glow of the sun. I have to mention here that the resort doesn’t yet have its liquor license so if it’s a party you’re after, this isn’t the place for you. If, however, you’re looking to get away from it all (alcohol included), then the Alila won’t disappoint and there’s always Duty Free on the way over if you know what I mean mamas.
Try to tear yourself away from the resort (although really it’s so gorgeous why would you) as there are cultural excursions and local experiences galore to choose from. We opted to explore the mountains by foot, setting off on a 3 hr hike to an abandoned village and through a beautiful wadi. Definitely pack walking shoes, I ended up wearing my glitter dusted trainers! We just talked while we walked, catching up on all the stuff we never have time to chat about at home. After a stint in the fresh air, you can soak in a hot-tub or dip into the little indoor pool back at base – or the outdoor pool for mountain swimming al fresco. And then there’s the spa. Oh that spa mamas, so good that it’s worth a visit to Oman alone. The Alila brand hails from Bali as do the therapists at the resort and I can honestly say that my massage was the best I’ve ever ever EVER had. The spa itself is simply gorgeous, literally, just utterly peaceful and private just like the hotel itself.
There are so many reasons to visit the Alila Jabal Akhdar; the escape to solitude, nature, fresh-air and the most sublime views. The warm hospitality of the hotel staff, beautifully comfortable rooms and to-die-for spa. The rose season when the mountains are swathed in pink and the air is filled with scent, the Mediterranean climate and local history and culture. But for us it was just a chance to fall back in love and have a little time to ourselves – although next time we’ll be back with the kids as I’ve no doubt they’d love a little mountain adventure and that they’d be hugely welcomed.