(Contributed by Jennifer Sung) In just a few decades, Dubai has risen from a town in the desert to one of the world’s most prominent travel hubs. With a beating heart that combines world-class shopping and dining experiences in its ultramodern centre sitting between the beautiful Persian Gulf coast and the desert, anything is possible in the City of Gold, but why simply stop there? Ideally situated to connect North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific to each other, travelling through the city offers a range of experiences only a short hop away. Enjoy our curated pick of 6 destination hotels within 6 hours (travel time reflects actual time in transport, not in transit/lounges) of Dubai.
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MOUNTAINS AND DESERTS
Still within Dubai’s official borders (just a 90-minute drive away) but a world away from the buzz of the city, is the Bedouin-inspired desert camp setting of Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa. The perfect add-on to a ‘Desert Safari’ outing in Dubai, a stay at the adventure-driven desert retreat truly completes the desert experience, waking up to where onyx roam the lands and falcons can be trained.
Total travel time: approximately 90 minutes
For an experience more akin to an Arabian Nights fairytale, the fortress-like oasis structure of Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara rises like a mirage in the Rub’ al Khali or Empty Quarter, the world’s largest uninterrupted sand desert, just over 3 hours drive from Dubai (and 2 hours directly south of Abu Dhabi – the perfect addendum for a rounded trip or onward to your next destination). Blending into its sandy surrounds with earthy hues, the resort’s structure sets the tone for the stay – all things desert: spend a weekend sand boarding and sledding the dunes and traversing the landscape on bikes or on camels.
Total travel time: approximately: 3 hrs
Nestled 2,000 metres above sea-level in the Al Hajar Mountain range is Alila Jabal Akhdar, a cool retreat reached by a stunning 2.5 hour ascending drive from Muscat (a short flight from Dubai), and only accessed in a 4-wheel drive. Overlooking a canyon opening out to ravines and deep gorges, the rugged landscape means cities and large towns are miles away, making it perfect for stargazing and dinner under the stars, hiking and exploring the ravines via ferrata, as well as taking in the sights of Omani culture in nearby mountain villages.
Total travel time: approximately: 4 hours
BEACHES AND PRIVATE ISLANDS
3. Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman
Surrounded by emerald waters on one side and rugged mountain views on the other, Six Senses Zighy Bay is styled after an Omani village. The stone-walled dwellings are perfect for couples and families and groups of all sizes alike (including a Four-Bedroom Beachfront Reserve). All staple mountain and marine-based activities are possible to keep everyone entertained, but the waters are best explored aboard Six Senses’ dhow, a traditional Omani boat. Although set in Oman, the resort’s location in the northern Musandam Peninsula makes it a short drivable distance from Dubai – and for those seeking a thrill and a James Bond-style arrival, the possibility of paragliding in for your check-in.
Total travel time: approximately 2 hours
Six Senses Zighy Bay is featured in our list of 7 of the most spectacular hotel arrivals in the world
2. Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives
Known for its translucent sparkling waters in many shades of azure, the Maldives are a unique destination of over a thousand coral-ringed islands spread across two large atolls. And while there are plenty of incredible private island resorts (arguably the highest concentration of luxury resorts anywhere in the world), LVMH’s Cheval Blanc Randheli is arguably the most stunning – featuring a stylish airport loung and its own custom-designed private seaplane, six islands with 45 villas in total including an island dedicated just for a spa, and a four-bedroom private island known as the Owner’s Villa.
Total travel time: approximately: approximately 5 hours
Cheval Blanc Randheli is featured in our list of 7 of the most spectacular hotel arrivals in the world
1. Fregate Island, Seychelles
An idyllic private island, Fregate Island, 55 kilometres east of Mahe in Seychelles, is a lush green oceanfront resort that is both intimate and grand, luxurious as a private island should be, yet with a homely native undisturbed island feel that comes with unrivalled experiences. Lay on the beach next to endangered hawksbill turtles that use the island as a nesting ground, or one of the 2,200 giant tortoises that roam the island (some are a hundred-plus years old!). The island experience here never gets ‘old’ itself – there are just 16 villas on the 720 acre island that features 7 beaches, perfect for destination dining in a new spot every evening. The resort recently closed for a full two-year renovation project, and will reopen in 2024.
Total travel time: approximately 5 hours
Fregate Island is featured in our list of 30 of the most epic private island resorts
Read more of our destination hotels series