Deserts are notoriously inhospitable, yet there are sumptuous accommodations to be found in some very desolate locales. Here are some of the planet’s most opulent oases, from Arizona to Utah, Abu Dhabi to Australia.
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, Empty Quarter, Abu Dhabi
Set on the edge of the Rub al Khali (or Empty Quarter), the world’s largest contiguous sand desert, Qasr Al Sarab tastefully straddles ultimate wilderness and unreserved luxury. With evocative decor, a dune-view pool, multiple restaurants and a luxurious spa, this property of 205 rooms, villas and suites by the Anantara hotel group is a coddled Arabian adventure for the senses and the spirit.
Amangiri, Canyon Country, Utah
Nestled against a cliff, its pool lapping against a natural sandstone bluff, Amangiri embraces the spectacular geology of the surrounding Colorado Plateau. With world-class panoramas and private courtyards, guests need never leave. Yet this 34-room contemporary wonder also makes a five-star hub for hiking, horse riding, ballooning, “via ferrata” fixed-cable rock climbing and aerial excursions from its own helipad.
Onguma The Fort, Etosha National Park, Namibia
Onguma The Fort’s imposing walls and looming tower belie the comforts within, including a dozen airy suites, set some 150 feet apart, opening onto the barren beauty of the Etosha pan (plus the spectacular Sultan Suite in the tower). Situated on the Onguma Game Reserve, this may be the safest and most civilized way to coexist with exotic wildlife.
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, Paradise Valley, Arizona
More secluded than remote, overlooking the affluent Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain is a convenient, pampering desert escape. With rugged rocks behind and urban views below, this 53-acre resort, where Beyoncé and Jay Z honeymooned in 2008, offers desert escapism without compromise, nearby big-city amenities supplementing the on-site spa, infinity pool and varied dining options.
Explora Atacama, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Occupying 42 acres of the ancient San Pedro de Atacama oasis, Explora Atacama is the best-appointed base for exploring the driest non-polar place on earth. With minimalist yet upscale lodge-like accommodations, the emphasis here is on adventure, with dozens of desert excursions available. Built in the early 1990s, this remote 50-bed bolt-hole will reopen in January following a comprehensive remodel.
Longitude 131°, Yulara, Australia
An exclusive wilderness retreat adjacent to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Longitude 131° is made up of 15 tented pavilions situated amid distinctive red dunes, with staggering views of Australia’s best-known natural feature, Uluru (Ayers Rock). Little wonder Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visited in 2014. A multimillion-dollar enhancement will add a signature spa and dune-top bar next year.
Paul Rogers, LA Times Custom Publishing