Nestled amidst the majestic embrace of the Al Hajar Mountain range in Oman, Alila Jabal Akhdar, a gem in the crown of Hyatt properties, stands as a testament to unrivalled luxury and breathtaking serenity.
Its perch in Jabal Akhdar, meaning “green mountain” in Arabic, is a testament to the poetic allure of the locale. The journey to this mountain retreat, a two-hour drive from Muscat International Airport, is a scenic odyssey, with roads that defy gravity, winding perilously around the rugged mountains with no solace for the faint-hearted.
The ascent, a feat of engineering daring, unveils not only panoramic mountain views but also a testament to the audacious spirit of highway construction. Ascending to this high-altitude haven, villages luxuriate in a Mediterranean climate, their orchards sustained by the ingenious Omani falaj irrigation system, an ancient marvel echoing through time.
Whether entrusting the journey to the hotel’s arranged transfer or embracing the adventure with a rented 4×4, the ascent demands respect. A police-check at the mountain’s threshold ensures only vehicles meeting rigorous standards proceed, a safeguard for all seekers of this elevated sanctuary.
Upon arrival, the revelation dawns that not only does Alila Jabal Akhdar have an unrivalled vantage point of the mountains, but the stunningly minimalist resort itself also has a great sense of place. Clad in local jagged stones blending into the surrounding wilderness, the main building and suites perch precipitously on the edge of a gorge, a spectacle of architectural finesse. As you enter the main building, the lobby embraces you with quiet calmness and welcomes with a suspended bold centrepiece fireplace, an emblem demanding reverent attention.
Traversing the gravel pathway aboard a buggy, surrounded by ethereal willow grass and gnarled Juniper trees, transports one into immediate tranquillity. The suites, adorned in ethnic minimalism, beckon with crisp white linens, handcrafted local embellishments, and a thoughtful welcome amenity. Perched on the cliff’s edge, the suite offers unparalleled views of the 600-metre-deep ravine and the timeless Al Hajar Mountains, invoking an overwhelming sense of peace.
For those lured by the call of the mountains, Alila offers curated experiences through its leisure concierge. Led by affable Omani guides, these adventures include a must-try Via Ferrata climb, a heart-pounding journey along the cliff’s edge, suspended bridges, and cave explorations—an intoxicating blend of terror and exhilaration. If you like hiking, rock climbing, and the great outdoors then don’t miss it. And if you’re vertically challenged, there’s another option; strap on your hiking boots to explore pomegranate- and walnut-clad riverbeds, ancient ruins and sleepy villages, dusty riverbeds and gardens of sweet-scented roses. Omani ‘Grand Canyon’ Wadi Ghul, and the tree-studded heights of the eponymous ‘Green Mountain’ Jabal Akhdar, abseiling and mountain biking are all worth the extra legwork as well.
Venturing beyond, day excursions to Nizwa and its fort, Bahla Fort, and the Nizwa goat market unveil the cultural tapestry of the region. Days at Alila unfold with sun gazing and star gazing, a celestial blessing in the crisp, clear nights. Winter evenings may bring a chill, but the minimal light pollution unveils galaxies, nebulae, and constellations, a celestial symphony for the contemplative soul. Indoor indulgences beckon, from library chess matches to smashing workouts in the glass-walled gym. The Spa Alila, with its Balinese massages and heavenly organic products, offers a retreat within a retreat.
Meandering to the rough-hewn stone and wood deck, the heated infinity pool is all seductive curves and jaw-slackening canyon views, you can cosy up in the stone cabanas built into the hillside, perfect for basking à deux. Behind a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass, the small indoor heated plunge pool is framed by imposing stone columns, inviting loungers and mood-setting candles.
For dinner we headed to the hotel’s one restaurant, taking its name from the gnarled evergreen tree growing wild in the region, Juniper is an airy and elegant restaurant, with both indoor or outdoor dining. Dressed in cocoa-hued wood, its walls and pillars clad in the hotel’s signature stone and softened by a constellation of lanterns hanging overhead. Dining inside is just as spectacular, visible through the panoramic windows, the sweeping mountain views make a picturesque backdrop for the inventive Middle-Eastern fare; expect the most velvety whipped labneh, drizzled with honey and warm homemade bread, 24 hour roasted fragrant Lamb Shuwa to gorgeous creamy Chicken Tikka masala and finish off with the hotel’s orchard of pomegranates and freshly made pomegranate dark and rose chocolates.
Breakfast is absolutely worthy of another decadent indulgence. A cornucopia of fresh squeezed juices, homemade warm pastries, to a variety of International and Asian mains to choose from and as much as you like. It is no wonder that one should take on the many activities that are at your disposal. And located near the restaurant, the Rose Lounge shares its earthy, granite-chic aesthetic and spectacular views, again from both inside and outdoor seatings and is perfect for pre/post dinner drinks.
Alila places significant emphasis on the concept of sustainability, which plays a vital role in the brand’s narrative. One aspect of this commitment is the attainment of EarthCheck certification, a testament to their dedication to environmentally-friendly practices. Through embracing initiatives just to name a couple, such as eliminating the use of plastic individual bottles and opting for glass water bottles instead, collecting rain water and establishing on-site nurseries are simple yet impactful changes. And by cultivating, nurturing and protecting the natural environment demonstrates their commitment to sustainability.
Derived from Sanskrit, the name “Alila” translates to “surprise,” and it perfectly captures this hauntingly, spectacular rugged beauty that sits 2,000 metres above sea level, secluded in the Al Hajar mountain range beckoning like a star. It is truly a perfect escape at any time of the year.