For a change from the hustle and bustle of city life, head high up to Jabal Akhdar in the Hajar mountains for outdoor pursuits like nature walks and rock-climbing and to discover local Omani culture and heritage.
We had an amazing three-day stay at the Alila hotel in Jabal Al Akhdar, Oman. This was not our usual beach holiday because it was high up in the mountains! This mountainous area of Oman is know for its rugged nature full of hiking trails.
We flew Dubai to Muscat and then were picked up by a hotel car for the two-hour drive to Alila hotel.
When we reached Jabal al Akhdar, the gradient up the mountain was so steep that only four-wheel drive vehicles were allowed past the checkpoint.
For the downhill drive, there were “emergency lanes” every couple of kilometers in case your brakes failed.
These emergency lanes sloped uphill so that the upward momentum will hopefully slow down a vehicle in trouble.
The drive up was very windy and nauseating. So if you are prone to motion sickness like me, take a Dramamine. I once arrived at a mountain resort in Switzerland too sick for a whole day to enjoy myself because the drive up made me so nauseous.
When Scotch told me we were coming here (“here” being up in the moutains), he made it sound like we were going someplace very remote with spotty electricity and no internet.
Ok, I thought. I’m up for adventure.
With the kids.
But they will have back-up generators, right?
Well, we arrive and the hotel was remote but also beautiful! The grounds were minimally and tastefully landscaped and the outside facades were built using the stonework that were excavated from the site and therefore blended naturally into the mountain scenery. The same stonework was used inside for the (decorative?) support columns.
Upon entering the lobby, you could see a massive central fireplace and the expanse of the mountain range from the opposite end. I had the feeling that we would be spoiled here.
The kids and I couldn’t resist exploring immediately and they nearly jumped into the outdoor infinity pool except that it was quite cold for us warm-blooded desert dwellers as the mountain air was maybe 30 degrees cooler (Fahrenheit) than Dubai. Ideal for a summer getaway from Dubai (or Muscat) when it’s way too hot in the summer for anything outdoors.
We stayed in the mountain view suites on the upper floor and had two adjoining rooms so that the kids could have their own space.
I loved the modest but functional walk-in closet in each room. When traveling with kids, you tend to have a lot of stuff – their car seats alone take up a lot of space.
There was a balcony where the view of the mountains with blue skies and swirly clouds was breathtaking:
The bathroom was fairly large with two sinks, a large shower area with separate bathtub. My only complaint was that the water temperature was not constant and would annoyingly switch between hot and cold. The kids made a game of it though and would run (safely) in and out of the stream of water to avoild being scalded or chilled.
My fear of not having electricity was unfounded. But the internet connectivity was excruciatingly slow – almost nonexistent. So I took the opportunity to unshackle myself from my iPhone and focus on thoroughly enjoying our family vacation.
Weather-wise, being high up in the mountains, the temperature was much cooler than Dubai so we packed jackets, sweaters, pashminas and socks. Check the temperature before you go and pack accordingly.
However, it was quite warm in the sun so best to dress in layers. But as soon as the sun started to set, sweaters and sitting next to one of the hotel’s heat lamps outside would be advised.
In the lobby level, there was a kids playroom with bean bag chairs, a TV with DVDs, and Xbox Kinect for the older kids.
A kids menu is offered for lunch and dinner. Our kids are two- and six-years old. As the kids playroom was right next door to the dining area, they were often allowed to go and play video games and watch TV once they were done with dinner while Scotch and I tried to enjoy the rest of our meal.
There was also a library with children’s books, books about Oman including local flora and fauna. Also available were family board games like chess, scrabble, backgammon and an Arabic game called Hawalis that is played by moving seeds or stones around a rectangular board of four rows with 7 holes. I read the instructions but I think I needed someone to actually show me…or an instructional video.
All genres of movies were also available on request from the reception desk for viewing in the guest room.
The Indoor heated pool was perfect for the kids when it was too cold to swim outside.
Spa and Gym
I thought I would spoil myself for once and booked a 90-minute spa treatment at Spa Alila. In addition to the treatment rooms, there was also a steam room and Jacuzzi but, alas, no sauna.
Overall, my experience at the spa was very good. But I was shocked and then annoyed at the end when after the masseuse told me he was finished, he held my robe open and ready for me! Usually, you are left to relax on the massage table for a little while until you are re-adjusted to the idea of having to go back to the real world.
On that note, there didn’t seem to be any private area in the ladies spa where you could sit quietly and relax post-massage unless you went back into the Jacuzzi area. So I would definitely recommend the spa for the massages and treatments, but the post-massage relaxation aspect needed to be thought out better.
I forgot my running clothes but the gym area looked decently outfitted with weights and cardio machines all overlooking the outdoor pool and mountain range.
There were two main dining areas. We had breakfast and dinner at Juniper and lunch and snacks at the Rose Lounge.
For dinner, the menu was international with an Arabic influence and menu items changed each night which was such a nice thing to do.
The hotel makes an effort to source their produce locally and use seasonal ingredients.
Breakfast was a mix of a la carte and buffet. Bread, fruit, juice – that sort of stuff was help yourself.
Eggs, pancakes, haloumi, etc could be made to order and brought to the table.
There are lots of outdoor and cultural pursuits – hiking (easy and difficult trails), rock climbing, visiting local markets, forts, castles and more.
This region is also reknown for its Juniper forests and for its terrace landscaping where Damask roses, walnut trees, and pomegranates are grown.
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Hiking in #Oman: easy trail from our hotel, along a wadi, to abandoned village of Sarab. . Forgot sunscreen and sunburnt today but forging ahead with more outdoor #hiking! . This area is known for its Juniper forests, Damask rose plantations (where rose water is distilled), terraced farms, and HIKING TRAILS! . Blog post coming soon! . Staying at Alila Jabal Akhdar @alilahotels which is a 2-hour drive from Muscat. . . #jebelalakhdar #jabalalakhdar
In my next post, I’ll detail the hikes we went on through the rose terraces and more about the allure of the region.
Alila Hotel in Jabal Akhdar, Oman is located two hours by car from Muscat airport. Please visit their website for rates and more information.
Committed to a sustainable future, the hotel is constructed according to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) principles, and is designed in harmony with the environment, preserving the extraordinary natural beauty of the region.
My Anti-Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. We were paying guests of the hotel. And yes, all views are my own – except those taken from my iPhone.