Beach or mountain? You don’t have to choose!
It’s the classic honeymoon planning quandary – one of you wants to lie horizontal on a sunlounger for 10 days, while the other can’t stay still and wants activities galore. The good news is that to satisfy both tastes you don’t have to flit from one country to the next, because I found all the adrenaline-inducing fun and blissful beach time any honeymooning couple could desire in one place: the magical desert kingdom of Oman.
A villa with pool at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar
After landing in the capital, Muscat, we head for the Al Hajar mountain range, climbing 2,000 metres above sea level to Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, the highest five-star resort in the Middle East. The roads are so steep that only 4x4s are able to reach it. It’s worth the drive, as the heavenly hotel has the feel of a Moroccan palace, surrounded by gardens full of pomegranate, date, olive and apricot trees. This area is also famous for damask roses and the heavenly scent of these blooms is everywhere.
A villa bedroom at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar
My private villa is amazing. It has a super-king size bed and a bathroom with the biggest marble bath ever – I can almost do laps in it! In my walled courtyard, I have my own pool, sofa area and sunloungers. That said, the hotel is so spread out that I feel like the cliff-edge infinity pool and viewing platform (named after Diana, Princess of Wales, who visited the site) are all mine too. You must lunch here – the pizza made using the chef’s mother’s recipe is the best I’ve ever had. Sitting there as the sun sets, the mountains look like a painted backdrop.
Hiking amid glorious scenery
To make sure it wasn’t just a fancy illusion, I decide to get closer and hike for three hours along a mountain path, passing through abandoned villages, farms, and rivers. Take sturdy trainers – this is not a trek for the faint-hearted or flip-flop fan.
If you like your activities to come with more of an adrenaline rush, try summit-biking or sky-running (an extreme form of altitude running) – and if you are very brave, you can abseil! I back out of throwing myself off the mountainside attached to a bit of rope, but adventurous types would love it.
I opt for the spa instead, and choose to get my thrills from the signature massage, which uses local ingredients infused with rose and pomegranate. I come out feeling fantastic, and about three inches taller – just in time for a yoga class on Diana’s Point. The high altitude means everything is a little more strenuous here, even yoga.
Al Maisan restaurant
Thankfully, the fresh, imaginative food available all day in the Al Maisan restaurant is the perfect post-activity pick-me-up. There’s also a Moroccan tapas lounge, and the signature Arabic restaurant in an impressive fort-like building is a great place to discuss the day’s adventures over a memorable dinner.
Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara
We head back to Muscat, staying overnight at the Ritz Carlton to break up the journey. It’s definitely worth making time to explore this magical city. There’s a colourful and chaotic bazaar (where you can pick up some fabulous accessories and interior pieces)
and the imposing Grand Mosque, while the scenery that surrounds it is ruggedly beautiful. The following day, I admire this landscape from high as we fly south to Salalah, a seaside paradise, known for its banana plantations, Frankincense trees, and the Khareef, the annual monsoon lasting from June to September, which transforms the desert into a vibrant green oasis.
The serene Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, a luxury beachfront villa resort on the south coast of Dhofar, is my new base.
A villa at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara
At the reception, I’m introduced to my butler, who shows me to a stunning villa. Before I set foot inside, I’m given a ceremonial Thai foot-wash. With lovely clean feet and feeling revived, I happily throw myself on my enormous bed and check out every inch of my stylish pad – the sitting room, dressing room, huge bathroom, plus my own private garden and pool, with a four-poster sunbed.
The sun is setting, so I head to the beach to watch it going down over the lagoon, creating an incredible golden glow. Simply beautiful.
The heavenly beach experiences have only begun. Dinner is a complete surprise, as the waiters have created a table and sofa from the sand, topped with comfy scatter cushions. This destination dinner is a must-do for honeymooners; there’s nothing as romantic as eating by candlelight with the sound of the waves in the background. As for the beaches themselves, they stretch as far as the eye can see. Blue and white-shaded sunbeds and cabanas are everywhere, and unlike in a lot of classic honeymoon countries, there’s no need to play any sunbed reservation games here! If you ever tire of the sea, the infinity pool is huge.
The heavenly spa
There’s a sense of tranquility everywhere you go in this resort, thanks to the palm-lined paths, tropical gardens and water features that give the sensation of arriving at an oasis in the middle of the desert. Relaxation takes on a completely different meaning after a trip to the spa, where my lovely therapist discovers knots that I never knew I had. I’m very much on cloud nine as I sit down for my final night’s dinner at the fantastic fusion restaurant Mekong. It’s a delightful formal choice to celebrate your newlywed status.
Peta Hunt stayed at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar and Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara.
Flights from London to Muscat start from £409 with Oman Air.
See the Ministry of Tourism website for more information.