Six of the best: desert camps

UTE JUNKER
Last updated 13:00 14/01/2014
Aman Resorts
Aman Resorts
LOCAL SCENERY: No stay at the Amangiri resort is complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon.

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Whether it's yoga at dawn in Abu Dhabi, a camel safari through an Indian desert or a taste of the nomad lifestyle, there's bound to be a desert camp to suit you.  

AMANGIRI UTAH, US

Draw back the curtains at Amangiri and wait for the movie to begin. The landscape outside your window is straight out of a John Ford western, with fantastically eroded rock formations - pinnacles, hoodoos, flat-topped mesas - that look like a giant's building blocks. Spend your days exploring by horseback or hot air balloon.

The resort's 240 hectares include scenic hiking trails, or head to one of the monuments within easy reach, which include the Grand Canyon.

Finish up with some serious me-time in the state-of-the-art spa, which includes a sauna and steam room yoga pavilion. Rooms from US$1100 ($1314) a night. See amanresorts.com.

THE SERAI, INDIA

Three words: Lawrence of Arabia. If that's enough to kickstart your favourite fantasy - the one in which you step out of your tent to peer out into the endless shifting sands, far beyond the boundaries of civilisation - The Serai is the place for you.

Although it's only an hour from Jaisalmer, this part of the Thar Desert feels much more remote. All the white canvas tents, set on yellow sandstone pediments, include a terrace lounge and an en suite; the luxury tents have their own plunge pools.

Camel safaris, concerts by local musicians and spa treatments to soothe your desert-scorched skin complete the experience. Tents from 32,500 rupees ($631) a night. See relaischateaux.com.

THREE CAMEL LODGE, MONGOLIA

Things change slowly in Mongolia. Even today, 500,000 nomads still criss-cross the country's steppes with their herds, finding ways to stay alive in the inhospitable wastes.

Three Camel Lodge offers its guests a taste of the nomad lifestyle without any of hardships. The lodge's 30 gers, or tents, are built along traditional lines, but the comfy beds, heating stoves and communal showers and toilets are definitely not standard nomad issue.

Activities include camel rides, dinosaur fossils and wildlife spotting - yes, there is a surprising amount of life in the desert, from gazelle and yak to foxes and ibex. Gers from $195 a person a night twin share. See threecamellodge.com.

QASR AL SAHAB, ABU DHABI

Yoga at dawn among the dunes. Torchlit dinner in a Bedouin tent. Fountains and courtyards, hanging gardens, and a spa with a gold-tiled hamam and an ice room.

Yep, Qasr al Sahab ticks just about every Arabian Nights box, with a few extras thrown in. From traditional pastimes such as archery and falconry, to more modern options such as dune bashing and tennis, there's plenty to keep you occupied.

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Meals are a highlight: choose from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, the upmarket grill restaurant or a barbecue in the privacy of your villa. Rooms start at about $412 a night. See anantara.com.

HOTEL DE LARECHE, CHILE

Chile gives good landscape. At one extreme, there's icy Patagonia with its snow-capped peaks and pristine glacial lakes; at the other, there's the Atacama Desert, the highest, driest desert on earth.

Local company Explora is known for its comfortable lodges designed to let visitors get to grips with these extreme settings. Hotel de Larache may be lacking mod cons such as TVs and mini-bars but it has courtyards, pools, and cosy alpaca blankets to curl up under.

And then there are the daily excursions that take in everything from rocky labyrinths and narrow ravines to the awe-inspiring El Tatio geyser fields, ringed by volcanoes.

Three-night packages start from US$2040 ($2436) a person twin share. See explora.com.

LITTLE KULALA, NAMIBIA

The red dunes at Sossusvlei surge like a storm-tossed sea, 300-metre-high waves made of sand. Instead of joining the hordes who make the arduous day trip to Sossusvlei from their coastal base, check in to one of the 11 luxury suites at Little Kulala instead.

Here, on a wilderness reserve adjoining the national park, you can savour the spectacular views without the crowds. Watch the dunes glow fiery red in the dawn and darken into purple magnificence at dusk.

Ride out the heat of the day in your villa, complete with plunge pool, before retiring to your rooftop skybed for the night. Rates start at ZAR7404 ($819) a person a night twin share. See wilderness-safaris.com.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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