Luxurious Desert Experiences to Add to the Bucket List

22 May 2017
Read Time: 5.9 mins

There’s just something about the contrast of a luxurious welcome set amidst a stark and most unrelenting desert that can’t be resisted.

Like a shining beacon of comfort and extravagance in a sea of harsh scenery, it only goes to make the experience feel all the more exotic.

Whether it’s a cruise, a remote hotel or a hot air balloon ride through a dusty desert sky, these are some of our favourite luxury desert experiences to tack on the end of your bucket list.

hot air balloon over the dunes and desert near dubai. See a different side of Dubai and the UAE on a hot air balloon ride.

Opt for hot air ballooning in Dubai

Instead of blazing off into the sunset on a 4WD adventure in Dubai’s dune-laden backyard, opt for a slower paced journey. There’s so much more room for romance (and it’s way easier to take pictures) in the gentle hover of a hot air balloon.

Drift over vast desert vistas punctuated by emerald green oases and rising mountains in the distance. Look closer and spot native Arabian animals such as oryx, gazelles and wandering camels; look up and you may find yourself flying eye-to-eye with gliding falcons.

Aerial view of Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa. The incredible Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, in Oman.

Wind down in the desert by the sea

Wind down in luxury en route to Europe in Oman’s character-laden capital Muscat, where the desert meets the sea.

A slew of extravagant hotels and resorts make it ridiculously convenient to never leave for reasons beginning with posh pools and exquisite dining and going far beyond the lavish room offerings.

The five-star Al Husn at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa flaunts an adults-only infinity pool as well as its own private beach, nestled in by sheer limestone cliffs on either side. It also has its own dive school.

The Chedi Muscat is equally crowd-pleasing – one of Oman’s very first luxury hotels and still as chic as ever thanks to its timeless design and central location.

Uniworld River Tosca ship on the Nile River in Egypt. Cruise the Nile with Uniworld.

Cruise the Nile in luxury

It has long been considered one of the most romantic ways to take in Egypt, winding along the curves and bends of the famed Nile River. A region steeped in history and mesmerizing stories told time and time again throughout the ages, this is a luxury once limited to queens and pharaohs.

 Today, you can do it in complete confidence and unmatched comfort cruising with Uniworld.

Let Egypt’s ancient treasures and landscapes take centre stage as you float on by, before stepping off to experience the wonder up close at each port of call.

Plane flying over dunes in Namibia. Fly into a unique wilderness experience in Namibia.

Namibia fly-in lodges

Want to truly escape it all? Retreat to the remote, wild plains of Namibia and find yourself in absolute luxury at one of their beaut fly-in lodges. Instead of an overland drive, be flown into select safari camps with African Wildlife Safaris.

We’re talking private plunge pools, super stylish chalets, local guides, small guest numbers and up-close encounters with the ‘real’ locals – the wildlife, whether that be lions, elephants or rhinos.

It’s the perfect option for travellers who want to do Africa in luxury, want authenticity and have a tight schedule to work to.

Girl at spa having shower outside near palm springs pools. Agua Serene Spa at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa in California.

Dip into a mineral spa resort in California

Feed your body, mind and soul in the healing hot tubs of outback California. On the cusp of the rugged and stark Joshua Tree National Park, with its iconic twisted Joshua trees, lies Desert Hot Springs, where healing mineral water feeds 22 local mineral spa resorts.

This is your cue to unpack, unwind and relax… let somebody else do all the work.

Our pick? Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort, Spa & Villas – it flaunts desert ambiance in spades and to top it off, has a championship golf course.

A luxurious suite at Taj Lake Palace in Rajasthan, India. A luxurious suite at Taj Lake Palace in Rajasthan, India.

Sleep in palaces in the Land of Kings

A region once ruled by monarchs, Rajasthan oozes regal culture. Historic royal residences, forts and palaces still dominate much of this Indian desert state and now, with many of them transformed into luxury hotels, you too can sleep like a king (and queen) and come to expect the service of royals.

The Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace in beautiful, blue-awash Jodhpur was voted TripAdvisor’s ‘Best Hotel in the World’ in 2016. The palace is still, in parts, home to the Mahraja himself. For guests, the rest of the complex is free to enjoy – from the swimming pools, spa and marbled squash courts to the 64 bedrooms and suites.

Similarly, the exotic Taj Rambagh Palace, in Jaipur – India’s ‘pink city’ – welcomes visitors two-and-a-half centuries on from its inception.

Guests are also welcome to make themselves at home at the luxurious Taj Lake Palace, widely regarded as one of the world’s most romantic hotels.  It boasts 360-degree views of Udaipur from its enchanting position, as it appears to float above Lake Pichola.

outback patio of house Arkaba. Enjoy the luxury of few guests and nature all around at Arkaba. <i>Photo: Randy Larcombe.</i>

Experience Australia’s most accessible slice of outback

The Flinders Ranges proves to be one of the most accessible outback regions in Australia – just a five-hour drive (or one hour flight) from Adelaide.

The ranges are like a fortress of grasslands and forests amid a sea of desert.  For Aussies, it’s never been easier to get a true taste of Aussie bush and desert scapes at once.

Say hello to Arkaba – one of Australia’s most exclusive stays. With just five ensuite rooms in this gorgeous homestead, front row views come guaranteed in every direction.

Scenic flights, guided walks and drives can all be arranged on site to get an all encompassing view of the sprawling local topology that’ll no doubt leave you breathless and in newfound awe of Australian soil.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals.


Tijana Jaksic

Tijana loves new adventures as much as she enjoys reliving old ones. Favourite stops on the map so far include Greece (beyond the islands!), Mexico City (hello ancient ruins and wonderful art), Poland (for the history and off-the-beaten-track finds), Berlin (so artsy and chilled) and Bosnia (ahhh the natural beauty). Choosing is always hard though - that's why her list is so long and she spends her 'real life' time writing about travel until she's out there on the road again.