Desert Sojourns – Amangiri

Advance planning and early reservations are essential for this divine desert destination – unless you don’t mind searing summer heat. Spring and late summer are ideal for a visit to one of the most iconic Aman properties; Amangiri is a remote hideaway tucked within the luminous canyons of the American Southwest.

Amangiri Pool

Located in a protected valley with sweeping views, the resort offers both adrenaline-fueled adventure and a peaceful retreat. Set in the heart of the Grand Circle, the largest concentration of national parks in the United States, Amangiri is well located for explorations of the region’s rugged beauty. Panoramas stretch across the 810-acre estate. Amangiri’s geometric planes are hued with ocher, yellow and pink to blend with the cliff curve it sits within. Each Suite features a large living area that opens onto a terrace offering views that change color by the hour.

Delicate sensory sounds and visuals: from lighting – candle lanterns illuminating the extended passageways to the rooms, monumental walls with dripping water which alternately cascade into a small pond with a splash or gently onto a row of pebbles – each producing a distinct sound. Dripping, splashing, rippling water in fountains or reflecting pools – water elements are used extensively throughout the intimate resort.

Visuals – design can’t compete with nature, and Aman resorts manage the complimentary juxtaposition of a resort with the environment.  Narrow slots in between 30-foot walls, draw your gaze to the burnt orange and creamy white butte in the distance, the image is reflected off copper edges – clever and stimulating. Slot canyons are abundant in the area and the witty imagery is a whimsical ingenious reference.

Water, lighting, and sound – the afternoon wind adds to the mix: rippling the overhead wind sheets in the halls, the waves in the pool slap the side and cascade down to a hidden seating area. Amangiri is all about becoming one with nature.

View from Bed – Amangiri

LOCATION – In Utah, at the border of the four corners of the Southwest; the dramatic resort is the center of the Grand Circle, surrounded by such iconic attractions as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase, Escalante and Bryce & Zion National Parks – finally a luxury property to use as a base for touring. Although I only left for daily hikes, as the resort landscape is unrivaled and captivating.  Positioned in an arc of enormous stratified rock, Amangiri nuzzles into a natural curve of the sandstone, barely discernible from the horizon. Two wings of suites are nestled into the base of the outcropping; the hues of the cement were modified six times by artist Ulrike Arnold to obtain the most striking resemblance to the surrounding landscape. Ulrike Arnold, whose oversize paintings are hung in the dining room travels the world working with the natural hues of landscape and stone.

ACTIVITIES

Early-morning hot air balloon flights offer high-altitude dawn views

Launching directly from Amangiri, the flight takes in views of Lake Powell, Navajo Mountain, the Vermillion Cliffs and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Unearth fossils at one of the world’s richest paleontology sites

Explore Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument with a paleontology interpreter, excavate the Tibbet Spring Bone Bed Quarry and visit nearby fossils and dinosaur tracks.

Lake Powell takes kayakers to extraordinary formations and landscapes

Straddling Arizona and Utah, this 189-mile reservoir boasts dramatic rock formations, deep Navajo history, and some of the most picturesque hiking and kayaking in America. Fringed by slot canyons and lofty mesas, Lake Powell’s more than 3,200km (2,000 miles) of shoreline and secluded bays provide boundless exploration. Straddling Arizona and Utah, this 189-mile reservoir boasts dramatic rock formations, deep Navajo history, and some of the most picturesque hiking and kayaking in America.

A powerboat transports you up-lake to a quiet area that affords access to some of the lake’s most beautiful, serene, and geographically unique pockets. Then what?  Stand-up paddle board along the 1900-mile-long shoreline, kayak on the glassy waters of the inlets, hike along the local sandstone or “slickrock,” and explore some of the lake’s natural caves, “hoodoo” rock towers, and 96 canyons. After a day of extraordinary adventure, we enjoy dinner on-board a luxury houseboat and take in a little stargazing by campfire before bed.

Discover the rich cultural heritage of the Navajo

Experiences range from tours with Navajo guides at slot canyons and Monument Valley to storytelling and ritual dances.

Experience the sweeping desert landscape on a horseback trail

Amangiri’s extensive trails and expert guides offer riding adventures for all levels.

Get up close with Amangiri’s majestic rock formations, courtesy of four via ferrata

Ladder rungs, fixed cables and a guide ensure safe climbing and a dramatic perspective of the valley.

Soak in the scenery, bliss out in the spa or fuel your passion for adventure- in this desert oasis. Highly recommend, Amangiri!

Amangiri Spa

Brekkie Basket- details, details, details!

Amanera Resort Dominican Republic

If you aren’t an Aman Junkie, you may not have traveled to many exotic venues. Aman Resorts has a keen eye for novel locations and masterfully designing exceptional and unique properties.

Amanera Casita

Once again, with their 29th property, Amanera, Playa Grande in the Dominican Republic, they have reaffirmed their long-standing record of stunning resorts.

Amanera Casa Grande

One note, most travelers who visit the Dominican Republic, land in the over developed Punta Cana area – multitudes of hotel properties lacking remoteness or exclusivity. As Aman typically builds its resorts in locations which are a bit off the beaten track, they have succeeded again with Amanera. If isolation and absolute quiet are important to you, do waves and bird song count as noise? I think not. Amanera is an oasis of tranquility.

Built on the North shore of the Dominican Republic, this gem of a retreat offers world renowned golf, hiking, near by kite boarding, water sports, horse back riding and divine dining – why would you opt to stay with the masses?

Casita Terrace with private plunge pool

What do you notice first? Stunning architecture, Balinese like streamlined style, soaring teak and concrete structures open to the expansive views of the Atlantic, and in the distance, a jade green jungle. Architect John Heah integrated the twenty-four casitas in an amphitheater configuration in three stacked rows so that all dwellings enjoy sensational unobstructed views of the ocean. Rooftops are covered in grass, an aesthetic attribute, a seamless blend with nature. Water features are an integral part of the design, which result in stunning mirror reflections and soft splashes, adding to the allure and sense of peacefulness.

The main building, Casa Grande is easily accessed by foot if you decline a buggy driver. With several excellent dining options, I would recommend the jaunt! Casa Grande appears to hover over a breathtaking view with soaring glass or open-air ‘walls ‘ providing an unobstructed view of the mile long crescent beach. An infinity pool floats below Casa Grande, if you don’t have your own private plunge. Nothing obscures the distant horizon.

My heavenly terrace and plunge pool Amanera Casita

My one bedroom casita was located in prime territory, basically center stage orchestra seating, if you will. Similar to Casa Grande, the floor to ceiling glass windows provide drop-dead views of the beach below, the horizon and the jungle beyond the beach. From my bed or my pool loungers, my tropical perch was akin to heaven. A short walk down hill to the beach provided outdoor exercise. The unparalleled setting feels like you are on the edge of the earth, deep jungle terrain kisses the shore of the white sandy crescent shaped beach bordered by crashing waves. Palm fronds edge the jungle boundaries and add a soft swish in the breeze. Beach loungers dot the sand where waiters deliver chilled libations or snacks. This is where you must bring your book bag for an indulgent catch up.

I haven’t mentioned the spa or the championship golf course. This is the first Aman property with a golf course. It goes without saying, it is exceptional. Building on this unspoiled side of the island, Aman didn’t have any competition from a local course – and good luck to anyone who attempts to top this course. The palm lined, ocean facing course has ten ocean side water holes, more than any other course in the Western Hemisphere.  Besides challenging golf, there are stunning scenic photo ops for those who merely shoot cameras.

Amanera Golf

Amanera Golf Course

The Robert Trent Jones course was recently renovated by Jones’ son Rees Jones. Vast  open vistas dominate this 7,085-yard course which curves along the jagged coastline and has breathtaking cliff-side fairways of beautiful sloping velvet greens— it’s often described as the “Pebble Beach” of the Caribbean. Resident pro, PGA Professional Julio Santos took me out for a tour, as I find golf a lesson in frustration. I highly recommend a walk on the paths after the duffers have moved on to the 19th hole…sensational views, carts are encouraged as Julio pointed out when he thought I veered too close to a dramatic drop off near a green! Don’t take my word for it, Larry Olmsted, professional travel writer/golf addict has this to say about the course… http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2016/07/05/the-best-golf-course-in-the-caribbean-plus-an-awesome-new-luxury-resort/#404cd4f2f676

Amanera Spa

A tranquil sanctuary awaits you at the Spa. Inspired by the shamanic healing traditions of the Dominican Republic, spa therapies use locally grown plants and herbs, as well as the Aman range of all-natural products. Massages, facials, scrubs and wraps join signature Spa Journeys as part of a holistic approach to wellbeing.

Lobster Dinner Beach Cafe Amanera…largest Lobster I have ever seen!

Golden crescent beach Amanera

Dining – I’ve previously posted on the exceptional chef experience with my cooking class at Amanera. Both chef’s display very innovative styles, partly based on their heritage, and are enthusiastic in indulging guest requests. The Restaurant, specializing in fresh, organic dishes, features a terrace overlooking the uninterrupted mile-long golden strand of Playa Grande beach. Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure expansive views from indoors, and the second-story bar is the perfect spot for an aperitif. Other dining options include Club de Playa, set on the beach, don’t miss the lobster here – I have never seen such enormous lobsters! Sundowners at Playa Grande in a hammock under a coconut tree, in the sand or from the floating bar in Casa Grande – do try the local concoction Mama Juana. A regional cocktail made with rum, red wine, dried bark and honey.

Massive mangrove forest lines the river to the sea

Activities – A stay at Amanera is as busy or relaxed as a guest desires. Resident hiking assistant Antonio, doubles as a full-time guide, leads nature walks and mountain bike trips.  He patiently explains medicinal uses for plants, uses a sharp stick to puncture  coconuts to reveal the intensely flavored fruit. End your hike with a chilled bottle of wine and snacks in the jungle! Wake up to sunrise yoga or Pilates, walk the stunning crescent beach, laze about, there is no pressure to indulge-staff is present and quiet awaiting your request. Off property, cruise in a motorboat down the Río San Juan, lined with towering prehistoric looking mangrove trees and fluttering with snowy white egrets. On a calm day, traverse the waves to head out to sea for a swim or snorkel.

Amanera hand rolled cigars

I find a singular component to very successful hotels or resorts is the personality of the General Manager. In this case, Rocco Bova, a very animated Italian, who listens, suggests and enthusiastically replies: we can do this – when would you like to  dine, cook, hike- whatever your request – he makes the magic happen! I’ve written about Hotel Whisperer GM’s, he definitely exemplifies this magical gift. Where can I buy the chocolate in my Casita? Boxes of delicious milk chocolate appear in my Casita. My clients would love these Aman hand rolled cigars…wooden boxes and brochures are offered…Lasagne for your last meal, of course! Hotel Whisperer, Rocco Bova!

Scrumptious Tub- windows open to sea breeze- soak amid the jungle! Amanera Casita

Amanera has upped the luxury game in the Dominican Republic. Highly recommend for a luxurious lazy sojourn, golf addicts must add this course to their playlist, and Aman-junkies, you must flock!

Aman has always set the stage for guest arrival and departure…in this case we were served a tropical drink and of course those ubiquitous Aman fine leather luggage tags are discretely attached to your bag before departure…

Addictive Coconut Cookies- Amanera

I should have asked the Hotel Whisperer for the addictive coconut cookie recipe…