We laid with our backs against the sand, gazing skyward where shooting stars left silver trails across the dark abyss. We were in the middle of nowhere—somewhere on the outskirts of the Sahara Desert—on an unmarked dune reached by camel with the guidance of a barefoot Berber man. It's been three years since this desert trip, but it remains one of my favorite travel experiences.
The allure, perhaps, is getting off the grid—hardly a new pursuit, but one that's gone mainstream. Just take Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's and Kim Kardashian West's desert vacations. Recently, stars have been eschewing popular tourist spots and venturing into the barren, red center of the desert for a moment of rest and respite. Sound appealing? Set your out-of-office reply, and make your way to one of these dreamy desert retreats.
Location: Scattered at the base of majestic Uluru, a sacred Aboriginal site in Australia, this luxury desert basecamp boasts an unbeatable location. If you're looking for a retreat that feels worlds away from home, this is your place. Trust us—the long-haul flight and journey into the desert are absolutely worth it.
Five-Star Feature: It would be remiss of us not to name Uluru itself as the hotel's five-star feature—suites boast floor-to-ceiling views of the spiritual landmark. There are also the incredible stand-alone tubs, which offer the perfect private spot to take in the view.
Activities: There's no shortage of custom, personalized adventures on offer in Uluru: You can watch the sunset while sipping sparkling wine in Kantju Gorge, enjoy alfresco dining at Table 131°, or walk along the base of the world's largest monolith and learn about its sacred history.
Location: Perched on 243 hectares of land in Southern Utah, Amangiri boasts 360-degree views of dramatic mountains and vast desert.
Five-Star Feature: The large desert-view spa is a favorite among celebrities. It focuses on hózhó, which means beauty, harmony, balance, and health in Navajo. Don't miss the outdoor stone-lined step pool, a tranquil place to contemplate your surreal surrounds.
Activities: It might seem like a relaxed, remote retreat, but Amangiri offers a ton of adrenaline-pumping adventures. It's at the heart of the Grant Circle, so it's within reach of Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Monument Valley. Take your pick.
Location: Located in Abu Dhabi's Rub' al Khali, the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world, there's no shortage of breathtaking views at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara.
Five-Star Feature: The Arabian décor makes this retreat feel like a palace. Decadent fabrics, local artifacts, and luxurious Arabian furniture pay homage to this beautiful culture.
Activities: The vast, uninterrupted dunes that surround the retreat act as a playground for guests seeking adventure. Marvel at the landscape on the back of a camel, 4x4 bike, or by foot during an early-morning desert stroll.
Location: Perched in the private 27,000-hectare Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Little Kulala is an ideal starting point to explore Namibia's Sand Sea. Expect desert wildlife on your doorstep—herds of gemsbok, ostrich, and springbok are known to appear.
Five-Star Feature: The rooftop "star bed" allows guests to stargaze atop their own thatched tents. There's also a private plunge pool, plus indoor and outdoor showers to cool off in after a day in the hot Namibian sun.
Activities: See the stunning landscape from the sky on a hot-air balloon safari, watch the sun rise above the dusty dunes, and then return to ground for a champagne breakfast.
Location: Another Namibian retreat, AndBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is nestled in the heart of the ancient Namib Desert in Southern Africa. Secluded and serene, if offers luxury suites with dramatic over-bed skylights so you can watch the stars as you fall asleep.
Five-Star Feature: The resort has a resident astronomer on staff to share the mysteries of the African night sky with guests at the on-site observatory.
Activities: Meals are served by lantern light at the lodge's open dining veranda. There's also the option to dine at a surprise location in the nearby dunes, which is a favorite among honeymooners.