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The Transcendent Desert

An adventure at the stunning Amangiri in Southern Utah to the red rocks of Sedona.

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Amangiri

We didn’t know if we were headed to the end of the Earth or straight on to the set of Planet of the Apes as we drove deeper in to the desert up 89 from the Grand Canyon towards the mystic Canyonlands of southern Utah. Empty booths with signs advertising Navajo crafts lined the roads that seemed to lead to nowhere. Yet, we still followed the directions leading us to the Amangiri, one of only two North American properties in the dreamy lineup of uber luxe Aman resorts. We came to a gate that was discreetly marked and after a few turns through the property’s 600 acres, we arrived at an outpost of civilization, as two fresh-faced valets in white Asian-inspired coats waved us over. They greeted us by name and whisked our bags away before leading us to the reception desk inside the impressive all glass and concrete main building where another friendly attendant clad in white offered us a glass of hot tea and a warm hand towel. Within minutes of arriving, we had already experienced the hotel’s 3:1 staff-to-guest ratio.

The minimalist modern design carried through to our Mesa View Suite, which offered unique and equally beautiful views from every angle—mountains, desert, and lush sand dunes that we would later discover turned pink and gold at sunset. An avid outdoorsman, my husband couldn’t wait to explore the many hiking trails on the property. From slot canyons to mushroom rock formations, there are many options for the adventurer. He’s more of a self-guided kind of hiker, so he set out with a trail map and bottle of water that the staff had filled just before we got in to the room. But the options for group/guide lead hikes and activities that the resort offers are endless. Thumbing through the perfect-bound “Amangiri: The Experience” book, we learned of fishing trips on the Colorado River, Lake Powell boat tours, or taking in the Grand Canyon by helicopter. I found my own kind of solace in the resort’s 25,000 square foot spa that boasts an extensive menu of impressive services.

Because of the property’s remoteness, we had all our meals at the restaurant. The food, like everything at the Amangiri, didn’t feel like it was trying too hard. The menu featured familiar items with twists, and each one we tried was done exceptionally well (my husband ordered the onion rings every day for lunch, and he swears they are the best he has ever had). Because there are only 34 suites on the property, we could go hours without seeing other people, so I couldn’t help but do some people watching from our cozy table nestled by a wood burning fireplace in a corner of the dining room. I was especially taken with a stylish group (who all seemed to have on the best shoes) speaking French a few tables over. Our server shared they were here from Louis Vuitton shooting an ad campaign around the property and surrounding area (Vogue, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Neiman Marcus, and Ralph Lauren Home have also used the property as a backdrop).

Although everything about the experience of being at the hotel feels private, there is also a sense of togetherness, a camaraderie that everyone is together in this isolated, special location. I found my mind go quiet in the stark beauty that surrounded us and felt like I could read and think in a way I hadn’t been able to for months. We found another view from above, as we looked down at the hotel from one of the nearby trails, it felt like we were gazing on a moon colony—the sleek design is compact with minimal landscaping. The Amangiri team tested the concrete multiple times to get the closest match to the landscape around it, and the attention to detail shows even from far away. This was the most luxurious place we have ever been to, but nothing about it felt over the top. Everything was understated, and the real priority of this magical property shined—honoring the stunning canyonlands, treading lightly on this place that is like nowhere else in the world.

Head to the Amangiri between now and March 2014 for a special package that’s included with nightly rates—three meals a day, two daily one-hour guided group hikes on property, one daily group yoga class, and one daily group Pilates core-strengthening mat class. For stays of four nights or more, a complimentary 60-minute massage, facial or flotation therapy session will be offered. For more information, visit http://www.amanresorts.com/amangiri.

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Enchantment Resort

We drove in to Sedona when the sun had already set, feeling the elevation changes with each turn further up in to the mountains. We arrived at the Enchantment Resort and breathed in the fresh, cool mountain air as we stepped out of the car to check in. Our 10pm arrival didn’t affect the energy level of our excited valet whose love for the property and the healing powers of Sedona was infectious. Armed with hot chocolate at just the right temperature, we headed to our spacious casita that featured a living room, fireplace, and outdoor deck. It seemed like as soon as the sun came up, we were outside, anxious to see the famous red rocks, and we were delighted to see that our hotel was centered in just the right place with different views of the magical red rocks from every side of the property.

The Enchantment Resort is connected to the neighboring Mii amo, a world-class, all-inclusive spa resort. With only 16 spa guest rooms arranged in casitas, the recently-renovated property felt holistic and luxurious. The treatment room for my signature facial was centered around a huge window that offered yet another stunning vertical view of the rocks. I spent a lot of time in the spa—sipping a smoothie, reading by the serene pool, and even found myself writing down some worries and walking in to the “crystal grotto” to release them, giving in to the healing powers of the place. My skeptical-of-spa-food husband was pleasantly surprised by how good his bison and quinoa tasted. The service at every turn was attentive and knowledgeable.

The last thing we ever want after traveling is have to get in the car for activities, so one of our favorite things about Enchantment was that we could hit tennis balls, play a round of bocce, or get on one of the hikes from the property without travel time. We felt like we were up in the mountains, but downtown Sedona was a short 10-minute drive away. Our last night at Enchantment ended perfectly with blankets and hot tea huddled around the fire pit near the center of the beautifully-placed property.

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Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

I have never met a Four Seasons Hotel that I didn’t love. No two properties ever feel just alike, and they manage the no small feat of being family friendly, but also just right for an adults-only getaway. The Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North was just this. Another all casita property, our suite boasted a spacious living room and bedroom, two bathrooms, and an outdoor patio and hot tub (perfect for a family). Because this was the last night of our trip and we were flying out the next day, my husband was disappointed he didn’t have a chance to play the famed Troon North Clubhouse that lucky hotel guests have access to, but we did have time to hike the Pinnacle Peak trail from the property and the climb was worth the mountain and desert views from above. Rain kept us from taking a dip in the expansive bi-level pools that are heated for year-round use, but we did enjoy a farewell breakfast at one of the restaurants on property, Proof American Canteen. It was the last morning of our first ever trip away from our young daughter, and all we could think about was how much she would have loved the fun, visually stimulating atmosphere—an old school soda fountain, exposed light fixtures, and rows of colorful vintage cans and jars on the shelves behind the bar. Ready to see our daughter, but wishing we had more time at this festive Southwestern feeling resort, we knew we would have to return for poolside fun and outdoor adventures with her along for the ride on our next trip.

Credits

Photography by: Courtesy of Amangiri

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