Who needs beaches? We’re looking at deserts this week. Deserts where the golden sands stretch to the horizon and the sun beats down from a cloudless blue sky. You couldn’t have a desert without an oasis of course so we’ve selected our favourite destinations.
A destination fit for England’s finest footballers and their WAGs, Dubai is a super glitzy city, the last word in luxury. It’s a business city too with wheelers and dealers hoping to spin gold from the sand. We go to revel in the warm waters just off Jumeria, site of the area’s best beaches, sunbathe and do a little shopping. And in the evening, dine on a dhow as it cruises The Creek.
“Play it again, Sam.” “We’ll always have Paris.” Thanks to the black-and-white weepie, Casablanca, in the western reaches of the Sahara, rivals Paris as our most romantic city. More romance? Take the Aïn-Diab coast road that runs between the El Hank lighthouse and Sidi Abderrahmane mausoleum, a small village accessible solely at low tide.
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Coral reefs with almost a thousand species of fish darting around and through it make this Red Sea resort area one of the most sublime scuba venues anywhere in the world. Break from the traditional tourist temptations and head for Ras Mohammed, at the south-most tip of the peninsula. It’s a national park, preserving this extraordinary area the way it was.
And in the United States…
Las Vegas, Nevada
Love it or loath it, Las Vegas is the leviathan of desert destinations. It’s a city of mega hotels: Mandalay Bay, New York-New York, The Mirage, Luxor, Bellagio, and Paris – all waiting to cater to you every need. Shows, world-class shopping, wedding chapels and some of the best restaurants in the US are here too.
The anti-Vegas. Remote and romantic Four Corners is where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet. It’s steeped in Navajo culture and home to getaway-from-it-all resorts such as Amangiri. You reach Amangiri via a winding road that descends into a valley.
Palm Springs, California
It’s the startling contrast of vivid golf greens and sandy surroundings that strikes visitors to Palm Springs. This extraordinary land is ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the San Jacinto Mountains are the ethereal background to the galleries and boutiques. Take it all in from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
One way to drink in the sights, sounds, and smells of the rugged Sonoran Desert is from the gondola of a hot air balloon. Scottsdale itself is a wonderful city packed full of family-friendly attractions such as a zoo and railway museum. There’s even a working olive mill and winery where you can create your own blends.
Another city in Arizona, Tucson is a wonderful place for those who like to get active on holiday. There’s hiking and biking, rock climbing and caving and horseriding. Get far, far out of doors to Kitt Peak National Observatory for some stargazing. It possesses the greatest collection of telescopes for stellar and solar research on the planet.
Okay, okay, we love Arizona. Flagstaff is the third city in the state to make our top ten. It’s near the sites that define this slice of desert: the Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Meteor Crater and Wupatki National Monument. When you’re ready to come back into town, Flagstaff’s historic district is full of plenty of boutiques and some first-rate bookshops.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe in New Mexico is an effortless blend of desert and arts. Located in the foothills of the Rockies, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, galleries and museums exhibit traditional and contemporary works including those of Georgia O’Keefe. See what inspired O’Keefe with a visit to nearby Native American pueblos. And to eat? Delicious, traditional Native American fare — salmon, bison, oysters…