“My hair looks perfect out in the desert, it’s unbelievable. It’s like, perfectly not frizzy.” — Jenny Lewis
The desert is a polarizing landscape; unlike more universally beloved beach destinations, this genre of sand-covered locale is not for everyone. Or at least, not at first. But even the most dubious visitor—”there’s nothing here”—eventually succumbs to the inexplicable mystical charms unique to these arid areas of the world. Even if for reasons having only to do with vanity.
Below, find seven desert destinations worth escaping to, whether it be for lack of humidity or the sense of peace, awe and surrender that is, in most cases, inevitable.
The Scene: Wolwedans is located among the stunning red dunes of the NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia. It comprises several lodges and camps dispersed across a tranquil setting about five hours (by car) from Windhoek, the underrated European-esque Namibian capital city.
Memories To Make: Activities include hot air balloon rides or small-plane aerial tours, game drives, walking safaris, horseback riding, private bush meals, village visits, massages and more.
The Scene: Located in middle-of-nowhere Utah with rooms running between $2K and $9K a night, this is where Kim Kardashian West spent her 37th birthday. The resort's centerpiece is its swimming hole, which won the Smith Hotel Award for Best Pool in 2015 and is built around an impressive rock formation. One suite has its own 60-foot-long pool.
Memories To Make: Here, too, you can look forward to hot air balloon and helicopter rides, equestrian excursions, hiking, kayaking in nearby Lake Powell, yoga classes, private sessions with a wellness coach and, of course, massages and other such spa luxuries.
Two Bunch Palms, California
The Scene: While we love Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, this hot springs spa offers a more remote-feeling California desert experience. It's located about 20 minutes from downtown Palm Springs, en route to Los Angeles, and consists of lodging, spa facilities and a mineral hot-springs-fueled grotto with two pools.
Memories To Make: Relax—soak in the mineral hot springs, bask in the sun, heal with a shaman, work with a hypnotherapist, get a massage, take a mud bath, get an arnica wrap and more. While you're in the area, you may also want to add a night or two (or more) of glamping under the stars via Camp'd Out (butler optional).
The Scene: This resort is located in the Atacama Desert in Chile, which is the driest desert in the world. In some areas here, the soil has been compared with that of Mars. The Awasi property, specifically located at the outskirts of the town of San Pedro de Atacama, consists of just 10 accommodations. Its design was inspired by pre-Incan ruins. Service is famously impeccable.
Memories To Make: Each guest gets her own private guide and tailored itinerary. Highlights include guanaco-spotting (the camel-family animal pictured here), guided landscape tours (think geysers, petroglyphs, awe-inspiring canyons, giant cacti and more), biking, swimming in the shaded pool and enjoying cocktails at the resort bar.
Longitude 131, Northern Territory, Australia
The Scene: Longitude 131 is located in Australia's Red Centre, facing the country's most impressive site—Uluru. The property comprises 16 luxury tents with all the amenities as well as patios that face Uluru and outdoor bedding should you choose to sleep beneath the stars.
Memories To Make: The resort offers a host of tours that include visits to famous gorge sites, encounters with and explanations of historical cave paintings, an aboriginal art gallery tour, swimming, a visit to the Field of Light and more.
Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara, Abu Dhabi
The Scene: Qasr Al Sarab is located at the edge of the Empty Quarter, which is the world's largest uninterrupted desert. (It's about two hours from the Abu Dhabi airport.) The property (as pictured) looks like a fortress surrounded by sweeping dunes. It boasts five restaurants, an epic swimming pool and more.
Memories To Make: Available activities are diverse and include camel trekking, desert walks, fat biking, regional cooking classes, sand boarding and dune bashing, to name a few.
Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp, Morocco
The Scene: These eight traditional caidal tents are situated among the up-to-1,000-feet-tall Erg Chigaga dunes about nine hours (by 4WD, if you're feeling that option) from Marrakech. (Most visitors stay overnight somewhere along the route to break up the trip.) Two "honeymoon-perfect" tents are also available, about a 15-minute walk from the main camp. Here, expect five-star, knowledgeable service, remarkable food and, should you so desire, free-flowing wine (the price is all-inclusive).
Memories To Make: While at Erg Chigaga, your Instagram feed will flourish. Try sand boarding, camel riding, guided desert walks, quad biking, picnicking at the oasis, cycling and more. In one review, there is even talk of baby camels—a sighting well worth a nine-hour trek alone.