Otherworldly, vast, and mystical — the desert has long served as a destination for the pensive traveler. Though the elements are extreme, its inhabitants are resilient and prove that this landscape is among the more majestic on earth. It also happens to host some of the most spectacular properties in the world, many of which offer front row views of dramatic mountain ranges and sprawling desert flora (think cactus, palm trees, and all kinds of herbs and blooms). If your travel intentions this year include themes pertaining to wellness, relaxation, and mindfulness then it’s due time to book your stay at a top desert hotel.
Within the United States, there are several states that enjoy serene desert environments, including California, Utah, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. In these unique climates, there’s a diverse smattering of accommodations to discover (both rentals and resorts), all of which incorporate natural elements into the architecture and design. From the iconic red rock country in Arizona to magnificent Joshua Trees in California, each habitat is rich in biodiversity and sets the stage for a magical few days. Ahead, 10 properties that prove a trip to the desert should be on the agenda for 2022.
Villa Kuro: Joshua Tree, California
Tucked away on an unfenced 3.6 acres in Joshua Tree, California lies Villa Kuro, a handsome hideaway that blends in with the desert landscape. Designed by Mini Inno and inspired by nature and Wabi-Sabi, the 2000-square-foot rental is fodder for minimalism devotees. Kick back by the fire pit or in the salt water hot tub and meditate within the national park land that surrounds Villa Kuro. The ranch-style property, originally from the 1960s, comes with a master and guest bed and bath as well as a kitchen, living room, and tearoom, all of which incorporate natural materials like wood, woven textures, and ceramic. And because this is the desert, you can expect a dotting of indigenous flora including cactus and yucca palm trees.
The Joshua Tree House: Tucson, Arizona
With locations in both Tucson, Arizona, and Joshua Tree, California The Joshua Tree House is a bonafide desert destination that appeals to travelers who appreciate thoughtfully designed interiors situated in wild places. The Arizona outpost is a five-suite inn that borders the west side of Saguaro National Park and is on 38 acres. Scattered across the property you’ll discover an abundance of Saguaro cactus and other native plants that accent on-site trails, the pool, hot spring, rooftop patios and more. Design elements that truly stand out include new Fireclay Tile combined with older Talavera tiles from the original abandoned inn plus renovated bathrooms that have been documented on their site for visitors who want to emulate the aesthetic in their own homes.
Willow House: Terlingua, Texas
Six miles from Big Bend National Park there exists a communal style of hospitality at Willow House. The 12-casita property lets guests cook a meal, mix a cocktail, and get to know one another, all while enjoying the intimacy one can only experience on 250 acres of private land. Here, sweeping views of the Chisos Mountain Range serve as the backdrop while modern, high desert design comes into focus in the foreground. The color palette and textures found around Willow House naturally exist on this Far West Texas land; for example, for the shade structures the team used dead ocotillo branches picked up from around the property and for rock walls and pathways, rocks sourced and collected from various areas of the property were used.
Castle Hot Springs: Morristown, Arizona
At Castle Hot Springs, you can spend your days plunging into mineral rich hot springs, adventuring in the surrounding Sonoran Desert, and devouring cuisine farmed on the property’s very own three acres featuring over 150 different crops each season. It’s the kind of magical place where every agenda item revolves around nature in its purest, most wild form. Accommodations range from bungalows featuring an outdoor covered deck with a fireplace, to the Sky View Cabin that offers an expansive view of the desert sky and an outdoor claw-foot tub (the crème de la crème of room amenities, really). There’s also The Historic Cottage, which once greeted guests like the Roosevelts, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts. From farm tours and geothermal soaks to guided hikes and desert e-bike tours, you’re all but guaranteed to depart Castle Hot Springs recharged and inspired.
Le Chacuel: Yucca Valley, California
As many successful desert properties do, the concept for Le Chaceul relied on the wild landscape to inform the design. Located in Joshua Tree with far-as-the-eyes-can-see views of the Yucca Valley, this minimalist haven is about as picturesque as they come. Designer-architect Mila Morris and furniture designer and welder Jona Maaryn are behind Le Chaceul, each lending their know-how to bring this serene structure to life. Surrounded by Joshua Trees and situated between the main entrance to the national park and Pioneertown (home to iconic Pappy and Harriet’s), it’s well-positioned. But truth be told, you’ll likely want to stay onsite to unwind in the modern minimalist environment executed in a muted color palette and with organic materials that mirror the splendor found outdoors.
Amangiri: Canyon Point, Utah
Practically synonymous with secluded desert escape, Amangiri is an otherworldly luxury resort that’s set on 600 acres of the Colorado Plateau and that leans on its natural surroundings — canyons, mesas, ridges, gorges — to immerse guests in Navajo red-rock country. Architects Marwan Al-Sayed, Wendell Burnette, and Rick Joy guided the aesthetic of the property, with its use of natural materials like concrete walls. Each of the suites comes with an outdoor lounge and fireplace with desert views and Camp Sarika (a five-minute drive from Amangiri) offers a private wilderness experience with indoor living and dining areas plus terraces with fire pits and plunge pools. The dining program turns to the culinary heritage of the Navajo as do Amangiri’s ‘cultural encounters’ that encourage visitors to learn about the ecology, geology, and human history of the grounds they are enjoying in addition to the traditions held by neighboring Native American tribes.
Ojo Caliente Resort: Ojo Caliente, New Mexico
As one of the country’s oldest health spas (it opened in 1868), Ojo Caliente is a high desert sanctuary. Visitors are lured by the property’s mythical natural spring waters where a daily soak easily becomes a ritual and the cultural significance of the surrounding land is felt in force. Each of the hot spring pools are naturally sulfur-free and rich in iron, arsenic, soda, and Lithia and you can discover different designs and views depending on which pool you visit. While here, you can also explore scenic hiking and biking trails or try your hand at birding (this habitat hosts several migratory species). End your day tucked inside one of the Pueblo-style suites that are decorated with regional details like timber Vigas, traditional rugs, and art crafted in Taos. Or, book your room in the Historic Hotel that’s over a century old and offers a front porch and rocking chairs for supreme relaxation.
Enchantment Resort: Sedona, Arizona
With just a glance at Enchantment Resort it’s easy to understand the vast appeal of this property. Set in front of (and all around) Arizona’s dramatic Boynton Canyon with its craggy peaks and iconic red hue, a stay here is nothing short of magic. The resort has its own team of adventure guides that can lead you on hikes and bike rides around high-desert pinyon-juniper forests or beneath sandstone cliffs and afterward you can slowdown with a massage treatment (note: the resort’s renowned Mii amo spa Is currently paused but spa services are available through the Spa Suites at Boynton Canyon at Enchantment Resort). Settle into one of the Casita Guest Rooms with interiors that reflect regional décor or snag one of their Pool Suites featuring your own pool, viewing deck, and outdoor patio.
Korakia Pensione: Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs has long been a destination for desert-devotees but at Korakia Pensione — a resort featuring Moroccan and Mediterranean influences — the ambience feels especially distinct. The property consists of two restored historic villas (one Mediterranean, the other Moroccan) on 1.5 acres of land that consists of bungalows, guesthouses as well as gardens and pools. Guests are encompassed by citrus blossoms, olive trees, bougainvillea vines, and decor details like Moroccan fountains and a stone waterfall. Take a cruiser bike to tour nearby residential architecture and enjoy the natural surroundings or go for a swim in one of the two heated salt water pools with views of the San Jacinto Mountains. Guests can also book a massage or private yoga class during their stay and each afternoon there is Moroccan tea time to sip by the fire pits or in the library.
Miraval Resort & Spa: Tucson, Arizona
For a wellness trip like no other, head for Miraval Resort & Spa in Arizona where your journey begins with an invitation to choose your intention, ranging from self connection to grief and loss. From there, guests can engage with soul-enriching activities like yoga, meditation, hiking, wellness counseling, painting, and more. The casita-style rooms, suites, and villas all feature a Tibetan singing bowl as well as a meditation cushion and guided meditation channels, further cementing the fact that every guest will leave in a better mindset than they entered with. Other can’t-miss experiences at Miraval include a hands-on artisanal taco class that teaches guests about generational farming and biodiversity, all whilst enjoying delicious tacos crafted from fresh ingredients. Also be sure to spend time in Miraval’s 16,000-square-feet Life in Balance Spa that offers a spate of services including Ayurveda, energy, and massage.