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There is no doubt that Dubai is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. In fact, the city won Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice award for the second time in a row this year.
But with overwhelming crowds of more than 14 million visitors per year and ever-rising prices that top global daily tourist spending charts, some travelers are looking for alternatives.
So why don’t tourists try somewhere else? Well, Dubai really knows how to do luxury, and everyone knows it. With more than 150 five-star properties with excellent reputations, it’s no surprise that travelers think of Dubai first when looking for a taste of the good life.
However, there are some elite gems in the Gulf that give Dubai a run for its money.
For those willing to get off the beaten track, here are the top three alternatives to Dubai that offer world-class luxury.
1. Muscat, Oman
Prices in Muscat are approximately 40% lower than Dubai, while maintaining premium luxury and world-class hospitality.
Above prize Five-star properties in Muscat include:
- The Chedi Hotel – Palm trees line a sleek ocean-view pool, while clean, minimalist lines blend seamlessly with Omani architecture for a true oasis of understated opulence.
- Hotel Kempinsky – This flashy beach resort can’t go wrong, but can Give Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah properties a run for their money.
- Al-Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton hotel – If the record-breaking crystal chandeliers and the building’s fascinating history weren’t enough, guests will be blown away by the unparalleled quality of the meticulously curated experiences during their stay.
- Shangri-La Al Husn – This adults-only clifftop retreat in Barr Al Jissah Bay is reminiscent of Arabian royalty in its indulgent brand of luxury.
But luxury doesn’t stop at accommodation. Oman Air is ranked among the top 10 business classes and the first classes to fly in the world and received the award for the most comfortable seat in the Middle East.
Like Dubai, Muscat Airport is a convenient (albeit smaller) hub connecting flights between Europe, Asia and Africa, and boasts a business-class lounge ranked in the top 10 globally.
Muscat has nothing like the Burj Khalifa, but it does have something ultra-developed Dubai lacks: the balance between old and new.
While world-class modern hospitality is still the name of the game, Oman is absolutely steeped in a depth of tradition that is lacking in other luxury destinations. Maintaining its organic character in its architecturehospitality and lifestyle set this Gulf nation apart from the competition.
The Sultanate is predominantly Ibāḍī, practicing a branch of Islam that is less conservative in social practice than many neighboring societies.
Muscat’s social climate is relatively relaxed and tolerant of other cultures. Tourists can enjoy alcoholic beverages on their trip and have peace of mind knowing that Oman is widely regarded as the most welcoming country for women in the region.
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While the extraordinary service and striking architecture of Muscat’s luxury properties may tempt you to never leave your hotel, Oman’s true gems are found on tours.
No trip to Muscat would be complete without marveling at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, strolling through the Royal Opera House or shopping in the vibrant maze of Muttrah Souk. Just an hour southwest of Muscat is the ancient capital of Nizwa, surreally frozen in time but welcoming to visitors.
Venture an hour and a half east along the Omani coast and you will be awed by the natural beauty and refreshing waters of Wadi Shab, Wadi Bani Khalid and Wadi Tiwi. Nature here also knows something about true luxury.
2. AlUla, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s new tourist magnet, AlUla, offers a unique brand of exclusive luxury. The kingdom describes this desert retreat as « a living museum of preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, historic dwellings… housing 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history. »
Detoxification and reconnection with nature are AlUla’s specialties. (Alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia, so you better clean up.)
From the ancient healing practices of the Bedouins to modern oil therapies and yoga practices, the wellness centers of the best AlUla resorts are fully equipped for desert rejuvenation.
Luxury properties in AlUla offer something for every type of traveler. Award Winning You live in Alula it is nothing less than otherworldly. Self-proclaimed « luxury for the soul, » this resort is home to 96 five-star villas, each with unique interiors, scattered across the desert sand alongside a miraculous pool and yoga platform.
Focused on seamless integration with the spectacular scenery, simple banyan tree it features 47 sand-colored tent-like villas and an infinity pool that fills an organic space between towering Martian cliffs.
3. Doha, Qatar
Qatar is quickly making a name for itself as a leading luxury destination, starting with its capital city, Doha.
Anantara Banana Island Resort offers a private island stay with super-instagrammable floating meals served by the pool. The private villas here sit on stilts over crystal clear waters and come complete with a private butler, boat, and pool.
Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som offers a secluded oasis where desert meets nature and traditional Qatari architecture meets clean modern lines. Just an hour from the capital, this five-star property is the first luxury wellness destination in the region that focuses on traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine.
Other major resorts include:
- eastern mandarin, doha – Home to opulent pearl-based spa treatments, twin rooftop pools, and a restaurant specializing in Italian white truffles
- Mondrian Doha – An award-winning West Bay art hotel with a lively social scene and creative interiors throughout
- Marsa Malaz Kempinski – A European-inspired beach resort on a man-made island featuring 281 ocean-view rooms and 7 restaurants, a popular choice with families
For excessive luxury, look no further than The Pearl-Qataran artificial peninsula packed with the best restaurants, trendiest cafes and most luxurious hotels in the country, cementing Doha’s place as a worthy rival to Dubai.
From Nobu to Morimoto to Hakkasan, world-class Asian-inspired fine dining is one of the many elite tricks Doha does best.
Travelers can delight in world-class private excursions such as helicopter tours, luxury yacht charters, 24-karat gold spa treatmentsor shopping trips led by personal stylists to the designer wing of the Mall of Doha.
When it’s time to fly home, don’t be too disappointed. Qatar Airways has been voted the World’s Best Airline for seven consecutive years, not to mention the best airline in the Middle East and one of the best business classes in the world.
It is safe to say that you will leave your luxury vacation behind in continued comfort with exceptional service.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com