There’s no doubt that Dubai is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. In fact, the city won the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Award for the second time in a row this year.
But with overwhelming crowds of over 14 million visitors per year and ever-rising prices topping the global daily tourist spend charts, some travelers are looking for alternatives.
So why don’t tourists try someplace else? Well, Dubai really knows how to do luxury, and everybody knows it. With over 150 five-star properties with excellent reputations, it comes as no surprise that travelers think first of Dubai when looking for a taste of the good life.
However, there are a few elite gems in the Gulf giving Dubai a run for its money.
For those willing to get off the beaten path, here are the top three alternatives to Dubai that offer world-class luxury.
1. Muscat, Oman
Prices in Muscat are about 40% lower than in Dubai while still maintaining top-quality luxury and world-class hospitality.
Top award-winning five-star properties in Muscat include:
- The Chedi Hotel – Palm trees line a sleek pool with ocean views, while minimalist clean lines blend seamlessly with Omani architecture in a true oasis of understated opulence.
- Kempinski Hotel – This splashy beach resort can do no wrong but can give the properties of Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah a run for their money.
- Al-Bustan Palace, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel – If the record-breaking crystal chandeliers and fascinating history of the building weren’t enough, guests will be impressed by the peerless quality of meticulously curated experiences throughout their stay.
- Shangri-La Al Husn – This adult-only clifftop retreat on the bay of Barr Al Jissah recalls Arabian royalty in its indulgent brand of luxury.
But the luxury doesn’t stop at accommodation. Oman Air is ranked in the top 10 business classes and first classes to fly in the world and was awarded 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, featuring a business class lounge ranked in the top ten globally.
Muscat doesn’t have anything like the Burj Khalifa, but it has something that ultra-developed Dubai is missing: the balance between old and new.
While modern world-class hospitality is still the name of the game, Oman is absolutely steeped in a depth of tradition missing from other luxury destinations. Maintaining its organic character in its architecture, hospitality, and way of life sets 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 drinks on their trip and have peace of mind knowing that Oman is widely regarded as the most female-friendly country in the region.
While the extraordinary service and striking architecture of Muscat’s luxury properties might tempt you to never leave your hotel, Oman’s true gems lie in the excursions.
No trip to Muscat would be complete without marveling at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, wandering around the Royal Opera House, or shopping in the vibrant maze of Muttrah Souk. Just an hour southwest of Muscat lies the ancient capital of Nizwa, surreally frozen in time yet welcoming to visitors.
Venture an hour and a half east along Oman’s coastline, and you’ll be blown away by the natural beauty and refreshing waters of Wadi Shab, Wadi Bani Khalid, and Wadi Tiwi. The nature here also knows a little 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… that hold 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history.”
Detox and reconnection with nature are AlUla’s specialties. (Alcohol is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, so you might as well go all in on the cleanse.)
From ancestral Bedouin healing practices to trendy oil therapies and yoga practices, the wellness centers at AlUla’s top resorts are fully equipped for desert rejuvenation.
Luxury properties in AlUla offer something for every kind of traveler. Award-winning Habitas Alula is nothing short of other-worldly. Self-proclaimed “luxury for the soul,” this resort hosts 96 five-star villas, each with unique interiors, scattered across the desert sand alongside a miraculous swimming pool and yoga deck.
Focused on seamless integration with the show-stopping scenery, Banyan Tree Alula features 47 sand-colored tented villas and an infinity pool filling 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 of Doha.
Banana Island Resort by Anantara offers a private island stay with uber-Instagrammable floating meals served in the pool. Private villas here sit on stilts above crystal clear waters and come complete with a private butler, boat, and pool.
Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som provides a secluded oasis where desert meets nature and traditional Qatari architecture meets modern clean lines. Just an hour from the capital, this five-star property is the first luxury wellness destination in the region to focus on Traditional Arabic and Islamic Medicine.
Other top resorts include:
- Mandarin Oriental, Doha – Home to opulent pearl-based spa treatments, twin rooftop pools, and a restaurant specializing in Italian white truffle
- Mondrian Doha – An award-winning art hotel in the West Bay with a bustling social scene and creative interiors at every turn
- Marsa Malaz Kempinski – A European-inspired beach resort on an artificial island featuring 281 ocean-view rooms and 7 restaurants, a popular choice with families
For excessive luxury, look no further than The Pearl-Qatar, a man-made peninsula packed with the finest dining, trendiest cafes, and most lavish hotels in the country, cementing Doha’s place as a worthy rival to Dubai.
From Nobu to Morimoto to Hakkasan, truly world-class Asian-inspired fine dining is one of the many elite tricks Doha does best.
Travelers can revel in top-tier private excursions like helicopter rides, luxury yacht charters, 24-carat gold spa treatments, or personal stylist-led shopping trips 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 seven years in a row, not to mention the best airline in the Middle East and one of the top business classes in the world.
It’s safe to say you’ll leave behind your luxury vacation in continued comfort with outstanding service.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com