In an increasingly crowded world, a truly off-grid luxury hotel is somewhat of an endangered species. But Zannier Hotels Sonop is defying the odds, offering a five-star experience in Namibia’s isolated south.
Anyone who utters the phrase, ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination’ obviously hasn’t visited Zannier Hotels Sonop yet. This hotel is all about the destination. A six-hour drive from Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, check-in here feels almost cathartic. Staff know the drill – new arrivals are welcomed with drinks, spa treatments are booked and a bite to eat offered. Or, if you prefer, they’ll walk you straight to your room for some post-travel relaxation.
Located in the Namib Desert, Zannier Hotels Sonop is as remote as it gets. There’s no signal, no paved roads and not a whole lot to do – but if you’re after pure relaxation minus distractions, this might just be the best hotel on the planet.
WHAT TO PACK
Build amid giant boulders – almost hiding within them – old-world adventures meet a new world of relaxation. Canvas tents and vintage interiors are inspired by 1920’s British explorers, but a focus on design-aided serenity ensures a thoroughly modern and ever-so-comfortable stay.
There are no bricks and mortar at Zannier Hotels Sonop, instead twelve tents perch atop a jumble of enormous granite boulders. All overlook the red-hued desert and have canvas windows which can be rolled up to reveal the panoramic view. Choose from a one-bedroom or two-bedroom tent – they’re equally spacious and designed to reflect the opulence of twenties’ exploration.
Inside, a grand four-poster bed enveloped in crisp cotton sheets awaits, alongside polished wooden floors, Persian rugs, and a writing desk perfect for scribbling letters (or emails!) to those back home.
In keeping with the old-world theme, there are no TVs and the mini bar (restocked daily and complimentary) is hidden within a vintage chest. If you fancy a nightcap, ask staff to fill your whisky decanter and settle into one of the leather armchairs, or step onto your private deck and marvel at the stars.
The vastness of the desert surrounding the hotel brings many delights; an abundance of fresh air, zero noise or light pollution, and best of all, complete privacy. Make the most of it by rolling up the canvas in your bathroom and slipping into your claw-footed bathtub. There’s no better place to take in the emptiness of it all.
Many hours driving on bumpy gravel roads to reach the hotel means muscle-melting relaxation is very welcome, and the spa here is just the antidote. Treatments are inspired by Namibian traditions and use indigenous ingredients such as desert dune sand and Namibian Myrrh – a fragrant oil distilled from desert plant and used by local Himba women as a perfume.
After browsing the treatment menu, we opted for the Touch of Namibia, an invigorating full-body muscle release using essential oils selected by Frans, the hotel’s expert therapist. The experience was so calming that we were back the next morning, this time for the Signature Touch treatment: a full body exfoliation using a handmade scrub of local sand, herbs and oils ground together in a pestle and mortar, followed by a skin soothing massage. The spa also houses a small gym, plus a yoga and meditation deck, and just next door you’ll find the impressive infinity pool.
The Food + Drink
Communal and gala-style, dinner is served in the main dining area; a grand tent decorated with silver candelabras and vintage world maps. Waiters clad in tweed and trouser-braces are on hand with wine recommendations and top ups. An à la carte breakfast and light bites for lunch are served in the same space.
The logistics of sourcing and transporting ingredients to such a remote hotel are complicated and delivering food to the kitchen each day involves a 4×4 vehicle, a golf buggy, and a small army of staff to ferry everything back and forth. As such, some improvements are being made.
Post-dinner, guests either retire to their tents or head to the Cigar Lounge, a gentlemen’s club, snooker room and bar.
The To-Do List
The main agenda here is relaxation but adventure can easily be found. On check-in, guests are assigned an activity manager who, at a moment’s notice will whisk you off on an electric fat-bike tour or – for something a little less energetic – arrange a romantic hot air balloon across the Namib-Naukluft National Park, home to the world’s oldest dunes.
A short drive from the hotel rock sprawl is the stables, where three stunning mares reside alongside their adorable foals. An early morning wake-up call is worthwhile, to saddle up and set off on horses that expertly navigate the sandy, craggy terrain, their foals flitting alongside for the ride.
Guests can also take guided, scenic drives across the desert plains – an ideal evening excursion from which to watch the sunset and reflect on this wondrous location.
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