You wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that deserts aren’t the most hospitable places in the world, and especially not the one I have in mind: the Rub’ al Khali, or Empty Quarter. This vast desert sure lives up to its name – it’s the largest uninterrupted desert in the world, spanning a total of 4 countries (Yemen, Oman the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) and covering a massive area of 650,000 square kilometres. It’s bleak and desolate, with nothing but endless dunes, salt lakes and herds of inquisitive camels to keep you company.

So, if I told you that this almost lifeless wasteland actually houses one of the most beautiful resorts in the Middle East, would you actually believe me? Well then, allow me to introduce to you the the Qasr Al Sarab resort, which also houses the Royal Pavilion Villas. Located 200km south of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, this resort stand out like an oasis amidst the countless, towering dunes. Plenty of luxury resorts boast about offering unmatched privacy and seclusion, but this is as close as you can get to pure solitude. The fact that everything is so far removed (100km from the nearest points of interest!) means that these otherworldly settings are almost surreal. Just take a look for yourself and you’ll see what I mean!

Royal Pavilion Villas – fairytale palaces in the Middle East

I thought I’d start with the Royal Pavilion Villas first, the most exclusive villas in the whole resort. These villas almost look like something out of One Thousand and One Nights with their gorgeous Arabic architecture and walled gardens. They’re separate from the rest of the complex, and as a result can enjoy true peace and quiet away from the rest of the guests. It’s been turning heads for sure, having already won 2 World Travel Awards for best Luxury Hotel Villa and best Villa Resort in Abu Dhabi after only opening its doors in 2014. Just take a look at these pictures and let yourself be transported to a magical world of elegance and intrigue – who knows, this might serve as some inspiration for your next adventure!

RP 1Royal Pavilion Villas: Each villa incorporates countless Arabic influences to make for a truly royal and exotic atmosphere.

RP 3Royal Pavilion Villas: They also come with a pool and there’s plenty of space to lounge about and soak up the sun – or admire the evening skies.

RP 4Royal Pavilion Villas: The views are almost surreal with the desert stretching as far as the eye can see. It’ll give you a sense of how massive these sand dunes actually are!

RP 14Royal Pavilion Villas: The interiors feature plenty of Arab patterns, motifs and gives a strong impression that you really are staying in a palace.

RP 7Royal Pavilion Villas: There’s also a spa down in the main resort – if you stay at the Royal Pavilion Villas you’ll get a complimentary 30 minute head, neck and shoulder massage…

RP 16Royal Pavilion Villas: …Or you can choose to go on a desert expedition instead! When staying at the Royal Pavilion Villas you’ll have a choice of 2 activities per day, including camel trekking, archery, falconry, dune bashing…the list goes on! You can choose to swap your day’s expeditions for a treatment at the spa.

RP 18Royal Pavilion Villas: A view of the Royal Pavilion Villas at night – the reception building looks like a fortress with its towers and palm-filled courtyard.

Qasr Al Sarab – a castle in the sand

The main resort of Qasr Al Sarab is just as luxurious and opulent as the neighbouring Royal Pavilion Villas. What I find so striking about it is that it genuinely looks like a desert palace from an old legend – you could easily imagine how a powerful figure might have lived here once! It’s an enormous complex with lots of nooks and crannies and you’d easily get lost wandering through all the corridors, courtyards and chambers. Qasr Al Sarab has a whole host of awards too – it’s been awarded the Travellers’ Choice Award on TripAdvisor (and it’s in the Hall of Fame!) with a rating of 5/5 and it’s picked up accolades from the World Travel Awards for 5 years in a row!

RP 15Qasr Al Sarab: There are no words….It’s like you’re stepping in to Lawrence of Arabia!

PR 19Qasr Al Sarab: The massive free-form pool is very stylish, and you can enjoy a drink by the water at the Gadheer lounge. At night the lounge turns into a shisha bar, offering a romantic setting.

RP 8Qasr Al Sarab: The Suhail is a rooftop lounge and a steakhouse, offering the best views of the resort. There are 6 restaurants in total, or you can choose to be catered privately in your own villa. 

RP 2Qasr Al Sarab: There’s all sorts of spaces hidden away in the resort like this stunning courtyard. 

RP 5Qasr Al Sarab: There are plenty of spaces where you can sit back, relax and enjoy the warm nights drinking fine teas.

RP 17Qasr Al Sarab: As well as being regal, the resort also has a touch of adventure to it, like you’re about to venture into the unknown.

PR 21Qasr Al Sarab: The resort also has conference spaces and it’s possible to arrange weddings here too – the staff will plan the whole occasion with you so you can tailor it exactly to your needs.

RP 23Qasr Al Sarab: The villas come with a secluded terrace, perfect for a romantic evening!

Booking with the Royal Pavilion Villas and Qasr Al Sarab

If you’re looking to spice up your next getaway but worried that you might not be able to afford a stay at this palace wonderland, then I think you’ll be happy to know that the resort has various packages on offer that might suit your needs! Trivago has some amazing prices going though (around £185 per night only!) , so be sure to keep checking regularly and I guarantee you’ll be able to find super competitive rates!

I don’t think any of these pictures could ever do this hotel justice. This video shows you the scale of the resort and its breathtaking surroundings!

Getting to the Royal Pavilion Villas and Qasr Al Sarab

Etihad provides direct flights from London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. There’s no paperwork to sort out beforehand as British citizens can obtain a free 30 day visa upon arrival to the UAE as long as your passport is valid. Keep in mind however that the country is very conservative and restrictions on what you can bring with you are a lot tighter. Have a look at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s website for more information so you’re not caught out at the airport!

Once you’ve landed at Abu Dhabi you have a 200km journey south ahead of you. You can hire a car from the airport, and the hotel provides directions on their website. If you want a seamless transfer to and from the airport, you can go the extra mile (so to speak) and arrange for a limousine to pick you up! This needs to be booked in advance, so be sure to get in touch with the hotel before you travel. There’s more information about travelling to and from the hotel here.

Amazing, isn’t it? I’m just lost for words every time I look at it! I don’t think there’s any other resort quite like this one – one where you can stay at a fortress palace and feel like royalty! If you’ve been do Abu Dhabi and had the pleasure of staying at this resort, please let me know and I might share your tips and experiences on the blog!

RP 9