Amangiri Hotel: Sleek Architecture in the Utah Desert

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Its location is certainly far from Adrian Zecha’s usual hangouts but then Aman is always pushing the boundaries of what defines a great hotel and where it might be located. The multi-award-winning Amangiri, which means ‘peaceful mountain’, is wedged into 600 acres of raw mesa-dotted desert in Southern Utah, not far from the Arizona border.  One of Aman’s most popular properties, Amangiri is all about sleek, minimalist architecture which reflects the drama of the Utah desert. This is only the second Aman property in North America, the first being Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

In classic Aman fashion, the entrance is an unprepossessing iron gate. Nine kilometers down a winding road a series of low dusky beige structures sit inside a shallow canyon. A pool wraps around the resort’s most striking design feature, a 50-meter tall boulder. The buildings are made from a mix of local sand, cement and aggregate, which are almost identical to the color and density of the surrounding Entrada sandstone.  Every design element reflects Aman’s less-is-more philosophy. An angular spa courtyard features an inset fireplace, a few select fruit trees grow in pebble beds set into cement terraces that sit on the wildflower-strewn desert floor. Every effort is made to merge the outside and inside…with large picture windows, and numerous indoor/outdoor living spaces

While it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, Amangiri is actually in a prime position to access some of Utah’s and Arizona’s remarkable landscapes such as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Canyonlands, Zion, and Bryce Canyon national parks, collectively offering the greatest rock formations on earth.  Man-made Lake Powell, the second largest lake in the United States, is on Amangiri’s doorstep.

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Amangiri pool wraps around a boulder

The Pavilion is the resort’s low key hub. Living room alcoves drink in the views through floor-to-ceiling windows, a raised library space has books, magazines, and board games, and the dining area spills onto the terrace beside the pool. An open kitchen with wood-burning oven provides all-day theatre. The only adornments are paintings by German earth artist, Ulrike Arnold, who ground ochers from the surrounding rocks to create large abstracts murals.

The gift shop offers a fascinating array of desert arts and crafts including beautiful Navajo rugs.

The suites

Two accommodation wings lead from the Pavilion: 16 suites in the Desert Wing and 18 suites together with the Spa in the Mesa Wing.

Each suite is accessed through a private courtyard which has a table and chairs. A spacious living/bedroom area features a low-set neutral-toned sofa, coffee table and rawhide reading chairs and a king-size bed on a raised cement platform, all the better to appreciate the desert view through concertina doors that open up completely to bring the outside in.  On the terrace, cream day beds sit either side of a small sunken fireplace on another platform. And there’s a no muss, no fuss lighting system so you can easily enjoy the warming glow of the fire over sunset cocktails.  A walking stick, straw hat, umbrella and flashlight pouch hang, Shaker-style, in an exquisite blend of form and function.

Each suite has air-conditioning and under floor heating on the white stone floors that echo the natural stone outside. A wall-length cupboard housing the minibar, hideaway television and DVD player divides the spacious suite from the long bathroom and changing area, with double vanities, good suitcase storage and closet space.  A large bathtub and two rain showers overlook the desert in the sage-green-tiled bathroom.

The food and wine

It is important to remember that Amangiri is in the Utah desert, a long way from local farms and a sophisticated urban market. The food is casual Modern American and part of the fun is watching the chefs in the open kitchen. That said, there is nothing mind-blowing about the food and, as long as you are prepared for this, you won’t be disappointed, given the prices charged.

Amangiri-blends-into-the-Utah-landscape-72There is also a private dining room and walk-in wine cellar, where you can enjoy many wines by the glass, and a humidor for enjoying fine cigars.

The spa

The 2,322-square meter (25,000-square feet) Aman Spa at Amangiri is a vast complex of stone, water features and streams of light, offering a number of unique treatment venues. The entrance is reminiscent of nearby slot canyons and opens into an intimate reception and lounge area featuring a glass tiled, sky-lit reflection pool and a central fireplace The Water Pavilion features a steam room, a dry sauna and a cold plunge pool and the Floatation Pavilion offers color therapy-enhanced floatation treatments. The Spa offers single and double treatment rooms in addition to two outdoor treatment terraces with spectacular views of the mesas. There is also a serene yoga room where free daily  classes are offered.

Things to do

Of course, you must relax around the resort’s mesmerizing pool and enjoy all the offerings in the expansive spa but while it may be tempting to meditate on Aman’s Zen-like aesthetic, the aman-9-72resort’s exceptional guides offer a tantalizing array of adventures.

These include:

  • guided hikes to the property’s striking sandstone hoodoo towers and the petroglyph cave, one of Utah’s best archaeological sites.
  •  Via ferrata climbs (using cables, ladder rungs and harnesses) in striking narrow slot canyons,
  • Horse-riding adventures with real cowboys who will also take you to the petroglyph cave and serenade you with cowboy songs in the saddle on the way home.
  • Kayaking and boat trips on Lake Powell
  • Float trips and fly fishing on the Colorado Rive

 What I loved

The exquisite simplicity and clean lines of the hotel’s design. It is an ode to minimalism.

The remarkable swirls and contours of the rock formations and how easily the hotel sits in this starkly beautiful landscape.

The serene surrounds of the Aman spa and all the offerings inside.

What could be improved

The food could be more exciting and less Middle American.

For a more culturally enriching experience, the resort could benefit from closer connections with the Navajo Indian Reservation nearby.

Your input

Have you stayed in another striking hotel in a remote desert landscape? If so, I would love to get your feedback and hear your recommendations.

 

A version of this story appeared in Qantas Insider. I stayed at Amangiri courtesy of the hotel.

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Amangiri

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Sue Gough Henly

Sue Gough Henly is award-winning travel writer and photographer whose bi-line has appeared in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, The Guardian, The Toronto Star and all the major Australian publications. Her travel blog, Genuine Journeys, is full of insider tips on the best places for authentic experiences and luxury splurges. She is also the author of Australia’s Best Places travel app. When she doesn’t have sand between her toes or a pack on her back, she writes about food, wine and culture.

2 comments to Amangiri Hotel: Sleek Architecture in the Utah Desert

  • JStJames  says:

    This place looks like it ‘rocks’ pardon the pun! I’ve travelled around Europe this year but have plans to visit the US (including the Grand Canyon of course) once I’ve worked enough to travel again. Thanks for an interesting piece.

    • Sue Gough Henly  says:

      It certainly does ‘rock’. I found the sandstone formations here as intriguing, but utterly different, from those at the Grand Canyon.

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