Hotel review: Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea, Saudi Arabia
One of the most breathtaking desert-scapes if you need to get away from it all…
Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea is the first Six Senses in Saudi Arabia, and the first resort to open at The Red Sea, offering seclusion and sophistication.
Camouflaging into the desert-browns of the mountains and dunes that fill its expanse, the luxury property makes for a spectacular capture on its own – with its effortlessly spacious rooms, clean, elegant lines and raw, natural materials used in design. Between spectacular views and the ultimate comfort of privacy, this destination remains relatively unknown, untouched, and enticing.
We checked in to embark on a sensory journey at Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea.
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The endless landscape of the Khuff dunes on the outskirts of Umluj is home to the Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea – a luxury desert sanctuary that embraces the quiet, slow life afforded to it by its surrounding desert plains and stupendous expanse. The property lies inland from the Red Sea, part of the Red Sea Destination.
Travelling to The Red Sea in Umluj has become more accessible, thanks to Saudia, the first airline to operate in and out of the new Red Sea International Airport (RSI). For those flying in from Riyadh (like us), there are direct flights from King Khalid International Airport every Thursday and Saturday, connecting the two destinations in less than two hours. Alternatively, you can fly into Yanbu Airport, followed by a two-hour transfer by car to the resort.
Your journey to Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea, starts by arriving through the most breathtaking Saudi Arabian Alnesai desert landscape. Hop into your beautiful Lucid Air electric vehicle, and the smooth one-hour transfer route from RSI will take you southeast along the coastal highway before turning east inland through serene desert mountains, narrow wadis (valleys), and onto the resort.
Upon our arrival, we’re immediately relaxed, feeling far removed from the hustle and bustle of Riyadh life. It’s almost impossible to think of it as anything less than an out-of-the-ordinary desert escape.
Look and feel
To call Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea a destination resort might be stating the obvious. Paying homage to the Nabataean heritage, the property is a divine piece of architecture. At the heart of it is the Oasis, made up of petal-shaped rope canopies.
Filled with a glow of lush greenery and fountains, they come together to create a secluded oasis immersed in the enchanting golden dunes of the vast desert as you lose yourself to an otherworldly desert panorama of wonderful seclusion.
The breathtaking interiors reflect the shape, beauty and textures of the glorious dune-filled surroundings, offering comfortable yet majestic spaces for rejuvenation. A palette of muted tones and bold hues set the tone for a relaxing journey.
There’s no doubt much of the magic of Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea rests with its 36 guest rooms and suites (each features an open-plan bedroom and living area, and an outdoor terrace) and the 40-pool villas. Ranging from one to four bedrooms, villas are inspired by the shape of the dunes, set under tent-like roofs.
All rooms fuse traditional designs that reflect the rich colours and intricate patterns of traditional Bedouin dress, with modern amenities, and offer expansive views of the wadi and desert dunes beyond.
Our own one-bedroom pool villa, like the rest of the property, features contemporary-style furniture with woody interiors fashioned in an elegantly understated décor of earthy hues, carefully hand-crafted furnishings, and plenty of rustic touches. It’s a soothing environment that feels luxurious yet modest and close to nature.
There’s also ample wardrobe space, complete with soft robes, homemade fragrant bath salts and a spread of amenities. There’s even a yoga mat if you’re feeling motivated to do some sunrise downward dog on the terrace.
Bathrooms have double vanity, sunken bathtub with a view, and an indoor rain shower. But our favourite has got to be the outdoor shower – enclosed but open enough to fall in love with nature. They’re easy to dawdle in, especially given that the villa has its own plunge pool on a private deck that looks out to the Hijaz mountains.
The attention to detail is commendable, too. You can select from various lighting moods and ambience settings with the touch of a button on your bedside. Want to face the arid beauty of the desert as you cocoon yourself underneath the sumptuous bedding? Just press the button, and the drapes smoothly open and close. But what impressed us the most was that they’d provided our villa with a cot, knowing that we’d be travelling with a nine-month-old baby, despite us not requesting it.
The spaciousness of the villa and its outdoor space, paired with all the amenities, means you could easily spend the entirety of your stay in your own little bubble, and no one would fault you for that. But with so much to see and explore at Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea, you’d be missing out if you didn’t take full advantage of your time here.
Services and facilities
A trip to Six Senses starts long before your actual arrival. One week prior, we receive a message from our Guest Experience Maker (GEM) – think of it as your personal butler who you can call at any time, whether it’s to help with heating your private pool, picking you up in a buggy, or taking you for a tour of the resort.
You will get what you need provided upon arrival, and of course, such a lovely welcome puts you in the mood for a holiday instantly. Our doting GEM is Vishmber, and we get to have him on speed dial for the few days we’re there. He grants all your whims and wishes and creates beautiful experiences for you.
On site, the list of inclusions is equally impressive: a Community Lounge, where guests can mingle, play games, or simply engage in casual conversations; an Earth Lab offering educational activities and hands-on workshops, such as soap making from repurposed cooking oil; and a Cooking School and Chef’s Table. We spend a lovely ninety minutes here with plant-based chef Ayşe Aktan, whipping up vegan Arabic dishes, such as muhammara dip, falafel, and cashew and date energy balls.
Nestled within the Oasis complex, you’ll also find four Artisan pods, each with a different experience – from a Sadu weaving activity and a majlis with a pool table to a 24-hour gelateria. Did we mention the ice cream is free?
Meanwhile, nature lovers who love to bathe in the selection of activities that involve racing out into the dunes, bird watching, sand boarding antics or scuba diving excursions can head to the activity pod and sign up with the hotel’s team on hand.
If you’re looking to relax and recharge, the gorgeous outdoor pool will not disappoint. Rows of white lounge chairs, private cabanas, and an adjacent bar and grill area can easily keep you here all day, while the golden desert in full view, with an elevation that makes guests feel like they’re in the clouds, doesn’t hurt either.
The Grow with Six Senses kids’ club nearby will keep youngsters happy with the endless activity options. From table tennis to play areas, the fully equipped kids’ club opens daily from 8am to 5pm and is suitable for children between four and 12.
The highlight of the experience is the two-storey Six Senses Spa with a world-class wellness programme – not surprising considering the brand’s long-time wellness focus. Staying true to the Six Senses DNA, the charm begins as soon as you enter the reception area on the lower floor.
The almost 4,000-square-metre spa has been designed to blend into its surroundings. It has six treatment rooms, women’s and men’s salons, a holistic anti-ageing centre, a biohacking lounge, and changing areas featuring an infrared salt sauna, a cold plunge pool, a steam room, and a relaxation area.
Take a dip at the indoor vitality pool on the terrace, which looks out onto the outdoor treatment cabanas, with the endless dunes as its backdrop, and lined with plush loungers. On the side, a massive wooden table is set in front of a cabinet where old pharmacy ceramic and glass pots store all the ingredients necessary for the Alchemy Bar workshop. In this workshop, guests can learn, hands-on, how to make beauty products based on natural ingredients.
Once inside the treatment room and ready to receive the holistic massage, our therapist inquired about our preferred pressure, areas of concentration, and our comfort level with the room’s music and temperature levels. It was an hour of total abandonment that we would have liked to extend a little longer.
For those who can’t afford to miss gym time, the well-equipped fitness suite on the upper floor has views of the desert to pump you up. There are also plenty of complimentary fitness and wellness activities like spinning, aerial yoga, breathwork, and meditation that are worth checking out.
Food and drinks
Oh, so much delicious food (plus, they’re nutritious and healthy), you’ll never want to stop eating. Guests can enjoy four restaurants at Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea.
There’s the all-day restaurant Bariya, where you can fuel up at breakfast for the day ahead. The light-filled restaurant is completely open-plan, with displays offering self-serve cold breakfast items and a wide selection of bread and pastries, complemented by house-made fermented drinks and refreshing fresh juices. Fancy some hot dishes? Choose from the ala carte menu, and the chef will cook it at the live station. For the adventurous, we recommend having a shot of the Rocket Fuel – a potent mix of organic apple cider vinegar, onion, orange, grapefruit, lemon, ginger and herbs and spices – for that instant energy boost in the morning. Breakfast on the outdoor terrace with a view is a must, too.
Meanwhile, Merkaz serves vegan fare and Arabic tapas throughout the day, along with teas, coffees and mocktails from the brew bar. Drop by for Chef Ayşe’s vegan chocolate cake.
If you choose to bask by the pool, the Pool Bar & Grill conjures Mediterranean vibes with timber panelling, mosaic-topped tables, and colourful swing seats. Its menu offers a dazzling selection of refreshing beverages, healthy salads, soulful ceviche, grilled seafood, aromatic pizza and more. The red snapper ceviche and the grilled watermelon with halloumi hit the spot. Stealing the show was the juicy grilled king prawns mains slathered with capers za’atar butter.
A meal at Al Sarab should not be missed. Here, a captivating panoramic vista unfolds before you, offering breathtaking views and the serene expanse of the desert. But it’s not just the scenery that beckons; it’s the promise of a culinary journey that makes every visit a cherished memory.
Kick back and relax on the plush lounge sofa at the restaurant’s terrace, and begin your evening with a signature mocktail. As the sun descends over the horizon, its brilliance reflected in your glass, move to the main dining area inside, where an array of contemporary Arabic fine-dining delicacies awaits, each dish prepared to perfection. The menu is a harmonious fusion of Middle Eastern flavours, featuring delights like sweet potato hummus, duck saleeg, and lobster maqluba.
The price for a one-night stay in a Wadi King Room with breakfast starts from SAR5,734 for two people, while the one-bedroom pool villa with breakfast for two starts from SAR14,565 per night.
Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea might just be the luxury brand’s best-hidden gem (for now) – boasting astounding views of the remote desert plains and the endless sky. Being the first hotel to unlock the natural treasures of this untouched region, it has also bolstered an exciting Six Senses Experience for guests. With so much beauty, wonder and intrigue on offer, there’s little need to leave the property, really. As well as providing service with a smile, sending guests into a state of bliss is what Six Senses is known for, and the spectacular Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea is designed to do exactly that. If there’s any hotel you must visit this year, it’s this. We left a piece of our heart there and can’t wait to head back.
Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea, Southern Dunes Site 14, The Red Sea Development, Umluj, 48321, Saudi Arabia. Tel: +966 14 514 1414. @sixsensessoutherndunes
Images: Supplied / Social