Why Amangiri deserves its plaudits as one of America's most iconic luxury hotels

The wonderfully remote retreat in Utah is an oasis of epic isolation

My legs are trembling and I can feel my heart beating hard in my chest as a stream of tears runs down my cheeks. I’d warned my guides that my emotions would likely run high, but I’m not sure anyone expected my sobs to reverberate across the canyon quite so loudly, the sound echoing for all to hear.

I’m attempting the descent of the Hoodoo Trail’s via ferrata in the grounds of luxury property Amangiri in Utah, US. Surprisingly, the way down is proving far more traumatic than the ascent, with a persistent feeling that I’m about to fall to my death (yes, I’m a very melodramatic person). I’m far from adventurous.

Whatever the opposite of an adrenaline junkie is, that’s me! Rollercoasters? No, thank you. Skydiving? Absolutely not. Going fast over a speed bump? Not if I can help it. So, when I told my family about the climb in advance of the trip, they laughed.

Even my colleagues were baffled to hear I’d accepted a trip that was on the periphery of being a bit daring. But, dear reader, you never turn down a trip to an Aman, especially Amangiri! So here I am, completely out of my comfort zone, climbing up and down metal ladder rungs, and following a series of cables around the rock faces of the Utah desert.

At the top (120 metres above the ground), we’re informed of our next challenge: to walk solo over a metal bridge suspended across a 127-metre-long gorge. Knowing that I’ll wimp out if I’m forced to watch the others, I cross first at what can only be likened to a snail’s pace.

Halfway across, I pause for thought, desperate to take in the expanse of space around me. When I finally reach the other side, I feel elated.

From the mesa (the flat, table-like top of the rock formations), I watch as the rest of the group clamber across the bridge (with far greater ease than I), the sun slowly dipping between them and the skyscraper-like buttes scattered across the landscape. These monolithic rocks rise up from the sandy ground like soldiers standing to attention.

Ultimate escape

Local company Adventure Partners hosts all Amangiri hikes, with routes of varying difficulty available across the vast 900-acre estate. Thrill-seekers should opt for the Cave Peak Stairway route, a 120-step ladder bridge suspended 120 metres above the ground.

When the time eventually comes to unclip my safety harness at the foot of the trail, I wipe away my tears, breathe a giant sigh of relief and hug everyone in sight. I faced a fear at Amangiri. I’m not sure why or how, but this very special place makes you believe the impossible is possible.

With my feet back on the ground, I head to the spa for a sumptuous and grounding Navajo-inspired massage experience – the perfect remedy to help my battered limbs recuperate after hours spent clinging to the rocky mountainside.

I find myself drifting into a state of meditation, something I rarely find possible to achieve because my mind is usually a whirl of to-do lists. Amangiri has been on my hotel wish list for as long as I can remember, so perhaps I’m just living in the moment – casting all of life’s worries aside to savour this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Since opening its doors in 2009, Amangiri has achieved a devoted following among the elite jet set and celebrities. In fact, so taken by this wondrous slice of southern Utah (the neighbouring state of Arizona is just a 15-minute drive away) was rapper Kanye West that he proclaimed “We need to Amangiri the world” in a Twitter post some years ago.

It’s easy to understand why the property is a magnet for the affluent. Guests converge here for the isolation this magical property affords them; this place is a remote haven of epic magnitude.

Beyond its sheer seclusion – and perhaps more important to the well-heeled – the staff are reliably discreet, not once divulging any details of celebrity guests even when quizzed by a gaggle of journalists.

Great expectations

I arrive at Amangiri expecting to be wowed, and I almost feel nervous that it won’t live up to the hype. I needn’t have worried. The architecture is utter perfection, with razor-sharp, modern concrete lines contrasting with the often bright blue sky.

Fabric canopies and clever design help to create mesmerising shadow displays across all corners of the property. Angular structures frame the views over the vast Utah desert, as if allowing guests to sit and stare at an ever-changing postcard.

The 34 suites are located in two wings that sweep from each side of the main pavilion and it’s here that guests convene for meals, cultural immersion sessions and to access the spectacular swimming pool, which wraps around an escarpment of sandstone rock.

Jet-lagged, I am lucky enough to enjoy an early-morning swim, watching as the rising sun turns the mesa from deep red to burnt orange. My home during my stay isn’t Amangiri itself, but recent addition Camp Sarika, a tented camp located on the Amangiri estate that opened during the pandemic to allow guests to embrace an even deeper wilderness experience.

Closer to the towering mesas and slot canyons, these 10 luxurious tented pavilions blend perfectly into the rusty landscape. Each houses one or two bedrooms, plus a spacious lounge and enormous bathroom with a deep bathtub.

Outdoors, each pavilion has a private plunge pool, a firepit (the perfect spot to toast s’mores under a sky full of stars), an outdoor shower and plenty of space to while away the hours.

Camp Sarika has its own restaurant and pool (accessible to guests from both sites). I often find myself standing still, listening to the silence and gazing at my surroundings in what must be one of the most geologically dramatic places on the planet. It’s impossible not to be impressed.

Exploration awaits

I could easily stay within the confines of the property, so perfect is the offering. But despite its remote location, the abundance of activities available is surprising. Amangiri is surrounded by five national parks (Zion and Bryce are the best known), which provide stunning walking and hiking routes.

It also proudly neighbours the largest Native American reservation in the US, the Navajo Nation Reservation, with ample opportunity for guests to learn more about the culture (Panel, opposite).

Just a 30-minute drive into Arizona is photogenic Horseshoe Bend, where visitors can see the Colorado River sweep around a 300-degree curve. Recommend clients take to the waters of Lake Powell with Aman’s exclusive partner, Up Lake Adventures.

Bob Reed, owner and our guide, tells us that often guests book a half-day experience but regret not staying longer to enjoy the lake and its seemingly endless series of canyons, some so narrow they are accessible only on kayaks or Sea-Doos.

During my time on the lake we visit Padre Bay and journey along Labyrinth Canyon, where we drop anchor and enjoy a divine lunch prepared by the team at Camp Sarika.

Amangiri, which means ‘peaceful mountain’ in Sanskrit, is designed to connect its guests with the surrounding landscape, but also to allow for a personal reset and reconnection. I came with high expectations, but I wasn’t expecting my stay to be quite so transformative. I leave Amangiri and Camp Sarika a much braver person than when I arrived.

Explore more

Native American culture is embedded in all aspects of life at Amangiri. The property is proud of its close proximity to the Navajo Nation Reservation and that’s reflected through the spa treatment menu, food offering and cultural activities organised for guests to enjoy.

Soon after arriving on property, we witness an energetic, traditional Native American hoop dance performance and have the opportunity to ask questions. Other activities include fireside storytelling and making dreamcatchers.

Many of the staff have Native American ancestry and are eager to provide insight into their culture for those wanting to know and understand more.

Book it: Abercrombie & Kent includes a four-night stay at Amangiri within its 15-night Wonders of Utah and Legendary Yellowstone itinerary. The trip leads in at £19,999 per person including flights. The price also includes car hire, accommodation and experiences throughout. Abercrombiekent.com

Hollie-Rae Brader

Hollie is editor of Aspire’s print and online products. She is responsible for the running of the club and ensuring the content produced and the events organised are relevant to the Aspire audience. She was previously deputy news editor and cruise writer for sister title Travel Weekly. She loves exploring new destinations and is gradually ticking new countries off her list. She most enjoys writing about cruise, South America and Japan. Before working in the travel industry she held news reporting roles at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.