Just about a 10 minute ride west of Page sits one of the most elegant resorts in the Southwest. You just don’t know about it. There are no billboards, no splashy advertising in the local press. Even if you knew about the place, it’s still hard to find.
First, you can’t see the resort, Amangiri, from the main road or even the departure road. Then, if you get to the proper turn off — and you know it leads to the entrance road — it’s gated. You have to call in. Finally, you have to follow a narrow thread of asphalt as it dips and rises through the desert landscape, not seeing anything but more desert, until you come upon its outer architecture — and you cogitate, “What’s this? A concrete wall?”
No matter your first impression, it’s the beginning of the resort, which is tucked into a remote canyon at the base of a picturesque mesa. Although it might physically be in Utah, it’s so close to Arizona, resort management stays on Arizona time — that is to say, it doesn’t make the daylight savings change twice a year.
As for the strange name, it’s not Navajo or Ute or any other Native American language. Again, for those in the know, there exists a global group of high-end, boutique resorts called Aman, and all its individual properties begin with the letters a-m-a-n and end with another four or five letters. The only other Aman hotel in the United States is Amangani, outside of Jackson Hole, Wyo.
People who know Aman hotels are tremendously loyal, stay at them frequently and are called Aman-junkies. All the hotels are idiosyncratic. Not one looks like another. Amangiri, which has just 34 rooms, was built in minimalistic, modern style to blend with the desert surroundings.
Amangiri is my favorite. Not because of its tremendous cuisine (bison filet, grilled asparagus and buttermilk onion rings for dinner my first night), outstanding rooms (centered bed that faces floor-to-ceiling windows opening out to the desert), or spa amenities, but its location — in some of the prettiest desert landscape in the world. You just tie up the laces on your hiking boots and start walking.
Things to see and do
Ribbons of hiking trails involving different degrees of arduousness begin at the entrance to the hotel. Even if you are not an experienced hiker, one of the shortest and easiest of the walks is to a cave that was first inhabited by mankind more than 8,000 years ago. There are still discernible petroglyphs on the walls of the cave. If you look closely, you might still find pottery shards in the dusty earth.
One of the great natural formations in a region of absolutely stunning landscapes is off-campus, east of Page. Located on the Navajo Reservation, it’s called Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon carved over the millennia by rapidly flowing flood waters. Antelope Canyon is one of the most picturesque slot canyons, running no more than a quarter-mile and at some points 140 feet from bottom to daylight at the top. The walls are carved in swerves and layers. Since there is no evenness to the surprisingly smooth walls or even to the top of the canyon, the sunlight dapples, creating unusual, metaphysical interiors. Photographers love the place.
If you go
What: Amangiri, a minimalist resort tucked into a protected valley on the Arizona-Utah border.
Where: 1 Kayenta Road, Canyon Point, Utah. 84741-0285, USA From Phoenix, take Interstate 17 north to Flagstaff, and take Highway 89 north to Page. Stay on 89 through the town of Page. Once over the Colorado River and heading northeast, begin to look for a small “Amangiri” sign on the left. It’s the same color as the landscape and hard to spot. Follow it to the resort.
Cost: Contact the resort for current rates.
Information: (877) 695-3999 or AmanResorts.com/amangiri/home.aspx
• Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer based in Mesa, and the author of “The Death of Johnny Ace” and “Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis.” Reach him at Redroom.com/Stevebergsman or firstname.lastname@example.org.