Today, our ‘My Favourite Hotel’ review is from Uluru, Australia. And it’s not a hotel room – it’s a ‘tented pavilion’!
We are currently running this reader-written feature to provide some positivity and inspiration to Head for Points. You can find all of the ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews so far by clicking here. This was scheduled to be a series of about 25 hotels, but a good response from readers means that we have commissioned another batch and are continuing the series.
Today’s hotel is Longitude 131°, a group of sixteen tented pavilions, literally overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia. It is reader Linda’s favourite hotel and here is her review:
I have had the pleasure of visiting Uluru [Ayers Rock] in Australia many times over the past two decades. On each occasion I have been in awe of, and humbled by, the vastness of the landscape – the red colours and the shapes of the desert rock against a searing blue sky – and particularly by the care and respect with which the indigenous Anangu people of the area treat their natural environment.
My most recent visit, in September 2019, was easily the most memorable experience – the differentiating factor being my first stay at Longitude 131°.
Part of Baillie Lodges, a group of luxury Australian lodges, Longitude 131° comprises a group of sixteen tented pavilions, literally overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Stays at the lodge are all-inclusive and include a tailor-made itinerary designed to give guests a genuine experience of the area, known as the Red Centre, and often described as the spiritual heart of Australia.
Arrival and check-in
We arrived at Ayers Rock Airport at lunchtime on an early morning flight from Sydney ready to enjoy an ‘experience-packed’ two days. Along with two fellow guests we were taken to the Lodge by the Longitude 131° minibus.
Upon arrival we were shown to the Dune House, the central hub of the Lodge and home to the restaurant and bar with the most fantastic views overlooking the iconic star of the region – Uluru.
Just to put this view in some context, the primary purpose of a visit to the region is to see the natural wonder that is Uluru – a 873m high glorious red rock that started forming many millions of years ago. If you’re visiting the region and not staying at Longitude 131°, you will most likely be staying at one of the many accommodation options offered by the Ayers Rock Resort, some 20 km from the rock itself which meant you would have to travel each time you wanted a glimpse of Uluru. To have this icon as a continuous backdrop made our stay truly unforgettable.
With champagne in hand, Uluru in the background, and sitting comfortably in the Dune House bar our hosts talked us through our tailor-made itinerary. Even though we were only staying for two nights our itinerary was a busy one ensuring that we would have plenty of time to enjoy the special environment as well as fine dining along the way!
Then it was off to inspect our ‘tent in the desert’. Each tented pavilion was a 63m2 luxury tent on stilts above the desert floor. When we opened the door and stepped into our pavilion the view from the floor to ceiling windows was just incredible – not only would we enjoy uninterrupted views of Uluru from the Dune House, but we’d be seeing it from the end of our bed!
The room itself was beautifully furnished, custom-designed from Australian designers with a very comfortable king size bed, lounge chairs, and art works by local indigenous artists.
On either side of the bed were open archways leading to the en-suite which featured a large rain shower. Between the en-suite and the bedroom was a well-stocked complimentary bar. Outside was a balcony, almost as big as the bedroom, with a double day bed, lounge chairs and a feature gas fireplace (more on this later).
Interestingly, on a table in the bedroom was what looked like a rolled up waxed cotton picnic blanket secured by leather straps. Hmm – didn’t know what to make of this but we would find out later that night.
Because of the heat of the desert in daytime, activities were mostly scheduled for early morning sunrise and early evening sunset. In Spring, the season we visited, this meant nice warm daytime sun and chilly mornings and evenings.
On each of the two evenings and two mornings of our stay we were treated to an ‘experience’. On the first evening we experienced a spectacular Uluru sunset, complete with champagne and elegant canapes, before being driven a short distance to enjoy dinner at Table 131 – an open air dining area among the dunes. We feasted on four delicious courses, accompanied by fine wines as we listened to the night sounds of the desert. Before dinner ended we were fascinated by the guided light tour of the Southern constellations narrated by Longitude’s resident star enthusiast.
What to do at Longitude 131°
Throughout the rest of our stay we were escorted on evening and morning walks – through the Walpa Gorge, with sheer rock walls rising on either side, viewing the distant domes of Kata Tjuta, and enjoying another sunset at the foot of Uluru with evening drinks and canapes. Each of the experiences was delivered by friendly, knowledgeable Longitude 131° guides sharing expert commentary.
During the daytime when we weren’t out and about we were able to enjoy the panoramic views and the refreshments at the outdoor Dune Top bar complete with loungers and an outdoor spa pool. Although we didn’t use it, the Kinara Spa at the Lodge offers a range of spa treatments and native beauty products.
Our dining experience at Longitude 131° throughout our visit was faultless. The menu was contemporary Australian with delights such as Paroo Kangaroo Loin – as well as other meats, fresh seafoods and salads – paired with wine, excellent desserts and coffee.
But, back to the rolled up picnic blanket in our pavilion! After our dinner under the stars on the first evening we were invited to return to our pavilion for a surprise on the balcony. The rolled up picnic blanket was actually an Australian swag – a very thick, warm and cozy double sleeping bag – which had been laid out neatly on the day bed on our balcony. The gas fire at the end of the bed had been lit and the flames were the only light on the terrace. A mini bar of brandy and coffee liqueur had been set up alongside the swag. I will never forget the experience of sipping brandy, in a swag, and gazing up at the stars. With nothing in my peripheral vision all I could see was night and stars – and I felt as though I were truly on the edge of the Earth.
At Longitude 131° the declared ethos of the venue is to “offer guests a genuine connection with the destination, its landscape, wildlife and community …. designed as a wholly sensory experience, a union of sights, scents and tastes that immerses guests in their surrounds. In this way, guests feel the essence and spirit of the destination, experienced from a luxurious base camp”. We were certainly not disappointed, in fact Longitude 131° exceeded our expectations. For an extra special trip to Uluru, Longitude 131° is a must.
If you want to find out more, the hotel’s website is here.
If you book via Bon Vivant, the Head for Points luxury hotel booking partner, you will receive special extra benefits. These are:
- One AUD $65 Spa Kinara Credit per suite and one AUD $65 Bespoke Experiences Credit per suite to be redeemed against guest adventure of choice during stay from the range of Longitude 131 operated Bespoke Experiences available
- Early check-in / late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
The price you pay will be the same as the Best Available Rate on the hotel website. You can contact Bon Vivant via this page of the Head for Points website.
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