Let’s face it – the Dead Sea is a total bucket list destination – but after visiting the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, I think it deserves more than one visit in a lifetime.
Driving from Wadi Rum to the Dead Sea, the landscape is certainly breathtaking (take the King’s Road along the coast for the best scenery). Changing from barren desert to more fertile farming land as the land becomes more hospitable, the Kempinski is the perfect oasis from the more populated area around the Dead Sea.
From the moment we step out of our rental car, it’s just pure ‘wow’. An imposing and beautiful lobby building welcomes you, the sunset glow beaming through from the oceanside beckoning you outside to explore the gorgeous bar area. It’s an absolutely perfect spot for sundowners – a beautiful elevated patio overlooking the glassy water. I was captivated by the Dead Sea’s unusual colour – it has such a light blue sheen it appears almost ethereal – gorgeous at any time of day, but you just can’t miss sunset (which is fairly early in November when I travelled – prepare to be seated by 4pm to watch the show.
The Kempinski has two styles of rooms for you to choose from. The Ishtar rooms are located lower down towards the sea in a terraced, palm tree lined setting close to the pools and dining. We stayed in a Junior Suite in the main building, the other option, which also had pools out front (watch these come to life at night with flames inside – sadly you can’t swim in them after sunset though, such a shame).
Junior suites are available in 1 king bed or 2 twin beds configuration and are 732-sq-foot (68-sq-metres), balcony/patio with sea views. A bathroom flanks the hallway upon entry, gorgeous upon first impression, let alone when you realise that what looked like a mirror wall at first was infact a glass wall leading to a second attached bathroom. Two seperate sink areas should stop any tussles over bench space, and a sizeable shower and beautiful bath mean you can easily rinse off the salt from your Dead Sea dip or take a lovely post swim soak. Whichever you chose, you’re sure to feel pampered with a vast array of Dead Sea themed toiletries provided.
The bedroom and lounge areas of the suite feel a tad more 2006 than the very modern and expansive grey toned bathroom (yes it’s ten years old this year, but it really doesn’t look it!), but don’t offend. The room is equipped with two televisions, one directly in front of the lounge area, and one in front of the bed. No straining the neck for awkwardly placed screens here! Apparently there’s a pillow menu too however I didn’t notice it on our stay. Beds and pillows are great quality though and comfy.
Oh, and the mini bar is complimentary. Ours contained juices, tonic water and soft drinks. Four chilled bottles of water were provided too, and much appreciated. There was also one pot of crisps, can’t say I wouldn’t have liked it stocked with a couple more.
Pulling back the curtains at the end of the (very) long room, I was surprised to see a beautiful lattice encased patio that opened out on to the pool area in front of the main building. There’s a hedge in-between, but it’s just a small stroll around said hedge and you’re relaxing on a lounger poolside. A great advantage to the suites whether it’s during day time swimming hours, or for evening sunset gazing across the (rather glam) pool with inset fire. The delightful pools lower down in the complex closer to the sea are open for evening swimming however – though it was a little too chilly at night in November to be jumping into chilly pools! During the heat of summer I imagine lazing in the pool would be a lovely way to spend an evening.
One of the only points where I could mark the Kempinski Ishtar down is in-house food and beverage. Dinner options were limited at the time we were visiting (I believe the Asian outlet was under renovation), leaving only two options. Only one was a la carte (Italian) and one was a buffet option – much too limited if you ask me. Be prepared to spend sizeable dollars on food (read: it’s overpriced, even by Dubai standards) and watch out for the twenty to thirty something percent tax whacked on the bill, just to put a post-dinner smile on your face!
Cocktail prices started at JOD8+++ (yes, three additional taxes!) glasses of wine at JOD7+++ and bottles at JOD30+++. Given the fact that you can only bring one litre of alcohol into Jordan this is something you need to consider if you like to imbibe (as I do). One traveller we met did say there are cheap-ish liquor stores in Aqaba – if you’re heading there first it might pay to stock up there. There aren’t any happy hours either, so just be resigned that the credit card might take a beating. C’mon Kempinski, you’re a world class hotel group – I know you can step it up in the F&B department, and a happy hour never hurt anyone…right? There are other hotels bookending the Kempinski though so it may pay to explore the nearby areas for other restaurants if you have an extended stay.
The Kempinski F&B team did redeem themselves come morning however with a great breakfast spread. The best thing about it? Free flowing bubbles! I enjoyed a rather delicious brekkie of fabulous vegetarian noodles (ok, perhaps not everyone’s preference for breakfast) and blanc de blancs. With the breakfast going until 11:30, this is a fab way to kick off a day of floating in the Dead Sea and sunning yourself poolside. There’s fresh honeycomb, omelettes made to order, pastries galore and middle eastern options too so surely something to please all tastes.
If you’re thinking of visiting the Dead Sea and Jordan, please don’t hesitate! I absolutely loved our time there. It’s truly a trip of a lifetime, I can’t wait to return and do it all over again. You can book the Kempinski with complete confidence – it was a magical property to stay at, and exactly what an experience at the Dead Sea deserves. I booked on behalf of ourselves and other friends – let’s just say they were rather chuffed after rocking up at the majestic Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea.
What are you waiting for? Junior suites started at 1109dhs on HotelsCombined.ae in November ’16 including taxes.
Style: Chic Dead Sea-side
Would I return? Definitely!
Suitable for: Couples, friends
Room Type Reviewed: Junior Suite
Room Size: 68sqm, King size bed (twin available on request)
Room Amenities: Pillow menu, Dead Sea toiletries, double bathroom with seperate shower and bath, balcony/patio, fruit, complimentary minibar, robes, bottled water, air conditioning, coffee/tea maker, fridge.
On request services: In-room massage, 24-hour room service, rollaway beds and infant cribs. Connecting rooms available subject to availability.
Hotel Facilities: Tennis court, private beach direct Dead Sea access, multiple pools, spa facilities, free parking.
Price Guide: From around AED1100 per night for a Junior Suite, or or AED655 for a Superior Room, breakfast included. That’s $300 and $178 USD respectively incl. breakfast.
Swaimeh Dead Sea Highway, Amman, Jordan
Selected photos courtesy of Kempinski.com