Review: Zannier Hotels Sonop (Namibia)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Last November, I enjoyed a fabulous holiday in Namibia. You can read my trip reports here:


Today: Review of Zannier Hotels Sonop (Namibia)

The opulence and finesse of Zannier Hotels Sonop, set in Namibia’s southwest corner, immediately recalls the 1920’s era of British explorers. Constructed on top of granite boulders, the tented camp enjoys a remote and unspoilt setting in untouched wilderness. Every object and antique in the lodge’s ten spacious tents are carefully selected – binoculars and maps, travelers’ tales, telescopes, antique desks and handmade stationary – to ensure that every moment turns into a unique experience. Zannier Hotels Sonop captures the restorative essence of the desert landscape with a spectacular open-air infinity pool, spa, fitness center and daily yoga

Zannier Hotels Sonop features in my top 10 lists of the best hotels in Namibia and the most romantic hotels in the world.

Have you ever stayed at Zannier Hotels Sonop? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Zannier Hotels Sonop enjoys a remote location in the southern extremity of the Namib Desert, in the Hardap Region. The property is set at the heart of an enormous, 13,800 acres (5,600 hectares) private reserve, which is characterized by numerous red-colored boulders dotted around long stretches of sand and gravel plains. Typical of the area’s geography, these enormous piles of granite rocks – polished and hollowed out by millions of years of wind and rain – are the result of powerful volcanic eruptions. A five to hour drive from Windhoek (or 80 min hop on a privately chartered bush plane), the reserve is also home to Namibia’s indiginuous wildlife, with oryxes, brown hyenas, rabbits, foxes, jackals, kudus and leopards roaming freely here.
  • Zannier Hotels Sonop is constructed on top of boulders, affording awe-inspiring views over the otherworldly desert landscape stretching as far as the eye can see. Built on sturdy elevated wooden decks to ensure fool proof stability, the property is comprised of a main tented guest area and ten tented suites. Each tent stands out with a warm and lavish decoration recalling the era of the 20th century English explorers, whilst the materials and color palette complements the surrounding desert and blend into the boulders. The construction process was challenging due to the hotel’s remote location and protected surroundings. All building materials and interiors were manually transported up the huge boulders, by expert craftsmen from Namibia.
  • Upon arrival, guests are first met at a welcome pavilion by the camp’s wonderful staff and then driven in a 4×4 car to the boulder pile. Here, they are transferred to an electric golf car and driven up a steep, winding path to Zannier Hotels Sonop’s reception tent on top of the boulder formation. Overlooking the stark desert landscape, the camp’s main guest area comprises a welcome tent (where check-in and -out is done) and a L-shaped dining tent, both filled with antiques (more on that below) and surrounded by open-air decking with a firepit. The latter is a lovely place to extend the evening following an exquisite dinner inside the tent. Near the reception tent is also a cocktail & cigar lounge, designed in the style of an authentic gentlemen’s club with a billiard table and parlor games taking center stage.
  • Wooden, elevated walkways connect the main guest area with the camp’s 10 luxury tents (8 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom tents). All tents feature a large bedroom, living room area and a separate bathroom with a large claw foot tub and rain shower. Furnishings include dressing tables with ornate objects, such as tiny flasks and antique combs. Moreover, the ceiling to floor windows (roll-out canvas) allow guests to experience a taste of living in complete isolation, immersed in the surrounding landscape. The bedrooms feature handcrafted king size four-poster beds, an airy living area with comfortable armchairs, and a telescope to look out into the distant surroundings or gaze into Namibia’s dark sky reserve. All tents have private terraces that extend out across large wooden decks, offering magnificent views of the desert.
  • Rather than buying new furniture, Zannier Hotels endeavored to reuse as much as possible – preference was always given to antiques. Zannier Hotels sourced more than 550 antiques for its Sonop property, including binoculars, maps, mirrors, magnifying glasses, bedside tables, carpets, trunks, armchairs and picture frames, as well as unique ornaments such as gramophones, 19th Century explorer boots, vintage walking sticks and historical Pith helmets. Any new furniture was specifically made from Namibian materials by local architects, carpenters and construction suppliers, native to Namibia. The use of natural textures and materials including dead wood, rocks, mud and thatch also ensures that nature remains at the forefront of the camp’s design.
  • Following a day of sightseeing in the desert, guests can unwind at Zannier Hotels Sonop in total peace. A heated outdoor infinity pool is located at the base of the boulders, on the opposite side of the main guest area. Offering jawdropping views over the desert, the pool is lined by comfortable sun beds, some of them set up under a shaded sala with bar area. A wooden walkway connects the pool area with the camp’s wellness center, which houses two treatment rooms. Reminiscent of more traditional construction and integrating elegance with nature against the backdrop of this vast open landscape, the spa offers a wide variety of treatments designed to balance, restore, and relax your body. The spa is also home to a fully-equipped fitness room with free weights, benches and barbells, and a variety of cardio equipment.
  • Those who wish to explore and discover, Zannier Hotels Sonop offers a wide array of extraordinary activities. Hikers can opt to take an excursion on foot to enjoy the breath-taking landscape by sunset or sunrise from several viewpoints in the hills. The property also has a stable with horses to take out on excursions and bicycle lovers can devote themselves to a rather unique activity in the desert, using the electric mountain bikes, offering a more wide-ranging but nevertheless environmentally respectful outing. As night falls, the sky lights up, creating the unique opportunity to discover the stars from the camp’s numerous telescopes There’s also an open-air cinema near the pool, which will entice all film lovers, who in the comfort of their lounge chairs can enjoy a film while sipping on a cocktail in the middle of the desert.
  • At every moment of the day, Zannier Hotels Sonop offers a pleasant gastronomic journey. From 7 am to 11 am, an energizing ‘à la carte’ breakfast is served in the main guest area, at the center of the camp. This same space turns into a quiet restaurant at noon, offering light dishes to share. Every evening, guests are invited to a gala-style dinner. Seating options vary from a large communal table in a prestigious tent shared with other guests to private tables set up in an intimate connecting tent. Silverware and candelabras set the mood for the elegant dinner, with butlers serving a delicious 5-course meal with black-tie and white gloves, such that the entire occasion becomes an unforgettable gastronomic experience in the middle of the desert.
  • Zannier Hotels Sonop’s unforgettable journey can be experienced through two types of rates: either full board or all-inclusive.
    • Full board package includes accommodation, VAT, tourism levy, breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as non-alcoholic drinks at official mealtimes.
    • The all-inclusive package includes activities to the previous package. It includes accommodation, VAT, tourism levy, full board a and all beverages (except premium brands and Champagne), a daily afternoon tea and a selection of complimentary experiences (twice daily a morning and afternoon nature drive, electric bike trails, walking trails, horse riding tours, outdoor cinema, group yoga and astronomy experience). Hot air balloon flights and excursions to Sossuvlei are offered for an extra charge.
  • Sonop is managed by Zannier Hotels, a luxury hotel group owned by Arnaud Zannier, a Belgian-French business man who spent over 20 years in the fashion industry prior to launching Zannier Hotels. Arnaud Zannier’s hospitality vision and philosophy is based on Leonardo da Vinci’s famous quote “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. The key principle behind every project of the hotel group is devotion to simplicity and authenticity. Zannier Hotels currently manages properties in Cambodia, Namibia, Vietnam, and France. The Zannier brand is also working on the opening of two hotels on Mexico’s Pacific coast, a destination hotel in Menorca, residential villas to launch under Zannier Residences, and a curated portfolio of the world’s most remarkable Private Estates for short-term and long-term rental. Launching Zannier Hotels in the US is also on the horizon.
  • A stay at Zannier Hotels Sonop can be easily combined with a stay at its sister property of Zannier Hotels Omaanda, a boutique lodge set in the heart of the Zannier Reserve, a 22,000-acre wildlife conservancy located half an hour from Windhoek. Accommodation consists of 10 individual thatch and clay huts, each with their own sunken bathtub and panoramic terrace. Relaxation at the lodge is balanced by adventures through Omaanda’s partnership with N/a’an ku sê, a foundation dedicated to the conservancy of Namibia’s wildlife, land and cultures. Breakfast with meerkats at sunrise; track a rhino or a herd of elephants going for a swim; spy a leopard climbing a Jackleberry tree or simply experience the nocturnal beauty of the savanna – all with your own private guide. There are daily transfers on demand from Sonop to Omaanda and vice versa.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

  • Zannier Hotels Sonop is an amazing lodge, but it’s not for everyone. It takes some efforts to get there (a 5 to 6 hour scenic drive involving gravel roads or a 80 min chartered flight) and there’s not a lot to do, except for soaking up the place and exploring its surreal environment. If you are blown away by photos of the lodge and its magical desert landscape and you are filled with longing, then don’t hesitate and book a stay here.
  • The world-famous dunes of Sossuvlei can be visited on a day excursion from the lodge, but keep in mind that this will be a very long day with an early wake-up call (a 3 hour drive getting there and then a 3 hour back to the lodge after the visit). The same is true for guests who would like to book a hot air balloon (the drive to the launch site takes 90 minutes). While both excursions are a must-do while on a holiday in Namibia, it might be wise considering to simply stay at Sonop for a few days and soak in the place, before moving on to Sesriem and do the Sossusvleiu excursion & balloon flight from there (unless of course you want to stay at Sonop for a longer time).
  • Zannier Hotels Sonop offers communal dining in its main tent, where guests may share stories about their travels adventures. While most people love it, this concept might not be for everyone. However, it’s not really an issue since there are several smaller tables in an adjoining tent catering to travelers who prefer to dine alone.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 10/10
  • Design: 10/10
  • Pool: 9/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Breakfast: 9/10
  • Spa: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional 9,2/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Zannier Hotels Sonop (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The best time to visit Namibia is from July to October, when the temperatures are comfortably warm during the day and the chance of rain is low. This is also the best time for outdoor activities and wildlife viewing, making it peak travel season. Between December and March, some days will be humid and rain may follow, often in localized, afternoon thunderstorms.


HOW TO GET THERE

Arriving by plane to Windhoek, travelers can choose to hop on another jet to Sonop (soaring over the Namibian desert with its magnificent landscapes, to land 80 minutes later at the lodge) or rather opt for a road trip (5 to 6 hours by a 4WD car) to get to this exquisite Zannier Hotels retreat.


PHOTOS OF ZANNIER HOTELS SONOP

Below is a selection of my photos of Zannier Hotels Sonop. To view more hotel photos (including meals), click here.

PATH TO THE LODGE
PATH TO THE LODGE
PATH TO THE LODGE
MAIN GUEST AREA: RECEPTION TENT
MAIN GUEST AREA: RECEPTION TENT
MAIN GUEST AREA: TERRACE
MAIN GUEST AREA: TERRACE
MAIN GUEST AREA: TERRACE (VIEW)
MAIN GUEST AREA: DINING TENT
MAIN GUEST AREA: DINING TENT
MAIN GUEST AREA: SUNSET TERRACE
COCKTAIL & CIGAR LOUNGE
COCKTAIL & CIGAR LOUNGE
ACCOMMODATIONS
ACCOMMODATIONS
ACCOMMODATIONS
ACCOMMODATIONS
ONE BEDROOM SUITE
ONE BEDROOM SUITE: BATHROOM
ONE BEDROOM SUITE: TERRACE
TWO BEDROOM SUITE: LIVING AREA
TWO BEDROOM SUITE
TWO BEDROOM SUITE: BATHROOM
POOL DECK
POOL DECK
POOL DECK
SPA
GYM
ZANNIER HOTELS SONOP AT NIGHT
ZANNIER HOTELS SONOP AT NIGHT
ZANNIER HOTELS SONOP AT NIGHT
ZANNIER HOTELS SONOP PRIVATE RESERVE

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