Oman might be one of the travel world’s best-kept secrets. Tucked into the corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is rich in history, culture, zoological and ecological wonders, and outdoor adventures. The discovery of all the beauty of Oman has brought me so much joy. Through the lens of the 5 W’s—Who, What, When, Where, Why—I collected all the basics of travel to Oman in one place for you—the future guests to my adopted home.
1) WHO SHOULD TRAVEL TO OMAN?
Oman is a land that surprises its visitors with how much it has to offer. There is something for everyone.
Bird watchers are attracted to Oman by its unique location. During migration season, Oman features an impressive bird list topping 500 species from Asia, Africa, and Europe. With over 350 species recorded in Dhofar alone, we offer a week-long tour of the region to search out and appreciate the beauty of our feathered fellow residents.
History buffs will appreciate Oman’s museums from The Land of Frankincense Museum in Dhofar to the National Museum and Beit Al Zubair in Muscat. For those who don’t mind climbing stairs, giant forts dot Oman’s landscape. Built before 1750, these forts offer glimpses into a life so ancient it’s hard to imagine. Not to be missed are the beehive tombs, Lost City of Ubar, and tours of the ancient (and still functioning) Falaaj aqueducts.
Animal lovers must add Turtle Beach in Ras Al Hadd to their bucket list for a rare glimpse of sea turtles laying their eggs. Oman receives five of the world’s seven kinds of sea turtles each year during breeding season. There are countless opportunities to photograph camels as these “ships of the desert” are herded in most parts of the country, and the Arabian leopard, one of the rarest animals on earth, lives in the Dhofar mountains of southern Oman. Take a trip out to sea to watch dolphins, humpback whales, sperm whales, and killer whales.
Adrenaline junkies will feel their hearts racing as they explore the caves around Majlis al Jinn, the world’s second-largest cave chamber. Jet skiing is a popular pastime off Muscat’s coast, while dune bashing in Oman’s Wahiba Sands and the vast Empty Quarter is sure to give you a thrill. Not to be missed: cliff jumping throughout Oman’s wadis and sinkholes, and scuba diving with whale sharks. (Get our list of favorite adventure spots here.)
Beach bums will find paradise as they explore Oman’s nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline. Oman’s beaches touch the Sea of Oman, the Arabian Sea, and the Straits of Hormuz. Some must-see spots include Ras Al Hadd for the sea turtles, Duqm Beach for the soft sand, Mughsayl Beach for the blowholes spraying water like geysers, and Tiwi Beach for world-class scuba diving.
Families will love Oman’s child-friendly sights. Beach days for swimming, playing in the sand, and exploring tide pools are agenda-ready. The Children’s Museum in Muscat has a variety of interactive displays that your kids will love, and the Dhofar Mountains in southern Oman are a child’s wonderland. Don’t leave before your family rides a camel and drinks fresh camel’s milk!
Outdoor enthusiasts will discover all of Oman’s natural, unspoiled allure. Trekking is a wonderful way to slow down and take in Oman’s beauty. Some popular trekking trails weave their way around and up Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest peak at nearly 10,000 feet. Camping is popular in the desert, mountains, or beaches, and there are caves to explore throughout Oman, as well as the amazing sand dunes in Wahiba Sands.
2) WHAT TO TRY WHEN IN OMAN?
A great joy of traveling to new places is the chance to try traditional foods. Oman is no different. Here are five essential things to taste in Oman.
Perhaps the most popular and specifically Omani sweet found in the area is halwa. A sticky, jelly-like sweet, made from sugar or honey with saffron and other spices, is mixed over an open flame for hours until it reaches the right consistency. No trip to an Omani home is complete without halwa paired with Omani coffee.
Omani coffee has a bold, layered flavor that comes from the blend of Omani spices. It’s served black in a small cup called a finjan. Feel free to drink as many cups as you like. Just make sure to shake the cup back and forth to show your Omani host that you are finished.
Another essential hot beverage in Omani life is Karak tea. Easily found in small tea shops around Muscat, Karak is made from black tea, milk, sugar, and Omani spices simmered together for hours and served piping hot. Pick up some for less than $1 in the morning and let the caffeine and sugar help you start the day.
Traditionally only served for Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha (the two biggest holidays in Islam), schuwa can be found at some restaurants year-round and it should top your list of foods to try. What makes schuwa unique is the cooking method: Pieces of red meat marinated in a traditional blend of spices for hours are wrapped in banana leaves, put in a wicker basket, and buried in a pit of hot coals. After a day of underground roasting, it is dug up and served immediately. (You can find schuwa at Bait Al Luban restaurant in Mutrah and Qibara restaurant in Seeb Souq.)
The last food essential for a complete Oman experience is dates. Date farms sprinkle the landscape of Oman. Eaten straight from the tree, half ripe, or dried, these small, pitted fruits are a staple in Omani homes and diets. Always eaten in an odd number, dates are normally served with fresh fruits, halwa, and Omani coffee. Find your dates in any souq, grocery store, or straight off the tree (with permission, of course).
3) WHEN TO TRAVEL TO OMAN?
Oman is a diverse country with different weather patterns depending on the region you visit. The weather in northern Oman (Muscat) can vary greatly from the weather in the south (Dhofar). (Check out our in-depth look at the climate of Oman here.)
Winter // January through March
The winter weather in the north is comfortably crisp. Expect high temperatures around 60 degrees F in January, gradually warming to the upper-70s by March. Rain is possible during the winter, but occurs only occasionally with lots of sunny days in between storms.
Southern Oman has temperate winters with high temperatures in the 80s and lows in the 60s. Rain is rare this time of year, although the occasional storm rolls through. If you want to explore the natural wonders of Dhofar in relative solitude, winter is the time to come.
Spring // April through June
Springtime in northern Oman starts off nice with high temperatures in Muscat staying in the 70s. The balmy weather doesn’t last long as the summer heat arrives in April. June is the warmest month in the north, with temperatures often soaring above 100 degrees. If you choose to visit the north in the spring, check out our suggested packing list.
In southern Oman, spring also brings a temperature increase, although this area stays more temperate. On average, daily high temperatures will be in the mid- to upper-80s.
Summer // July through September
Oman is mostly desert, so it makes sense that the summers are warm. In the north, temperatures stay around 100 degrees during the day. July is the wettest month in Muscat, with an inch of rainfall on average. This allows you to see the normally dry wadis rushing with water and the ground covered with grass.
Down south, summer is an entirely different experience. Dhofar receives the Indian monsoons during these months, which transform the region into a cool, misty, green landscape more fitting to Ireland than the Arabian Peninsula. Expect lush, dripping foliage, a good bit of mud, and amazing springs and waterfalls. Tourists from many countries come to Dhofar to experience Khareef, which means festivals and other activities abound. Temperatures during these months stay right around 80 degrees.
Fall // October through December
Fall perhaps brings the nicest weather you’ll find up north. Temperatures gradually decrease throughout the fall with daily highs in the mid-60s in December.
In the south, fall is a gentle season with temperatures staying consistently around the mid-80s and evenings in the upper-60s. The vibrant green landscapes of Khareef slowly turn golden brown as Dhofar dries out again.
4) WHERE TO TRAVEL IN OMAN?
The list of things to see and do in Oman is long. I compiled my top places to visit to use as a mere starting point.
Travel back in time as you explore ancient Arabia in the city declared the “Arab City of Culture” for 2012. Two imposing 16th century Portuguese fortresses guard the old city, and nearby museums housed in old mansions and forts tell Oman’s story. Explore the famous Muttrah Souq, packed with exotic spices and wares of Arabia. The crown jewel of the city is the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, built with 300,000 tons of Indian sandstone.
The Green Mountain, or Jebel Akhdar in Arabic, holds some of the most spectacular views in Oman. Its peak, Jebel Shams, is the highest point in Oman and offers breathtaking beauty in every direction. This destination can only be reached by 4X4 vehicle and it is well worth the climb. Jebel Akhdar is the perfect destination for hiking, a quiet picnic, or photography in the strikingly cooler mountain climate.
Located in the southern region of Oman, Salalah is one of Arabia’s hidden gems. With pristine beaches, beautiful mountain landscapes, and rich history, this city has something for everyone. History buffs can explore the ruins of the Queen of Sheba’s palace, a tomb reputed to be of the prophet Job, and the frankincense trail. One of the real draws is the unique weather. Between July and early September, the coastal city transforms into a lush paradise of flowing rivers and waterfalls, and green pastures.
Ras al-Jinz Turtle Beach
Ras al-Jinz is an extremely important nesting site of the endangered green turtle. On the beaches of this little town, thousands of turtles return annually to lay their eggs, creating a beautiful natural wonder. The best time to see the turtles laying their eggs is between June and August, while the best months to see both laying and hatching are September through November.
The picturesque rippling dunes of the Wahiba Sands encompass the quintessential image of Arabia. This enormous sand sea is patterned in elegant geometric designs, while sand dunes can rise up to 500 feet. Spending the night under a canopy of stars in the peace and solitude of the wilderness is a memory not easily forgotten.
5) WHY SHOULD YOU VISIT OMAN?
If the reasons above are not enough, I have five more things to say about this little-known travel destination.
#1: Oman is a truly unique and safe land
The majority of Omanis are Ibadi Muslims, a sect of the religion different from the well-known Sunni and Shia groups. This unique religious background makes Omanis devoted to their conservative faith, while being open and friendly towards visitors from other backgrounds. Sultan Qaboos, Oman’s leader since 1970, has developed the country incredibly and his influence has made Oman the special, peaceful place it is. Case in point: Oman has no record of terrorism—it just hasn’t happened here.
#2: Oman offers something for everyone.
With such an array of natural and cultural beauty, there are options to please all kinds of visitors. The city-life of Muscat, the green mountains of the Dhofar region, and the imposing forts of Nizwa and Bahla, you’ll discover that just a few days isn’t nearly enough time to take it all in.
#3: The Omani people are friendly, welcoming people.
The people who claim this country as their own are quick to return smiles, offer information when asked, and enjoy hot cups of tea after meals with guests. Omanis take pride in their country, their beloved ruler, and their history. They are a gentle, respectful people. There is a better chance of being pick-pocketed in a large city of America than in Oman. A low crime rate means you will be free to relax, enjoy your visit, and find refreshment. For some tips on how to interact with locals, check out this article.
#4: Oman’s land is highly untouched, wild beauty at its best.
The Al Hajar Mountains in the north boast miles of trekking trails, cool weather year-round, and a gorge to rival America’s Grand Canyon. In the south, the Dhofar mountains catch the autumn monsoons from India and turn into a vibrant jungle of misty foliage. Oman claims 1,967 miles of pristine coastline with sea turtles, tide pools, diving expeditions, and horseback rides to enjoy. The haunting, shifting sands of the Empty Quarter bisect Oman and make up the largest sand desert in the world.
#5: There are experienced professionals who live in Oman ready to help you plan your trip.
It’s one thing to make a list of destinations and to outline a trip with the help of the Internet and travel guides, such as you may be doing here. Actually, landing in a foreign country and navigating the little details is another matter altogether! If you know that Oman will be your next getaway, contact one of our travel experts to set up your hassle-free trip with Experience It Tours. We take care of all the details so you can focus your energy on appreciating and experiencing this beautiful country.